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THE SITUATION ROOM

Campaign Events for the Week

Aired March 30, 2008 - 20:00   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 here in THE SITUATION ROOM, happening now: Hillary Clinton rejects calls for her to quit the campaign. She vows to go to the distance. And Barack Obama says that's just fine with him.
Where have all the issues gone? Given all the bickering and back- biting over the past week, you might think the campaign is all about personal attacks. Not so. You'll hear in depth what the candidates are saying on the economy and health care.

And then we'll sort it all out with the best political team on television. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are some folks saying, well, we ought to stop these elections. I didn't think we believed that in America. I thought we, of all people, knew how important it was to give everyone a chance, to have their voices heard and their votes counted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us for this special Sunday in THE SITUATION ROOM. It's been a weekend of heavy campaigning for the Democratic candidates.

Over the next hour we're going to try to cut through the noise and the bickering of the past week, and refocus our attention on what the candidates are saying about why they should be the next president of the United States.

Let's start with our own Jim Acosta. He's with the CNN Election Express. He's watching all of this unfold in Philadelphia.

All right, what's the latest on the Democratic side, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you just noted there with that sound from Hillary Clinton, she is rejecting calls from Obama supporters that she drop out of this race despite the fact that she's behind in the delegate count and those calls coming from Obama supporters, Patrick Leahy and Chris Dodd, that she go ahead and decide to throw in the towel.

She was in Indiana yesterday campaigning and was asked by the "Washington Post" about this. She told the "Washington Post" that until we resolve the situations in Florida and Michigan and have those delegates counted, she is prepared to take this nomination battle all the way to the conventions. And she used the words, "that's what the credentials committee is for." That is the committee that sorts out these delegates issues. And it is done typically at the convention. So laying down the gauntlet there that she is prepared to take this battle all the way to August.

To Barack Obama, who is in the middle of a six-day bus tour across the state, he was asked about this in Pennsylvania at a stop in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He seemed to back away from what his surrogate supporters are saying and suggested that Hillary Clinton can stay in this race as long as she likes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My attitude is that senator Clinton can run as long as she wants. Her name is on the ballot. And she is a fierce and formidable competitor. And she obviously believes that, you know, she would make the best nominee and the best president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, as we mentioned, Barack Obama is in the middle of a six- day bus tour across the state. Part of that bus tour he has been accompanied by his brand-new supporter in the state, Senator Bob Casey, who is the son of a very popular governor in the state and is a pro-life Catholic. And so Barack Obama is hoping that having Casey's support will help him reach out to those Catholic, pro-life, blue- collared Democrats, moderate Democrats which are very big in this state, a big part of the electorate.

And Barack Obama was seen trying to press the flesh with some of those blue-collar workers. He was apparently in Altoona, Pennsylvania, downing some hot dogs, from what we understand. And that comes -- we might want to also note -- after a stint at the bowling alley with Bob Casey, Wolf. So Barack Obama reaching out to blue-collar workers, an area where he has some catching up to do.

BLITZER: They both got some work to do.

All right. Jim Acosta in Philadelphia, thanks very much.

By the way, the CNN Election Express, along with the best political team on television, will be in Pennsylvania every single day through the April 22nd primary in Pennsylvania.

The economy has become "ISSUE #1" in this campaign. Late this past week Barack Obama delivered a major speech on the economy. Here's some of what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Wall Street has been recently gripped by gloom over our economic situation. But for many Americans the economy is effectively been in recession for the past seven years. We have just come through -- we have just come through the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that was not accompanied by a growth in incomes for typical families.

Americans are working harder for less. Costs are rising, and it's not clear that we'll leave a legacy of opportunity to our children and our grandchildren. And that's why throughout this campaign I put forward a series of proposals that will foster economic growth from the bottom up. And not just from the top down. And that's why the last time I spoke on the economy here in New York, I talked about the need to put the policies of George W. Bush behind us, policies that have essentially said...

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Policies that essentially said to the American people, you are on your own. We need policies that once again recognize that we are in this together. And we need the most powerful, the wealthiest among us, those who are in attendance here today, we need you to get behind that agenda. It's an agenda that starts with providing a stimulus that will reach the most vulnerable Americans, including immediate relief to areas hardest hit by the housing crisis, and a significant extension of unemployment insurance for those out of work.

If we can extend a hand to banks on Wall Street when they get into trouble, we can extend a hand to Americans who are struggling, often through no fault of their own.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Beyond these short-term measures, as president, I will be committed to putting the American dream on a firmer footing. To reward work and make retirement secure, we'll provide an income tax of up to $1,000 for working families and eliminate income taxes all together for any retiree bringing in less than $50,000 per year. To make health care affordable for all Americans, we'll cut costs and provide coverage to all who need it. To put Americans to work, we'll create millions of new green jobs and invest in rebuilding our nation's infrastructure.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: To extend opportunity, we'll invest in our schools and our teachers and make college affordable for every American. And to ensure that America stays on the cutting edge, we'll expand broadband access, expand funding for basic scientific research, and pass immigration reform so that we continue to attract the best and the brightest to our shores.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: I know that making these changes won't be easy. I will not pretend that this will come without costs, although I have presented ways we can achieve these changes in a fiscally responsible way. I believe in pay-go. If I start a new program, I will pay for it. If I intend to cut taxes for the -- middle class, then we're going to close some of the tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthy that are not working for shared prosperity. So we're going to have fiscal discipline. I know that we'll have to overcome our doubts in divisions and the determined opposition of powerful special interests before we can truly advance opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.

But I would not be running for president if I did not think that this was a defining moment in our history. If we fail to overcome our divisions and continue to let special interest set the agenda, then America will fall behind. Short-term gains will continue to yield long-term costs. Opportunity will slip away on main street and prosperity will suffer here on Wall Street. But if we unite this country around a common purpose, if we act on the responsibilities that we have to each other and to our country, then we can launch a new era of opportunity and prosperity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That was Senator Barack Obama laying out his economic vision in New York earlier in the week, on Thursday specifically.

Hillary Clinton was also weighing in on the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I believe that we would be better served by trying to put a moratorium on home foreclosures, working with the lenders and the homeowners so they can stay in their homes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Up next, you're going to hear more of what she says should be done to calm the troubled economic waters.

Health care, another critically important issue facing the voters this year. But is there much of a difference between the Clinton and Obama plans? This is important information you're going to get to compare for yourself.

And then the best political team on television looks at how the candidates are holding up at the end of what was an extremely contention week.

It's Sunday night, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's been a very busy weekend in politics and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Just a moment ago you heard Senator Barack Obama discuss what he thinks should be done to fix the economy.

Now let's hear from Senator Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: The housing market has fallen in value, and a lot of it is due to the failure of our government to deal with the subprime mortgage crisis. And it's continuing refusal to really step in and vigorously try to prevent more homes from slipping into foreclosure because what happens, as we've now seen, is that when one family can't keep their mortgage payments up, they may get foreclosed on, but that affects the whole neighborhood.

I mean, you have a vacant home, that decreases home values, that undermines confidence. People start getting a little shaky. 26,000 homes in Indiana alone went into foreclosure last year. And they're looking around the country at about 2.2 million more this year.

And I don't think we can get our way out of the economic slowdown without addressing the home foreclosure crisis. You know, maybe we can if we're willing to sort of muddle through for four or five years, but I sure don't think that's a smart strategy, because the economy is moving too quickly, and we're in a competitive global economy. So we've got to figure out how to get the housing market going again.

And I believe that we would be better served by trying to put a moratorium on home foreclosures, working with the lenders and the homeowners, so they can stay in their homes. And I've been proposing this for quite some time. Obviously, we have to crack down on the unscrupulous lenders who kind of gotten people into a lot of these problems to start with. And I think we have to put some money into supporting the home market again.

You know, the Federal Reserve Bank found $30 billion to bail out one investment bank, Bear Stearns, and yet they're not putting money into trying to keep people in their homes and keep your business going so that people feel like they can buy again. So I think that we've got to do much more to try to fix the home market crisis, and that means we've got to deal with foreclosures.

You also really brought up a subject that, I think, is increasingly critical, and that's the cost of energy. The cost of energy of all kinds has gone up. And utility bills plus gas prices have exploded. And is your rural co-op thrived on coal-based power? And of course, we get about 52 percent of our energy, our electricity, from coal. And we have a big reserve of coal, but we've got to figure out how to clean up the coal. And it's going to be difficult to do that without having some kind of government backup, because then it will be too expensive.

I mean, as you were referencing some of the regulations, well, the more costs you impose, the more they'll get passed onto the eventual purchaser or the consumer or the business owner. So we have to figure out how to cushion a lot of the costs that we're going to have to absorb as we move toward the use of clean coal. And I wish we'd started already. I think we'd be further ahead.

We should be doing carbon sequestration, carbon storage, experiments to be able to figure out how we're going to try to take the carbon dioxide and the mercury out of coal. But we're going to use coal. There's no doubt about that. It's just that we got to figure out how to make it as clean as coal can be. And it's important for us to do this, because I think if we put our minds to it we would be the world leaders. And we could start exporting technology and creating jobs. But we've got to figure out how to get the costs down. And I have proposed that we provide support, financial support to a lot of homeowners and business owners because the costs are just too, too high.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: This presidential election is more than the back and forth bickering about whose more inspiring or experienced. It's about critically important issues, including health care.

Up next, Clinton and Obama in depth then back to back.

Also, James Carville and Jamal Simmons. They're passionate supporters of Clinton and Obama. Sometimes, though, the passion boils over. It's Sunday night. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to a special Sunday night campaign edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Health care, the two Democrats still battling out for the nomination are going at each other on this issue. A favorite forum for both is the town hall meeting.

Here's Hillary Clinton in North Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: When we make breakthroughs in health, let's make sure that everyone has an equal shot at enjoying the breakthroughs. That's why we have to have a universal health care system in America.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: You know, I've been working on health care for many years and I could take probably all of your time talking about stories of people who have been denied health care or got it too late. But I'll tell you just one story, because it kind of sums up for me the dilemma we are in today.

I was in southern Ohio, down along the Ohio River, which is real beautiful country. And I was meeting with some local residents there. And a deputy sheriff told me this story. Told me about a young woman who worked in this small town at the local pizza parlor. She made minimum wage. She didn't get any tips. You don't get many tips at the pizza parlor and she sure didn't have health insurance.

Well, she got pregnant and she was having trouble. And she went to the nearest hospital. And I don't blame the hospital, but the hospital said, you know, we can't take anymore charity cases. You'll have to come up with $100 before we examine you. Well, she didn't have $100. She went back home. Still wasn't doing well. Went back to the hospital. They told her the same thing. Next time she went to the hospital it was in the ambulance. And the doctors and the nurses worked, and they couldn't save the baby's life.

Then they had to transport her by plane from where she was in southern Ohio to the nearest big town in Columbus to the medical center, where for 15 days the doctors and the nurses worked so hard to try to save her life, but she died.

So, I want you to think about this. Number one, it is morally wrong, in my view, that in our country a young woman and her baby would die because she didn't have $100 to get examined to see whether or not they could be saved.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: And number two, think of this from an economic perspective. She didn't have $100. So she wasn't examined and who knows what it may have cost to make sure she was OK before she went home again. But by the time the baby and she died, hundreds of thousands of dollars had been spent.

So you see, we're at a point where we have to change the way we finance health care for both moral and economic reasons. We spend more money than anybody in the world, yet we have 47 million people like this young woman who don't have health insurance. And we have millions more who have insurance, except when you really need it. And the insurance company says they won't pay for what you need.

Have any of you ever had that problem, where you argue with an insurance company to pay your doctor or the hospital for what you require?

So I have a better idea. You know, Congress has a real good plan for itself and for federal employees. It's called the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan. I want to open that up to every American. Now, if you're happy with what you've got, you keep it. No changes. But if you're uninsured, or you don't have the insurance you need, you're going to be able to go into that plan, which at the present time has 250 or so choices of different plans, and you'll be able to get financial help if you can't afford it all on your own.

Because if we can get everybody insured, we will be able to bring down costs for everybody, improve quality for everybody, and cover everybody. And I'm going to work as hard as I know how, and I believe that the plan I have proposed has a real shot at passing because after all, it's not government-run medicine. It's not creating any new bureaucracy. It is simply giving to every American the same choices that your members of Congress have, and you help pay for it right now with your tax dollars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton speaking at a town hall meeting in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Senator Barack Obama says his plan isn't that much different than Hillary Clinton's. So why does he think he'd be a more effective president? Here's what he told a crowd in Pennsylvania.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Senator Clinton and I have pretty similar health care plans. I mean, I know that sometimes during debates the differences get magnified, but our plans are pretty similar. The question you should be asking is not who has got the -- you know, every ten-point plan, you know, written up because these plans will evolve. They've got to be negotiated. The question is, who can get it through?

Now, I admire President Clinton and Senator Clinton in 1993 for trying to get health care done. But they did it in the wrong way because what they did was they went behind closed the doors. They wouldn't even invite some Democratic members of Congresses in to the meetings. So the insurance companies, the drug companies, since the public didn't know what was going on, they started scaring the heck out of people, saying, you know, you're going to have socialized medicine and you won't be able to choose your own doctor.

By the time the Clintons announced their plan it was dead in the water. The insurance companies, the drug companies, the HMOs, they had shaped public opinion against health care reform because the Clinton folks didn't have enough confidence in the American people to try to explain to them what was going on.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to have a big table. And -- well, I'll invite everybody. We'll have doctors and the nurses and the patients, advocates and the hospital administrators and the employers, laborer, insurance and drug companies, we'll give them a seat at the table, they just won't be able to buy every chair. And I will...

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And I will have a seat at the table. And it will be the biggest chair, because I'll be president. And -- but I'll put my plan out there. And I'll say, listen, if you guys have suggestions, you know, I don't have pride authorship here. If you have ideas that are better than mine, put them on the table. Let's work them out.

But here's the only thing. We will have it all on C-SPAN.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's Senator Barack Obama speaking yesterday in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

When Democrat runs against Democrat, should they attack as if the other is a Republican?

The tactics of negativity just ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CARVILLE, CLINTON SUPPORTER: You know, I don't think this campaign has been particularly negative. I probably said the most negative thing in the whole campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is all the back-and-forth among Clinton and Obama and their surrogates actually a boost for McCain?

The best political team on television standing by.

And Chelsea Clinton has been getting asked lots of interesting questions on the campaign trail. But the latest, would she like to live in the White House again? You might find her answer amusing and intriguing.

Stay with us. It's Sunday night, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We can't wait to fix our schools. We can't wait to fix our health care system. We can't wait to have an energy policy that makes sense in this country that can start lowering gas prices and create new sources of energy. We can't wait to bring this war in Iraq to an end. We cannot wait. That's why I'm running for president of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: In the current phase of the presidential campaign, are the candidates and their surrogates arguing about issues or arguing about arguing?

Joining us now to talk about the Clinton/Obama contest and the implications for a prolonged primary fight, two guests. Democratic strategist James Carville is a Clinton supporter and Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons is an Obama supporter.

Guy, thanks for coming in.

CARVILLE: Wolf, good morning.

BLITZER: She gave an interview yesterday in the "Washington Post" that was published today. Among other things, Hillary Clinton, James, said this.

"I know there are some people who want to shut this down and I think they are wrong. I have no intention of stopping until we finish what we started, until we see what happens in the next 10 contests and until we resolve Florida and Michigan. And if we don't resolve it, we'll resolve it at the convention. That's what the credentials committees are for."

All right. Explain what she's talking about.

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, the Obama strategy seems to be to find some white guys with white hair to call on her to get out of the race. I think they're going to go to McCain to get him to call her to get out of the race.

BLITZER: Your friend Patrick Leahy, the senator.

CARVILLE: Right. You know, and that -- usually what a campaign tries to do is to get the most votes and then make it most possible for reconciliation after you win. This is not helping them in Pennsylvania. And things like Senator Obama saying, well, she can stay in. I mean, believe me, the Clinton campaign has not had one second meeting about getting out of the race, nor should they.

If I were the Obama campaign, I would concentrate on trying to get votes in Pennsylvania, winning North Carolina, cut the margin, and then making my case stronger. Calling on her to get out of the race is not going to -- is going to hurt him in terms of getting votes and it is going to make it more difficult to reconcile the party. Hint, hint, Chicago.

Just go out and campaign and get the most votes you can. And then, you have a better position for this. Stop sending this out there because they're not going to get out. Not even considering it. And, you're not going to help yourself in Pennsylvania by saying that Pennsylvanians shouldn't be allowed to vote. It's actually going to hurt you on election day.

BLITZER: Was it a blunder for Senator Leahy, among other Obama supporters, to publicly say to Hillary Clinton, drop out of this race?

JAMA SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't know if I would say it's a blunder. I would say that this is not the time to call for that. What it is the time to call for is that there's some level of civility and focus in this race. Now what we don't need to have is someone -- a candidate opening up any more bloody eyes on another candidate that's going to be used by the Republicans in the fall.

We've got a common enemy in John McCain. We can talk about that. We can talk about the differences in health care, the differences on all the policy issues that people care about. But there've been so much negative vitriol going back and forth between these two campaigns.

It's time for some of that to die down. One of these two candidates is going to be the nominee, and now is not the time to blood each other up.

CARVILLE: You know, I don't think this campaign has been particularly negative. I've probably said the most negative thing in the whole campaign. I think this campaign is by and large, and particularly these candidates have sort of conducted themselves admirably.

But if somehow or another Senator Obama's campaign thinks that if they get this nomination, that somehow that Hillary attack machine or something they're crazy. I know these guys on the Republican side. And I know Charlie Black and I know Rick Davis. They don't care what "The New York Times" thinks. They don't care what Keith Olbermann thinks. They don't care. They're going to go out. This is powder puff stuff compared to the stuff that we're going to see in the general. And as opposed to just this constant whine about how negative the Clinton campaign is and everything, better be getting ready for a whole different ball game, because these guys are not concerned about this competition.

BLITZER: Fair point, Jamal.

SIMMONS: Sure.

BLITZER: If Barack Obama can't take the heat from Hillary Clinton and James Carville and their allies, it's going to get a whole lot worse once he gets -- if he gets the nomination.

SIMMONS: Absolutely. James Carville has been in this business a lot longer than I have so I hate to disagree on this. But I do think there are some differences here. I grew up in a family with a bunch of brothers. My brothers and I would get in big fights. My dad would sort of turn the eye away, turn his ear away. But you know, you couldn't sucker punch your brother. You couldn't punch your brother down the stairs or hit him with a bottle.

So I think there's one way you fight when you're inside the family. There's another way you fight when you go outside the house. And I think a lot of Democrats are concerned right now because they feel like Senator Clinton is fighting Barack Obama like he's a Republican, and not fighting him like he's a fellow Democrat.

And so what we don't want to have is a situation where we're having people go after him on all sorts of issues salacious issues about religion and color and all this sort of stuff. And instead we should be having an argument about issues.

CARVILLE: See, I don't think -- hey, I don't think it was Senator Clinton that did this. But I can understand -- if they -- let me -- I can take them around to right-wing world. These people don't care. They're not intimidated. And they're not very interested. And I think this campaign has by and large been relatively civil. I think it is by and large been way within the parameters of a hard-fought campaign.

What sort of concerns me -- and I have said at every juncture by the way, and Jamal knows this, that if Senator Obama is the nominee, that I would be the first in line to support him. I am just concerned from what I see coming out of the campaign that they're not quite aware of what they're getting ready to get hit with. And my message is, is that stop getting people and saying she ought to drop out and getting your campaign to spend all that time on conference calls with these reporters and everything.

That's counterproductive. It's counterproductive in getting votes. And it's counterproductive that if you -- when you -- if you win to reconcile this. These supporters of Senator Clinton that have poured hundreds of millions of dollars in her campaign, they don't like to be told that they ought to get out of the race, and what you want to do is, if it comes to the point where Senator Obama wins, you ought to make it as easy as possible to reconcile this. This strategy right now is a bad strategy for that.

BLITZER: What about what she also said in the "Washington Post"? That she said Florida and Michigan have to be resolved. The delegates from those two states are not being allowed to participate because they moved up -- two states moved up the primaries against DNC, Democratic National Committee, rules. And she says it has to be resolved. We'll resolve it, she says, at the convention. That's what the credentials committees are for, meaning there's going to be -- potentially if neither of these two candidates has enough pledged or elected delegates, they're going to go to the convention and fight over Florida and Michigan.

SIMMONS: Well, Senator Obama has said all along that he thinks Florida and Michigan should be dealt with. Those delegates should be seated. The question is, I'm a little bit outside of the Obama world on this, because I actually think Florida and Michigan should not be counted because they violated the rules. And I think the party is ever able to exert any discipline on the process, you've got to have a situation where if you violate the rules you get punished, just like you do with your child. You got to do that.

Now the difference is here that there are voters who voted. And so maybe the answer is you seat some of the delegates for the people who voted, but you don't seat some of the elected delegates or some of the at-large delegates that come out of this process. I don't know. There's a lot of back and forth going on in this particular topic.

But Senator Obama has said that he wants to see these delegates seated, but they shouldn't determine the outcome of the race. And that's the one difference here.

CARVILLE: I think the best thing we can do is get this thing through June in the south first. And I was in North Carolina yesterday and they -- let me tell you, they all want to vote and they don't want to be told -- and I saw a lot of support for Senator Obama. I saw a lot of support for Senator Clinton. They're excited about this. And again, what comes -- these conference calls out of Chicago and getting these guys to call on the race. Senator Obama saying she can stay in the race. That is not helping them either get votes or go toward reconciliation. Wink, wink, hint, hint. Try another way, guys. This is not the way to do this.

BLITZER: It's very close in the delegate count, James, right now. Total delegates, by our estimates at CNN, Obama with 1,625. Hillary Clinton, 1,486. Remember the key number 2,024. That's the magic number that they need in order to get the Democratic nomination wrapped up.

You see a strategy whereby she will get -- first of all, do you see any strategy where she will get more pledged delegates?

CARVILLE: First of all, if she wins Pennsylvania big, comes back and wins North Carolina, yes, I can see that. I can see the whole thing (INAUDIBLE). And by the way, this does not include Florida and Michigan, which are about 9 percent of the Democrats, as we said on the show before. This is like stopping one of this NCAA basketball tournament game with about 3:20 left to go in the game. And, of course, they see a way to do this. I mean there's also I can see any number of ways where Senator Obama does that.

My point is, it's all of these Democrats want. This race is not particularly destructive. These candidates have, I think, by and large, conducted themselves fairly well when it comes to each other. Yes, some surrogates are going to get out and stir the pot every now and then. But that's nothing compared to what we're going to see in the general election. The best thing we can do as a party is let these candidates go on June 7th. Then people are going to reevaluate and people are going to talk about this.

BLITZER: Do you agree with him?

SIMMONS: I agree it certainly should go to June 7th. I mean -- each one of these contests happen. Every time we have one of these, you know what? More people show up. More people get registered. More Democrats get a chance to have their voices heard.

BLITZER: It's good practice who for whoever get the nomination, too.

SIMMONS: Of course it is. And you know what? It's not going to happen. We're going to get to June 3rd or June 7th, wherever the end of this is, and I think people will make the determination. I happen to think that what will happen at that point is Senator Barack Obama will be ahead by every measure. Superdelegates will take a look at this and say, you know what? He's our nominee. And people will start to move.

BLITZER: Certainly getting ugly out there on the campaign trail.

Is all the fighting among the Democrats a bonus for John McCain? The best political team on television weighing in.

Meanwhile, the war in Iraq takes a new turn. How is it playing with the candidates on the campaign trail?

And some candidates will do the darnedest things to get votes, like go bowling.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to this special Sunday in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Joining us now the best political team on television. Dana Bash is out on the campaign trail in Meridian, Mississippi. Jeff Toobin is in New York. Ed Henry is here in Washington.

Dana, I'm going to show you these numbers that a lot of Democrats say are very disturbing. If you're candidate loses the nomination, meaning Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, would you join -- would you vote for John McCain? 28 percent of Clinton supporters, according to this Gallup Poll, say they would. 19 percent of Obama supporters say would switch and vote for McCain. The McCain folks must be thrilled about these, but how serious is this fear that the Democrats have?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The McCain folks are definitely thrilled. We got an e-mail, I think, maybe about 4:00 in the morning with those poll numbers from the McCain campaign.

To answer your question, how worried are the Democrats? They're very worried. And you know, it really has been remarkable, the shift in tone and the shift in, really, sentiment and feeling out there among Democrats between just maybe even a few weeks ago, frankly, where, you know, when you talked to senior Democrats on Capitol Hill, like I have, and elsewhere, they say, you know what, this is actually at the end of the day very, very good for Democrats, because we're -- raising voter registration. We're raising enthusiasm in all of these important states.

That -- we don't hear that as much anymore. We hear a lot more at about the heartburn the Democrats are feeling. But in terms of those numbers, even the McCain campaign admits that right now what you're seeing in those numbers is just an intense, you know, battle right now going on between Democrats, and that once everything settles down with the Democrats that those numbers will shift. And they'll be much more united on the Democratic side than they are right now.

BLITZER: Jeff, how worried should the Democrats be?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: They should be somewhat worried. But let me say explicitly what I think Dana was saying implicitly. I don't believe that poll at all. I just think -- you know, we put a lot of faith in polls and I think they're very useful. But I don't think we should just simply swallow anything that is in a poll. This is the most motivated Democratic electorate of my lifetime. They are raising money at a pace that has been unseen in the history of American politics. They are showing up for primaries in numbers unheard of, and way more than the Republicans.

I think if this race ends in the next few months and doesn't go to the convention, that poll will be a long forgotten memory, and there will be a very united Democratic Party.

BLITZER: I think Jeff is on to something, Ed. But I have to tell you. I get e-mail from some passionate Obama supporters who can't stomach Hillary Clinton, and I get e-mail from some passionate Hillary Clinton supporters who hate Barack Obama. I don't know if that poll necessarily is all that out of touch, because the passion right now between the most ardent Hillary Clinton supporters and the most ardent Barack Obama supporters is intense. I'm sure you get a lot of those e-mails as well.

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I do as well. You're absolutely right. But I think Jeff is right in the fact that when the general election comes around, while there's probably going to be some bitterness lingering, the fact of the matter is that a lot of people on the left who will be angry that their particular favorite didn't make it don't really have anywhere else to go. Some of them may, of course, if they're more in the middle, more conservative Democrats, may cross over to John McCain.

But let's think back to the primary season earlier when a lot of people were saying John McCain had such a problem with conservatives. The fact of the matter is in the general election, as people were saying then, and now it looks like it's bearing out a little bit in some other polls, the conservatives who were upset with John McCain realized they're not going to vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. They're going to come home to John McCain. And I think that while there will be some Democrats who cross over to McCain, the large share of them are going to stick with whoever it is, because they're going to come home in the end.

BLITZER: All right. Let me put all of you on the spot. As we end this week, begin a new week, it could be a very important week.

Dana, who is in a better position right now going into this new week? Would it be Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?

BASH: That is on the spot, because it depends if you're talking about this week or if you're talking about the long term. I mean, you know, in terms of the short term, looking at the next contest, obviously, it's Hillary Clinton because she's expected to do very, very well. She's expected, unless something extraordinary happens, to win Pennsylvania.

But long term, I mean, that is -- this is the dynamic. This is the narrative and the debate that's going on right now. Long term, the question is can she sustain it? And what's going to be interesting to see, Wolf, is whether she continues to make the argument this coming week that she has been over the past couple of days, really over this weekend, which is to tell the voters in Indiana, for example, you don't want to this end. You don't want to be disenfranchised. You deserve to be heard.

So that is clearly something that the Clinton campaign thinks resonates with voters, especially Democratic voters. And they're going to continue to say that over and over again, despite what you hear from the Patrick Leahy's of the world, despite what we're hearing very intensely now, privately, from very, very worried Democrats.

BLITZER: Who would you rather be, Jeff, right now? In Hillary Clinton's shoes or Barack Obama's shoes?

TOOBIN: I don't get to choose Alex Rodriguez?

BLITZER: No.

TOOBIN: That's who I'd actually like to be at the moment.

But OK, oh, Barack Obama. I mean he's winning. He's winning by a substantial margin. There's no choice for - there is just no doubt that he's ahead and has a virtually unbeatable lead. Also, I think, a very damaging thing happened to Hillary Clinton last week, which was the release of this tape of her in Bosnia claiming that she arrived under sniper fire, which was not simply a single mistake she made. It was a repeated claim of experience. And it underlined one of the real mysteries and problems with her candidacy, which is, how do you give her credit for eight years as first lady? What did she actually do?

And the answer appears to be, not that much. And I think that is a big problem for her in the next week and going forward in this campaign.

BLITZER: Ed, how much is the current situation in Iraq right now a wild card in this presidential contest? Specifically for John McCain?

HENRY: Major wild card. It started out six to eight months ago a lot of people saying Iraq would be the dominant issue in the campaign. Now clearly the economy is, fears that we may already be in a recession. But I think the violence on the ground in both Baghdad and Basra that we saw over the course of the last week show that Iraq is creeping back up and fighting the economy as a top issue.

And if it continues down that road where we saw it just in the last week, two Americans dying in the green zone, which is supposed to be one of the safest areas, that's going to make it much more difficult for John McCain to push back on Democratic allegations that a McCain presidency would be a third Bush term.

So I think watching what happens on the ground in Iraq all of a sudden matters once again.

BLITZER: All right, guys. We got to leave it right there.

Dana, you want to make a quick thought?

BASH: Well, I was just going to say quickly on the point just -- Ed is exactly right, because in watching John McCain and following him around the country, what he says over and over in these town hall meetings to voters is, I was right. There is success in Iraq.

Every time there's a headline about violence increasing that diminishes his argument. It makes it harder to say, "Listen to me. You know I'm different from President Bush. I forced a change in strategy, and that strategy is working and I'll continue on that course, and you should trust me on that."

It makes it a lot harder. There's no question about it.

BLITZER: Dana Bash, Jeff Toobin and Ed Henry, they are all part of the best political team on television.

Guys, thanks for coming in on this Sunday.

And lots of talk about the presidential race today on the Sunday morning talk shows. Just ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're going to have the highlights in case you missed it.

And Chelsea Clinton ranks her mom and dad on the presidential scale. What she had to say may surprise you.

You're in a special Sunday edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the Sunday morning talk shows.

On CBS, the New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, rejected the idea that he was being disloyal to the Clintons by endorsing Barack Obama, while Philadelphia mayor, Michael Nutter, a Clinton supporter, weighed in on the role of superdelegates in the race for the Democratic nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, OBAMA SUPPORTER: I owe the Clintons a lot. I served in the president's Cabinet. But that loyalty is to President Clinton. That doesn't mean that I am going to, for the rest of my life, be in lockstep with whatever they do.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Their main responsibility, as I best understand it, is to exercise the discretion and judgment for who is the best nominee for the party, and then who can best be president of the United States. And that is their role. And they should exercise that kind of judgment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On FOX, Tennessee governor, Phil Bredesen, discussed how his proposal for a superdelegate primary to help decide the Democratic nomination is being received among Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. PHIL BREDESEN (D), TENNESSEE: I've spoken with Governor Dean personally and he's cool to the idea. I think that's fair. But I think it's an idea that as I at least get outside of the beltway and into places like Montana where I am, there's a lot of people that think it's a common sense approach to the thing. If you're not caught up day-to-day in the mechanics of the campaign, I think people see it as a reasonable way to try to resolve a very thorny problem which we didn't expect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On "LATE EDITION," Democratic senator Bill Nelson of Florida told me it's time for his party to revamp the presidential nominating process.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Let's restructure this crazy primary system that has penalized our state, and where states were jumping ahead of each other, and if you keep doing it we'll have the first primaries in Halloween. You know, it's time for reform on the principle of one person, one vote. Let the ballot count.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Some highlights from today's Sunday morning talk shows. Not everything on the campaign trail is dead serious. Barack Obama was tying on his bowling shoes in Pennsylvania. And Chelsea Clinton has been keeping them laughing this week in North Carolina.

Some of the lighter moments from the campaign trail when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: With the Clinton campaign throwing everything it has into the battle with Barack Obama, the former first daughter Chelsea Clinton has been more and more visible, generally working the college campuses. Sometimes she answers questions from the audience with a rather dry sense of humor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHELSEA CLINTON, HILLARY CLINTON'S DAUGHTER: She asked, have I enjoyed living in the White House? Well, I don't live in the White House right now. But I did live in the White House. And I -- absolutely it was an incredible privilege and an opportunity for me to live in the White House with my parents, and I'm very proud of my father's time as our president.

You know, sometimes people ask me if I'm looking forward to moving back into the White House. And I say I don't take anything for granted. I home that my mother is my president. But as I've already confessed, I'm 28. But that seems really old to you. It certainly seems old to me. And I would be pretty distraught if I had to move back in with my parents at this point in my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On Friday she had to answer a little tricky question. A question that very few if any of us, at least the young people out there, in the United States, have ever had to consider.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C. CLINTON: His question is, do I think my mother will be a better president than my father? 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Finally, this video from El Tuna, Pennsylvania, Barack Obama's bowling shoes were right as he stepped into the lane. But his aim was a little bit off.

Hopefully for him gutter balls aren't a bad omen. In his own defense, the senator said he hadn't bowled since he was 16 years old.

Senator, I know how you feel.

Thanks very much for watching this special Sunday edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. Please join me tomorrow and every weekday in THE SITUATION ROOM from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Thanks for joining us.

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