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Clinton's Donations Pour In After Pennsylvania Win; General David Petraeus to Oversee U.S. CENTCOM; Rumored Collaboration on Nuclear Weapons Between North Korea and Syria; Democrats Now Look to Indiana Voters

Aired April 23, 2008 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, momentum back in the Clinton court, sweeping her from Pennsylvania on to the next battleground -- Indiana. We're going to show you what she and Barack Obama face in their next showdown, now less than two weeks away.

Also, a major shake up on the front line. The commander of the war in Iraq, General David Petraeus, poised for a promotion that will take him off the battlefield. You're going to find out who's likely to replace him and what it all means for the U.S. mission in Iraq.

Plus, suspected nuclear ties between North Korea and Syria -- were they behind a top secret air strike?

Now a closed door briefing in Washington sparking new intrigue -- who's leaking information and why now?

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

Fresh from her win in Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton hits the campaign trail in her next must-win state, Indiana. Despite last night's 10 point win over Barack Obama, she still trails in the delegate count and the popular vote unless -- unless, as she says, you count those disqualified Florida and Michigan primaries.

Listen to what she told the crowd in Indianapolis.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm very proud that, as of today, I have received more votes by the people who have voted than anybody else. And I am proud of that because...


H. CLINTON: It's a very close race. But if you count, as I count, the 2.3 million people who voted in Michigan and Florida...


H. CLINTON: ...then we are going to build on that.


BLITZER: Meanwhile, Barack Obama was holding a town hall meeting in the southern part of the state, reassuring the crowd that the fierce primary battle won't leave lasting scars.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I've got to remind people, first of all, don't worry about the party being divided in November because the Democratic Party is going to recognize as soon as we have a nominee that there is too much at stake for us to be divided. There is too much at stake in this election.


OBAMA: They will see the choice between John McCain and the Democratic nominee and they'll say to themselves, this is a clear choice.


BLITZER: The Democrats' relentless battle is putting Indiana in a spotlight it hasn't seen in decades.

Let's go to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. She's watching this story for us.

So what are the candidates facing in Indiana, Suzanne, where you are right now?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when they talk about what's at stake, there are 72 delegates that are at stake here in Indiana. And you look at the demographics, they're pretty similar to Pennsylvania. You have an industrial base, a large number of rural voters. That would seem to favor Clinton.

But then, also, it's unique, because you have the northeast section, about 20 percent of the population, that essentially in the Chicago media market. That would favor the Illinois senator, Barack Obama.

But this is really going to come down to fierce competition over those voters on a wide range of issues.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): The next battleground state -- Indiana.

H. CLINTON: I just love Indiana.

MALVEAUX: Savoring her Pennsylvania victory, Senator Hillary Clinton charged ahead with knew zeal, making the case that despite the odds against her, she can still win the Democratic nomination.

H. CLINTON: I won that double digit victory that everybody on TV said I had to win. And the voters of Pennsylvania clearly made their views known, that they think I would be the best president and the better candidate to go against Senator McCain.


MALVEAUX: Barack Obama countered he would perform better in Indiana than the big states he lost, like Pennsylvania and Ohio, because of his status as the senator of neighboring Illinois.

OBAMA: There's a big difference between Indiana and those other two states. And that is that people are a little more familiar with me here in Indiana.

MALVEAUX: And despite Clinton's dominance in winning Pennsylvania's working class voters, Obama said his greatest challenge was not getting blue collar workers, but winning over the elderly.

OBAMA: And we want to make sure that they know that on issues that are of importance to them, like prescription drugs or pension and retirement security, that I've got a strong track record on those issues.

MALVEAUX: In a campaign that many Democrats openly worry has gotten increasingly nasty, Senator Clinton brushed off the criticism.

H. CLINTON: They were positive about their opportunity to have their voices heard and their votes counted. And they chose me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

MALVEAUX: Obama mocked Clinton's assertions that he wasn't tough enough to compete.

OBAMA: Nobody has complained more about the press, about questions of debates, about being mistreated, than Senator Clinton has -- or President Clinton. And so, you know, we have been pretty tame in terms of, you know, taking our shots and just rolling with them.


MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, both of the candidates claim they had a little bit more mojo coming out of the Pennsylvania primary, whether win or lose. Senator Clinton getting the endorsement of Tennessee Congressman John Tanner and then Barack Obama getting the endorsement of Oklahoma's governor, Brad Henry. Both of those individuals superdelegates. So they are racking up. They are counting as best they can. But you can believe in these weeks ahead, it is going to be a fierce battle over this state -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thirteen days to go until the next elections.

All right. Thanks very much, Suzanne, for that.

Senator Evan Bayh, by the way, is a former governor of Indiana. He's a strong supporter now of Hillary Clinton. He's going to be joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM live in the next hour. We'll get his perspective of his home state.

The key to Indiana may actually lie in Pennsylvania and the way the vote fell there, especially among the blue collar vote.

CNN's Jessica Yellin -- we asked her to stand back in Philadelphia. She's still there right now to give us a little insight into what we learned from the -- from the voters in Pennsylvania looking ahead.

Jessica, what did you find?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's a key part of Senator Clinton's argument, especially to superdelegates, that she is the more electable candidate because she can win white blue collar voters. And the results here from Pennsylvania will help her make that argument.


YELLIN (voice-over): To Senator Clinton, the future is looking rosy.

H. CLINTON: I think the tide is turning.

YELLIN: Feeding her optimism -- her margin of victory among Reagan Democrats -- crucial swing voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I voted for Hillary Clinton because of the Bill Clinton association and also because Barack Obama seems to have a little bit of a chip on his shoulder.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I don't really know too much about Obama, so I just went with who I knew.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's going to hit the ground running. She's going to have -- she's been in the White House so many years with Bill. And she's been surrounded for most of her career by people in power. And I think she's going to be more comfortable dealing with these folks.

YELLIN: Exit polls suggest in Pennsylvania, Clinton won 70 percent of the Catholic vote; 58 percent of voters who did not go to college; and 54 percent of those who make less than $50,000 a year. All of this feeds Camp Clinton's argument that Obama would have trouble with these crucial voters come November.

STUART ROTHENBERG, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: And it's not clear whether blue collar voters will decide, Barack Obama -- he's not one of us, he doesn't care about us, he doesn't understand us, he has different values, we're going to go to the Republicans, the way we did 20 years ago. That could happen.

YELLIN: But Barack Obama sees a silver lining.

OBAMA: Among all these groups that people have been focused on -- you know, blue collar workers or, you know, white working class folks, we did better in Pennsylvania than we did in Ohio. So we're continually making progress.

YELLIN: And there's this from Clinton supporters.

(on-camera): If Obama becomes the nominee, will you vote for him in November?


YELLIN: Would you vote for him over McCain in November?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. No doubt. Yes, that's hands down.


YELLIN: And, Wolf, Barack Obama, in fairness, has won the white blue collar vote in a number of key states, including Virginia, California, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Illinois.

Now, his campaign aides say that they believe that those voters who supported Senator Clinton will ultimately stick with the party in the general election even if Obama is the nominee or, as Obama's campaign manager puts it, Democrats will come home in November -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. But he won those votes before the controversy over those so-called "bitter" comments.

YELLIN: That's true.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that.

Jessica Yellin reporting.

Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File."

You know, you could get dizzy, as I wrote on my blog post today, hearing the Obama camp spin, the Clinton camp spin. You'd think they both came out with enormous fabulous victories and they're going to -- it's a lock now.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: My favorite of the day is Clinton people want to count the votes that don't count, which would be Florida and Michigan.

I mean how do you count votes that don't count?

And it's quiet here.



BLITZER: That's a rhetorical question.

CAFFERTY: Well, OK. Call this an un-endorsement. An editorial in today's "New York Times" says Hillary Clinton is mostly to blame for the negativity in the Democratic race. This is the same newspaper that endorsed her.

Titled, "The Low Road to Victory," "The Times" editorial argues that voters are getting tired of this competition, which is increasingly mean, desperate and filled with pandering. They call on Clinton to acknowledge the negativity, which is hurting her, Barack Obama, the Democratic Party and the entire 2008 election, and may also be part of the reason why she didn't win Pennsylvania by as large a margin as she could have.

"The Times" goes on to point out that on the eve of the primary, Hillary Clinton became the first Democrat to play the fear card and "wave the bloody shirt of 9/11."

Clinton aired a TV spot that evoked Osama bin Laden, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the 1929 stock market crash, measles. It was an ad described as being torn right out of Karl Rove's play book.

"The Times" writes if Clinton has any hope of winning over undecided superdelegates, not to mention the voters, she "has to call off the dogs."

Exit polls from Pennsylvania suggest there's something to this. People say they're getting tired of the tone of the campaign and they think Clinton bears more responsibility for that, with two-thirds of Pennsylvania voters saying she went too far in her attacks.

So here's the question: "The New York Times" blames Hillary Clinton for most of the negativity in the Democratic race. Do you agree?

Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. "The New York Times," which endorsed Hillary Clinton, is going after her.


"The Wall Street Journal," on its editorial page today, has an editorial really going after Barack Obama and saying you know what Hillary Clinton is doing is not that bad. He's very vulnerable. She's showing how vulnerable he is. So you've got two newspapers with very different perspectives.

CAFFERTY: Everyone is very confused.


Jack, stand by.

President Bush said the U.S. is not in a recession. But does John McCain agree?


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe we are in a recession. I think the numbers indicate that.


BLITZER: The White House hopeful says he wants to show Americans he's a different kind of Republican. I'll speak with a key supporter of his, the Florida governor, Charlie Crist, about the challenges facing McCain.

Plus, Hillary Clinton says she won Pennsylvania despite being outspent by Barack Obama. But now she's got an appeal for the voters who support her.

And dangerous ties -- North Korea and Syria's nuclear link -- why it could threaten efforts to get Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program.

Lots of news happening today right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: John McCain is on day three of a tour through typically Democratic territory, trying to convince voters out there he's not necessarily your typical Republican. He's also dealing with a political fire set by members of his own party -- a very controversial ad featuring Barack Obama.

Let's go to Dana Bash. She's joining us from New Orleans, McCain's next stop out there on the campaign trail.

So how did this new ad that we're seeing, this Republican ad, fit into McCain's message today?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you remember, Wolf, right after John McCain effectively clinched the Republican nomination, he said that he wanted all Republicans to run what he calls a respectful campaign. This ad you just talked about that is running now in North Carolina appears to defy that. It's by the Republican Party there.

You'd think that would be damaging to John McCain. But the ironic truth is it plays right into his message.


BASH (voice-over): A drive through the rolling, depressed hills of Appalachia and a stop at the same Inez, Kentucky porch where Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty 44 years ago.

Yet John McCain said his way of helping would not be the same as that Democrat or those running today.

MCCAIN: But government can't create good and lasting jobs outside of government. BASH: Still, McCain came hoping to create an image as a different kind of Republican -- one also promising to run an above the fray campaign.

Meanwhile, his own party, in North Carolina, launched this TV ad against local Democrats.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For 20 years, Barack Obama sat in his cube listening to his pastor.

REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT, BARACK OBAMA'S FORMER PASTOR: And then wants us to sing "God Bless America?"

No, no, no. Not "God Bless America," God (EXPLETIVE DELETED) America.

BASH: McCain's campaign released an e-mail he sent North Carolina's GOP chairwoman asking her not to run it.

MCCAIN: It's not the message of the Republican Party. It's not the message of my campaign. I have pledged to conduct a respectful campaign.

BASH: North Carolina Republicans refused to pull the ad. McCain jumped on that as a political opportunity.

MCCAIN: I can't dictate to them. But I want to be the candidate of everybody. I want to be the candidate of Republicans and Democrats and Independents.

BASH: But even as McCain promised to stick to issues, a question from a Kentucky GOP Senator about Barack Obama suggesting bitter rural voters cling to God and guns -- again, political opportunity.

MCCAIN: Do you think that those comments reflect the views of your constituents?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it reflects the views of somebody who doesn't understand this neck of the woods, is what I think it reflects.

MCCAIN: So, yes, I think it is -- those are elitist remarks, to say the least.


BASH: And riding on his bus earlier today, McCain insisted it is not a contradiction to go after Obama for those so-called "bitter" remarks because McCain said Obama stands by the sentiment of those remarks while he disavows those controversial comments from his pastor, Jeremiah Wright. But, you know, Wolf, it is a fine line for McCain because he has set the bar so high in terms of the kind of campaign that he insists he wants to run -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana Bash in New Orleans.

Thank you very much.

Florida's Democratic primary may be in dispute, but everyone agrees Florida will be a critical battleground state come the general election in November. And Republican John McCain has a very key ally there.

And joining us now, the governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, is a strong supporter of John McCain.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (R), FLORIDA: Good to be with you Wolf. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: All right, you know your state about as well as anyone. Who -- just put on your analyst's hat for a second.

Who would be a stronger Democratic candidate in Florida?

Would it be Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama facing John McCain?

CRIST: Well, my presumption would be that the stronger of the two Democrats would probably be Senator Clinton. After all, she won in the Republican -- or, the Republican -- the Democratic primary that we had January the 29th, did very well in the Sunshine State. It was a record turnout of both Democrats and Republicans in our primary, our presidential primary.

So, clearly, I think she would be the more formidable of the two as it relates to Florida.

BLITZER: All right.

So does that mean you really are quietly rooting yourself for Obama to get the nomination, since he might be a weaker candidate?

CRIST: I'm routing for John McCain. I'm hopeful that Senator McCain will do well in Florida, as he did back during the primary. I think that he will. He's campaigning hard. You know, he's traveling Appalachia today and did so in Ohio yesterday -- you know, some places, frankly, Wolf, where Republicans traditionally don't go -- Selma, Alabama the day before that, really reaching out, I think, doing the things that, as a nominee for president of the United States, you need to do to connect with people, to understand their concerns, to understand their issues and represent them well once you get elected president, which I hope John will and I believe he will.

BLITZER: And now both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, they may be going after each other to try to win the Democratic presidential nomination, but they're also targeting John McCain pretty specifically.

I'm going to play a little clip of what Obama says now, almost routinely, out on the campaign trail about your candidate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When John McCain suggests, as he did last week, that he had looked over the Bush economic record and he thought that we had made great progress...



OBAMA: That is -- that's four more years that we can't afford. Apparently he has not paid attention to the 232,000 people who've lost their jobs since the beginning of this year.


BLITZER: All right. He's trying to paint the picture of John McCain, when it comes to issue number one, the economy, as simply out of touch with the vast majority of Americans.

Your response?

CRIST: Well, there's no way that John McCain is out of touch with the vast amount of Americans, as it relates especially to the economy, or as it relates to our future and our national security.

John McCain is the guy who served as chairman of the Commerce Committee in the United States Senate. He's a man who's going to rural America, reaching out to people that haven't been touched by a presidential candidate probably in a very long time -- of either party. You know, this is the guy who understands that people want to continue to have their taxes cut and more of their money in their own pockets so that they can make the decision of how to spend it, including wanting to cut the cell phone tax that people have talked about.

BLITZER: But, Governor, let me...

CRIST: I mean John McCain understands what's important.

BLITZER: Let me interrupt for a moment. Excuse me for interrupting. But when he speaks about the Bush economic record and the "great progress he says has been made," you know that a lot of Americans who are suffering right now, whether because of high gas prices or mortgage problems or other related problems, they're going to say what is he talking about great economic progress?

CRIST: Well, he's talking about those high gas prices. He's talking about and calling for a gas tax cut, as we are trying to do here in the Sunshine State. I mean that's being in touch. That's understanding what's going on.

I haven't heard the other candidates talk about that, Wolf. So, you know, if somebody is in touch with the American people, what they're are feeling at the pump, it's Senator John McCain. I mean this guy gets it. He understands it and he'd be a great president. BLITZER: Now, here's the attack that Hillary Clinton has been making directly against John McCain in many of her stump speeches.

I'll play it for you.


H. CLINTON: My opponent, Senator Obama, said that Senator McCain would be a better president than George Bush. Well, with all due respect, Senator McCain says he wants to leave troops in Iraq for up to 100 years.

Is that better than George Bush?

I don't think so.


BLITZER: All right. You want to respond to that?

CRIST: Well, what Senator McCain talks about is continuing to have a presence, to make sure that those who have lost their lives, that their lives were not lost in vain. I mean we still maintain troop presence in South Korea. It's important, I think, that the American people understand what Senator McCain is talking about and why he believes it's so important to maintain freedom, to make sure that these hard-fought battles, that we don't just cut and run, if you will, and make sure that we protect and preserve the freedom that has been fought so hard for by some of the bravest people in the history of America -- those young, you know, men and women that are serving in our military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

BLITZER: And we are -- we're out of time. But a quick final question.

Any discussions that you want to share with us between you and him on your being a potential vice presidential running mate?

CRIST: The only discussions I've had with him are continuing to serve as the best governor I can for the people of Florida, continuing to cut our taxes, continuing to support education and make sure we protect this beautiful environment that I love -- and your mother does, too -- in South Florida.

BLITZER: I know he's grateful to you for helping him win that primary in Florida.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

CRIST: Great to be with you, Wolf.

Thank you, sir.

BLITZER: Victory equals money for Hillary Clinton. We're going to have details of how her Pennsylvania win is bringing her campaign a much needed infusion of funds. Plus, what happens when the commander in charge of the U.S. military in Iraq leaves?

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


BLITZER: While his wife campaigns in Indiana, former President Bill Clinton is trying to drum up support for her in the other May 6 primary state. That would be North Carolina. Without naming names, he took a swipe at Barack Obama for not committing to a debate in that state. Obama said he wasn't sure that he would what could be his 22nd debate with Clinton into his schedule.


WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And as for the debate, I think I know the answer to the question of why one candidate wants the debate, because I saw the debate in Pennsylvania. And afterward -- 41 percent of the voters watched it -- and by 52 to 22, they said Hillary won.


BLITZER: Hillary Clinton's Pennsylvania win didn't just garner more delegates, it's also bringing in a flood of much needed campaign contributions.

Carol Costello is working that part of the story for us.

Big bucks in the aftermath of Pennsylvania -- is that what happened, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly what happened.

You know, Hillary Clinton is, quite frankly, spending more than she's taking in. According to "The New York Times," for every dollar she's taking, in she's spending $1.10. But she has found a way to pay her staff with an emotional plea after an emotional win.


COSTELLO (voice-over): A Clinton win in Pennsylvania and a victory speech designed to strike an emotional chord with her supporters.

H. CLINTON: Some people counted me out and said to drop out. But the American people...


H. CLINTON: ...don't quit and they deserve a president who doesn't quit, either.

COSTELLO: Senator Clinton didn't just thank her supporters on this hard-fought night, she took the unusual step of capitalizing on their joy.

H. CLINTON: We can only keep winning if we can keep competing with an opponent who outspends us so massively. So I hope you'll go to and show your support tonight, because the future of this campaign is in your hands.

COSTELLO: And it worked. Twenty-four hours later, the Clinton campaign bragged it had raised $10 million. must have been on fire.

But $10 million is chump change compared to the money the Clinton campaign has spent so far. To date, the campaign has dolled out a whopping $163,081,209.59. And that's nothing compared to what Barack Obama's campaign has spent -- a mind-boggling $189,101,069.65.

With at least two months to go, it makes you wonder when enough is enough.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Barack Obama has discovered that having more money is an advantage, but it's not an overwhelming advantage. There is a point of diminishing returns. He's probably reached it.

COSTELLO: One example? Campaign ads. Obama out spent Clinton two to one on TV ads. Once the market is saturated, Sabato says it's a waste of money to keep buying TV time just because you have the money.

SABATO: Candidates are getting their speeches aired in their entirety for free. So when you pay for ads, it really doesn't deliver much additional punch.

COSTELLO: Still, money is of course important. But we may have reached a point in the Democratic primary where one of its best advantages is bragging rights. My piggy bank is bigger than yours.


COSTELLO: And right now it's Obama who has the bigger piggy bank. He's got money to spare. He's spending 75 cents for every dollar he's taking in. They're managing the money well in the Obama campaign -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol, thank you.

Let's discuss this and more with our guests, the Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor James Carville. He's a Clinton supporter. Republican strategist, Leslie Sanchez and former Democratic Party chairman, David Wilhelm, he's backing Barack Obama.

James, first to you, is money overrated in the final stage of this Democratic campaign?

JAMES CARVILLE, CLINTON SUPPORTER: I don't know. They spent $350 million and I haven't made a nickel out of it. I'd like to have been around for some of this gravy. You know, if you don't have any, it's not overrated. If you have a lot it's like anything else. They were down to their last penny.

I think this win in Pennsylvania, did give them a shot to go on and take it to Indiana. So it was a necessary, as I've said many times on this show, it was absolutely necessary that she win. She won and gets to fight another day. Two weeks later we'll see where it stands then.

You're right, she's been living from kind of win to win, if you would. So it was absolutely essential that she had this win and Senator Obama, hats off to him has a very, very impressive fund raising operation.

BLITZER: Here's how she reacted, David. Hillary Clinton. I want to get your reaction. Listen to what she said.


H. CLINTON: This has been a six-week campaign, one on one. Voters got to look at both of us, consider both of us. I was outspent three to one. The results were just enormously exciting and gratifying to me.


BLITZER: He would have loved to have put it away last night, ended the whole thing with a win in Pennsylvania. What happened?

DAVID WILHELM, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: That wasn't very likely. Pennsylvania is tailor made for Senator Clinton. It's the second oldest state in the country. It is a state with a larger than normal proportion of blue collar voters. It is a state where the Clinton brand is very strong. It is a state where she had the support of a very popular governor, the mayor of Pittsburgh, the mayor of Philadelphia. This was her last chance --

BLITZER: But David, you're making the case why she would be more formidable in a key state like Pennsylvania in November...

WILHELM: No, no, no.

BLITZER: ... than Barack Obama.

WILHELM: Let me just very quickly. This was her last real chance to fundamentally change the nature of this race. At the end of this primary, she has only gained a net addition of 12 delegates. There was no earthquake here. There was no earth shattering moment. And the fact is, both of these candidates are excellent candidates. But these two candidates have different messages. They draw from different bases of support. And they have different leadership styles.

So here we go on to North Carolina, on to Indiana. The same number of delegates at stake. And I think at the end of that, that day, we're going to be right back where we started and it's going to be even more clear that Senator Obama will be the next Democratic nominee. BLITZER: Leslie?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it's -- I enjoy the spin. I could say that much. Look at the one thing that has happened. Over the last year Hillary Clinton started out with 50 percent negative and what she's managed to do is increase Barack Obama's negatives to almost as high as hers. That's the success of this. You cannot discount how competitive the Clintons are in this case.

Barack Obama didn't deliver a round house punch. She was able to raise money. She has the momentum now. If she does well in Indiana, as we expect her to do, and closes that gap in North Carolina, she's going to take this thing to Denver regardless of what the Democrats say and it's going to be a back room brawl that increasingly we've said these two are going to have to come together.

WILHELM: You're not a Republican are you?

BLITZER: She is.

SANCHEZ: Is it obvious? Is it? OK.

BLITZER: But James, you were always good in math. The math still, I think it's fair to say dramatically helps, still is in Obama's camp.

CARVILLE: Math is math. When I go to Indiana I think Senator Obama is right. This is the tie breaker here. It's very important. I think it's critical that she win Indiana.

I got news for you. Senator Obama's nominee this party is going to come together. I would be for him 1,000 percent. The truth of the matter is as David points, if we could run against Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani, well somebody would get 80 percent of the vote. We have two very, very talented candidates. This thing is basically coming down to 50/50. They're going to fight hard.

It's going to be an interesting thing, Indiana, North Carolina. We got Oregon, Kentucky, West Virginia. A lot of things left to go. When all the votes are counted we'll be fine.

BLITZER: David, you're not worried about all the exit polls that showed die hard Clinton supporters wouldn't vote for Obama and some die hard Obama supporters saying they would never vote for Hillary Clinton?

WILHELM: Not at all. If things like what happened today, where with a wink and a nod the Republicans in North Carolina are going to run an ad featuring Reverend Wright, if they do that all campaign long and the Democratic nominee talks about change in Iraq and change in the economy, we are going to win going away with a united party, believe you me.

SANCHEZ: You know let's be fair. McCain campaign came out and discounted those ads and said it shouldn't be done. So let's be accurate about that.

The second point is this that people did not give over $400 million to these two candidates to walk away nicely. They bought a full fair ticket. They expect it to go to the end. People are very visceral in terms of how they feel about the Clintons and how they feel about Barack Obama. It doesn't die easily. One side of this equation is going to be upset. Weighing back, they're either going to depress the vote or they're going to move over to the McCain said.

BLITZER: All right. We're out of time but James, I just want you to be precise. Are you saying, and correct me if I'm wrong, that whoever wins in Indiana in 13 days will eventually be the Democratic nominee?

CARVILLE: Senator Obama calls it the tie breaker and I agree with Senator Obama on that. I believe it's very critical that who wins Indiana. It's going to be very critical in this process. I agree with Senator Obama.

BLITZER: Who do you think, David?

WILHELM: Well, I think the issue is whether or not at that point is there continued room for Senator Clinton to carry on. And I think most people believe that that's the case. But I think if Senator Obama has a solid win in North Carolina, and if it's very, very close in Indiana, I think -- I just think more and more rank and file Democrats let alone superdelegates are going to say it's time to rally around, time to fight the general election fight.

BLITZER: All right. We've got a lot of time to talk between now and then, guys.

Thanks to all of you for coming in.

WILHELM: Thank you.

BLITZER: Is it a dangerous liaison? U.S. intelligence officials will tell Congress that North Korea helped Syria build a nuclear facility. That's what a source tells CNN. Could this allegation work against efforts to deal with North Korea over its nuclear program?

The man credited with calming Iraq's violence now about to get a promotion. We're going to tell you about General David Petraeus's new job and possibly even tougher assignment.

And did you notice that those guys standing behind Barack Obama last night, what they were wearing? Is it advertising or was it just a coincidence?

Jeanne Moos investigating. They're seen stealing presents.

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


BLITZER: The top U.S. general leading ground forces in Iraq has a new promotion and arguably an even tougher assignment. The Army General David Petraeus is nominated to become the chief of the U.S. Military Central Command, which oversees that entire part of the world. Petraeus, replacing Admiral William Fallon, responsible, as I said, not just for Iraq, but for Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is joining us with more on this development.

And the ramifications, Jamie, could be significant.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. You know, General Petraeus likes to downplay any notion he's some kind of miracle worker. Nevertheless, his success with the so called surge has earned him this promotion to the head of the U.S. Central Command.


MCINTYRE: Testifying before Congress this month, General Petraeus admitted he was out of touch with the other war in Afghanistan.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. IRAQ COMMANDER: Again, that's obviously not my area of operation. I'd go with the intelligence analyst because my focus is in Iraq.

MCINTYRE: Not for long. If confirmed as U.S. Central Commander, General Petraeus will be trading the single problem of Iraq for a portfolio of regional challenges including confronting Iran, Middle East terrorism and reinvigorating the undermanned NATO mission in Afghanistan.

It is his reputation as an innovative military thinker who helped rewrite the army manual on count insurgency that won him the promotion.

ROBERT GATES, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Some of the challenges we face elsewhere in the region and the central command area are very much characterized by asymmetric war fair. I don't know anybody in the United States military better qualified to lead that effort.

MCINTYRE: If confirmed by the Senate, Petraeus will be replaced in Iraq by his former top deputy, Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, who just got back from Baghdad. General Odierno was in line for a Pentagon desk job as army vice chief after just over a year of helping General Petraeus implement the surge.

The Pentagon says Petraeus will stay in Iraq through the summer to make the first recommendation on possible further troop cuts after the surge is over. With Odierno in charge and Petraeus again his boss, the Pentagon admits sticking with the surge generals amounts to staying the course.

GATES: I think that the course certainly that General Petraeus has set has been a successful course. So frankly, I think staying that course is not a bad idea. (END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: When General Petraeus was tapped as the top U.S. commander in Iraq, he got e-mails from friends offering both congratulations and condolences. That's likely to be the case again, Wolf, as he moves from one mission impossible to another.

BLITZER: Another one arguably as you say maybe this one even more difficult.

All right. Thanks very much, Jamie, for that.

Want to wish both of these generals only the best.

North Korea and the nuclear threat, it might be getting more serious. We're going to have new details about the top secret briefing members of Congress are about to get. And what it might mean.

And Hillary Clinton gains delegates in Pennsylvania by beating Obama. Can she match the cash with the win?

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BLITZER: Secret meetings scheduled for Capitol Hill tomorrow to investigate North Korea's possible ties to Syria's alleged nuclear ambitions. This comes as North Korea says it's complying with its own disarmament demands from those so called six party talks.

Our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, has been investigating. He's got some new details.

What are you picking up, Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, there's a lot of intrigue swirling around right now about the timing of these briefings on Capitol Hill. It's raising questions about whether behind the scenes some people are trying to scuttle this deal with North Korea.


HENRY: As the White House inches closer to loosening sanctions on North Korea dictator Kim Jung Il in exchange for giving up his nuclear program, U.S. intelligence officials are going to Capitol Hill Thursday to privately brief lawmakers on classified information, suggesting Syria helped North Korea build a nuclear reactor that was wiped out by an Israeli air strike.

DAVID ALBRIGHT, INST. FOR SCIENCE & INTL. SECURITY: To have new information come out about the Syrian reactor is -- could overshadow what's going on in North Korea and work against getting success with the six party talks. HENRY: David Albright and other analysts suspect conservatives close to the Bush administration are leaking details about Syrian saga in order to raise questions about North Korea's trustworthiness and scuttle a deal. The timing does seem curious since President Bush has previously so been tight lipped about the controversy.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to comment on the matter. I understand what you're trying to take. It's a clever rouse to get me to comment on it but I'm not going to.

HENRY: But Senior Democrats privately say the intelligence sports the need for continued diplomacy with North Korea. One top Democratic aide saying, "This story does not call into question the desirability of a tough, verifiable agreement with North Korea - it underscores the need for one."

Nuclear experts also note there's no evidence that Syria has a nuclear weapons program. So construction of the reactor may not have been that significant anyway.

ALBRIGHT: North Korea should never have helped Syria build a reactor but the Israelis settled that issue.


HENRY: Now supporters of the six-party talks contend it would be better for the U.S. to seal this deal with North Korea so that they can try and prevent them from building another reactor either in Syria or somewhere else around the world -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry, thanks very much. We'll watch and see if we can get anything from that briefing tomorrow.

Hillary Clinton may have beat Barack Obama in Pennsylvania but her sights are set on other voters. That would be the very elite group of superdelegates. John King is standing by. He's going to show us the location of those superdelegates on our political board.

And $20 million of your money for a border fence that simply doesn't work. You know Lou Dobbs will have a lot more to say about that. He's standing by to join us as well.

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


BLITZER: Check back with Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Interesting today, Wolf. "The New York Times," which endorsed Hillary Clinton, today blames her for most of the negativity in the Democratic race. We asked if you agree with that assessment.

Chris in Syracuse, Indiana: "There's no question she's gone too negative. It's the only thing she has left. Her ego has gotten the best of her. She's put herself above the party, the country and the American people. Here in Indiana we don't care for dirty politics and politicians who'll say and do anything to get elected. Her campaign ends in Indiana. Guaranteed."

Jay in New Hampshire: "That's ridiculous. Hillary didn't make Obama sit in a church and listen to Reverend Wright for 20 years. She didn't make him sit on a board with an unrepentant terrorist. She didn't make him utter bitter comments and she didn't make him stammer through the last debate. As far as playing the fear card, if you're watching that ad and you're confident Obama's not the right man for the job don't vote for him. If you think he is the right man, then it's not a negative attack. It's just an ad."

Scott says: "I blame the media for being so negative in this campaign. They've been relentless in their attacks on Clinton and blown out of proportion what few attacks the candidates made against each other. Stop trying to create news and just report it."

Steve: "The New York Times" is being ridiculous. This year's Democratic primaries have actually been much less negative than past primaries. Nevertheless, Senator Clinton has been pointing out differences between herself and Senator Obama."

Mary in Pennsylvania: "As a Pennsylvania voter who just received tons of phone calls from both camps, I can say the majority of the ones I got from the Clinton camp were negative. None of the ones from Obama were. Both Clintons have jumped on every chance possible to make this race negative while Obama tried to stay about the fray."

And Richard writes: "I do blame Hillary Clinton for the negativity in this campaign. What surprises me most is so many voters can't see through the smoke and the mirrors."

If you didn't see you your e-mail here go to my blog at

We have something like 7,000 e-mails that have come in the last what is this, not even quite 6:00 yet?

A lot of interest in this stuff.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, thank you.

It's a $20 billion virtual fence along the U.S./Mexico border. It's meant to stop illegal crossings. Why do border patrol agents now say simply it's not working? What does the government plan to do about it? Lou Dobbs standing by live. We'll take a closer look.

Plus the Democratic race for donations and delegates. Can Hillary Clinton catch up to Barack Obama after her Pennsylvania victory?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The world faces an enormous food crisis right now. Let's get the latest from Hugh Rimington in Hong Kong.


HUGH RIMINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The U.N.'s World Food Programme now believes the world gets it when it comes to the food price crisis. But as governments scramble to ensure their own supplies of rice, of wheat, of edible oils, are they making things worse?

China, India, Vietnam, a major rice exporter, Indonesia, these are just some of the countries that have officially banned exports of selected foods. They might be protecting their domestic stockpiles, but to what cost elsewhere?

BETTINA LUESCHER, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: Of course, the countries that are hardest hit are the ones that are importing food, that cannot produce it on their own, that are reliant on the outside -- on other countries, and that, of course, could easily lead to tension.

RIMINGTON: That tension is at its most severe in Africa, in parts of Central and South America and here in Asia, particularly where the poverty is at its greatest. The Asian Development Bank says countries that with hold food from exports are simply hoarding. A policy the bank says is an overreaction and counterproductive.

The Asian Development Bank says the issue is not strictly a shortage of food, rather a shortage at prices that poorest can afford. The World Food Programme this week up the testament of the money it needs just to cover price rises from 500 to 750 billion U.S. dollars.

The U.N.'s Food and Agricultural organization is scrambling to put together a global emergency meeting planned for Rome in June. It will address among other things the trend towards bio fuels seen by some as environmentally better than oil but blamed in part for the current food inflation.

While the talk goes on, images from around the world bear out the truth from words from an old reggae song, a hungry mob is an angry mob.

LUESCHER: The rising food prices is really also not just humanitarian issue, it's also a peace and security issue. That's why it's so important.

RIMINGTON: Hugh Rimington, CNN Hong Kong.