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Call for Clinton to Quit; Dempsey Named Temporary Successor to Fallon at CENTCOM; U.S. Airways Finds Problems on Seven Boeing 757s

Aired March 28, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Hillary Clinton hit with a new call from Barack Obama supporters for her to drop out of the presidential race. The fear factor is growing among some Democrats as the primary fight drags on. This hour, Clinton fighting back while Barack Obama nabs a key endorsement.

Plus, meet John McCain, the Republican launches his fall campaign by trying to reintroduce himself to the American voters. And remind them of his war heroics.

And a defining moment right now in Iraq. President Bush talks about the deadly challenge to the Iraqi government in new terms.

I'm Wolf Blitzer along with the best political team on television. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

Here's a question some are asking tonight: Should Hillary Clinton call off her presidential bid and end the party's long bitter primary slugfest? A lot of Barack Obama supporters are asking that question. Today, one of Clinton's senate colleagues, himself an Obama supporter, said yes, it's time for her to go.

Let's go to CNN's Jessica Yellin. She in Pennsylvania over at the CNN Election Express. She is watching this story for us.

Jessica, what's Senator Clinton saying? How is she reacting to these calls from Obama supporters for her to quit?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Clinton's message is she's been counted out before and she says it's not too late for her to make a comeback.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): In case you had any doubt.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are some people who are saying, you know, we really ought to end this primary, we just ought to shut it down and --

YELLIN: She's not going anywhere. Or as the other Clinton puts it --

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think any of these people ought to be asked to resign. Let's just saddle up and have an argument. What's the matter with that?

YELLIN: Plenty, at least that's according to a growing number of party elites like DNC chair Howard Dean who worries the endless primary will demoralize the Democrats.

HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We've got two great candidates. We need to focus on the issues here. We need the supporters to stop taking positions that are unreasonable. And we need to stay on the positive road talking about our strengths and the Republican weaknesses.

YELLIN: Other superdelegates are now going further. Senator Patrick Leahy today.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: But as long as there are two candidates fighting for the nomination when it's obvious which one is going to win, all that does is to help the other party's nominee.

YELLIN: And Senator Chris Dodd says he believes it's a foregone conclusion that Barack Obama will be the nominee. But surprise, both men are backing Barack Obama.

Clintonites insist Obama's backers are behind all this talk of ending the primary and Senator Clinton is using this to raise money. In a letter to supporters this morning, she writes, "Those anxious to force us to the sidelines aren't doing because they think we're going to lose. They know we're in a position to win."

And in Indiana today...

H. CLINTON: I know a little bit about comebacks. You know, I know what it's like to be counted down and counted out. But I also know that there isn't anything that will keep us down if we are determined to get up and fight on!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: And Wolf, Senator Clinton's supporters point to this state I'm in right now, Pennsylvania. They say the enthusiasm for her candidacy here is reason enough for her to stay in the race -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Jessica, I just want to be precise. Both Patrick Leahy and Chris Dodd, Obama supporters. They're making these statements suggesting she should drop out but not Howard Dean, the chairman of the DNC.

He just wants the fighting to slow down. He's not saying she should drop out. Is that right?

YELLIN: That's correct. Dean is upset about the tenor, the negativity of the race. So far we have not heard calls for this primary to end from anyone except folks who have backed Barack Obama. BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Jessica, very much.

Hillary Clinton says it's not unusual to have a Democratic primary race still undecided this late in the season.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H. CLINTON: We forget that my husband did not win the nomination until June. That longer primaries have been, frankly, the norm until relatively recently.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Technically Senator Clinton is certainly right. Her husband didn't officially clinch the Democratic nomination till June 2, 1992. Bill Clinton was considered the probable nominee starting in mid-March of that year when Paul Tsongas dropped out of the race.

Back then, the primary races were much more spread out, about half of the contests were held before mid-March and about half after. This year, 45 of the contests were held by mid-march and just ten contests in the states and territories after that. Interesting little footnote.

John McCain is taking advantage of the battle among the Democrats. Today, he launched the first ad of his national campaign. He's sending a message to the voters out there that plays up to his experience.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's watching this story for us.

He's trying to reintroduce himself to the American public -- Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the ad is airing in New Mexico which is a swing state and it's part of a much broader effort for McCain to define himself and not have Democrats do it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, now wants to you meet John McCain the person, including his days as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Lieutenant commander in the navy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And your official number.

MCCAIN: Six-Four-Seven-Eight-Seven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain, the American president Americans have been waiting for.

SNOW: Seven months before November, the McCain campaign has rolled out its first general election ad. It outlines McCain's experience and has a subtle message of taking aim at his Democratic rivals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what must we believe about that president? What does he think? Where has he been?

SNOW: The ad coincides with the service to America tour McCain will take next week. He'll visit places that are significant to him such as the naval academy to highlight his military service.

Why does the well known veteran lawmaker need to reintroduce himself? The campaign says it is cannot presume everyone knows his background but political observers say the fighting between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the Democratic side presents an opportunity.

CHARLES MAHTESIAN, "POLITICO": There's a fantastic window for him here, a window in which he will be able to define himself in a way he wouldn't be in the Democratic nominee had already been selected.

SNOW: But as McCain plays to a strength of national security, his Democratic rivals are targeting what they perceive to be his weakness, the economy. After he addressed fixing the housing crisis this week, they took aim.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He wants to continue George Bush's economic policies.

H. CLINTON: It sounds remarkably like Herbert Hoover, and I don't think that's a good economic policy.

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": I think his opponents are going to say he's not talking about the economy. He doesn't have a message for you on the economy. He doesn't have solutions for issues like the home mortgage crisis or rising gas prices.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: McCain has fought back at Obama and Clinton saying they're proposing multibillion dollar plans to ease the housing crisis that aren't needed and will hurt taxpayers and his camp says McCain does plan to focus heavily on the economy in April -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thank you. Mary Snow reporting.

Let's get to Iraq right now and what President Bush is now calling a defining moment in the country's history. Deadly fighting between Iraqi forces and Shiite militias raging on today in Baghdad and parts of southern Iraq, elsewhere in the country, as well. Mr. Bush is praising the Iraqi officials for going after what he calls criminal fighters.

Let's go to the White House. Our correspondent Ed Henry is standing by watching this story for us.

The president sounded upbeat note yesterday. What about today, Ed? ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Wolf. For the second straight day, he sounded upbeat. He tried to make the case that a lot of this fighting will be positive in the long run because it shows the Iraqi prime minister stepping up and cracking down on militias. Even right now, even the president is acknowledging that the situation on the ground is precarious.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): As new violence ripped through Baghdad and Basra, President Bush declared this is yet another critical juncture in the Iraq war.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There have been other defining moments up to now, but this is a defining moment, as well. This is a test and a moment for the Iraqi government.

HENRY: Mr. Bush walked a fine line, continuing to insist major progress has been made. Even as U.S. State Department employees in Baghdad are being told to wear helmets and stay in reinforced structures. This week, two Americans were killed in the fortified green zone there.

BUSH: Yes, there's going to be violence, and that's sad. But this situation needed to be dealt with. And is now being dealt with. I have said in my remarks, there's been substantial progress and there has been, but it's still a dangerous, fragile situation in Iraq.

HENRY: That dance was even more delicate as Mr. Bush met with the new prime minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, who's pulling the rest of his nation's troops out of Iraq. Mr. Bush tried to put the best face on the shrinking coalition noting the U.S. is withdrawing five of its brigades by the end of July.

BUSH: Troops are coming out because we're successful. And so, I would view the Australian decision as return on success, returning home on success.

HENRY: But even with the scheduled withdrawals, the U.S. will still have about 15 brigades in Iraq, approximately 140,000 troops slightly higher than pre-surge levels. After a reporter asked about future troop cuts, Mr. Bush acknowledged the latest round of violence has left the picture more muddled.

BUSH: His real question was, have the conditions changed such that you believe your commander is going to make a different recommendation than he might have two days ago. I can't answer that question.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: That commander obviously is General David Petraeus's next progress report in early April to congress. It seems highly unlikely that General Petraeus is going to be able to call for major troop cuts later this year given the precarious situation, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed, thank you; Ed Henry at the White House.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Before you sit down and write to "The Cafferty File," I want you to think about this. Sending excessive e-mails and text messages could be a sign of mental illness and some of you are definitely on the margin. You know who you are.

An editorial in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests obsessive compulsive symptoms are now so common that they should be included in the industry manual on mental disorders.

Here's how to tell if you need help. Excessive use, which often goes along with the loss of any sense of time when you're online, withdrawal which includes feelings of anger, tension or depression when you can't get to your computer, the need for a better computer, more software, and even more hours of use, and negative repercussions which can include arguments, lies and social isolation, all due to your time spent online.

In South Korea, which has the highest use of broad broadband worldwide, Internet addiction is considered one of the most serious health issues. The government says 210,000 kids are affected by this and need treatment. Another 1.2 million are believed to be at risk for addiction.

In China, it's thought that nearly 14 percent of Internet users are addicted, that would be 10 million Chinese kids.

It comes as no surprise there are now Internet addiction clinics around the world. I wonder if they have them online. Experts say it's also become a more significant legal issue in criminal divorce and employment cases.

So here's the question: Is sending excessive e-mails and text messages a sign of mental illness? E-mails to the Cafferty file do not count.

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's Friday, Jack, right?

CAFFERTY: It is Friday.

BLITZER: OK. Excellent.

CAFFERTY: You can tell.

BLITZER: See you in a few moments with the best political team on television.

Hillary Clinton supporter James Carville is firing right back at those Obama supporters urging his candidate to drop out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMES CARVILLE, CLINTON SUPPORTER: If they would spend more time just trying to win primaries as they did carping and trying to stop Democrats from voting, they'd be a lot better off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Carville is also hinting at a scenario that might force Senator Clinton to call it quits what exactly would that be? We'll tell you worst case for Hillary Clinton, that's coming up. My interview with James Carville.

And for some Pennsylvania voters, party lines are getting blurred. We'll meet Republicans jumping ship to support Democrats.

And yet another airline has problems with its planes. You're going to find out what's wrong this time.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There are growing calls from Barack Obama supporters for Hillary Clinton to simply drop out of Democratic race. But are those calls premature?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Joining us now, the Democratic strategist, James Carville, a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton.

James, thanks very much for coming in.

CARVILLE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Patrick Leahy the Democratic senator from Vermont had some strong words today, actually the other day but they're just coming out right now saying this to Vermont public radio: "There is no way that Senator Clinton is going to win enough delegates to get the nomination. She ought to with draw and ought to be backing Senator Obama. Now, obviously that's a decision that only she can make. Frankly, I think she would have a tremendous career in the Senate."

He's a strong supporter of Barack Obama. What do you think about his recommendation?

CARVILLE: First of all, if he's trying to help Senator Obama, it's kind of a strange way to go about it, number one. She's not going to get out.

Number two, it could hurt Senator Obama in Pennsylvania that he's trying to deny their right to vote in this presidential primary which doesn't make a whole lot of sense at all and her supporters and contributors who are many of them are very loyal members of the Democratic Party are not going to take very kindly to this.

So I mean, I know Senator Leahy somewhat. I think he's a very bright candidate. If he's trying to help his candidate here, he's not doing a very good job of it. I think most people say let the people in Pennsylvania vote and let these states vote and at some point when the process is over, we'll take a look at it and I think we'll be united in Denver.

BLITZER: Because his argument is that this bickering is really hurting whoever the Democratic nominee is going to be. He thinks it's going to be Obama and that it's only helping John McCain.

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, if they would spend more time just trying to win primaries as they did carping and trying to stop Democrats from voting, they'd be a lot better off. Honestly as a Democrat, I don't think this is very productive to try to cut this process short.

And I don't think Senator Clinton, obviously, is going to go through Pennsylvania and beyond that. There's not much doubt about that. But again, if they were to win Pennsylvania, then there would be very good argument to be made that the process needed to be terminated.

But first, go out and win something. And this is not helping it Senator Obama to win Pennsylvania.

BLITZER: If he surprises a lot of people and upsets her in Pennsylvania, would it be over for Hillary Clinton?

CARVILLE: It would be very difficult. I think I said early on, Wolf, on your show that she would have to win Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. If she were not to win Pennsylvania, I would say it would be extremely difficult, and I think that a lot of people in not just the party but people in her own campaign would say, this is something that's not likely to happen let's let Pennsylvanians decide that, not Vermonters.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens in Pennsylvania. Speaking of Pennsylvania, one Pennsylvanian, the Senator Bob Casey Junior today, endorsed Barack Obama. How much of a setback is that for Hillary Clinton?

CARVILLE: Well, he's a dear friend of mine. And his dad is somebody that I revered. I think he's an honorable man. I think I'm disappointed that he did, and I think he went about it in an honorable way. I like Senator Casey a lot as do many supporters of Senator Obama that I have been and remain on friendly terms and when the general election comes, I'll sure we'll be whoever the nominee is, shoulder to shoulder with them.

So I'm disappointed. I wish he would have endorsed Senator Clinton but I think he went about it in an honorable way and I think he is an honorable man.

BLITZER: And so you obviously disagree -- differentiate between his endorsement of Barack Obama and Governor Bill Richardson whom you called a Judas.

CARVILLE: To say the least. I think that Senator Casey is an honorable man.

BLITZER: And --

CARVILLE: Well, I'll let it -- if I said somebody's an honorable man and another man is a Judas, I don't think I minced a lot of words in the process.

BLITZER: He's a sitting Democratic governor. Maybe you can explain your anger. A lot of people keep e-mailing me, why is he so disappointed, so angry at Bill Richardson.

CARVILLE: Well, because I think that when you first of all, when you make representations to other people who I named last night on Larry King.

BLITZER: To our viewers who weren't watching, tell us what you said.

CARVILLE: I said that he had told other prominent Democratic fund-raisers whose names I couldn't mention but who's initials where is Elizabeth Bagley Anaheim Sabone, that he had assured them he was going to endorse Senator Clinton, that he made other representations to other high level people in the Democratic party and I don't think the way he went about this was the way you should do something like this.

And every other person who has endorsed Senator Obama, I have said they're dear friends of mine, Senator Daschle, Senator Durbin, Congresswoman Delores are just lovely people. I think the world of them as I do Senator Casey. I think that Governor Richardson did not act in an honorable way and I singled him out for that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: James Carville speaking with me earlier. By the way, we asked Bill Richardson's office for a response to Carville's claim that the governor had indicated he would endorse Hillary Clinton. Richardson's communications director tells us -- and I'm quoting now -- "That is absolutely not true."

We also invited Governor Richardson to join us, couldn't do it today. Hopefully he'll join us in the coming days.

A change in command at a time of tension as the war in Iraq suddenly heats up with new signs of Iranian meddling, U.S. forces gets a new chief for the time being.

And Condoleezza Rice speaking out on race. It's a hot campaign topic. Could she end up in the campaign on the McCain ticket? We'll ask the best political team on television.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Carol Costello is on assignment in Pennsylvania. You'll be seeing her shortly. Zain Verjee is monitoring other important stories right now.

Zain, what's going on?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a U.S. army general with extensive experience in Iraq is taking over as U.S. central command chief for now. Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey temporarily replaces Navy Admiral William Fallon who stepped down this month after reports that he was at odds with President Bush over Iran policy. Dempsey has been deputy commander at central command since August of 2007.

Add another airline to the growing list of carriers reporting airplanes with problems. US Airways found problems with seven of its Boeing 757 aircraft. The airline started inspecting its fleet after a small part of a wing fell off one plane during a flight and hit a passenger's window. The airline says that all the problem planes have now been fixed -- Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Zain, thank you.

Barack Obama is playing up the idea that the Democratic presidential race needs to end sooner rather than later.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There's some people who felt like god, when is this thing going to be over. It's like a good movie that lasted about half an hour too long.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Will Obama's new endorsement in Pennsylvania bring him any closer to wrapping up the nomination? The best political team on television is standing by.

Chelsea Clinton answers a provocative question. Would her mom be a better president than her dad? Stick around to her answer.

And if you thought Texans had made up their minds between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, guess again.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, Republicans facing the growing threat of defections in the Pennsylvania primary but is there more to crossing party lines than meets the eye? You're going to find out what the real motive may be.

Also, the role of an old feud and a new endorsement of Barack Obama. We're going to show you why it may be meant as a slap in the face to the Clintons. And you're going to also find out why there's new buzz about Condoleezza Rice right now and a possible spot for her on the November ballot.

All of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

As the Pennsylvania primary campaign heats up, some long-time Republicans are defecting to the Democrats and the GOP is worried.

Carol Costello is joining us now from Philadelphia. She's watching the story for us.

What are you learning, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf 87,000 people here in Pennsylvania changed to being a Democrat so they could vote in the primary. And that number is big enough to cause real concerns amongst the Pennsylvania GOP.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Democrat, Republican -- labels that don't seem to inspire the intense loyalty of the past. Pennsylvanians Charles and Peggy Conrad, Republicans for more than 20 years, have switched.

PEGGY CONRAD, FORMER REPUBLICAN: We felt strongly that things need to change.

H. CLINTON: And I carry that --

COSTELLO: She plans to vote for Hillary Clinton because, in her mind, the GOP has become too socially conservative.

He is he torn between Clinton and Obama, caught up in the drama of the Democratic contest.

(on-camera): Did you think about John McCain through any of this?

CHARLES CONRAD, FORMER REPUBLICAN: Yes. I've been a lifelong Republican and I listened to him and that. But this country needs good leadership and if it comes from the Democratic side, then I would vote Democratic.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I've been wracking my brains...

COSTELLO (voice-over): And if you think either Conrad is switching because they buy into Rush Limbaugh's dark strategy to weaken the Democratic Party...

LIMBAUGH: I'm asking people to cross over if they can stomach it. I know it's a difficult thing to do, to vote for a Clinton, but it will sustain this soap opera.

COSTELLO (on-camera): Did that you ever enter into your decision?

C. CONRAD: No. No.

(LAUGHTER)

C. CONRAD: I don't listen to Rush.

P. CONRAD: We don't listen to Rush Limbaugh.

C. CONRAD: No.

(LAUGHTER)

COSTELLO (voice-over): If they did, perhaps the Pennsylvania GOP wouldn't find this so worrisome.

ROBERT A. GLEASON, JR., CHAIRMAN, PENNSYLVANIA GOP: I'm not happy when people switch over, but we're going to work hard to get them back and explain to them why they should be Republicans again and then we'll go at it for November.

COSTELLO: And that may be difficult. The decision to join the Democrats isn't easy. Lifelong Republican Linda Lemmon is now supporting Barack Obama. She says her decision was agonizing.

LINDA LEMMON, FORMER REPUBLICAN: I think I'm -- I'm a Democrat now. I probably will remain a Democrat, because I did not make this step lightly. I thought about it. And I took it as a -- as an American citizen of wanting, you know, to help my country.

COSTELLO: And for the Conrads, the idea of switching back may cause a different type of pain.

C. CONRAD: I'm an observer and I will observe and listen and until the day of the election.

P. CONRAD: And he will...

COSTELLO (on-camera): So he would...

P. CONRAD: He'll be pressured.

C. CONRAD: I could.

P. CONRAD: He'll be pressured by his wife.

C. CONRAD: But...

P. CONRAD: He'll be pressured by his (INAUDIBLE).

C. CONRAD: ... But I go in a secret little ballot box and I vote my own way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: And that is very true. But, you know, Wolf, one expert told me once you change your party affiliation, it's very difficult to go back because changing your party affiliation is sort of like changing a part of yourself. So it's very rare that someone would switch back to vote in the general election.

BLITZER: Good point. A very good point.

All right. Carol, thanks very much.

Carol Costello in Pennsylvania for us.

Let's discuss this and a little bit more with the best political team on television.

Joining us right now, the Democratic strategist and CNN contributor, Donna Brazile. She's here in Washington. In New York, Jack Cafferty. And our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin.

Guys, thanks very much.

Jack, what do you make of this that there are, what, tens of thousand of Republicans -- many of them, as we just heard, lifelong Republicans -- now registering as Democrats to vote in this upcoming contest?

CAFFERTY: Well, we've seen similar evidence of similar events in states all across the country, especially where they've had open primaries and people could go in and vote either Democrat or Republican. The Democratic turnout in these races has been two and three times the size of the Republican turnout.

The Republicans are faced with a candidate who's sort of like George Bush in some ways. He thinks the Iraq War is a terrific idea, admits he doesn't know a lot about the economy -- not unlike the current occupier of the Oval Office. And for those people who think that this might be a watershed moment in this country's history, maybe the last best chance we have to make a major course correction, it doesn't surprise me at all that they're looking at something besides the status quo.

BLITZER: You know, Donna, the Pennsylvania Democratic Senator, the junior senator, Bob Casey, today endorsed Barack Obama. He had earlier said he was going to try to stay neutral before the April 22 contest.

Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I believe in this guy like I've never believed in a candidate in my life, except my father. He campaigned hard for him. But he's a tremendous candidate. I think the more time he has on the ground here in Pennsylvania, the better he'll do. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How significant is that for Barack Obama?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's a very important endorsement for Senator Obama. Look, Senator Casey is well-known across the State of Pennsylvania. His family is a very respected political family. He has grassroots ties all throughout that great state.

And so I think this will help Senator Obama close the gap with Senator Clinton because, as you well know, she has the endorsement of Governor Rendell, a very popular governor, as well as the new mayor of Philadelphia, Mr. Nutter. So -- and Mr. Murtha. I cannot forget Jack Murtha, in the western part of the state.

But this comes at a very important time for Senator Obama -- three weeks to go before the primary. This give him some sea legs in Pennsylvania.

BLITZER: And we heard James Carville say earlier, Jeff, that if she were to lose Pennsylvania -- right now she's ahead in the polls -- that probably would be it for her.

But go ahead and weigh in on this endorsement.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, James has a famous quote about Pennsylvania politics. He says, "Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh separated by Alabama."

And, you know, that's the part of the state that Barack Obama has been very weak in. He's been weak with white, working class, Catholic voters. And those are precisely the voters who respond most favorably to the Casey and -- to this current Senator Casey and his father, the former governor.

So I think this is the perfect endorsement. Endorsements usually don't matter, but this is the best one that Obama could have gotten.

CAFFERTY: Plus, didn't Casey say he was going to join Obama's bus tour around Pennsylvania for a few days?

BLITZER: Yes. Over the next six days.

CAFFERTY: So, I mean, that's going to help. Getting out on the, you know, the highways and byways and going into some of the small towns with this guy who is so revered by the working class folks that Jeff was just describing in Pennsylvania. Plus, Obama has a history. Give him a little time in a state, he tends to -- he tends to do OK. So this could work.

BLITZER: Listen, Donna, to Chelsea Clinton. She was asked a provocative question just a little while ago.

I'm going to play her answer, because she restates the question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHELSEA CLINTON, DAUGHTER OF SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: His question is do I think my mother will be a better president than my father.

(LAUGHTER)

C. CLINTON: Well, again, I don't take anything for granted, but hopefully with Pennsylvania's help she will be our next president. And, yes, I do think she'll be a better president.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, she thinks her mom will be a better president than her dad. What do you think?

BRAZILE: Well, I thought her dad was a great president. And if her mother is lucky enough to win the Democratic nomination, I'm sure she'd make a great president, as well.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jeff?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, I think it's so interesting to hear Chelsea Clinton talk. She's been this mystery figure for so many years. And, frankly, I think it's a little peculiar that here she is, a 28-year-old woman, a very successful business executive in New York, and yet she never answers questions from the press, only from people. I think that's a peculiar thing. And if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, I think it's going to be a little difficult to sustain, keeping Chelsea Clinton away from the press.

BLITZER: Because a lot of us remember when she was a little girl. We covered the White House. And she's a grown woman, Jack. What do you think?

CAFFERTY: Well, I've got four daughters and I feel sorry for her on some level being out there. I mean it's nice, you know, that she's out there trying to help her mom and everything. But when she got that question tossed at her the other day from that college kid about whether the Monica Lewinsky episode affected her mother's credibility -- that's why they won't let her near the press, because that's all the press can do is come up with stuff like that.

And she didn't handle it very gracefully. It made her mad. I understand why. But it's the kind of answer that, you know, if she had said it to a "New York Times" reporter, we'd have been reading op-ed pieces for two weeks about how it's the public's business to know this and blah, blah, blah. So she's in a tough spot and I sort of have a little sympathy for her.

BLITZER: I have a lot of sympathy for her. I thought she did a nice job answering that question. But that's just me.

BRAZILE: I agree.

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

Potential trouble on the horizon for the GOP in a critical region of the country. We're going to show you why the West -- yes, the West -- could be lost in November to the Republicans. There's new information.

Plus, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's warning to Democratic fundraisers about the Clinton/Obama battle.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)

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

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A new ad from John McCain. He's got the luxury of going for the general election right now, having wrapped up the Republican nomination.

Let's discuss what's going on.

Jack, this ad is playing out West, in New Mexico, your old turf out there. There's some concern the Republicans have this is fertile ground for Democrats.

CAFFERTY: Well, it's been tilting from Republican to Democrat for a while now. It's important, I think, to point out that McCain didn't win any of the Western states except Arizona.

By the way, who's he talking about surrendering to -- the Sunni Muqtada Al Sadr's militia? What in the hell is he talking about in that ad?

Anyway, back to your question. There's some talk Mitt Romney might be on the ticket with McCain and that might be a strength for John McCain for two reasons. Romney beat McCain it in all those Western states that McCain lost during the primaries.

And Romney's got some experience with an economy in need of some sharp minds right now. And John McCain has admitted that isn't his long suit. But Romney's a pretty bright business guy.

So I think Romney might be a decent fit. What do you think, Donna?

I just want to point out he did win -- McCain did win California, which is out West, but...

CAFFERTY: You were talking about the interior Western states...

BLITZER: Right. Right.

CAFFERTY: ...of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, etc.

BLITZER: That is correct.

CAFFERTY: I know who won California.

BLITZER: That is correct.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: But I just don't want viewers to start writing in, isn't California out West.

And -- but go ahead, Donna. Weigh in on that intriguing possibility...

CAFFERTY: So is Hawaii.

BLITZER: ...of a ticket involving Mitt Romney.

BRAZILE: I think that's one option that Senator McCain should consider. Look, Democratic registration in Nevada, for the first time, topped Republican registration this year. Democrats believe that they can possibly put Nevada in play; Colorado, where the Democrats will hold their convention; Wyoming, although it has a Democratic governor, I don't know how fertile that will territory will be.

But Democrats will compete very hard for New Mexico, which went for Gore in 2000. But, of course, John Kerry lost it by a few percentage points in 2004.

BLITZER: The other intriguing name that's being floated out there, Condoleezza Rice, Jeff, as a possible running mate with John McCain. It's intriguing. I don't know how likely it is.

But what do you think?

TOOBIN: Well, I think there are two issues. One is how good a campaigner is she? You know, we think that just because someone's famous and they sound good on paper that they're a good campaigner. Running for president or vice president is hard. I mean just ask Fred Thompson. You know, if she's a good campaigner, terrific. But she may not be.

Second, one of John McCain's big claims is that he's different from the Bush administration. And to pick as his vice president someone so completely identified with George W. Bush I think makes that argument a lot harder to make.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jeff -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: Which one of us do you want? BLITZER: Whatever your name is.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Jack, go ahead.

CAFFERTY: Yes. I answer to anything.

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: I think Jeff -- I think he makes a good point. The other thing we have to remember about Condoleezza Rice is she was the national security adviser during the run-up to the war in Iraq. She was the State Department executive who presided over the Blackwater guards who murdered a bunch of Iraqi civilians -- allegedly -- and were granted partial immunities, short-circuiting any investigation, meaningful one, of that incident ever happening.

She was the secretary of state on watch while they were snooping through John McCain and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's passport files a couple of weeks ago. So she's got a little baggage.

BRAZILE: Well, Jack, I didn't hear you say one nice thing about Secretary Rice. I think she'd make an incredible vice presidential selection for John McCain...

CAFFERTY: Has she ever run for elected office?

BRAZILE: ... but she's not interested in running for political office. That's not --

CAFFERTY: Well, she never has, has she?

BRAZILE: No. That's not her strong suit. I think she wants to return to Stanford University and continue her life in academia once Mr. Bush's term is over with next year.

BLITZER: She's actually told me on many occasions she'd like to be commissioner of the NFL.

CAFFERTY: Oh, that's right. I remember that.

BLITZER: Which -- it's a pretty good job, if you say so.

TOOBIN: But it's taken at the moment.

BLITZER: It's taken right now. But you never know. There's a long time to come.

All right, guys, thanks very much. Have a great weekend.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BLITZER: See you back here.

Don't go away, Jack. We've got "The Cafferty File" coming up. TOOBIN: Good night.

BLITZER: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show that begins right at the top of the hour.

Lou, you want to be commissioner of the NFL too?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": No. I just want to continue to watch the four of you work out Condoleezza's -- Condoleezza Rice's career path. That was fascinating.

Thank you, Wolf.

Coming up here at the top of the hour, Senator Obama again today standing by his former pastor, calling for Senator Clinton to drop out of race -- the Obama campaign.

The McCain campaign, for its part, trying to capitalize on the confusion by courting the McCain Democrats. And we'll have the latest for you from the campaign trail.

Also, the federal government finally acknowledging the scale of illegal immigration and the number of illegal aliens in our criminal justice system. We'll have that report.

And tonight, a rising number of communities abandoned by Washington, D.C. are taking action to deal with our illegal immigration crisis. We'll have that report.

And a leading CEO actually had the guts to stand up, without the aid of the Business Roundtable or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and all by himself, he talked about a crisis being ignored by our elected officials and confronted the crisis in public education. He's going to win one of our awards here on this broadcast.

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

BLITZER: See you in a few moments.

Lou, thank you.

A special aide to President Bush resigning now in the face of a potential lawsuit. We're going do have details of what abruptly ended his White House career.

And, also, you're going to find out why the Democratic battle for Texas isn't over yet.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On our political ticker, a top aide to President Bush has resigned amid allegations he misused grant money from the U.S. Agency for International Development in a previous job. The aide had served as a special assistant for intergovernmental affairs for less than a month.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is vowing to protect her turf. In a letter to Democratic donors, she says she will not let the tension and pressure of the Clinton/Obama battle take a toll on the Democratic Congressional candidates. This comes after Pelosi came under fire by Clinton supporters for saying that superdelegates should support whoever candidate has the most elected delegates.

The Texas caucuses -- that process isn't over yet. Texas Democratic county conventions are scheduled for this weekend and the campaigns are using the Web to try to spread the word.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's watching the story for us.

What's going on -- Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you remember this, on March 4 -- a huge turnout in Texas combined with people who maybe hadn't caucused before. It meant chaos in some Texas precincts. Well, round two is about to begin.

For their support to count, the approximately 80,000 delegates selected through this process for Clinton or Obama have to show up tomorrow to county conventions. And the campaigns are making sure that they know they should go there. This Hillary Clinton campaign e-mail recruiting volunteers to blanket these delegates with calls to turn them out. The Barack Obama Web site generating the delegates' phone numbers for supporters to call, complete with a script what to tell them.

The chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party has posted his own instructions online. He says with the sheer amount of people expected and the amount of business to get through, they could be in for a long day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Abbi, for that.

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

CAFFERTY: All right, the question this hour: They did a study on this. Our question is, is sending excessive e-mails and text messages a sign of mental illness?

E-mailing my file thing, that doesn't count. That's different.

Jack writes from Kentucky: "I have a 13-year-old grandson. We always enjoyed doing things together. He'd listen to all my war stories and all my other lies with great zeal. Then he got a cell phone. Now, he's insane."

Ralph in Long Island says: "I'll send you another comment on this 30 minutes after I take my medication."

Joe writes: "I don't have a problem. I can stop any time I want. Really, I can. Really." Jim in Westchester County writes: "I find it to be a strategy more than an illness. I'd rather deal with matters in real time versus letting them pile up. Working in real time provides me with a more mobile lifestyle and actually allows me to spend more time with my family."

Stu writes: "People who use e-mail are crazy and eat their babies. It's true."

Mark in Kentucky says: "This is my 137th answer to this question and the answer is still no.

Dave in Canada writes: "I just had to put down my burger, fries and bourbon to respond to this question. If I didn't write so many e- mails, I just wouldn't get any exercise at all during the day. Does sending you this e-mail mean I have a mental illness? Of course not. No more so than the Cafferty shrine I have built in a secret room of my house."

K. Writes from Washington: "People who have mental illness are capable of making anything into a bad habit. We like to e-mail because it utilizes typing and office skills, along with composing letters and using the other side of the brain. It's a positive exercise on a daily basis. But to the extent that it interferes with daily chores, errands and the natural business of running our lives, I would have to say, no. E-mail takes a back seat, of course."

I rest my case.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: And Joe in Ohio writes: "I thought watching the Fox News Network caused mental illness.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Have a great weekend, Jack.

CAFFERTY: That's all I've got.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: See you Monday.

BLITZER: Enjoy.

Barack Obama says he's skinny but tough. The presidential candidate talks about the nasty campaign, his pastor problem and his wife's role if he wins the White House. You'll hear it right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: So did he stick by his controversial pastor for too long?

Barack Obama gave his view about that and much more today on ABC's "The View."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Had the reverend not retired and had he not acknowledged that what he said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized, what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I won't have felt comfortable staying there at the church.

You know, I'm a pretty tough guy. I'm skinny but I'm tough.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Look, you know, I think that -- that the way to handle attacks, wherever they're coming from -- and, you know, there have been some tough punches thrown here in this Democratic primary. I mean it's not like, you know, I've been just kind of taking a cakewalk through this primary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no.

OBAMA: The way I like to handle attacks is to answer honestly, swiftly, forcefully and truthfully.

BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST: Will your wife sit in on your cabinet meetings?

OBAMA: No. She doesn't want to because, you know, her -- Michelle is as talented a person as I know. And everybody knows now that she's a better speaker than I am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. You're good, too.

OBAMA: But she's very clear about her priorities. And she -- her biggest priorities are our two children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Barack Obama earlier today on "The View".

You've helped make our politics podcast, by the way, one of the most popular on iTunes. To get the best political team to go, you can subscribe at CNNPolitics.com or go to iTunes.

Also, please be sure to join me Sunday on "LATE EDITION," 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Among my guests, James Carville, Jamal Simmons.

Thanks for joining us.I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

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