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Governor Eliot Spitzer Linked to Prostitution Ring; Obama Discredits Dream Ticket: Clinton\Obama; Push for Primary Do-Over Continues

Aired March 10, 2008 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, more on the breaking news we've been following. New York's governor speaking out amid a report linking him to a prostitution ring. Eliot Spitzer only confirms he crossed the line between right and wrong. This hour, what did he do? And will he resign?
Also this hour, it's not Barack Obama's idea of a dream team. On the eve of another primary, Obama suggests the Clintons are hoodwinking voters by dropping hints he'd be vice president.

Plus, mailing it in. In a consensus forming on how to redo Florida's Democratic primary, is that the situation? I'll ask a leading advocate of a do-over, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida.

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

We begin with the breaking news out of New York.

Governor Eliot Spitzer, who built his career crusading against corruption, now is apparently caught up in a huge, huge scandal. A source telling CNN Spitzer is under investigation for allegedly meeting with a prostitute. And just a short while ago, Spitzer apologized for violating his obligations to his family, as well as the people of New York.

Let's go to Jason Carroll. He's in New York. He's following this story for us.

For the viewers, Jason, who are simply tuning in right now, update us on what we know and what we don't know.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here's what we know. There is an investigation ongoing right now about whether or not New York's governor, Eliot Spitzer, was involved with some sort of a prostitution ring in Washington, D.C.

As this news was starting to come out, Wolf, we were hearing that Governor Spitzer was meeting with his closest advisers. Then a press conference was called. Just a short while ago, Governor Spitzer came out with his wife by his side, made a very embarrassing revelation, where he said that he had not only disappointed himself, but had to apologize to his family and to the public.

Take a listen.


GOV. ELIOT SPITZER (D), NEW YORK: Today I want to briefly address a private matter. I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family, and that violates my or any sense of right and wrong.

I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better. I do not believe that politics in the long run is about individuals. It is about ideas, the public good, and doing what is best for the state of New York.


CARROLL: Governor Spitzer also says that he will report back in short order. And, Wolf, you have to wonder with calls for his resignation coming in at this moment what else Governor Spitzer is going to have to say in the next coming days.

It was also quite stunning to sit there in that press conference as his wife was standing the there by his side. They've been married for 21 years. They have three children together. You can imagine what is going through her mind right now.

Once again, Governor Spitzer having to apologize not only to his family, but to the public as well, for allegedly being involved in some sort of prostitution ring in Washington, D.C. -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And there are all sorts of reports coming in, Jason, that he was actually caught on a wiretap, an audio taped conversation with some sort of prostitute. What do we know about all of the aspects of this criminal investigation apparently that's under way?

CARROLL: Well, some of the details of this are coming in. We do have an affidavit, a court affidavit involving one of the alleged prostitutes. And in this affidavit there is communication between -- allegedly between Governor Spitzer. Apparently, he is identified as one of the clients in this affidavit, allegedly identified as client number nine.

More details about this coming in. This was on one of his trips to Washington, D.C. As you know, Governor Spitzer came in today during this press conference, read that brief statement, did not answer any questions about any of the allegations that are out. None of his aides answered any questions about any of the allegations that are coming out there.

I'm sure within the next few coming days we're going to be getting some of the answers that a lot of people out are here wanting to find out about -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jason. We're going to stay on top of this story, together with you. Thanks very much. Don't go away.

Eliot Laurence Spitzer is 48-years-old. He served as New York's attorney general from 1998 to 2006. He was elected governor of New York in 2006 with 69 percent of the votes. Our next guest wrote a biography on the governor. Brooke Masters' book is entitled "Spoiling for a Fight: The Rise of Eliot Spitzer." She's joining us on the phone now from London.

Brooke, how stunned were you? I know I was stunned. I'm sure all of our viewers who knew anything about Eliot Spitzer and his reputation as a crime fighter in New York were stunned. But give us your reaction.

BROOKE MASTERS, AUTHOR, "SPOILING FOR A FIGHT": I was completely stunned. I mean, I've interviewed this guy probably 30 times, and he's a lovely man who has always appeared to really love his wife, care about his family. And, you know, really acts like as if he were a pillar of moral rectitude.

I mean, he is a crime fighter. He's a prosecutor who went after monsters. He's a guy who wiretapped other people. His first big case involved wiretapping mobsters in the garment district. It is stunning to me not only that he would do this, but that he would take such amazing risks if this is true.

BLITZER: Is there anything -- because you've researched his life really thoroughly. Is there anything in his past that would now, based on what we know right now, and his apology to his family and to the people of New York, that would warrant you to say, well, maybe there was some clues there that I wasn't familiar with, but let me go back and look once again at some of those indications? Anything jump to your mind?

MASTERS: Well, one thing I would say, on the whole sex infidelity side, absolutely not. I mean, I interviewed gosh knows how many of his ex-girlfriends, all of whom talked about what a wonderful guy he was. I mean, there's no...

BLITZER: When you say ex-girlfriends -- you mean girlfriends before he got married?

MASTERS: ... you know Bill Clintonesque, you know, problem with women. He -- yes. I mean, he's never -- no. There was never hint of anything beyond that.

I will say that one thing his enemies on Wall Street always used to say, and some of the lawyers who were on opposite sides of the cases, was that they felt he had a double standard. I have to say, I don't necessarily believe it, but they all felt that he would bust them for conflicts of interest and go after them for things while holding himself to a much lower standard.

That he had sort of a double standard. That it was OK for him to kind of use evidence and, you know, yell and shout at people. And it wasn't OK for them. And perhaps this is evidence of a double standard...

BLITZER: You think, Brooke...

MASTERS: ... that we all should have paid more attention to. BLITZER: Do you think he's going to fight this? Because he came out and he apologized to his family, the people of New York. But he implicitly confirmed that there was something bad that he did. But is he going to resist resigning? Is he going to stay on as governor? What does your gut tell you?

MASTERS: Well, my gut says that I'm unclear exactly what he's done. I mean, if all that he's done is frankly, you know, use a prostitute, it's hard to argue that that's a -- you know, something that makes him unfit for the governorship. Gosh knows we know a lot of people who have (INAUDIBLE).

You know, if there's allegations of misuse of public moneys or something like that, that would be a completely different question. I don't think we know enough yet to really speculate exactly what it is he's, you know, allegedly done.

BLITZER: And for viewers who aren't familiar with his background, he's an independently very wealthy man, is that right?

MASTERS: His father is independently wealthy. The family wealth structure's a little complicated. His dad is a self-made multimillionaire who builds apartment buildings in New York and came from absolutely nowhere to become one of the most powerful men in New York real estate. He's very impressive.

BLITZER: All right. Brooke Masters, thanks very much for joining us.

Brooke's book is entitled "Spoiling for a Fight: The Rise of Eliot Spitzer." I guess people are going to want to re-read that book, or read it for the first time right now. Thank you.

There's already speculation about whether or not Governor Spitzer will resign. If he does, New York's lieutenant governor would immediately take control.

Let's go to Brian Todd. He's got details about David Paterson.

What are we learning about the lieutenant governor?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, David Paterson served for about two decades in the New York State Senate before being tapped by Eliot Spitzer to be his running mate in 2006. They obviously won an election in November of that year.

Paterson known for his support of stem-cell research, programs fighting domestic violence. And he's an advocate for the rights of the blind and other handicap. Now, Paterson himself is blind, and in a profile we did of him as a candidate in September of 2006, he spoke to us about his condition.


DAVID PATERSON (D), NEW YORK LT. GOVERNOR: I suffer from optic atrophy, which is scarred tissue that lies between the retina and the optic nerve. I think when you have a visual impairment, you feel that it's affecting every aspect of your life, and it invariably does.

Our ability that most frightens us -- in other words, it's the light, not the dark, that makes us so afraid. It's just sometimes even with the ability we just worry if we can live up to those expectations.


TODD: Now, at the time we did that profile, Paterson and one other lieutenant governor candidate, Kristen of Maryland, were vying to become the first blind state officials in modern history. Cox lost her bid, so right now, David Paterson the only official to hold that distinction -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian Todd. Thanks very much for that.

Two sources with knowledge of the investigation tell CNN the governor allegedly met with some individuals. Kelli Arena is working this part of the story for us.

Kelli, what are you picking up?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you're right, two sources with knowledge of this investigation do tell us that Governor Spitzer allegedly met with a prostitute in a Washington hotel. Now, one of those sources says that he is identified in a criminal complaint as client number nine, and that Spitzer's alleged involvement was caught on a federal wiretap.

The criminal complaints involved a high-end prostitution ring, Wolf, that was run out of New York City. Four individuals were charged last week with allegedly running that ring, and it provided prostitutes that cost as much as $3,100 an hour. That's more than $3,000 an hour.

Now, the criminal complaint didn't name any customers, but authorities did intercept, according to that complaint, text messages, e-mails, telephone calls. Now, investigators are trying to get more information on how the money that the operation took in was allegedly laundered. One official says that Spitzer's lawyers may be asked down the road how he actually paid for the encounter, whether the trail was concealed, and whether any banking laws were circumvented -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. I know you're going to stay on top of this story, Kelli, as well. Thank you very much.

And we're going to have a lot more coming up on the problems Eliot Spitzer is facing right now. But we want to move on to the race for the White House. Barack Obama today is taking a powerful new swipe at Hillary Clinton's hints he may be her running mate. He's using words like "hoodwinked" and "bamboozled."

Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's covering Obama's campaign and the primary tomorrow in Mississippi. She's joining us now live from Jackson. What is the latest? The words are getting a little bit more intense, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They absolutely are. You know, we had a weekend full of talk about the so-called dream team. And if by that you mean a Clinton/Obama ticket, Barack Obama left little doubt today when he was campaigning in Columbus, Mississippi, that that is not something he wishes to entertain at the moment.


CROWLEY (voice over): Dream team? With more state wins and more pledged delegates, Barack Obama wants an end to the talk.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know how somebody who is in second place is offering the vice presidency to the person who is in first place.

CROWLEY: It was strong pushback after three days of chatter about a ticket with both Clinton and Obama. A new go-round kicked off by the Clintons.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've had people say, "I wish I could vote for both of you." Well, that might be possible some day. But first, I need your vote on Tuesday.


CROWLEY: As popular as the idea may be among many Democrats, the Clinton-generated dream team discussions are also a political tactic aimed at wooing undecided voters or those attracted to Obama but hesitant about his experience issue. Hillary Clinton has been pushing hard on the experience issue recently, suggesting Obama is not ready to respond to either an international or economic crisis.

H. CLINTON: We have to have a president with experience who has been around a while.

CROWLEY: The dual campaign strategy of both attacking Obama's resume and suggesting he would make a good number two flies in the face of early January rhetoric from the candidate.

H. CLINTON: The most important thing about picking a vice president is picking someone who could be president immediately.

CROWLEY: Obama told Mississippi voters this is the old okey doke, an attempt to hoodwink them.

OBAMA: You remember that advertisement with the phone call. But I don't understand, if I'm not ready, how is it you think I should be such a great vice president?

CROWLEY: The Clinton campaign had a hard time syncing up the dual message of Obama as too inexperienced and Obama as vice president. Communications director Howard Wolfson told reporters in a conference call "... Senator Clinton will not choose any candidate who has not at the time of choosing passed the national security threshold, period."


CROWLEY: Now, when Wolfson was asked whether there was something Barack Obama could do between now and that Denver Democratic convention to beef up his national security credentials, Wolfson said that's not something he's prepared to rule out at this time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Candy. Thanks very much.

Candy's in Jackson, Mississippi, where there's a primary tomorrow.

We're going to have a lot more coming up on the presidential race. Jack Cafferty is standing by. We'll go to him in a moment.

Also, much more on the New York governor, Eliot Spitzer, and the breaking news he's now under investigation for allegedly trying to meet with a prostitute. I'll talk about that and more with our senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin. He new Spitzer in law school.

Plus, we know superdelegates can change their votes at the Democratic convention, but could pledged delegates do that as well? The Clinton camp suggests the answer is yes. We're taking a closer look.

And once again Florida could be pivotal in a close presidential contest. Standing by live, the senator, Bill Nelson, of Florida. We'll talk about a possible primary revote and the mistakes Democrats may have made along the way.

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


BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more coming up on the New York governor, Eliot Spitzer.

But let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack, what a day. Who knew?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know, go figure, right? Sometimes these moralistic, holier-than-thou, self-righteous folks get caught up -- hoisted on their own petard. Remember Larry Craig?

Anyway, this is about something else. It's called chutzpah. And Hillary Clinton has got it to spare.

The woman, who is behind Barack Obama in number of states won, behind Barack Obama in number of pledged delegates, and behind Barack Obama in popular vote is suggesting that she might consider putting Barack Obama on the Democratic ticket with her as her vice presidential candidate. Since her wins in Texas and Ohio, Hillary Clinton has twice referenced this idea. And over the weekend, husband Bill chimed in, saying the pair would make an "almost unstoppable force."

It's all very interesting since the odds are quite good that Hillary Clinton will not be the nominee and Barack Obama will.

In today's "New York Daily News," columnist Michael Goodwin writes, "It's a dream all right, as in dream on. It's a fantasy, because in the Clintons pitch, naturally, she's at the top of the ticket. Obama is her number two. That's rich of her, considering that Obama leads in both the delegate race and the popular vote."

"Forget those pesky voters. Hillary has declared herself the winner."

Goodwin calls it a sign of desperation on Clinton's part, compares her to a con artist trying to sell a house she doesn't own. He says the joint ticket offer looks like an olive branch when it's really a knife aimed at cutting Obama down to size.

For his part, Barack Obama, the frontrunner, calls the whole thing premature, says he's won twice as many states as Hillary Clinton, more of the popular vote than Hillary Clinton, and thinks he can hold on to his delegate lead over Hillary Clinton.

There is a huge irony in all of this. Hillary Clinton has spent almost this entire campaign saying that Barack Obama is not experienced enough to be president. Now all of a sudden she's promoting him as a potential vice president, just a heartbeat away from the top job. Go figure.

Here's the question: Why would Hillary Clinton, who is behind, keep talking about being on the same ticket with Barack Obama, who is ahead?

Go to You can post a comment on my blog.

Over 3,000 people have already done that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's a lot. And you're going to get a lot more, Jack. Thanks very much.

There's new movement toward having Democratic primary revotes in both Florida and Michigan. Those big states punished for moving up their contests could wind up having the last word. But at what price?

Let's go to Suzanne Malveaux. She's following all the latest developments for us from the battleground state in Pennsylvania.

All right, Suzanne. I know there's a lot of negotiations going on behind the scenes. What do we know?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, before the discussion was about trying to seat those delegates, as is with the Florida and Michigan votes already taking place. But it already seems now that there is a turn of events here, that Clinton's campaign, as well as Obama's campaign, very much open now to the idea of a possible do-over.


MALVEAUX (voice over): Once divided over whether the delegates from Florida and Michigan would be seated, now both campaigns, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's, seem open to a do-over.

ANN LEWIS, SR. CLINTON ADVISER: Any other additional process, if one is to be considered, has to have -- again, be supported by the Democrats in those states. It has to be fair. And it has to be accessible. And third, we have to keep in mind that we need both those states in the fall.

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: We've always wanted to see Florida and Michigan take part in this process. And I think that's -- they seem to be on the path of trying to figure something out with the DNC.

MALVEAUX: DNC chairman Howard Dean is open to ideas, but refuses to have the national party pay for a revote. The price tag is estimated at $30 million. Neither campaign is offering to open their coffers yet.

Clinton supporters Governors Jon Corzine of New Jersey and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania have offered their help.

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Yes, Governor Corzine and I have sent a letter to "The Washington Post" calling for the revote and pledging that we would help raise money towards the revote as well.

MALVEAUX: But the campaigns are torn over what kind of do-over or revote would be most fair. Dean is advocating a mail-in primary, much like voting absentee ballots.

HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: It's comprehensive. You get to vote if you're in Iraq or in a nursing home. It's not a bad way to do this.

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: The principle here is one man, one person, one vote. And all these people who say you go to a caucus or you split the delegation evenly, that's not expressing the will of the Florida voters, of which almost two million turned out.

MALVEAUX: Clinton supporters believe the mail-in primary would favor her, since Clinton already won the Florida and Michigan contests. But the Obama campaign says it prefers splitting the delegate evenly or holding caucuses, a process that rewards the candidate who can best turn out the vote, which has favored Obama.

TOM DASCHLE (D), FMR. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I think it's very difficult to administer a write-in, especially since it's never been done before, at least in Florida.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: If you're going to redo this thing, let's have a real open primary or caucus according to the way the states have traditionally done it. And let's go back and do it so that people can really participate and get involved.


MALVEAUX: Wolf, the goal obviously is for officials to resolve this before the Democratic National Convention in August. If there was a do-over or revote, they're looking at potentially this happening sometime in June after those last states' contests. The negotiations begin in earnest last week. We expect later this week that they'll pick it up as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Suzanne Malveaux.

Let's talk to Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, right now.

You're proposing a mail-in vote in Florida. But even you suggest that there are problems there in the piece you wrote in "The Wall Street Journal," Senator. You said this: "Mail-in balloting, of course, poses some challenges, including matching the signature on each ballot with the signature on a voter's registration card."

I can already see pictures of some guy trying to match signatures to make sure that they're the same, that it isn't fraud. If you're going to do it again, why not do it right? Spend the money -- there can be money raised -- and do a full-scale primary.

NELSON: Well, that would be my preference. My preference is that we count what was a clean, legal, completely fair election. An election, by the way, that was set by the Republican legislature. This wasn't Florida Democrats that did it.

BLITZER: But nobody was allowed to campaign in Florida, so, you know, Barack Obama's people point out, and they have a legitimate complaint, Hillary Clinton at that time was so much better known, she had the advantage if no one could campaign. He couldn't go in there and try to win votes in Miami or Tallahassee or any place else.

NELSON: Wolf, people watch the news. They knew what was going on.

BLITZER: But you know that meet and greet -- that retail politics -- is -- you're a politician. You know how important that is.

NELSON: Look, my job is not here of Clinton versus Obama. My job is to make sure that peoples' votes in Florida counts, and it counts as intended.

So, if the Democratic National Committee -- which last summer I tried to work it out. I even sued Howard Dean and the DNC. And the federal judge didn't see it that way.

So, if that's not going to work, to let the election stand, we ought to do over. Of course it would be best if you could have a full-up election. But the voting machines are changing in Florida. They've dismantled them. So what works the best? Oregon has had tremendous success with a mail-in ballot. They've even had upwards of 90 percent participation.

So there are hurdles. First of all, the DNC has got to approve it. Then the Florida legislature has got to go along with Governor Crist, who I've talked to, and he wants to work it out. They have got to tweak the law to allow this to the existing law in Florida on mail- in ballots.

BLITZER: You basically have two months to do all the logistics until early June, which is when you would want it.

NELSON: We have to...

BLITZER: But you support Hillary Clinton, and so the argument is that, you know, Bill Nelson is trying to find a way to give her an advantage over Barack Obama. They say they would like to do the caucuses where he's done much better over these past several months.

NELSON: Well, Florida has never had a caucus. I endorsed Hillary six weeks ago. I was working on this, Wolf, seeing this train wreck coming eight months ago, last summer. And indeed, we're going to have a train wreck if we can't get this situation of the fourth largest state of the union to where it can be represented fairly by the people's ballot.

BLITZER: Who is responsible for this mess in Florida and Michigan? Because a lot of people are pointing fingers at the Democratic and Republican leadership in both states, especially in Florida, and saying, you know what? You brought this on yourself.

NELSON: Well the Republican National Committee is just laughing up its sleeve right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: They have their nominee.

NELSON: Well, they have their nominee, and it was a Republican legislature in Florida that moved this date up, not Florida Democrats.

BLITZER: But all the Democrats voted for it, too.

NELSON: No. That was a bill on election machine reform.

BLITZER: It was part of that legislation.

NELSON: And the Democratic leader of the legislature offered an amendment to put it back to February the 5th, but it was defeated by the Republican legislature. So what we have is what we have.

Now, how do we best correct this so the principle of one person, one vote can stand? We're pretty sensitive about our votes in Florida. You know, we went through the 2000 presidential race.

BLITZER: And we don't want to see anything like that again.

NELSON: We don't. And that's why we've come up with this redo, and hopefully it will work.

BLITZER: Let's hope something works, because it would be a pity, it would be a tragedy if the Democrats and people in Florida, the people of Michigan, do not have a saying in picking the Democratic presidential nomination.

NELSON: It would be a tragedy for America and especially for Florida.

BLITZER: It would be a humiliation as well.

All right, Senator. Thanks very much. Good luck.

NELSON: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: A man who many people believe to have high ethical standards is now linked to a prostitution ring. We're going to talk about that, part of our top story, the breaking news we're following. A source now telling CNN the New York governor, Eliot Spitzer, is under investigation for allegedly meeting with a prostitute.

Also coming up, John McCain has been campaigning seemingly nonstop. And if elected, would be the oldest person ever to become president of the United States. So how is his health? McCain tells us what his doctor tells him.

We're back in 60 seconds.


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

Happening now, only a few hours to go until Mississippi's presidential primary. As Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama battle on, how might whites vote over the two history-making Democratic candidates?

Also, have one congressman's comments done more harm than good? We're watching fallout, after Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King said terrorists would be doing victory dances in the streets if Barack Obama becomes president. How is John McCain's campaign responding?

And some Christian teachings say love thy neighbor and don't lie, cheat, or steal? But might would one more virtue be added? Go green? Find out why the pope says polluting the planet is a sin -- all that coming up.

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

Let's get some now more on our top story, the breaking news -- it's a shocker -- coming out of New York State. new York's governor, who advocates the highest of ethics, at least in public, is now being linked to a prostitution ring. A source telling CNN Eliot Spitzer is under investigation for allegedly meeting with a prostitute. Spitzer is apologizing publicly to his family and to the public.


SPITZER: Good afternoon. Over the past nine years, eight years as attorney general, and one as governor, I have tried to uphold a vision of progressive politics that would rebuild New York and create opportunity for all. We sought to bring real change to New York, and that will continue.

Today, I want to briefly address a private matter. I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and that violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong. I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better.

I do not believe that politics in the long run is about individuals. It is about ideas, the public good, and doing what is best for the state of New York.

But I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family. I will not be taking questions. Thank you very much.


BLITZER: Our senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin, is joining us on the phone.

Jeff, first of all, you went to law school with Eliot Spitzer. Is that right?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I did. He was a year ahead of me at Harvard Law School.

BLITZER: All right. So, tell us about this man. How shocked were you?

TOOBIN: Well, I have to say, I was absolutely flabbergasted. You know, the -- the touchstone of Eliot's public and private life for the 20-plus years I have known him is being a straight arrow. His great success as attorney general of the state of New York was in bringing down corrupt people on Wall Street. That is the -- the core of his reputation.

He is not one of these lovable rogue politicians like Bill Clinton or Edwin Edwards of Louisiana. He's famous for being a straight arrow. That's why this is so stunning.

BLITZER: And he has a reputation of not only busting Wall Street big shots, but also going after prostitution rings himself. So, this is not something that's totally strange to him in these allegations that are now being leveled against him.

TOOBIN: Well, that's what makes this, I think, politically unsurvivable for him, is that this is, whatever else it is, illegal.

You can't patronize prostitutes and be a law-abiding person. And, for any governor, but particularly one of his reputation, I think it makes his position politically impossible.

BLITZER: Because it's -- it's not having extramarital affair. There's a crime involved if, in fact, you're a client of a prostitute. And that -- that raises this -- the ante in a major way.

Let me ask you, because a lot of us, when he came out thought, maybe he would resign, if he is acknowledging this. But he didn't resign. And he simply said, I apologize to my family and the people of New York over a personal issue. And he didn't get into any of the details. Were you surprised by that?

TOOBIN: I certainly was on the edge of my seat, like everyone else, waiting for the other shoe to drop in that statement. And I think what he's doing is playing for time. He's waiting to see if a firestorm builds in New York State, if editorial pages call for him to resign, if his fellow Democrats call for him to resign, or if he thinks he can ride this out. That -- that seems to be the political calculation involved in -- in making that statement.

But it is -- it's just very hard for me to believe that he can -- that he can survive this. But he's betting that the passage of time, apparently, will make his situation somewhat better.

BLITZER: And we saw his wife standing next to him when he made that statement. He also has three daughters.

All right, Eliot -- Eliot Spitzer, he has got his own problems.-- Jeff Toobin, thanks very much for that.

TOOBIN: Sure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's get back to the presidential race right now: promises not made to be broken. But, in politics, that rule does not always apply. When it comes to the tight race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, do delegates who pledged to vote for one of them really have to keep their pledge?

Brian Todd once again joining us.

You have been looking into this seemingly significant, very significant, question. Do those pledged delegates really have to vote for the person they're supposedly pledged to?

TODD: Well, Wolf, there is some question about that now. Now, already, a few of the superdelegates in this race have switched their endorsements. Now, for pledged delegates, the expectations are different. But, with the race so close, every rule is now under the microscope.


TODD (voice-over): Both campaigns are chasing every possible superdelegate, who can vote as they choose for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. But what about the pledged delegates, the ones elected state by state to support one candidate or the other? Senator Clinton raised the issue in an interview with "Newsweek," saying, "Even elected and caucus delegates are not required to stay with whomever they are pledged to."

True enough. The Democratic Party's rules say none of the delegates are legally bound. In 1980, Ted Kennedy complained about the rule requiring delegates to vote as their voters instructed them. He lost that fight, but then the rule got tossed out two years later.

Delegates elected in caucuses and primaries are simply expected to reflect the sentiments of those who elected them. But a spokesman for Clinton tells CNN: "We are not courting and will not court the Obama pledged delegates, and assume the Obama camp isn't courting our pledged delegates."

Still, pledged delegates could decide on their own to switch sides. But campaigns are careful who they allow to be delegates.

RHODES COOK, AUTHOR, "RACE FOR THE PRESIDENCY": They vet their delegates ahead of time in many states, so that they can call out anybody who would be potentially disloyal.

TODD: We asked Darryl Wiggins, a delegate pledged to Obama from the District of Columbia, if there's any chance he would switch sides. He said no way.

DARRYL WIGGINS, PLEDGED DELEGATE FOR BARACK OBAMA: You have a responsibility to represent those people who have sent you based on the candidate that they have sent you there for.


TODD: But there are some pledged delegates that will be in play at the convention. Before John Edwards suspended his campaign, he won 26 delegates slots in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. And some of them were already assigned. No indication yet from him whether he will release those delegates and push them toward one candidate or the other -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.

There's a new reason for Republicans to feel somewhat anxious. Coming up, a Democrat wins the House seat long held by the former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Is it a sign of things to come in the fall?

And John McCain responds to renewed questions about his health. We will tell you what the all-but-certain Republican nominee has planned.

And, in our next hour, a Republican congressman's eye-popping comments about Barack Obama at how terrorists might respond if he's elected president of the United States.

Much more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Running for president can pose major challenges and questions about one's health. So, how is John McCain doing? He's a survivor of melanoma. That's the most serious form of skin cancer. He's recently gone in for some checkups.

Let's go to Dana Bash. She's watching this story for us in Saint Louis.

Dana, what's going on? What's the latest?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest, Wolf, is that the 71-year-old Republican candidate told reporters before getting on his plane in his hometown of Phoenix that he had just came from the doctor. He also went to the dentist. That happened today.

But, perhaps more importantly, for the reason you just said, because he had such a public bout with a potentially serious form of skin cancer eight years ago, one that left a scar on his face, he also said that he went to the dermatologist a couple of weeks ago.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, everything is fine. In fact, I got the full cancer check a couple of weeks ago with my dermatologist.


MCCAIN: No, no, I just went to a regular -- regular routine that I go to my doctor all the time.


MCCAIN: I go see -- like most Americans, I go see my doctor daughter fairly frequently.



BASH: Now, that's about all John McCain revealed so far. He was a bit vague about the kind of checkup that he got and the reason why he feels so confident that his health is fine.

However, Wolf, he did announce that he's going to release his medical records on April 15. April 15 is when we will see his medical records. You probably remember, the last time he ran for president, his campaign actually released about 1,500 pages of his medical records.

They had a lot. It amounts to a lot, because, actually, the U.S. Navy had amassed it as part of a study that they were doing on him as a former prisoner of war.

But his campaign knows that they don't have any choice but to release this, because he is potentially going to be -- he's running as the oldest president ever to be elected. And they know that his age and his vitality are crucial issues to the voters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much -- Dana Bash out in Missouri for us.

A new blow to Republican clout up on a Capitol Hill -- the House seat long held by the former GOP Speaker Dennis Hastert now belongs to the Democrats. And you can bet both parties are reading the tea leaves after the weekend vote in Illinois.

Let's go to Brianna Keilar. She's watching this story for -- for us.

What's the initial sense? What does it mean for the Republicans and the Democrats on the Hill, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Republicans say, don't read too much into this special election victory, but it's raising Democratic hopes of more blue seats in Congress come the November elections.


KEILAR (voice-over): Democrat Bill Foster defeating Republican Jim Oberweis to be the new congressman from Illinois's 14th District.

BILL FOSTER (D), ILLINOIS CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: You sent a clear message to everyone in Washington.

KEILAR: This isn't just any congressional seat. It's the seat vacated in November by Dennis Hastert, the longest serving Republican speaker in history, in a district that is traditionally a Republican stronghold.

Democrats seized upon the victory, calling it a political shockwave in a fund-raising note and a harbinger of more blue seats to come. Some Democrats are even hoping it's a sign of what might happen if Barack Obama gets his party's nomination. Obama supported Foster, while John McCain campaigned for the defeated Oberweis.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: But we're going to a message of change across Illinois and across the nation.

KEILAR: Republicans downplayed the outcome.

KAREN HANRETTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: One election in one state does not prove a trend.

KEILAR: But the special election is a reminder of other obstacles Republican face this election year. They're already outnumbered by more than 30 seats in the House and by two seats in the Senate. And they stand to lose more ground come November, say congressional analysts like Amy Walter.

(on-camera): Amy, when you look at the open seats for this upcoming election, so many more Republicans than Democrats. Why is that?

AMY WALTER, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT": Well, I think House incumbents, Republican incumbents, are seeing the same thing that many Republican donors, Republican voters are seeing, too. There's an enthusiasm gap. There's a real concern about their chances in November this year.

KEILAR: And when you look at 10 of the most vulnerable GOP seats in the House, they're in eight different states. What is the trend here?

WALTER: Well, what you notice, that almost all of these districts, with the exception of Arizona here, these are suburban districts, swing districts. But almost all of them, with the exception here in Albuquerque and upstate in Syracuse, New York, they went for George Bush in the 2004 election.


KEILAR: Now, that said, Republicans insist they have strong candidates who can regain seats lost in 2006. And they say John McCain will help pull in the votes of independents and moderate Democrats -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brianna, thanks very much.

A crime-fighter governor now at the center of a scandal.


SPITZER: I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.


BLITZER: Can Eliot Spitzer's political career survive with the breaking news about the alleged link to a prostitution ring? That's coming up in our "Strategy Session."

Plus, Barack Obama says thanks, but no thanks to talk of a Clinton-Obama ticket. Donna Brazile and Bill Bennett, they standing by to read between the lines of the latest sparring over the number- two spot.

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


BLITZER: New York's governor is being linked to a prostitution ring. He's apologizing publicly for as yet unnamed acts. Now there's speculation over whether or not he should resign.

Let's get to our "Strategy Session" to discuss that. Our political analyst and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile is here and our CNN contributor Bill Bennett. He's with the Claremont Institute. Donna, this is a shocker. I must say, all of us who have -- I mean, I don't know him -- but have covered him over the years, this is the last thing one could expect.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I was shocked, Wolf. My TV was on mute. And someone called me. And I said, "Eliot Spitzer?" No.

I mean, you expect this from some politicians. Look, in my home state of Louisiana, we produce politicians like this by the dozen. But Eliot Spitzer was the last person I would have thought associated with a prostitution ring. It's a distraction. He may have to -- he may have to step down.

BLITZER: What do you think, Bill?

BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think probably so. I mean, he is -- he was the attorney general. He prosecuted prostitution rings. He is the governor. This is illegal. And we will see what else happens.

I heard a couple of reports this was part of an investigation of organized crime. If -- if that is involved as well, it makes it worse. I don't think he can survive.

BLITZER: Because an extramarital affair, as morally bad as that is, it's not necessarily a crime. If, in fact, he is linked to a prostitution ring, that would -- that would be illegal, and that would raise -- raise the stakes immediately.

BRAZILE: The last thing we want to do is to start removing politicians who have had extramarital affairs. But let me say this. If he is linked to organize crime, this prostitution ring, I think that the people of New York will demand that he step aside.

BLITZER: Is there any way you think he can survive?

BENNETT: Well, I guess they think -- some people around him think there may be a way, Wolf, because you remember, early on, we were hearing reports that he would step up and resign and say he was stepping down. Now maybe not.

What are they looking out? Maybe they're looking at the precedent of Bill Clinton. Maybe -- I will be even-handed -- maybe they're looking at the precedent of Larry Craig. Now, that was a different situation, but analogous.

So maybe they're thinking they could tough it out. I think, given his high-profile posture, the prosecutor who has prosecuted these kinds of cases before, I think it's very unlikely. Plus...

BRAZILE: Well, Bill Clinton --


BENNETT: ... Plus, he's got -- well -- well, he... BRAZILE: He wasn't linked to any prostitution ring.


BENNETT: No. It was an intern. And it was...


BLITZER: Well, maybe the David Vitter, the Senator David Vitter analogy...

BRAZILE: Well, that's what I mean by Louisiana...


BLITZER: ... might be...


BLITZER: He's still a senator from Louisiana.

BENNETT: That's right. That was eight years ago. This guy is still in office. Look, it's not good for him and the fact that he was prosecuting these kinds of cases. I think the stuff he was doing which already raises the burden on him with Joe Bruno, the investigation, which is under investigation...


BLITZER: The Republican leader...

BENNETT: ... Republicans.


BLITZER: ... in New York State.

BENNETT: So, I just think it's probably too much. I think it's too much.

BRAZILE: And that's what I was alluding to. I was alluding to David Vitter. And he's still clearly in office right now.

BLITZER: Well, let's talk about the latest Obama statement, reacting to Hillary Clinton's readiness, if you will, at least seeming readiness, to consider him as a vice presidential running mate, the former President Bill Clinton saying it would be unstoppable, for all practical purposes.

Here's what Barack Obama said today.


OBAMA: This kind of gamesmanship, talking about me as vice president, but he -- maybe he's not ready for commander in chief, that's exactly the kind of double-speak, double-talk that Washington is very good at.


BLITZER: He's stepping up -- stepping up the level a little bit, getting a little bit tougher.

BRAZILE: Well, I -- I think Obama is tough. But I also believe that he's trying to play fair. And he's also trying to -- to not go down the slippery slope of dividing the party.

Obama is leading in pledged delegates. He's won more states. He's quite capable of being commander in chief. But, clearly, he's not running to be number two at this point. And I don't think Hillary Clinton is running to be number two.

BLITZER: And he makes a fair point.


BLITZER: If in fact he's not ready to be commander in chief, why would he be ready to be vice president of the United States, only a heartbeat away?

BENNETT: Just what is the position of the Clintons on Barack Obama? Is he ready for prime time or not?

"It's an honor to be with Barack Obama." "Shame on Barack Obama." "He's not ready to be commander in chief. How about number two?"

It's not an appetizing prospect for him, by the way. I mean, I don't think he sees himself getting a lot of power in a Clinton -- in a Clinton White House. But it is what we call in Brooklyn chutzpah. I think I got that word right in the throat...


BENNETT: That -- I haven't practiced for years. He is ahead, and she's offering him number two. Now, there's a kind of psychological smart point here. Act as if you're number one. Well, we may give him the grace of being number two. Sorry, he's number one.


BENNETT: I think he's got the great -- great answer.

BLITZER: I think she has another thing in mind. And her supporters have another thing in mind. They know how popular he is.


BLITZER: And they're saying, you know what, we understand how popular. You want both, you get two for the price of one. I will pick him as my running mate. I think that would be very appealing to a lot of Democrats. BRAZILE: You know what was interesting is that she didn't make this appeal in Texas or Ohio. She's making this appeal in Mississippi, because I believe that they're trying to get back some of the black support that they lost over the last couple of months.

BLITZER: Mississippi, Sean Callebs, our reporter down there, said 70 percent of the expected Democratic vote tomorrow is going to be African-Americans. Is that right?

BENNETT: Yes. Yes.

BRAZILE: If it's a good day, African-Americans will show up, along with others.

BLITZER: Well, if it's 70 percent -- and he's been getting 80, 85 percent of the African-American vote in several of the recent states -- he's going to win rather handily, wouldn't you say?


BENNETT: He will win another state. It's like -- if I were a cartoonist, you know, he's ahead. When she's behind, she's saying, hey, you want to be runner-up? And he's two yards ahead of her. I'm with him. I think his response is very good. What game are they playing?

BLITZER: But the real big contest is going to be April 22 in Pennsylvania.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: That's a major state that the -- a state the Democrats have to win in the fall as well. And that's where they're going to be investing an enormous amount of their time and money.

BRAZILE: But, Wolf, Democrats are concerned not just about winning back the White House, but expanding the Democratic majority. And, so, many of these small states, like Mississippi, like Louisiana, like other states out there, we also have to win back Senate seats and congressional seats.

So, I think Democrats need to start arguing that we need to win big states and little states, because they all matter.

BLITZER: What do you think of the do-over? Are they going to be able to recreate the -- the elections in Michigan and Florida?


BENNETT: I don't know what they're going to do. I'm delighted to be a spectator in this and not involved in the process, watching.


BENNETT: But I -- I think they have to do something. I think they have to do something. BLITZER: Very quickly, Donna, what do you think?

BENNETT: But North Carolina -- North Carolina and Indiana, too. Pennsylvania is big, but those two are even bigger in delegates.

BLITZER: But that's later, too.

BENNETT: That's later.

BRAZILE: I agree. I'm trying to sidestep that issue, because we don't have a plan yet to redo the contests. But, once a plan arrives at the rules and bylaws committee, we will look at it fairly.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks for coming in.

BENNETT: Thank you.

BLITZER: Virtually everyone says it's a shocker that caught them totally off guard. How could a man who preaches high ethics become linked to a prostitution ring? That's the allegation.

That's the situation the New York governor, Eliot Spitzer, finds himself in right now. We have new details about the criminal complaint that allegedly names Spitzer.

Also, more on the so-called do-overs in Florida and Michigan -- voters there, will they make their candidate preferences known again? What might that look like? Is a vote by mail a fair and viable idea?

Stay with us, lots a news happening, a busy day -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Why would Hillary Clinton, who is behind, keep talking about being on the same ticket with Barack Obama, who is ahead?

Elliot writes from Ontario: "The more Obama rejects or ignores an Obama-Clinton ticket, the more Clinton will drop hints about a possible Clinton-Obama ticket. It's simple: She's going to lose. And dangling this carrot is an attempt to get undecided or swing voters to stop and say, hold on, I can get the best of both worlds if I choose Clinton. It also rings well for independents, who would otherwise gravitate toward McCain. Simplified: Clinton needs Obama. Obama is better off without her."

Bill writes: "Hillary Clinton is as narcissistically self- absorbed as her husband. She couldn't imagine not having the nomination handed to her from the start. She refused to acknowledge Obama's wins, as if they hadn't happened at all, and then talked about the states he won as -- quote -- 'not mattering.' She is unscrupulous, unprincipled, divisive, and clearly would trade the future of the party and the nation in exchange for the nomination."

Barrett writes: "Clinton is running for president. She has the right to talk about who she would like to have as her running mate. So does Obama. Why are people so upset about it?"

"Because she has more spin" -- Johnny writes this -- "Because she has more spin than a dreidel during Hanukkah. She knows that she is impossibly behind in the delegate count. Her only opportunity now is to devise a scheme. It's also a part of her carrot-stick politics. You know, you can be on the ticket, but you won't be allowed to answer any calls after midnight, because you are an unqualified and your candidacy is a fairy. No wonder the Democrats have a donkey as their symbol."

Joy in North Carolina writes: "If Hillary wants the top spot, I hear that one might be available soon. She could run for governor of New York."


CAFFERTY: And Kevin in Illinois says: "Jack, either way, this is shaping up to be the most amazing political season in history, even topping Al, George, 'Chad,' and the Supremes in 2000" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.