Return to Transcripts main page


Dems Fight for Union Voters in Pennsylvania; Presidential Candidates Look to Reach Critical Swing Vote: White Males; How is Religion Impacting the Presidential Race?

Aired April 2, 2008 - 17:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And as they battle for the blue collar vote, both bring up Pennsylvania's favorite movie hero -- boxer Rocky Balboa. But does Rocky have anything to do with reality?
John McCain brings up the name Dan Quayle and says the unveiling of that unbriefed, unknown vice presidential pick was not the way to introduce a running mate.

Bowling and beer -- the Democratic candidates do whatever they can to reach out to a crucial swing vote -- working class white males.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Nobody likes a feisty underdog more than folks in blue collar Pennsylvania. And don't think the Democratic candidates haven't noticed. They're each casting themselves in that roll in the run-up to this month's very important Pennsylvania primary.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

And, Suzanne, it can seem like we're -- oh, wait, I know where you are, watching a movie.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Remember this? Well, this is actually where Rocky took his victory lap. And this is where the candidates are hoping to do the same.

They are talking about it here in Pennsylvania. They are also trying to fight for a critical group of voters. Those are the union voters, some 830,000 strong.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Both candidates are vying for who's the real Rocky Balboa. Just check out Senator Clinton's new theme song.


MALVEAUX: Barack Obama is reminding voters he's the scrappy fighter. SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know there's been talk about Rocky Balboa over the last couple of days. We all love Rocky. And the last time I checked, I was the underdog in this state.

MALVEAUX: Each candidate is trying to out underdog the other. Why? Because in Pennsylvania, it's all about defying expectations -- coming out of the crucial primary better than people thought, which could build momentum and support leading into the final contest.

CLINTON: I'm a big believer in comebacks.

MALVEAUX: Senators Clinton and Obama are fiercely fighting over Pennsylvania's labor vote. In Pittsburgh, at an economic summit arranged by her campaign, Clinton proposed a $7 billion package to provide American companies tax incentives not to ship jobs overseas.

CLINTON: It's time we get back on the right road.

MALVEAUX: In Philadelphia, Obama addressed the AFL-CIO, promising to fight trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he says has been bad for labor.

B. OBAMA: You can trust me when I say that whatever trade deals we negotiate, come to my desk, they are going to be good for American workers, that they'll have powerful labor and environmental protections and that we will enforce those protections.


MALVEAUX: So, John, who's going to take the victory lap? We really still don't know how this is going to come out in Pennsylvania. But we do know that polls show that she is still leading here, although that could be closing just a little bit and Obama catching up to her, in some ways closing that gap.

We also know that Obama got key endorsements -- two of them -- one from the governor of Wyoming, another from a former Congressman from Indiana, Hamilton. He is the one who was a co-chair in the 9/11 Commission. So, obviously, they're trying really, really hard here, John, to get the voters in Pennsylvania.

KING: And they're getting those other endorsements because Rocky, of course, Sylvester Stallone is for John McCain.

Suzanne Malveaux in Philadelphia.

Now, if you want to make this truly authentic, you have to run sprints up and down those stairs. And cameras are standing by. See you a bit later.

MALVEAUX: Hey, John, I did it earlier this morning, but if you want...

KING: Uh-huh.

Suzanne Malveaux in Philadelphia. Suzanne, thank you. Now could Al Gore become America's global warming czar? At a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania today, Barack Obama was asked if he'd consider naming the former vice president to his cabinet or some other post.


B. OBAMA: I would. Not only will I, but I will make a commitment that Al Gore will be at the -- at the table and play a central part in us figuring out how we solve this problem. He's somebody I talk to on a regular basis.


B. OBAMA: You know, he's somebody that I talk to on a regular basis. I'm already consulting with him in terms of these issues. Look, climate change is real.


KING: It's safe to say Al Gore is not on the list that John McCain is putting together. The Arizona senator says he's been putting together a list of names, "every name imaginable," as he begins the process of choosing a running mate. McCain said today he wants to avoid the kind of problems that cropped up in 1988, when a relative unknown Senator from Indiana was unveiled as the surprise pick.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, like when President Bush chose Dan Quayle, Dan Quayle had not been briefed, you know, and prepared for, you know, some of the questions. But I'm a great friend of Dan Quayle's and I think he was a fine Senator.

I just think that it was, you know, a lot of people, in retrospect, you know, thought maybe the process should have been -- but, you know, I don't -- I just think you have to have a measured process, make sure that you have taken all the factors into consideration and then decide. But we are in the earliest stages.


KING: So as the candidates start to look ahead to November and beyond, let's bring in CNN's senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Let's start -- I want to get to McCain's vice presidential pick in a minute. But let's start with Obama putting on the table the idea of bringing Al Gore back into government -- probable or not?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think both candidates would love to bring Al Gore back into government. John, you know, what, really, this was about was about, it was about sending a message to voters out there in Pennsylvania, where Al Gore is very popular in the Democratic Party.

Look, I'm close to Al Gore. I talk to Al Gore all the time. I consult with him. He's my friend. He likes me -- even though he hasn't endorsed anyone. He's my friend. And I bet subliminally what he wanted to say is, you know, I talk to him a lot more than Hillary Clinton does. And I'll bet he does.

KING: If he talks to him every now and then, he talks to him a lot more than Hillary Clinton.


BORGER: A lot more. Someone said to me today he's probably got the cell phone number and she might not.


KING: So let's move on. On the Straight Talk Express, as he likes to call it, today Senator McCain says he's got a list and his aides are going crazy over his shoulder.

BORGER: Right.

KING: They don't want him talking about this at all.


KING: He says well, it's about 20 names. Well, I'd like to do it relatively soon. Well, I don't want to do what they did with Dan Quayle. And his aides are sort of jittery in the background, saying, so now that we know the process is not just at its earliest stage -- it's still early, but not at the starting line, a bit more than that -- where are we going?

BORGER: Well, I think, first of all, he does want to be careful. He doesn't want to wind up in a situation where you don't have a vetted vice president. Because he knows -- and he has said it himself, although he seems to contradict himself on this -- that the fact that he's older and will be -- is over 70 means that people are going to pay a lot of attention to this. He also knows that he's got to shore up his conservative credentials. If those conservative voters stay home, as they did, some would say, for Bob Dole in 1996, they can really help cost you an election.

So, he's got a lot of decisions to make and he's also got a lot of Republicans who really want to be his running mate, the most prominent of which is Mitt Romney, who is literally out there campaigning for the job.

KING: One of the calculations is do you do it in the summertime to gin up excitement...

BORGER: Right.

KING: ...or do you wait? His convention is last. He can wait to see what the -- who the Democratic ticket is.

BORGER: I think he can wait. There are some who are saying to him he ought to do it sooner. But there are also some within the campaign who are saying, you know, you ought to wait.

KING: Ought to wait.

Gloria Borger, thanks for sharing those thoughts with us today.


KING: Now, John McCain's health care plan came in for sharp visit criticism today from Elizabeth Edwards. She's the wife of the former Democratic candidate John Edwards. She says that under McCain's, plan most people with preexisting conditions -- like her breast cancer and her past bouts with melanoma, or his past bouts with melanoma -- would be left without insurance coverage.

Here's Elizabeth Edwards from NBC's "Today Show".


ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: Well, insurance companies would be permitted to write policies from any -- you know, from any state in the country. And they will, presumably, choose to write them from the states with the least amount of regulation.

And there will be no obligation to cover preexisting conditions. What that means, of course, is that maybe we can get a policy, but it would be incredibly expensive.

Now, John McCain and I can afford it, but the vast number of Americans -- the people that I'm going to see this morning when I go over to the clinic for my treatment, a lot of those people would not be able to get coverage. And that is enormously important. As I've traveled the country, it's one of the biggest concerns people have, is making certain that their preexisting conditions are covered.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that both you and your husband support Hillary Clinton's health care plan. And given the fact that this is an issue that means so much to both of you, why hasn't your husband John endorsed her yet?


When he has something to say about this subject, he'll let you know. But right now what I'm trying to focus on is making certain, without respect to the Democratic race -- we have two good candidates -- but that we make certain that we keep our focus on what is wrong with the Republican plan, so that people, when they're making a choice in November, understand that there are consequences to their vote in their own lives. And in terms of their health care, there is an enormous consequence between either of the Democratic candidates and the Republican candidate, in this case.


KING: Elizabeth Edwards earlier today there.

And Jack Cafferty is in New York now with "The Cafferty File" -- hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: John, telling the American people that they are cynics may not be the best way to get them to vote for you for president, but that's exactly what John McCain's doing.

In a speech at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis today, the presumptive Republican nominee talked about the reasons he thinks many Americans have become cynical about our country. He says for some, it's because of the state of our economy.

For others, it's a reaction to the government's mistakes and incompetence. But McCain thinks that in some cases, the cynicism is not a reaction to people feeling let down by the government or the country or the social institutions, but rather a result of people taking this country and its liberties that it provides all of us for granted.

McCain says that for some Americans, their idea of liberty is "the right to choose among competing brands of designer coffee". McCain says if Americans find fault with our country, they should make it a better one. He calls on people to take on a greater cause than themselves by doing things like joining the military, running for public office or helping feed the hungry.

There is also an update when it comes to McCain's age and his health status. His campaign is now saying that McCain's medical records will no longer be released by April 15, as they had previously promised. Instead, they're now saying that we should see that stuff "sometime in May."

And, finally, James Dobson, a leading conservative, founder of Focus on Family, in a personal letter to "The Wall Street Journal" says this today, "I have seen no evidence that Senator McCain is successfully unifying the Republican Party or drawing conservatives into his fold."

So here's the question: Is it helpful to John McCain's campaign to say Americans are cynical about their country?

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

KING: No cynical answers allowed, right?

CAFFERTY: Remember what happened to Jimmy Carter when he talked about a national malaise?

KING: I do remember it. I remember it well.


KING: We'll save it for another show, though.

CAFFERTY: Well, it's just something that McCain might think about.

KING: The candidates try to woo them by going bowling and drinking beer.


BILL ROSENBERG, DREXEL UNIVERSITY: White males are a group that are sort of still watching, still waiting, trying to decide who they're going to go for.


KING: Can Barack Obama gain ground with this crucial swing vote ahead of the Pennsylvania primary?

Also, he's been the butt of David Letterman's cranky old man jokes, but McCain turns the table on late night TV.

And he'll be leaving Congress in June, but he's already taking job as a lobbyist months before he actually walks out the door. There's growing outrage over this.

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


KING: They're the swing voters who could well decide Pennsylvania's Democratic primary, now less than three weeks away -- working class white men. And with Hillary Clinton ahead in the polls in Pennsylvania, Barack Obama is reaching out to them.

CNN's Dan Lothian is live in Philadelphia.

Dan what's Obama's doing -- what is he doing to appeal to try to appeal to this constituency?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, first of all, he's taking off his sports coat, rolling up his sleeves and making them feel comfortable. Senator Obama admits that he's the underdog here in Pennsylvania, but he's hoping that they can help him.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): He went to Harvard and lives in a million dollar house, but this is the picture Senator Barack Obama wants to paint in Pennsylvania -- I can bowl, I can pet a cow...

B. OBAMA: Yingling (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's a Pennsylvania (INAUDIBLE).

B. OBAMA: All right. Let's fire it up.

LOTHIAN: I can drink a beer at the bar.

B. OBAMA: What happens is you work so hard, you don't get a chance to drink your beer.

ROSENBERG: Those are the kind of things that emotionally says well, this guy is a guy that I can feel comfortable with.

LOTHIAN: It's important to appeal to working class white males. They make up about 27 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania and are concerned about keeping money in their pockets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They feel alienated. They haven't been represented.

LOTHIAN: Now they could be a crucial swing group.

ROSENBERG: The white males are a group that are sort of still watching, still waiting, trying to decide who they're going to go for.

LOTHIAN: Many of them were attracted to Senator John Edwards, but then he dropped out of the race. Senator Hillary Clinton connected with them in Ohio and hopes to do the same here by focusing on health care, job creation and the overall economy.

CLINTON: Tax breaks should be shifted way from oil companies and instead put to work in helping create the jobs of the future.

B. OBAMA: We need to challenge the system on behalf of America's workers.

LOTHIAN: Obama's message at town hall meetings and in TV ads that now seem tailored to working class voters is that he offers the best solution for their problems. An endorsement by Senator Bob Casey, Jr. , who has strong support among unions and other blue collar voters, doesn't hurt.

ROSENBERG: This is a swing group that usually doesn't come in play. But this is an unusual election year.


LOTHIAN: Well, Senator Obama spent a lot of time today focusing on NAFTA and pointing out how he believes that Senator Clinton has misrepresented her position on NAFTA. NAFTA is obviously something that is quite unpopular with organized labor here, because they believe a lot of blue collar jobs were sent overseas -- John.

KING: Fascinating to watch. Dan Lothian for us in Philadelphia.

Thank you, Dan.

Now, nationally, white males voted overwhelmingly Republican in the last presidential election. Thirty-six percent of all voters in 2004 were white men. Of them, 37 percent wound of voting for the Democratic nominee, Senator John Kerry. But 62 percent voted for President Bush, helping Mr. Bush secure a second term in office.

Now, John McCain launched his presidential run on "The Late Show with David Letterman," but ever since, he's been the butt of the comic's cranky old man jokes.

Last night, Senator McCain turned the tables. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: You think that stuff's pretty funny, don't you?



MCCAIN: Well, you look like a guy whose laptop would be seized by the authorities.



MCCAIN: You look like a guy caught smuggling reptiles in his pants.


LETTERMAN: Don't knock it if you haven't tried it.


MCCAIN: You look like the guy who the neighbors later say he mostly kept to himself.


MCCAIN: Uh-huh.


MCCAIN: You look like the night manager of a creepy motel.


LETTERMAN: That's what I need.

MCCAIN: And you look like the guy who enjoys getting into a hot tub and watching his swim trunks inflate.



KING: A little fun last night on "The Letterman Show".

And he's a sitting Congressman with a job waiting for him at a top lobbying firm -- a potential conflict of interest that has some of his colleagues outraged. Find out what he has to say.

Plus, new details about the man accused of trying to bring bomb parts on a plane in Orlando, including his military connection.

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


KING: Carol Costello is off today.

But Zain Verjee is here monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Zain, what do you have?


CNN has learned the man accused of trying to transport bomb making material on a flight in Orlando is an Army veteran. Kevin Brown is from Jamaica, but he has got a green card and was on active duty from 1999 to 2003. He told the FBI we wanted to build a bomb when he arrived in Jamaica, just like the ones he saw in Iraq. A court hearing today was postponed while investigators evaluate his mental condition.

There's a small but significant change in the way the world perceives the U.S. A BBC poll of 17,000 people in 34 countries finds the number who say the U.S. has a positive influence is up to 35 percent, from 31 percent about a year ago. Similarly the number who say the U.S. has a negative influence fell from 52 percent a year ago to 47 percent now.

In news around the world, Zimbabwe's electoral commission now says President Robert Mugabe's ruling party lost control of parliament in last weekend's election. But it has yet to announce who won the contentious presidential vote. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has claimed victory, but the government says it won't announce a winner until Friday, raising concern that Mugabe is using a delay tactic to rig the election results.

Now CNN is officially banned from reporting inside Zimbabwe. But we do have a CNN reporter who managed to get in there. For security reasons, we're not identifying this reporter by name. He joins us now on the phone.

Can you give us a sense of what exactly you're seeing on the streets there right now?

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Well, the situation is tense, but extremely calm -- at least on the surface. It was quite amazing, for example, how earlier today, after the opposition announced that he had won the presidential elections, there were no people celebrating in the streets. No one is counting Mugabe out yet. But the atmosphere is pretty much one of wait and see and wait for the official results.

Meanwhile, though, the incredible thing is that in the capital here, people are going about their business, their everyday business, which for some means working. But for many others basically means lining up outside banks. Supermarkets and bread shops and to buy whatever little they can afford.

This is a country in the middle of an economic meltdown. Inflation here runs around 100,000 percent. The prices here in the shops are mind-boggling. I changed a dollar today and they gave me 37 million Zimbabwe dollars in return. And here are some of the prices I noticed in the streets. Apples in the supermarket were $137 million. A bag of broccoli was $51 million. A bread roll was $45 million. Next to the supermarket, there was a KFC and there, one piece of chicken there cost $95 million.

So that gives you a bit of a sense about whoever wins this presidential election will have a really hard task to bring this country -- this (INAUDIBLE) country back on its feet. And certainly that is what the people really want the most at this time.

VERJEE: A rare look inside Zimbabwe on the ground from a CNN reporter who managed to get in -- John.

KING: Fascinating stuff, Zain. Thank you very much.

John McCain under fire from an Evangelical leader who says he's not uniting Republicans -- a sentiment some conservatives share.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A fact that not just Jim Dobson, but that an awful lot of other pro-family and socially conservative voters don't yet feel ready to lick the envelopes, work the phone banks, knock the doors and ring on doorbells is a danger sign that needs attention.


KING: Find out how Senator McCain is responding and what evangelicals really want from him.

Also, Michelle Obama is speaking out, giving her assessment of her husband's White House bid. We're on the campaign trail with her.

Plus, details of the safety concern that's canceling flights and grounding planes at another major airline.

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



Happening now, United Airlines the latest to ground planes and cancel dozens of flights over safety concerns. It's inspecting part of the fire control system on all of its 777 aircraft after learning a portion of a standard safety test had not been conducted.

Also, 17 states and the District of Columbia are hauling the Environmental Protection Agency back to court. They say the agency has not acted on last year's Supreme Court ruling ordering it to come up with a way to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

And Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says he's torn over what the United States should do about the Beijing Olympics. There are growing calls for some level of boycott over the crackdown in Tibet. But Obama says he's not sure political protest is appropriate at games designed to bring the world together.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Democrats are fired up and turning out to vote in record numbers. Republicans aren't. Why not? Perhaps a problem with John McCain and the conservative base.

For more on this our Mary Snow joins us from New York -- Mary.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Memo to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain from conservative evangelical leader James Dobson. You're still not there yet.

The focus on the family founder tells the "Wall Street Journal," "I have seen no evidence that Senator McCain is successfully unifying the Republican Party or drawing conservatives into his fold."

McCain's response...

MCCAIN: We continue to work with our conservative base and I'm very proud, as I say, of the empirical data that shows we have very strong support amongst all elements of our party.

SNOW: McCain has a rocky history with conservative evangelicals. In 2000 he angered them when he called the Reverend Jerry Falwell an agent of intolerance. He made amends with Falwell before his death. McCain has been reaching out to evangelicals.

Ralph Reed the former Christian Coalition leader supports McCain and says he's building bridges but Reed cautions.

RALPH REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The fact that not just Jim Dobson but an awful lot of other pro family and socially conservative voters don't yet feel ready to lick the envelopes, work the phone banks, knock the doors and ring on doorbells is a danger sign that needs attention.

SNOW: Dobson is critical of McCain among other things for not supporting a constitutional band on same sex marriages. Dobson has a daily radio show and touts one and a half million listeners. Reed says Dobson's voice among evangelicals is just one among many.

REED: Because someone is a leader doesn't mean THAT everyone marches in lock step like sheep.

SNOW: Global warning and the economy have become big issues.

DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: It's a much broader agenda which makes it harder to determine exactly where evangelicals are going to go. SNOW: But Republicans want them in their corner since they proved pivotal in electing George Bush. One Republican strategist and former Romney aide says issues important to evangelicals can't be discounted.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: That is very important to them that they feel that they're part of the process that you understand them and you're going to carry those issues with you to the White House.


KING: That report from Mary Snow in New York. So just how significant is this, Dr. Dobson criticizing John McCain? Is it the sign of a broad problem with the conservative Christian Republican base or just one man criticizing the Republican nominee in waiting?

Joining us to talk about that and more, the family research council president Tony Perkins and the Reverend Jim Wallis.

Tony, let me start with you. You're in many of these meetings that Dr. Dobson is at, where conservative leaders say, is this our guy, or where do we want the political agenda to go regardless of who the candidates are. Is he on base? He says John McCain has failed to reach out and is fracturing the party, not unifying the party.

TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: I think that we've got to be clear. We're not looking for John McCain to turn his campaign into the straight and narrow express. But we do believe that he has to address the issues that are of concern to social conservatives. We know that he will keep America safe and our way of life safe.

But does he really understand what the American way of life is? How fundamental faith, family and freedom really is? He's got to talk about those issues to connect?

KING: What are the specific issues? One of them I assume is his views on same sex marriage, where he has Dick Cheney's position that this should be up to the states. There shouldn't be a national constitutional amendment. Many in the movement disagree with that. Is that enough for someone like Dobson to say, well then stay home, don't vote for him or vote for the Democrat?

PERKINS: I don't think it's a matter of people staying home. I think it's what Ralph Reed said a few minutes ago, it's the enthusiasm. I believe when it's all said and done, when you evaluate the candidates, more social conservatives than not are going to vote for John McCain.

But we saw that still there's 22 percent of Republican leaning voters say that the party is not unified and they don't think it will be unified this fall. In 2004 there were few Republicans saying that -- Republican voters saying the party was not unified. He has to have their enthusiastic support to win against an energized Democratic base. KING: Jim, can he get their support, enthusiastic or otherwise if he has people like Dr. Dobson raising questions about him, Tony Perkins raising questions about him? I guess the question is, do these voters, evangelical, whether they consider themselves to be far to the right, more to the middle, maybe a little bit to the left, do they take their cues from guys like you, guys like Tony, guys like Dr. Dobson or do they make their own choices around their own kitchen tables?

REV. JIM WALLIS, AUTHOR, "THE GREAT AWAKENING": This year the big change is that evangelicals are going to become a swing vote. The old take is evangelical equals conservative, is Republican, it was (INAUDIBLE) abortion, gay marriage. That's the old take. Evangelicals are voting on poverty, on the environment, on war and peace.

Young evangelicals like Barack Obama like all young people do. They like issues like health care that Hillary Clinton talks about. So this time you're going to see some real shifting of the voting. Now, evangelicals who are leaving Republicans are not automatically liberal Democrats.

Whoever speaks a moral language of politics, whoever addresses the broad agenda they embrace, now it's no longer a two issue agenda. It's a broad, deep agenda. Whoever speaks to that has a chance of really attracting them.

KING: You mention poverty and the economy, John McCain talks a lot about global warming and climate change, something George W. Bush did not talk a lot about. You're saying - perhaps Obama and Clinton could get votes where George W. Bush got votes.

Can McCain get votes from evangelicals who might be left of center that would never have voted for George W. Bush?

WALLIS: Well with John McCain a number of evangelicals who are critical of the war in Iraq for example, see John McCain perhaps talking about permanent war, a permanent era of war. That is a life issue for a number of evangelicals. So we don't want to see a permanent state of war. When he talks about 100 years of war that is a turn off to a number of evangelicals who are against the war in Iraq.

KING: Tony, what is it about John McCain? He's a prickly guy, he's a stubborn guy sometimes. He was asked today about Dr. Dobson, why don't you just pick up the phone, see if you guys can reach an accommodation or at least know that you can't? It's the old conversation about why don't we sit down with Ahmadenijad.

The guys against you, why don't you reach out, have a conversation? He says, well, he can call me. I'd take the phone call if he calls me. But he won't initiate the contact. Is that part of it?

PERKINS: Based on your description I don't guess you're going to endorse him either. The whole idea is that there's a conversation that needs to take place. There are issues out there that are very important to social conservatives.

Jim is right, I believe he's right on this point. I believe the issue set has expanded in the last decade. I would argue that the prioritization is different than what he says. I do believe that life and marriage remain top priority among most social conservatives.

This is the thing with John McCain. He has the base from which to -- the foundation from which to reach out and get the social conservative support. He has the record. But most Americans, I agree, I don't think most Americans are going to take their cue based upon what one person says.

They're going to evaluate these candidates based upon where they stand on the issues. They're not going to necessarily look at their record. They're going to look at John McCain and what he's saying on the campaign trail. They're going to feel very secure in how he talks about how he's going to defend the country.

When it comes to the family, when it comes to marriage, when it comes to life, he's gone silent on those issues and unless he talks about them he is not going to get that enthusiastic support from a third of the Republican voters who say those issues are important.

KING: Let me clear it up for the record. I stay in the middle of the road with the yellow lines, but I'm kind of prickly and stubborn myself sometimes. So that was not meant as a criticism by any means.

WALLIS: Evangelicals are going to vote their values. They're not going to look to particular leaders to tell them how to vote. But they're going to vote all their values. There aren't just two moral values.

Younger evangelicals, for example, probably think that Jesus probably cared more about the 30,000 children who die today of poverty and disease than he would about same sex marriage amendments in Ohio. That's a shift in the agenda.

And a state of permanent warfare that John McCain seems to be offering is a life issue for evangelicals. So it will be a voting of values. But voting all our values and not just one or two across the board.

KING: You both have agreed on the point that the issues portfolio is expanding or is somewhat different. Is that because of the personalities potentially on the ballot or is it just because of what's going on in the country right now, the beginning of a recession, a war that whether you're for it or against it, and a lot of people are tired because it's been going on so long.

PERKINS: We live in a very complex society. The issues that we face today are -- they're more than they were 25 years ago. It's more complex. And I believe also that the -- the involvement of Christians in the political realm has matured.

They are bringing their perspective to the table on all of these issues. I think that's a healthy thing and I do believe we should be wed to the issues and not the parties.

KING: The last word quickly. We're doing a justice revival in Columbus, Ohio in two weeks. Billboards all over town say love God and poverty. It's sponsored by The Vineyard Church, a very conservative church. The agenda is changing and poverty now is at the heart of the agenda for many evangelicals.

KING: We'll watch it from here to November whether it affects John McCain or not. Jim Wallis, Tony Perkins. Thanks for joining us today.

There is some outrage on Capitol Hill about a congressman and his new job. He lost an election and now he's catching heat for the way he plans on leaving. Why it's raising eyebrows, ahead.

Plus, Michelle Obama and another powerhouse spouse make their case in Pennsylvania. While Obama paints himself as the underdog his wife has a different spin. You'll see it ahead right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: A departing congressman is generating a cry here in Washington for at least giving the appearance of wearing two hats. CNN's Brian Todd joins us now.

Brian, what's all the uproar?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well John, Albert Wynn hasn't generated too much controversy, really not much attention at all during his long tenure in congress. That all changes as he makes exits because of a new job he negotiated while in office.


TODD (voice-over): A 15-year congressman under fire for the way he's leaving. After losing his primary race in February, it wasn't long before Maryland Democrat Albert Wynn landed a job with a Washington law office, one of the most powerful lobbying firms in the city. But he's not actually leaving congress until June.

For at least two months there's the potential for Wynn to use his access to other congressmen to act on behalf of the firm's clients, even if only casually. Watchdog groups and congressional experts are outraged.

JAMES THURBER, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think he should resign now, let the person who won in the primary take his place.

TODD: House rules say a congressman has to notify the ethics committee if he's negotiating for another job. Wynn says he did that. The committee would not comment on that for CNN.

But questions remain about Wynn's position on the powerful energy and commerce committee. The firm he's joining, Dichstein Shapiro, has several energy firms among its dozens of big name clients. I wanted to see if you might be able to elaborate further on your statements from earlier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no further comments.

TODD: Wynn wouldn't do an interview with us. But in a statement he said, "I am researching potential conflicts of interest and if and when they arise, I will of course recuse myself accordingly."

He also said if that didn't go far enough, he'd step down from that committee. On its Web site, the firm he's joining says Wynn won't start with them until he leaves congress. But observers still have concerns.

THURBER: There is a one year cooling off period for congressman when they may not lobby for one year. But there are other kinds of things to help clients out without registering as a lobbyist.


TODD: James Thurber says Wynn's constituents are simply not going to get the representation from their congressman that they should. Wynn says he is staying until June so that he can serve his district better and manage some House measures that he's involved with -- John.

TODD: People will keep a close eye on him, guaranteed, Brian Todd. Brian, thank you very much.

Campaigning in Pennsylvania, Barack Obama is casting himself as the underdog. But his wife's also on the trail making it sound like he's playing a very different role. We'll hear what Michelle Obama has to say.


TODD: Barack Obama has been casting himself as the underdog in Pennsylvania. But his wife Michelle was out on the campaign trail today seemingly painting a different picture.


MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: We're in this place where Barack Obama has won more pledged delegates. He's won more of the popular vote. He's raised more money. He's won more states. He's won in all kinds of states. He's won in red states, in big states, in small states, in blue states, in swing states. He's won the black vote, the white vote. He's won among women and young people. He has amassed victories. So diverse.


KING: Michelle Obama out campaigning today.

Time now to check back with Jack Cafferty -- hi, Jack.

CAFFERTY: She's pretty good, isn't she?

KING: She can go.

CAFFERTY: Hillary has a fair spouse on the campaign trail but she's good. I like her. Question this hour: Is it helpful to John McCain's campaign to say that Americans are cynical about their country?

Leslie writes: "At least it's truthful Jack. What McCain needs to add to the discussion is the role that his own duplicitous pandering has played in causing us to be that way. From the beginning of his campaign from fawning over the religious right conservatives that he once thorned, to licking Bush's boots, as he marches lockstep in the war on terror. McCain has certainly given Americans no reason to feel optimistic and trusting about our politicians."

P. writes from Florida: "McCain is absolutely right. The Democratic party is harping on every misery possible, most of which are beyond the means of any president to actually fix. Personal responsibility, accountability for bad financial decisions, career choices and all manner of social ills are being shuffled to the government to somehow create a new program or funding stream to handle everything from health care to joblessness to poor financial investments. A psychological malaise hangs over this country and everybody is looking to government for an answer."

Brian in Idaho says: "No because instead of helping people find reasons to abandon cynicism, his statement puts voters on the defensive which is a terrible strategy. His stating this now puts voters in the position of defending themselves against him. That's never a good place for a candidate to be."

Tom in Boston says: "I think the fact is that the vast majority of Americans are sick and tired, mad as hell, even embarrassed about what has happened over the past seven years. Does that make us cynical? Perhaps a better word is worried. Worried about the economy, about our stature in the world. About the debacle in Iraq. The lives, money, increased number of enemies that it's caused us. Given all this I don't see how this could be of any benefit for a tired old man who confesses he doesn't know a lot about the economy and whose foreign policy is a scary extension of the status quo."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there along with hundreds of hundreds of others.

I think we got 8,000 e-mails yesterday. They're not all on the blog, but hundreds of them are. Obviously for time reasons we can only read a few of them in each hour. But you can see a lot of the rest of them there. So check it out and get back to me.

KING: Democracy in its purist form. Thanks Jack.

CAFFERTY: A kind of town hall whatever.

KING: This is World Autism Awareness day. Throughout the day and night CNN networks are bringing you a worldwide investigation. Exposing the myths, facts and hope surrounding this condition. Congress has only recently taken up autism. CNN's Kathleen Koch joins us live with some details.

Kathleen, just what are lawmakers doing?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, they have come a long ways. Ten years ago few lawmakers had even heard of autism. So that meant virtually no federal spending on the disorder. Well that's all changed thanks in part to one New Jersey family.


KOCH (voice-over): The scope of autism wasn't clear at all back in 1997 when Bobby and William Gallagher asked their local congressman for help. Two of their three children were autistic. So were more than two dozen others in their brick, New Jersey, Township.

(on-camera): Was there a connection?

BOBBIE GALLAGHER, MOTHER: With each passing month it seemed like the number was just growing and growing.

KOCH (voice-over): Congressman Chris Smith recalls being stunned at how few answers the centers for disease control could provide and how little the government was spending to study autism.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SMITH, (R) NEW JERSEY: There was unbelievable indifference on the part of congress, on the part of people in the centers for disease control. There was no real support for it.

KOCH: Smith got the CDC to investigate such autism clusters. How seemingly unrelated cases fit into the big picture and to finally determine the scope of the problem.

SMITH: The numbers that came back were horrifying. One out of every 150 now is the prevalent estimate nationwide.

KOCH: Smith co-founded a congressional coalition that has helped boost federal spending on autism research and awareness more than tenfold since 1995. From about 1 million to nearly $170 million.

REP. MIKE DOYLE, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: Millions of families need and deserve our help.

KOCH: Now he and Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania are pushing bills that would, among other things, improve treatment and services such as group homes for adults with autism and share U.S. expertise with countries worldwide. Getting action can be tough. Even though others like Congressman Dan Burton whose grandson is autistic have taken up the cause and congress is more aware of the disorder.

SMITH: There is a compassion fatigue. Been there, done that, let's move on. We're just going to keep working it until -- legislation moves very slowly in congress. We've had some success, but we want much more. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH: By way of comparison the federal government currently spends about as much per patient on autism as it does on Alzheimer's. John, but many lawmakers think that's just not enough.

KING: Kathleen Koch, we'll keep watching it. Kathleen thanks so much.

People with autism are getting help from some new technologies online. Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas are using the virtual world second life to work with patients with autism. Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, how is this helping?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: John, the researchers are saying that this is allowing them to teach social interaction, a virtual world allowing people with autism an opportunity to test out new social situations. This is second life. Tens of thousands of people are online right now operating virtual versions of themselves, including researchers and patients at the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas.

The center has created the census protected areas within second life where patients at the center can test out and learn about social situations. For the adults this might be going into a virtual coffee house, learning how to make small talk. For the children involved there's a virtual playground, a lunchroom where they can test out social situations, how to talk to the kids there, who to sit with, even dealing with things like bullying.

Dr. Sandy Chapman heads up the center. She says the pilot program has already expanded. She said while they're using a virtual world the situations they're creating are very real -- John.

KING: Fascinating. Thank you Abbi.

President Bush's to do list for congress, trade, housing, terrorist surveillance. Lou Dobbs has some thoughts on that and he'll join us live.

Plus, babies for Obama. Find out why he's leading in one demographic that can't even vote not by a long shot.

Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his program which airs one hour from now. We're lucky today to have Lou right here in Washington and in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Your chance to share your thoughts. Now before the president left, he's overseas dealing with the NATO alliance and the war on terrorism. Before he left he came out to the lawn at the White House and read out his legislative agenda. Terrorist surveillance and the likes. But one of the top issues on the president's agenda is an issue you like to talk about from time to time. What he calls free trade.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": What he calls free trade that's cost us three million manufacturing jobs, three million outsourcing jobs over the course of his presidency. Now pushing Colombia free trade. I'm proud to say that this administration has at least one official in its cabinet level positions.

Our ambassador Susan Schwab, the U.S. trade representative who had the guts to come to me and say let's talk about these issues. We know we disagree but talk intelligently about them. She is the only one in this administration who has had the guts to do that.

Not Henry Paulson, because they know I'm critical of this stupid policies that are being followed by the treasury secretary. Some of the unnamed policies being created in other parts of the administration. But I find it remarkable that Susan Schwab had he guts to do this. I respect -- she's going to be on my show tonight. We're going to be talking about that.

And against the context, this White House blackballed me because I have been very critical of the way in which this president's conducted the war. Those free trade policies and I respect the fact that this woman, the ambassador of the U.S. trade representative have the guts to do this. So we're going to be focusing on that tonight.

KING: I bet it will be a tough, but fair conversation.

DOBBS: You better believe it.

KING: We'll be watching in just about an hour.

DOBBS: You've got it.

KING: Lou Dobbs, thank you very much.