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THE SITUATION ROOM
Obama's March Fund-Raising Haul; Bank Bailout Rage; Interview With Mitt Romney
Aired April 3, 2008 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the $40 million man. Barack Obama's campaign trumpets another huge fund-raising haul, but does Hillary Clinton have the cash to compete? We just got word of her March money.
Plus, bailout rage. Lawmakers demand to know why one of the top investment banks also crumbled and why taxpayers needed to help finance a rescue.
And breaking the color barrier. Is America ready to change its history of electing white men to the White House? Well, we have a provocative new survey.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Just a short time ago, Clinton campaign sources revealed their candidate raised $20 million in March. That is the second highest cash haul of her campaign, but it's half of what Barack Obama took in last month. Obama now heads into the critical Pennsylvania primary claiming a big money advantage over Clinton.
Our CNN's Dan Lothian is in Philadelphia with the CNN Election Express.
And Dan, I know you've got all of these numbers. Break it down for us and what this means for Obama's campaign.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Suzanne.
As you know, Senator Barack Obama has been able to raise records amount of money since he got into the race. Now, as the rate tightens here in the state of Pennsylvania, where he has spent heavily, he's had another big month, the month of March, collecting more than $40 million.
LOTHIAN (voice over): March may be known for basketball madness, but for Senator Barack Obama, who's been talking up his White House hoop dreams...
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to tear up the bowling alley in the White House. We're putting up a basketball court. LOTHIAN: ... it was all about the money. The Obama campaign says it raised more than $40 million last month from 440,000 different donors. Half of them, the campaign says, gave for the first time. Donations averaged $96.
STU ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: It demonstrates continued enthusiasm out in the grassroots and the fact that there are still people writing checks and new people who are writing checks.
LOTHIAN: Sources tell CNN the Clinton campaign raised $20 million in March, the second highest amount she has collected in a month. While they expect to be out-raised by Obama, they say money doesn't equal winning.
HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER: He outspent us over two to one on TV in Ohio and Texas. We were able to win despite being outspent. And we expect to be successful in Pennsylvania and going forward despite being outspent.
LOTHIAN: But the Obama campaign has been able to saturate Pennsylvania with TV ads, getting out its message while at the same time forcing the Clinton campaign to spend money that could have gone to other states.
NEIL OXMAN, FOUNDER, THE CAMPAIGN GROUP, INC.: He's fighting every place, because he has the most money and can fight every place.
LOTHIAN: The most money not only in this campaign, but compared to Democrats in 2004. Obama's latest figures puts the overall total raised so far at about $234 million, enough to surpass the $200 million raised by Senator John Kerry in his entire campaign.
Political analysts say this kind of fund-raising power can catch the attention of some voters.
ROTHENBERG: I think these big fund-raising numbers convey a sense of success for the campaign. And people want to be with a winner. So they add to the so-called bandwagon effect, the sense that Obama is building, he's going to be the nominee.
LOTHIAN: Of course, Senator Clinton believes that she can win. At a press conference out in California this afternoon, she said that she's "in it to win it." The campaign says they have the resources to be successful in the upcoming primaries -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Thanks, Dan.
We know money means a lot in the campaign, but obviously McCain has been an exception. He's gotten ahead with very little.
Thanks again, Dan.
Hillary Clinton is taking a swipe at one of the big-name Democrats and reaching out to another. She flatly denied a report that she told Governor Bill Richardson that Barack Obama could not win the general election. There has been obvious tension between the Clintons and Richardson since he endorsed Obama.
Well, here's how Clinton responded to a question just a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have consistently made the case that I can win, because I believe I can win. And, you know, sometimes people draw the conclusion I'm saying somebody else can't win.
I can win. I know I can win. That's why I do this every day. And that's what my campaign is about. I'm in it to win it, and I intend to do just that.
That's a no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: That's a no.
Senator Clinton is also responding to questions about whether Al Gore might have a role in her administration if she wins the White House. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I would be certainly pleased to have his involvement in any way that he would want to be involved. And I don't know whether he would be interested in going back into government or not, but I think the American people would welcome that because of his incredible record of service and his, you know, obvious understanding of the problems we're facing today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Yesterday, Senator Obama left the door open to offering Gore to hold a cabinet level post to pursue his fight against global warming.
And Senator Clinton is reaching out to North Carolina voters in a new way. She is going up with her first TV ad before the state's May 6th primary. It's a 60-second spot, and Clinton urges North Carolina voters to log on to a new Web site just for them and to use it ask her some questions. Clinton promises to answer those questions in future TV ads.
Now to fireworks on Capitol Hill. At issue, the government's use of billions of taxpayer dollars to help rescue an investment bank on the brink of collapse. Some members of the Senate Banking Committee clearly were ticked off.
Our CNN senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, has been monitoring today's hearings. Allan, of course the deal is done. But what does this mean?
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT: Well, some senators believe that it means this was just a bailout for a bunch of Wall Street fat cats. But financial regulators argued otherwise.
CHERNOFF (voice over): Senators who approve hundreds of billions in government spending were outraged that the Federal Reserve agreed to lay out $30 billion of taxpayer money last month to rescue Wall Street firm Bear Stearns, a commitment some banking committee members argued could have been avoided.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Where were the regulators? Was someone asleep at the switch, or is it that our regulatory structure doesn't work?
CHERNOFF: Bear Stearns was on the verge of collapse last month when the Federal Reserve arranged a shotgun wedding with JPMorgan Chase. The banking giant would buy Bear for just $2 a share if the government shared some of the risk.
JAMIE DIMON, CEO, JPMORGAN CHASE: We could not and would not have assumed the substantial risk of acquiring Bear Stearns without the $30 billion facility provided by the Fed.
CHERNOFF: The $30 billion, later reduced to $29 billion, was to absorb possible losses from risky investments Bear Stearns had made. Regulators argued if they hadn't stepped in, the collapse of Bear Stearns could have triggered a domino effect on Wall Street that might have devastated markets.
Now that the deal is done, will the government end up losing billions? The chairman of the Federal Reserve couldn't say.
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: I am trying to quantify the liability. Give the committee a sense of what the liability is for the American taxpayer in this regard.
BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I don't know the exact number. I think...
MENENDEZ: And that's my concern.
CHERNOFF: Even more concern over why regulators didn't do more to prevent such a crisis.
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, PRESIDENT, NEW YORK FEDERAL RESERVE BANK: The people at this table and a bunch of other supervisors and regulators took a lot of actions over the last several years to try to make the system less vulnerable to this kind of event.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry.
GEITHNER: I want to just... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. I've been here too long to try to convince me of that.
GEITHNER: Well, I don't -- I'm not claiming to convince you, but I just want to...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not going to be able to convince me because the red flags have been waving long before you showed up at that table.
CHERNOFF: Federal Reserve officials maintain that they were trying to protect the financial markets, the economy, and the American public. JPMorgan, by the way, wanted to make sure this deal got done. They later raised their price to $10 a share -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Allan Chernoff, thank you so much.
Now time for "The Cafferty File." Jack Cafferty joining us in New York.
Jack, it is great to see you today.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Great to be seen, Suzanne. Thank you.
Here's a twist on the polls that we see every day. A new Gallup survey asks people which of the three remaining candidates they least want to see elected president in November.
Forty percent of those surveyed said they don't want John McCain, 36 percent said they don't want Hillary Clinton, 20 percent said they don't want Barack Obama. One reason McCain tops the list, he's the only Republican left. So most Democrats choose him. The Republicans, on the other hand, are split between the two other candidates.
Here are some of the reasons people don't want a particular candidate to be president.
When it comes to John McCain, 27 percent say it's position on the Iraq war, 25 percent say he's too much like President Bush, 23 percent it's because he's a Republican.
As for Hillary Clinton, 24 percent say it's because they don't trust her, 18 percent say they don't want Bill Clinton back in the white House, and 16 percent say they just don't like her.
And with Barack Obama, 39 percent say he's inexperienced, 15 percent say they don't trust him, 12 percent say it's because he's a Muslim, which he's not.
Interesting that criticisms of the Democrats are all more personal in nature. The top issues with McCain all related to policy.
So here's the question. Which of the three remaining candidates, John McCain, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, would you least want to see elected president and why?
Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jack.
An ex-president sounds like he is taking the plunge. Is Jimmy Carter endorsing a presidential candidate? We'll tell you what he's saying and what it could mean for the Democratic superdelegate drama.
Also ahead, John McCain rival-turned-supporter Mitt Romney. Is he auditioning to be as McCain's running mate? Well, I'll ask him that question.
And later, do airline executives have a dangerously cozy relationship with safety regulators? Congress is asking questions.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: John McCain revealed to CNN just yesterday that he is not only drafting a list of vice presidential prospects, he already has about 20 names on it. Well, could his former rival-turned- supporter Mitt Romney be on that list?
Joining us now, former Massachusetts governor and former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
So, of course, we see you in a different light now, obviously out of the race, on the campaign trail. Are you auditioning for position number two, running mate?
MITT ROMNEY (R), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. I don't think that's very likely, frankly. I make the appearances which the McCain campaign asks me to make. They actually in this case called and asked whether I could be with you in THE SITUATION ROOM, and I of course am happy to stand up and speak in favor of a person who I think ought to be the next president.
I sure don't want Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. I think John McCain has exactly what America needs right now.
MALVEAUX: I want you to hear what McCain said earlier today when we asked him that question about you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll be moving forward with the process, but Governor Mitt Romney is a fine man. He earned himself a large place in our Republican Party. And I was pleased to have him campaigning with me at my side. He's a fine man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: What has he told you about that large place in the Republican Party? What has he told you? Has he actually said you're on that list, that he's considering you?
ROMNEY: No, he really hasn't. And, you know, I have no idea whether I am or I'm not, but that's frankly far less relevant than what's happening in the country today with a lot of people suffering as they've lost some homes, with the economy very fragile, with men and women in harm's way in Iraq.
There's a lot of important work going on in the country. And frankly, I'm out campaigning for Senator McCain and for other senators and congressmen and state officials as well that I think can make a difference for America at a critical time.
MALVEAUX: You've also been doing a lot of fund-raising for McCain. We got some new numbers from the Democrats. The Obama campaign releasing their March numbers, saying they raised $40 million. Senator Clinton, $20 million.
You, before you dropped out, had about $65 million. Why has Senator McCain had such a hard time raising money, getting the kind of financial support?
ROMNEY: You know, I think Senator McCain has proven that money is not what's critical in these races. The fun thing about watching the Democrats raise this money is that they're spending it all.
They're spending it all trying to convince us that the other candidate is unelectable. And I frankly agree with both of the Democrats. They're unelectable.
Senator McCain won the nomination without spending much money. He's doing very well in the national opinion polls, and the recognition that he receives, despite the fact that he's not up with advertising. He's instead talking about important issues, traveling around the world, meeting with leaders of the world. I think...
MALVEAUX: But clearly, it's going to take more money in the general election. How is he going to overcome that obstacle? What does he need to do to convince people to open up their pocketbooks?
ROMNEY: Oh, there is no question that he will have the money he needs to run a national campaign. Republicans from all over the country will contribute to the campaign.
We like to see Democrats get their race over. But Senator McCain is going to have all the money he needs to run through this primary season up through the convention. And after that, he may well take federal matching dollars, in which case that would provide the funding for the general part of the election.
MALVEAUX: I want to turn to something more personal. When you were running, a lot of people talked about your faith, being a Mormon. And there were some people who unfairly held it against you.
Do you think that Barack Obama is being treated fairly when you take a look at some of the comments made by his controversial pastor? ROMNEY: You know, I really think that in politics, you can't be talking about what's fair and what's not fair, basically. It's a tough sport.
If you get into the political arena, and particularly in the championship arena, running for president of the United States, you're going to be looked at on every different angle. People are going to evaluate you in the ways they would like to do it. And you really can't be calling foul or unfair. You just have to be there and take what comes.
And I think people are going to look at the comments of Reverend Wright and take them for what they are. I agree with Senator McCain, that these comments are ones that have been repudiated by Barack Obama. And I take Barack Obama at his word.
MALVEAUX: So you don't think they're relevant?
ROMNEY: I take Barack Obama at his word that he does not agree with the comments made by Reverend Wright.
MALVEAUX: Let's turn to the Olympics here. You were chairman and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee of the Olympics some time ago. Obviously, this was a big organizing effort on your part.
We are now looking at the Olympics in China. Very controversial. A lot of people really calling, if not to boycott the Olympics, then simply to boycott the opening ceremonies. We've heard it from the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We have also seen commitments from Prince Charles, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and others to do just that.
You were on the ground. You know what it's like to organize something of this magnitude, of this scale. Does it make any difference whatsoever to China in curbing its bad behavior if they simply boycott the opening ceremonies?
ROMNEY: I'm not sure what impact it would have on China. I really can't assess the sentiment of Hu Jintao and other leaders there. I'm not sure it will have a big impact one way or the other.
I do think, however, that in this country and in the world generally we have to ask ourselves, is the Olympic event about the nation that hosts the games, or is it about the athletes that participate there? And I've always felt it's about the athletes.
And, you know, Hitler had games. And America sent athletes to Berlin to participate there, because we said, you know what? These games are athletes, not about the country that's hosting the games.
And I think -- and I'm not -- I don't want in any way to compare China to Hitler or anything of that nature.
ROMNEY: But what I'm saying is that I think the games are about athletes, and that we should support our athletes and show recognition of them. That's why the president would go to Beijing, is to recognize the athletes of America that have sacrificed in many cases over their entire, if you will, post-team life to prepare for Olympic games. I think the games are about athletes and we ought to support them.
MALVEAUX: Well, do you think it's appropriate for the president to go to the games, recognize the athletes in that way, but to boycott the opening ceremonies to make a political statement against China and its human rights abuses?
ROMNEY: You know, there are a lot of ways to make statements about what you think about Beijing's treatment of individuals, and particularly those in Tibet. But the opening ceremony is a tribute to the athletes of the world. And particularly the athletes of the home country.
The highlight is when the athletes march in carrying the flag with all the athletes of the world gathering. And so, again, if you think the opening ceremonies is about recognizing China, well, then, you would probably boycott it. If you think instead, as I do, it's about recognizing the athletes of the world and the opportunity for the brother and sisterhood of the family of human kind, if you will, then you're there to pay respect to the athletes.
MALVEAUX: Governor Mitt Romney, thank you so much for joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll see you on the campaigning trail.
ROMNEY: Thanks, Suzanne. Good to be with you.
MALVEAUX: Thank you.
Former president Jimmy Carter, he is a powerful superdelegate. And today, for the first time, he is hinting at whom he might endorse. Find out what he said and why an African newspaper, well, they got the scoop.
And it's not something you often see on Capitol Hill. Hear what choked up a grown man at a tough hearing about the FAA.
MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, some members of Barack Obama's church are fed up. Caught up in the controversy over its former pastor's fiery words, the church says it is bombarded by rude reporters, even bomb threats. Now it's demanding some things change.
John Kerry says John McCain is his friend, but he's wasting no time pointing out his faults measured against Barack Obama.
And much of Tinsel Town has a twinkle in its eye for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But when it comes to actually picking between them, well, your favorite stars are making Hollywood a house divided.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Whoever the Democrats decide to nominate, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have already made history. Never before has the U.S. seen a woman or an African-American as a top, well-financed, and hugely-endorsed presidential contender. But is the country ready to add the ultimate page to America's history?
Well, here's a new CNN/"Essence" magazine poll conducted by Opinion Researchers Corporation.
CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider joining me now.
Are Americans ready to elect a black or a woman president?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there is one way to find out. Ask them.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): This is a historic moment in America.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have an election where the two people vying to be the Democratic nominee are an African-American man and a woman.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: And I think that says a lot. It says a lot about who we are as a party and who we are as a country.
SCHNEIDER: But is the country ready? We asked people exactly that question. The answer? In the new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, more than three-quarters say, yes, the country is ready for a black president. Do people think the country is ready for a woman president? That number is a little smaller. Sixty-three percent say yes.
Do Americans see more prejudice against a woman than an African- American? More likely, they see more negative feelings about this woman than about this African-American.
GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: The two candidates have done a terrific job in trying to say, judge me for who I am and for what I have done.
SCHNEIDER: Do African-Americans believe the country is ready to elect a black president? They're a little more skeptical than whites. But blacks, too, have come around, particularly after the Iowa caucuses demonstrated that Obama could win in an overwhelmingly white electorate.
Barack Obama is the first African-American presidential candidate who does not come out of the civil rights movement. He is not running on racial issues. But he is asking Americans to make a statement about race.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to put aside fear. And we are going to reach out for hope. This time, we are going to turn out like never before. And we're going to vote at record numbers.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: This time, we won't be turned back by racial division.
SCHNEIDER: That's the good news about this election. Voters are responding to real candidates, not to stereotypes -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Bill Schneider, thank you so much. Fascinating.
Tonight, CNN examines what it's like to be black in America in a group of social series. That begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. And, at 9:00 Eastern, Soledad O'Brien investigate startling new details on James Earl Ray's role in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King -- all that right here on CNN.
Meanwhile, something Jimmy Carter said has many people wondering. The former president, who's also a Democratic superdelegate, has not endorsed a candidate. But he is making it quite clear whom he really, really likes.
Our Brian Todd joining me now.
And, Brian, I think he's dropping some -- some pretty strong hints here, from what we have heard.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very strong hints, yes, all but saying flat-out, Suzanne, that he likes and supports Barack Obama. The question now is, does that tilt this ever-so-tight Democratic race?
TODD (voice-over): As senior statesman and superdelegate, Jimmy Carter was seen as a leader who could help Democrats broker a deal on the nomination between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But now that idea may be out the window.
The former president, quoted in a Nigerian newspaper, says: "My children and their spouses are pro-Obama. My grandchildren are also pro-Obama. As a superdelegate, I would not disclose who I am rooting for, but I lead leave you to make that guess."
An aide to President Carter confirms the quote is accurate, but reiterates the former president's position that he will remain uncommitted until the Democratic Convention. Still: TAD DEVINE, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: His sentiments clearly are that he supports Barack Obama and intends to do so as a delegate and to help him in his campaign.
TODD: A Clinton spokesman said both Senator and Presidential Clinton have a great deal of respect for Jimmy Carter, that he's free to make whatever decision he thinks is appropriate, and "People will be interested in the choice he makes."
Carter's remarks are not a formal endorsement. And Democratic strategists say this does not rise to the level of Obama's endorsements from Bill Richardson and Ted Kennedy, who are also superdelegates.
Hillary Clinton still has the lead in the superdelegate count, but the trend of superdelegate support has tilted heavily in Obama's favor since Super Tuesday. And one Democratic strategist not aligned with any candidate says that may continue.
DEVINE: Most of the superdelegates who today are uncommitted are from states that Senator Obama has won. And I think that's going to make the challenge...
TODD: The Obama campaign would not comment on the former president's remarks.
And when I had asked if they had any hint that this was coming, if Mr. Carter had given them any private indications of support, on Obama spokesman said, no comment to that, too -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: So, Brian, I guess the question is, really, is there any bad blood between Carter and the Clintons?
TODD: There are some vague hints of that.
"The National Review Online" reported just a couple of weeks ago -- they had a quote their report on the primaries that said that President Carter -- quote -- "indicated that he privately criticized Bill Clinton about the latter's comments after the South Carolina primary," when there was the bad blood between the Obamas and Clintons there.
TODD: Now, an aide to President Carter had no information on that. She really wouldn't go anywhere near that.
And analysts we spoke to said, even if that were true, that wouldn't be the reason that President Carter said these things he said about Obama. He just likes Obama.
MALVEAUX: OK. Brian Todd, thanks again.
Tough new questions about whether airline safety regulators are turning a blind eye -- just ahead, lots of anger on Capitol Hill today. But any answers? Your flight and your safety on the line.
Plus, Hillary Clinton is looking beyond Pennsylvania. Will the later contests give her wins or grief? Our "Strategy Session" is just ahead.
And is Obama supporter John Kerry willing to say it is time for Hillary Clinton to go? My interview with the senator just ahead.
MALVEAUX: John McCain has been spending this week giving voters a history lesson about himself. The Republican nominee in waiting has an impressive biography. But is he selling it effectively?
Let's bring our own Dana Bash with McCain in Jacksonville, Florida.
And, Dana, how does the McCain camp think this trip down memory lane is actually going? How is it resonating with the voters?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, the McCain campaign insists, as you can imagine, that they are remarkably happy with the way this so-called bio tour has gone.
But some Republicans we talked to, they are not so sure that he is using his precious time wisely.
BASH (voice-over): This hangar in Jacksonville, Florida, is the very place John McCain arrived when released after five-and-a-half years in a Vietnamese prison. Thirty-five years later, the GOP candidate came back to promote his campaign by talking about lessons he learned.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I once thought I was man enough for almost any confrontation. In prison, I discovered I was not. I tried to use every personal resource I had to confound my captors, and it wasn't enough in the end.
BASH: Joining him, family members rarely on the trail, three children who, along with McCain's ex-wife, waited here while he was a POW.
MCCAIN: My daughter Sidney was an infant when I first left for CNN.
BASH: These stories told all week are aimed at making a personal connection with voters. And while McCain advisers tried to augment his bio tour with high-profile levity...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
MCCAIN: You look like the night manager of a creepy motel.
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Well...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: ... the week hasn't always gone to script. He couldn't see the Teleprompter Wednesday in Annapolis.
MCCAIN: ... of serving something greater...
BASH: It was so windy and cold, he skipped a page of his speech. And McCain's return to his old high school Tuesday was not welcomed by all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were told that this isn't a political event. So, what exactly is your purpose in being here?
MCCAIN: I knew I should have cut this thing off.
MCCAIN: This meeting is over.
BASH: Republicans CNN contacted are mixed about whether this is the best use of McCain's time. But even some GOP McCain detractors say, local media coverage alone in battleground states make it a good investment.
GREG MUELLER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: McCain being out there sort of under the radar in local communities, meeting new people, talking about himself and his record, while they're fighting and bickering, is a very good position for him.
BASH: Now, along with his personal stories this week, McCain did give his general philosophy on everything from education to health care to the economy.
But, Suzanne, he didn't give anything specific policy proposals, what he would do as president on any of those issues. What his campaign says is that that is the next phase of the campaign -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And, Dana, I noticed he was using a sense of humor there.
There are some new numbers that came out today from the Democrats, Barack Obama raising some $40 million for March, Senator Clinton about $20 million. Is this kind of tour, is it translating into dollars for McCain? Do we know how much he has raised in March?
BASH: What his campaign says is that they're going to release those numbers later this month. But I talked to a senior McCain adviser. And what he said is that it's better than usual for us, but not competitive with Obama.
Now, so, they're already sort of trying to lower expectations for the kind of money that McCain raised in March, despite the fact, Suzanne, that he really spent the large majority of the month, in March, fund-raising. He went all over the country. In fact, his schedule was pretty much dictated by fund-raisers. He had probably, on average, one a day, sometimes two a day.
Despite that, they are sort of lowering expectations, as I said, on fund-raising. And, remember, the month before,in February, he raised about a third of that of Hillary Clinton, one-fifth of Barack Obama. But the -- on the bright side, they insist inside the McCain campaign that they are approaching this differently.
They say that, right now, the Republican National Committee, what's called a victory fund, they can help raise money for John McCain. And they say that they're very much relying on that, in addition to individual fund-raisers for his -- for his campaign.
MALVEAUX: Thanks, Dana.
As Mitt Romney just said moments ago, that he's done it with very little money in the past. So, maybe he will do well in the future as well.
Thanks again, Dana.
BASH: Thank you.
MALVEAUX: Imagine going to the airport to catch your flight, but there is no airline workers to help you, and there's not even a flight that you can catch.
Well, that is what is happening to some ATA passengers. The airline has stopped all flights as it files for bankruptcy. And it's telling its customers, well, it's sorry. It's the latest in a litany of problems the industry is facing -- another, of course, questions about how safe we are all when we fly.
Our CNN's Kathleen Koch joining me now.
And, Kathleen, there are really some troubling claims that are being made here. Tell us about what you have learned.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, lawmakers today on Capitol Hill heard a really troubling story, of FAA inspectors trying to do the right thing, raising the red flag about missed safety checks, but instead being blocked by managers who saw Southwest Airlines, not the flying public, as their main customer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
KOCH (voice-over): The FAA whistle-blowers told lawmakers, every time they pointed out critical fuselage crack inspections weren't being done by Southwest, top-level FAA managers too cozy with the airline ignored them.
BOBBY BOUTRIS, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION SAFETY INSPECTOR: They did not address anything. And they concentrated their efforts in silencing the messenger.
KOCH: Safety inspector Douglas Peters described an incident when his supervisor made a not-so-subtle threat if he aired his concerns.
DOUGLAS PETERS, SAFETY INSPECTOR, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: He then pointed to a picture of my family and said, again, This is what's important. On his way out the door, he made the following statement: "You have a good job here. Your wife has a good job over at the Dallas FSDO. I would hate to see you jeopardize yours and hers career, trying to take down a couple of losers."
KOCH: FAA officials insisted that while -- quote -- "egregious," this was an isolated problem and that the inspection system was being overhauled so it couldn't happen again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe these initiatives will help ensure that our rules are being followed.
KOCH: Frustrated lawmakers were not convinced.
REP. JAMES OBERSTAR (D), MINNESOTA: The FAA needs to clean house from top to bottom, take corrective action, hire more inspectors, and give them a safety mission.
KOCH: Southwest Airlines executives still have yet to testify. Now, they are going to later on this evening.
But the FAA's inspector general says that he's discovered there are still key safety inspections that Southwest has not completed. And he criticized the FAA for not checking since 1999 to see if Southwest was complying with its safety orders and inspections -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Kathleen Koch -- thank you so much, Kathleen.
In the "Strategy Session": race in America. Seventy-six percent of Americans say the country is ready for a black president. Could that number carry Obama to the presidency?
And in for the long haul, Senator Clinton makes it very clear that she is looking past Pennsylvania. She's already advertising in North Carolina.
MALVEAUX: Are you ready or not to see an African-American or a woman as the leader of the free world? Well, that is what we asked in our CNN/"Essence" magazine poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation.
Here for today's "Strategy Session," Democratic strategist Steve McMahon and CNN contributor and Republican strategist Amy Holmes.
Thank you for being here with THE SITUATION ROOM.
I want to actually show you the first number here. It's very interesting.
What we see is, among whites, they say that -- 78 percent say that the country is ready for a black president. Compare it blacks, it's 69 percent. So, there are more whites that are more hopeful about this possibility.
Amy, what do you think this reflects?
AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think we have seen this throughout the campaign, that African-American voters are a little bit more pessimistic about our racial progress in this country.
Early on, African-Americans were kind of slow to rally around Barack Obama, in part because they feared for his safety. Steve and I were talking about this before the show. You have heard that a lot, that they were worried about the JFK, Bobby Kennedy and -- pardon me...
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Dr. King.
HOLMES: ... Dr. King -- yes, Dr. King fate befalling Barack Obama.
MALVEAUX: And, Steve, what do you think this means?
MCMAHON: I think Amy's absolutely right.
African-American voters were a little slow to come around, probably because they were concerned he couldn't win, and I think also because they were concerned about his safety. But I think it's interesting, if you look at the age breaks in these things, to young people, the thought of an African-American president isn't any different than the thought of a white person being president. And the same is really true of a woman.
Barack Obama has been able to pretty much appeal to every -- every demographic subgroup, except people who are white, under 30 and are non-college-educated. And, for some reason, he hasn't cracked that yet. But I think that's his next target.
MALVEAUX: And why do you think he hasn't cracked that particular group? What is it about either his profile or his message that is not resonating with those younger white voters?
HOLMES: Well, I think the economy is a big one. And he hasn't really turned to that issue. And the insecurity that those voters feel about, will I be able to get a job? I don't have a college education. Inflation is going up. I think that he hasn't really tapped into that.
He's talked about hope and change. And that's very attractive to these other younger voters. But for those ones who are looking about, where am I going to get that first job, I don't think Barack Obama has really focused on them.
MALVEAUX: And it may be difficult to tell in this poll, but, I mean, how much of this do you think is we're talking about in broad terms? We're talking about a black man as president. Or how much of it is, do you think, that people are just saying, I like this guy; I like Barack Obama, so I could see this guy being the president, and they answer the question affirmatively?
MCMAHON: That's the $64 question.
You have to wonder whether or not the results of the question about whether America is ready for a woman president reflects the opposite side of that equation for Hillary Clinton, who is a little bit more -- her favorable/unfavorable ratio isn't quite as positive as Barack Obama's.
It would be interesting to see, if it were another black candidate, as you point out, whether those numbers would be the same. I suspect that they would be a lot higher than people would expect. They -- obviously, America loves Barack Obama. But I also think that America is ready to turn the page and -- and move on to an African- American, a woman or any kind of president that meets their criteria.
HOLMES: And to follow on to that point, I think America has been ready for a long time. If you remember, back in '96, 1996, there was real hope, real hopefulness about Colin Powell. His approval ratings were sky-high.
And the old conventional wisdom was that your first black president or your first female president might actually come from the Republican column.
MALVEAUX: Right, has to be a Republican.
MCMAHON: They have walked back from that, haven't they, your people...
MCMAHON: ... the Republicans?
HOLMES: Well, in fact, the polling data shows that the largest obstacle in this election is age. That poll last week with NBC/"Wall Street Journal" showed that 72 ready for a black president, ready for a woman president. A guy over 70, that's a little tougher hill to climb.
MALVEAUX: Let's turn to Hillary Clinton real quick here.
Obviously, she is looking beyond Pennsylvania. We see a new ad that has been launched in North Carolina. She essentially is asking the voters there to log on to this Web site. And she will answer their questions in the next TV ad that she presents.
The longer she stays in this race, what does it mean for Barack Obama? What does it mean for her chances? Because she's looking beyond Pennsylvania now.
MCMAHON: Well, it depends upon how she stays in this race. If she stays in this race and focuses her fire on John McCain, it's great for the Democrats, because, as you have seen, we have gotten record turnout. More and more people are registering in the Democratic primary.
And it's been -- there's a terrific -- terrific amount of energy. The fund-raising is through the roof. If she, on the other hand, is -- is training her fire on Barack Obama, it's a problem for Democrats. And it's going to -- it's going to...
HOLMES: Good for Republicans?
MCMAHON: ... in November.
HOLMES: Hillary staying in this race and getting that constituent voter, the white, lunch pail male, it raises questions about Barack Obama's ability to get those voters in the general election.
She's been trying to raise those flags with superdelegates, to say, he can't be elected in November. So, Hillary's taking the race, kind of it -- it underscores some of his weaknesses.
MALVEAUX: All right, got to wrap it there. Thank you so much, guys.
MCMAHON: Thank you.
HOLMES: Thank you.
MALVEAUX: Politics has always made for strange bedfellows. But wait until you hear who is helping Barack Obama raise money now. Might conservatives be outraged?
And the letters may spell Hollywood, but they also spell out big support for the two Democrats running for president. Are your favorite stars colliding or crashing over Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton?
MALVEAUX: On our Political Ticker this Thursday: She is the daughter of well-known conservative and media tycoon Rup -- Rupert Murdoch, rather. So, you might not expect Elisabeth Murdoch to throw a huge gala for Barack Obama. But that is just what she plans to do. It will cost up to $2,300 a person to attend the fund-raiser at Elisabeth Murdoch's London home next month.
And it appears that former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is doing, well, his part to boost the economy right here in Washington, D.C. The Mayflower Hotel, where Spitzer allegedly had a tryst with a high-priced call girl, reports a boom in souvenir sales. Visitors are said to be snatching up merchandise with the Mayflower logo and its longtime catchphrase, "Washington's Second-Best Address."
And, remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com.
Jack joining us now again with "The Cafferty File."
Jack, what are you looking at, at this hour?
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, which of the three remaining candidates, John McCain, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, would you least want to see elected president, and why?
Bill writes: "Hillary/Billary are my least likely choices. What I am reminded of is watching Hubert Humphrey betraying all his lifelong values to be president in 1968, sucking up to Lyndon Johnson because he wanted the presidency so much, he was willing to grovel for it. Same with Billary. Only difference is, there are no lifelong values to compromise."
Emily in New York writes: "I have no faith in John McCain whatsoever. The president's primary function, crafting and leading our foreign policy. I don't want it decided by a guy who needs someone whispering in his ear, telling him who the enemy is."
Matt writes: "Obama. He's just not ready. It's as simple as that."
Frank says: "I would rather answer one of those 'Have you stopped beating your wife?' questions. With the options being the codger, the dodger, and the kid, I guess it has to be the kid. If the voters truly want change, Obama is the only choice. How can you want real change and consider either McCain or Clinton, both longtime insiders who owe and are owed favors?"
Celia in Michigan writes: "Jack, I am a multiracial, multicultural female Democrat, and my least favorite candidate is Hillary Rodham Clinton. I am highly allergic to her."
Judy in Kansas City: "Barack Obama. He's inexperienced, not qualified to be commander in chief, and has a record of just voting present on a number of issues. He does not know how to work across the aisle, and he's too overconfident, in that he seems to think he's already been elected."
Portland writes: "Jack Cafferty. He is my least favorite living thing on the planet. I would pick a troglodyte for a president any day before I would pick Jack Cafferty. Jack, is time on your side? When are you going to kick the bucket and spare us all your pathetic commentary?"
Not soon, I hope.
Jim in Kansas writes: "That would be an easy choice: Grampa McCain. He is always showing pictures of himself which were taken when he was Barack Obama's age."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile, and look for yours, along with hundreds of others there -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right. Thanks, Jack.
Well, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now; Barack Obama rakes it in. The latest figures show him raising twice as much cash as Hillary Clinton. But does that raise the odds against her?
In Hollywood, the stars are separate universes, one for Clinton, and one for Obama. We will show you how the Democratic divide is hitting Tinseltown.
And does New York have the key to unlock its gridlock?
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