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Importance of Indiana: State Senator Evan Bayh Weighs In; Hillary's Renewed Momentum; McCain Wants North Carolina GOP Ad Pulled

Aired April 23, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the Democrats hit the ground running in Indiana. Hillary Clinton hopes to bring along a bounce after her new and needed primary win. I will ask the Indiana Senator and Clinton supporter Evan Bayh if his state is make or break for his candidate.

Plus, every day, the convention gets closer and closer and the Democrats' pitch to superdelegates grows more urgent. Does Clinton have more to offer them after the votes were counted in Pennsylvania?

And John McCain calls a new ad targeting Barack Obama -- and I'm quoting now -- "offensive." Who's behind the ad? It's not Clinton, but some of McCain's fellow Republicans.

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

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

Hillary Clinton's campaign says this is her best fund-raising day ever, thanks to her victory in Pennsylvania. But she's still playing catchup to Barack Obama in the money race and in the hunt for delegates.

Right now, CNN estimates that Clinton trails Obama in the total delegate count by 133. Neither one of them is closing in yet on the 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's watching all of this unfold.

They're making their plans for the next step in this fight, Candy. What is going on, on this day after Pennsylvania?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, on the day after Pennsylvania, they moved to the next stop. The one thing that Pennsylvania settled is that this race will not be settled for some time to come.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): If it's the day after Pennsylvania, this must be: SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just love Indiana.

CROWLEY: As her campaign touts the possibility of a $10 million haul in the past 24 hours, Hillary Clinton moved into Indiana, trying to keep her mojo working and the superdelegates interested.

CLINTON: I'm very proud that as of today, I have received more votes by the people who have voted than anybody else.

This is only true if you count the not sanctioned by the Democratic Party Michigan primary when Barack Obama was not on the ballot. Getting closer or surpassing Obama in the popular vote will buttress Clinton's superdelegate argument that she's the most electable, that he isn't tough enough to be president or take on John McCain.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I have always believed that if you're tough, you don't have to talk about it. And I have got a 20-year track record of fighting on behalf of working families.

CROWLEY: Without Michigan, Obama still leads slightly in the popular vote. And he is ahead enough in pledged delegates that the math indicates she probably won't catch him, which is his superdelegate strategy.

OBAMA: The way we're going to close the deal is by winning. And right now we're winning.

And, you know, what we will do is keep on campaigning in Indiana and North Carolina and Oregon and these other states. And at the conclusion of all these contests, people will go back and take a look and say, who's won?

CROWLEY: As Obama took his case to Indiana, where the polls indicate a close race, his campaign looked toward the other May 6 contest and tried to drum up a little mojo of their own, rolling out the endorsements of 49 North Carolinians, all former backers of John Edwards.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: The Obama campaign also rolled out two new superdelegate supporters, the Clinton camp one.

In the meantime, all of those superdelegates who have not yet picked a side are holding their cards pretty close to the chest. As one of them told me, let's wait and see what happens -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, thank you.

While Clinton and Obama are aiming their messages at you, they're also aiming their messages, trying to convince those superdelegates.

Let's get a better appreciation of what's going on with our chief national correspondent, John King.

Hillary Clinton wants the superdelegates, especially the undecided superdelegates, and maybe some who are decided who could easily change their minds, maybe not so easily. What's the message she's trying to convey to them right now?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Electability come November.

This is the map of the Democratic race so far, Wolf. The light blue is Senator Clinton. The dark blue is Senator Obama. Texas was essentially a draw. She won the vote. He won the caucuses. So we have that one striped a bit like a zebra there.

This is what the Democrat map looks like now. What Hillary Clinton wants to tell the superdelegates is, take a close look at this and then go back in time. Go back to 1996, for example, when her husband won against Bob Dole. Blue is for Democrats. Red is for Texas. Look where Bill Clinton won. He won in Pennsylvania. He won in Ohio. He won the state of Florida. He won West Virginia. He put Kentucky and even Tennessee in play. Remember, Al Gore was his running mate.

Remember this part of the map right here. OK. Hillary Clinton wants you to remember this, remember what Bill Clinton won in 1996 and then she wants you to go back in time to 1988, a much more bleaker map for the Democratic Party. Michael Dukakis wins only 10 states. He loses Pennsylvania, where Hillary Clinton won the primary last night. He loses Ohio. He keeps West Virginia, but he loses Kentucky and Tennessee. Critically, he loses the state of Florida. It's a blowout.

George H.W. Bush wins 40 states. What Hillary Clinton wants to argue to the superdelegates is, I can win Pennsylvania. I can win Ohio. Barack Obama has a fundamental problem with white blue-collar Democrats that are critical in places like West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, all through here. She also believes because of what happened in the primary, she has better standing in Florida.

Her argument is, give me a chance to see what I can do in Indiana and the remaining contests. I think, if you look at this map, the electoral map, I'm the stronger candidate.

BLITZER: And a lot of us remember that 1988 race. Dukakis, he sort of looked silly with that helmet on the tank, as you remember, the Willie Horton ads. The Republicans really painted him in that picture, even though after that Democratic Convention, he was ahead in the polls, but he suffered that huge loss.

KING: Ahead 17 points in the polls. And what the Republicans did was they painted him as a liberal on taxes, soft on crime, soft on national security, culturally out of touch with those white blue- collar Reagan Democrats.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: Are Clinton's people suggesting that Obama could turn out to be another Dukakis?

KING: They are suggesting that the Republicans can do to Obama what the Republicans did to Dukakis.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: What is Obama's counterargument to this?

KING: Obama's counterargument is quite interesting, because he says go back in time as well. And let's start again with Pennsylvania, a blowout for Senator Clinton, except for this. Senator Obama does very well among African-Americans in the center of Pennsylvania in the city of Philadelphia.

Well, he says, remember that, because if you go back again and look at Bill Clinton's map on the best Bill Clinton campaign in 1996, how, Senator Obama says, can the Democrats win if African-Americans feel cheated in Pennsylvania, especially Philadelphia, if they feel cheated in Cleveland, Ohio, if they feel cheated in Illinois? If they feel cheated in the states that are critical to the Democrats, Barack Obama argues, how can a Democrat win if their fundamental base, African-American voters, feel that the nomination has been stolen from him?

So both of these candidates are saying they represent a key constituencies to the Democratic Party. Many superdelegates are saying, you know what, they're both right. We have a problem, which is why most of the delegates say Obama has the African-American base. Hillary Clinton at the moment has the advantage among those critical so-called Reagan Democrats.

Let's play this out.

And, Wolf, in Indiana, there is an opportunity and in North Carolina an opportunity for Barack Obama to say, OK, I got thumped in Pennsylvania. I learned a lesson. I'm going to talk to these voters and prove I can connect with them. That is why most superdelegates, as Candy just said, are saying, let's wait.

BLITZER: Show me what you got, basically. That's what they're saying.

All right, John, thank you.

Let's check in with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: There's also reason to believe, and I would think that most Democrats would do this, that when there's only one candidate left in the race, whether it's Clinton or Obama, that all of those groups are going to come together behind whoever that candidate is.

I know a lot of they are saying, no, if Hillary's the nominee, I'm not going to -- I'm going to vote for -- that's not going to happen. And so they're split right now. But when there's only one candidate left, perhaps they will unite.

BLITZER: Some have suggested this is not necessarily the best time, given the acrimony between these two candidates, to ask that question in a poll, because it's not necessarily reflective of what will be the case down the road when one candidate emerges.

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: Well, and that's why they want to get this thing over with, to give tempers the time to cool down and calmer heads to prevail and with the passage of time and John McCain looming in November, they think then people will come to their senses and unite. We will wait and see.

The United States is known as the breadbasket of the world. We have always had a lot of food here. It's always been cheap. Suddenly that's not the case anymore. A new "USA Today"/Gallup poll shows 73 percent of us are worried about rising grocery bills. And almost half say that food inflation is causing a hardship for their family.

Suddenly, sharply rising food prices are right up there with the 80 percent of Americans who are concerned about record-high gasoline prices. According to AAA, the average price of a gallon of unleaded gas, $3.53. The government says food inflation has been running at 5.3 percent annually for the last three months. The largest price increases when it comes to food, items like white bread, milk, eggs, bananas.

While higher prices are hurting Americans, they can wreak havoc in other parts of the world, places like Haiti, Pakistan, Egypt, and India. The United Nations says high food prices could more than 100 million people will go hungry. Shortages and hoarding of some items are also leading stores in the United States to ration foods.

When did you think you would see that? Reuters report Sam's Club is limiting some sales of various kinds of rice, due to -- quote -- "recent supply and demand trends." And it's been reported a Costco warehouse in California limiting purchases of flour, rice and cooking oil.

So here's the question: How much of a concern are rising food prices in your house?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.com, where you can post a comment on my blog.

Part of the problem, some experts suggest, is we're devoting a lot of agricultural land to growing crops to make ethanol, instead of growing crops to feed people, and that's creating part of the storage. Prices are beginning to skyrocket now. It's not a good sign.

BLITZER: And it's a problem here, but in other parts of the world it's a life and death issue right now, because they don't have food to eat.

(CROSSTALK) CAFFERTY: Yes, exactly. Much worse there.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.

Hillary Clinton is assessing how to repeat what happened in Pennsylvania. Barack Obama is trying to figure out how to avoid it. But what do voters in Indiana hope for? I will ask one of its senators, Evan Bayh. He's standing by live.

Also, it's the Barack Obama you thought you knew vs. what some people want you to think of him. There are brand-new attack ads coming out against Barack Obama, not from Hillary Clinton, but from Republicans. We will tell you why they're doing this now.

And dramatic new video involving an amazing survival story. Find out what happened when once police department's helicopter crashed.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have just under two weeks, 13 days, to be precise, to sell themselves to the voters in Indiana.

Clinton is hoping to repeat her Pennsylvania win and take some more wind out of Barack Obama's sails.

Let's discuss this and more with Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana. He's a Hillary Clinton supporter, a former governor of Indiana.

You know this state about as well as anyone, Senator Bayh, 13 days to go. Some have suggested this could be the tie-breaker in Indiana. Can you guarantee she's going to win?

(LAUGHTER)

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Well, there are no guarantees in life, let alone politics, Wolf.

This is going to be a very close, hard-fought election. I think, at the end of the day, though, our Hoosier common sense, our focus on getting the job done, particularly in the economy, Wolf, job creation, health care costs, pension security, those kind of bread-and-butter issues will lead people to look favorably on Senator Clinton.

But it's going to be very close, because, as you know, Senator Obama is from next door, so he has a little bit of a home field advantage.

BLITZER: Well, you know your state? Is it closer to the -- what the Democrats decided to do in neighboring Ohio, or is it closer to what they did in Illinois, Barack Obama's home state, which he won? Hillary Clinton won by 10 points in Ohio. BAYH: Well, you know, Wolf, the proud people of Indiana would never take direction from either Illinois or Ohio, although we love them as our neighbors.

So, we're going to look at both people. And they're both good people. And we are going to ask ourselves, look, in these difficult times, who has the strength, the seasoning to really get the job done, not just to raise our hopes, but deliver on those hopes? And I think that that great record of the Clinton administration on the economy will stand Hillary in good stead. And plus just the resilience that she's shown, that strength of character, I think will resonate very well with Hoosiers.

But, look, the key demographic to look at, blue-collar working men and women, folks who have economic anxieties, people who are really going to count on the next president to deliver in terms of the kind of changes that our country needs.

BLITZER: Here's what she said about the tone of this campaign, because it's in marked contrast to what "The New York Times" editorial board said today, but listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: This has been by and large one of the more positive, civil elections I have ever seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: "The New York Times" editorial page, which endorsed her a few weeks ago, said this today: "It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election."

Do negative ads, negative campaigns really work in the Midwest, in a state like Indiana?

BAYH: Well, no, not if they're perceived to be unfair or personal, or that kind of thing, Wolf.

But an honest comparison of differences of opinion or accentuating the positive attributes of one candidate vis-a-vis another, I think that's all fair game. And, look, I hear some of the hand-wringing and so forth. And, regrettably, as they say, politics is not bean bag.

But these people who think that the Democratic contest so far has been down and dirty or in the gutter, I think that they have led sheltered lives. I was just watching -- I hate to admit -- Wolf, I was watching you last night, which I'm happy to admit. A few moments ago, I was watching a different channel that happened to have some of these ads that the Republican Party is now running in North Carolina. And they make anything that's occurred on the Democratic side pale by comparison. BLITZER: Well, they're really going after Barack Obama. What do you think? Why are they doing that now? What's your assessment? Why are they singling out Barack Obama right now, as opposed to Hillary Clinton?

BAYH: Well, they probably think those attacks will work, as I understand it. In North Carolina, they're using those attacks against Barack to try and harm the gubernatorial candidate. So, apparently, they have reached the decision that that will resonate with voters in North Carolina.

BLITZER: How worried are you that he has so much more money on hand to deal with advertisements in Indiana coming up over the next 13 days?

BAYH: Well, it's an advantage. Any time you have a gifted, you know, formidable candidate -- and Barack is surely that -- and in a position to outspend his opponent three or four to one, that's a big advantage.

But I was heartened to see that she apparently has raised significant resources since last evening on her Web site, with 60,000 contributors stepping up, asking her to continue to take her message to the people of Indiana and the rest of the country. And so, even though she will surely be outspent, I'm hopeful she will have the resources to get her message out about where she wants to lead our country.

BLITZER: Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, delivered for Hillary Clinton. The pressure, Senator, is now on you to deliver Indiana. Can you do it?

(LAUGHTER)

BAYH: I'm going to do my dead-level best, Wolf, and I think at the end of the day, though, she is the one who will shine in our state. It's going to be very close. It could go either way. But I think she's got a good chance.

BLITZER: Evan Bayh is the Democratic senator from Indiana, former governor of Indiana himself.

Thanks for coming in.

BAYH: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: When it comes to the general election this fall, which Democratic candidate is a bigger challenge for the Republicans? We're going to talk about that with the best political team on television.

And Iraq is said to be seeing record oil revenues, but that could cause U.S. lawmakers to demand that Iraq rely more on its own money to rebuild and less on yours. We will tell you what's going on right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: It's on to Indiana and North Carolina. When will the Democratic race finally end?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We would like to wrap up this campaign as quickly as possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So what might it take for Barack Obama to finally try to seal the deal? The best political team on television is studying the road ahead.

Plus, John McCain tells some fellow Republicans to stop it. But they're going after Barack Obama anyway in a new ad.

And after her win in Pennsylvania, will Hillary Clinton get some crossover votes from superdelegates now in Obama's corner?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, Barack Obama becoming a new media star for the GOP. We're going to show you how he's being used in some political ads to hurt his fellow Democrats, Republican ads under way right now.

Also, big states or more states? We will look at the dilemma Democrats are facing as they try to weigh which candidate can carry the party to victory in November.

And they're almost certain to decide the Democratic nominee, but are any of the party's so-called superdelegates changing their minds as critical middle-class voters fall for Hillary Clinton? All of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

While the Democrats face a close fight in Indiana, polls suggest at least right now Barack Obama has North Carolina's May 6 primary pretty much in the bag. We will see if those polls turn out to the true.

Right now, Republicans in that state, though, are targeting Barack Obama in a major, major way. They're trying to portray him as an extremist, in an attempt to bring down some local Democratic politicians.

Let's go to our Brian Todd. He's following this story for us.

This new ad that's coming out in North Carolina, explain, Brian, what's going on.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John McCain, Wolf, calls it offensive, says it doesn't live up to the high standards the Republicans should hold themselves to in this campaign. But the truth is that ad in North Carolina mirrors a few others.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Meet Barack Obama, the Republican's new media star.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: A vote for Don Cazayoux is a vote for Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. Obama and Pelosi voted to raise income taxes. So did Don Cazayoux.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Cazayoux, a Democrat running for Congress in Louisiana, has not endorsed Obama or any other candidate. But an official with the National Republican Congressional Committee, which put out this ad, say they believe it's fair to compare Cazayoux's record on taxes with Obama, who they characterize as far out of the mainstream.

Obama is becoming more of a fixture in these Republican ads, and GOP strategists say his primary success means he will be a springboard for more attacks on Democratic candidates lower down on the ballot. They also say Obama's recent rating as the most liberal U.S. senator adds fuel.

TERRY HOLT, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Some of the rock star qualities have paved over some of those considerations. But over the next few months, it's going to become clear that he's way too extreme, an extreme liberal, to be elected president in the United States.

TODD: Obama campaign officials wouldn't go beyond saying, Americans are tired of divisive politics. But the Republican National Committee and John McCain are going one step further. They've asked the North Carolina GOP to stop running this ad, just unveiled, using Obama's association with Pastor Jeremiah Wright to attack two Democratic candidates for governor.

REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT, BARACK OBAMA'S FORMER PASTOR: Not God bless America, God (EXPLETIVE DELETED) America...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, Beth Perdue and Richard Moore endorsed Barack Obama. They should know better.

TODD: In a letter to North Carolina's GOP chairwoman, McCain calls the ad offensive.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: It's win-win for McCain. McCain looks like a saint in denouncing the negative advertising, but he also ensures now that the media -- the news media will run that ad repeatedly for free. So the message of the ad will get out. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: A McCain campaign official calls that absolutely absurd, says any suggestion that he benefits from this situation is wrong. He says the ads are a distraction from the real differences in the campaign -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, Brian, will the North Carolina GOP refrain from running that very, very controversial ad?

TODD: We spoke with them this afternoon. They said they're going to go ahead with their plan to start running it on Monday. They say they respect Senator McCain and the RNC, but they think it's legitimate to question Obama's judgment and they think this ad does that fairly.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you.

Pennsylvania only served to underscore the Obama and Clinton Camp's main arguments -- he's one the most states, she's won the biggest states.

Joining us now to discuss that and more, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; Jack Cafferty; and our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. They're all part of the best political team on television.

You know, he had an opportunity to end it yesterday, Jack, if he would have won in Pennsylvania. He outspent her, what, two or three to one. He couldn't do it.

What happened?

CAFFERTY: Well, I mean he closed the -- he closed the margin of victory from 26 points to 9.6 or something like that, which is no small accomplishment.

He comes out of there having lost, what, 12 delegates?

He's a heavy favorite in North Carolina. He'll win those back and then some. He leads in popular vote. He still leads in states won. He still leads in pledged delegates. And I didn't see anything in the newspapers or on the wires about a flood of superdelegates to Hillary Clinton today. So this is the Clinton campaign spinning something out of not very much.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But it does show that he's got a problem -- working class voters, women, older voters and, perhaps, the issue of race is rearing its head...

BLITZER: Catholics, too, voted overwhelmingly for her.

BORGER: Catholics, churchgoers -- regular churchgoers, Catholics. And whites who said that race was a factor in their vote, 75 percent of them voted for Hillary Clinton.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: What was especially disturbing, I think, for the Obama campaign yesterday is that the coalition that had been so successful for him in Wisconsin, in Virginia, in Maryland -- which did have Catholics, older voters in it -- has broken down somewhat. And Hillary Clinton has made enormous inroads there.

The question is -- does that translate to other states and what does it mean for the general election?

I don't think there's an obvious answer to either question. It may simply be that this is just another state with big Democratic turnout, which is going to turn out for whichever of these two gets nominated. But this is certainly something the Obama campaign should be worried about.

BLITZER: Because you're hearing a lot of the Clinton folks suggesting, you know what, he could turn out to be like Michael Dukakis...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ...who lost Pennsylvania back in '88 and as a result, in part, he lost a lot of other states, too. George Herbert Walker Bush became president of the United States.

CAFFERTY: Well, these are -- you know, these Clinton talking points. And if I was running Clinton's campaign, they're the same points I would be making. I don't happen to think they're valid, but, you know, that's -- that's to be determined.

BORGER: But the -- but folks in the Obama campaign understand that they can't just attract the wealthier voters, the more liberal voters, the more college educated voters, that they do have to go back to showing what he was showing in states like Wisconsin, for example, that he has more breadth. I mean this isn't going to change the math, but it is the psychology.

BLITZER: He did that. He did well with those other groups in earlier states, before uproar over the "bitter" comment that he made.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Did that have an effect?

TOOBIN: You know, it's very hard to tell what had an effect. Certainly something had an effect. Certainly --, whether it was it's Reverend Wright or "bitter" or just the --

CAFFERTY: The debate.

TOOBIN: The debate -- the last debate...

BORGER: Right. Right.

TOOBIN: ...where I thought he did a lousy job...

BORGER: Right. TOOBIN: ...regardless of what you thought of the questions. All of that had an impact. I mean he just had a bad couple of weeks.

What I thought was very significant -- and I think you the talked about it earlier -- is Montgomery County, Pennsylvania -- a very wealthy suburban area, where he did poorly compared to Montgomery County, Maryland, similar demographically, actually, where he did well a few weeks earlier. That, to me, was very puzzling. And that was like losing his base. So that's -- that's not good for him.

BORGER: Well, and it's women, though. It's not only older women, it's women who have stuck with Hillary Clinton in large numbers. And there wasn't a huge African-American turnout yesterday, either. It was smaller than it was in Ohio.

BLITZER: What does it say...

CAFFERTY: We're making more out of this than is there. She cannot win at this point. The math...

BLITZER: Cannot win what?

CAFFERTY: The nomination. The mathematics are prohibitive. She can't win.

BLITZER: But if she convinces superdelegates that she's more electable in November...

CAFFERTY: Do you want to -- do you want to see what will happen in this country if the superdelegates take a nomination away from an African-American who's won if fair and square and give it to somebody who hasn't?

Do you really want to see that?

BLITZER: Well, you know, there's an argument that could be made that if she does win it like that, she then says, for the sake of the party, for the sake of the winning in November, Barack, you've got to be my running mate and we'll work together.

CAFFERTY: That -- come on, get real. That's bologna.

BLITZER: I'm not so sure.

CAFFERTY: I almost said something else.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: I think we're talking about two separate questions here. I think Jack is not -- I don't agree as categorically. It's very tough for her to win the nomination.

But the question remains, who's the more electable candidate?

That is a question that all of us are going to ask ourselves -- and including the superdelegates -- even if he's got it locked up. CAFFERTY: I don't think...

BORGER: And I...

CAFFERTY: I don't think that's a more important question, because I don't think there's any moral way in the world that the Democratic Party -- if he wins -- can take it away from him.

BLITZER: What if she...

CAFFERTY: They won't.

BLITZER: ...in the end, forget about Michigan, forget about Florida, has more of a popular vote?

BORGER: Well, but, you know, they are making that argument...

CAFFERTY: That's not the rules.

BORGER: Well, it's not the rules.

CAFFERTY: The rules are the delegates. That's the rules.

BLITZER: The rules are the superdelegates, too.

BORGER: Right.

CAFFERTY: What?

BORGER: And after last night, where she may have picked up 150,000 to 200,000 in the popular vote, that would still leave her a half million behind him. She could lose that all in North Carolina coming up. It's a very big state. And he could win that.

But this is not -- as Jack was saying, the rules are about delegates -- unless you're going to give up the whole Electoral College thing, too, in the presidential race, which, of course, you're not.

TOOBIN: But the rules also say that superdelegates get to choose.

BLITZER: That's why they're named that.

TOOBIN: That's why they're the superdelegates.

BLITZER: Because they fear, the Democrats, that the elections would get a candidate who would lose. So the superdelegates were going to prevent that from happening.

CAFFERTY: And what's happened with the superdelegates in the last three months since Super Tuesday?

BORGER: Not much.

CAFFERTY: He's picked up close to a hundred. She's picked up a handful. He now trails her by 23 superdelegates. That's all. And most of the uncommitted superdelegates come from states he's already won.

BLITZER: Well, let's -- we're going to see what's happening in the next...

CAFFERTY: This is a great news media story, but it doesn't go much beyond that.

BLITZER: All right, because we're going to continue this news media story...

TOOBIN: Well, we're in the news media.

BLITZER: We're going to take this...

BORGER: We are.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: That's right.

BLITZER: We're going to continue...

CAFFERTY: That's what we're doing here.

TOOBIN: We --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Stand by.

TOOBIN: ...every night.

CAFFERTY: That's what we're doing here.

BLITZER: Stand by, guys. We're going to have a lot with our political team coming up.

Also, what's up with the guys behind Barack -- coincidence, product placement, something more? Jeanne Moos is investigating.

All of that and more here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with the best political team on television -- our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, Jack Cafferty and Jeff Toobin.

Jeff, we heard from the governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, just a little while ago here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He believes that Hillary Clinton would be a more formidable opponent to John McCain in Florida than Barack Obama.

TOOBIN: Are we playing any...

BLITZER: No. TOOBIN: Oh. OK.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: Oh, sorry.

BLITZER: Trust me...

TOOBIN: I thought were going to hear from him himself.

BLITZER: Trust me when I tell you that.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I paraphrased what he said.

TOOBIN: I have some -- you know, there's a -- bloggers have a great phrase they use. They call it concern trolls. That's when the other side says, well, you know, I'm very concerned that you nominate the wrong person.

I don't really believe any Republican...

CAFFERTY: Yes.

TOOBIN: ...on what they really believe in terms of who's the tougher candidate. Just like I don't believe Democrats about Republicans.

The polls do show that Florida, unlike a lot of other states, Clinton does do better than Obama. But at this point, I think it's very hard to tell.

BORGER: You know, the governor is also saying that Hillary Clinton's votes should count in Florida, which -- all of this makes me just a little bit suspicious of the governor, who clearly wants to carry the State of Florida for the Republican Party.

BLITZER: But you notice...

CAFFERTY: It's like a state endorsement.

BLITZER: But you notice that those Republicans in North Carolina -- we saw Brian Todd's piece. They're going after Barack Obama to try to help some other Republicans. They're not using Hillary Clinton in those images.

CAFFERTY: If you're a Republican anywhere, what are you going to do? What are you going to run on?

You've got two wars going on. You've got an economy in recession. We're hemorrhaging jobs. Wall Street is in the -- I mean they've got no -- there's no record for them to run on. This is the only thing they've got.

TOOBIN: Actually, I thought the first ad was a perfectly legitimate ad, where you talk about voting records that are liberal in a conservative...

CAFFERTY: Yes, that's the...

TOOBIN: ...North Carolina district. That second ad was blatant racism and appalling. But the first one, where you're talking who's voting with whom, you know, Democrats are going to be doing every ad, saying, you know, George Bush's biggest fan in Congress was such and such.

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: You know, the -- so I don't think that's something that's illegitimate or inappropriate.

BLITZER: What do you think?

BORGER: Well, I agree. And I think, you know, Reverend Wright is so hot, controversial, that it's easier to tie your candidate to Barack Obama and Reverend Wright than right now it is to Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: But they're going to tie him to...

BORGER: And...

BLITZER: ...to this Bill Ayers, from the Weather Underground, too.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: They've got a whole series of attack ads they're going to be using. And remember what they did to Dukakis back in '88. They had the silly picture with him in the helmet...

CAFFERTY: Well...

BLITZER: ...and the tank, the Willie Brown -- the Willie Horton ads. And, arguably, that destroyed him.

CAFFERTY: There are examples of liberal Democrats getting crushed in presidential elections, whether it was Mondale or whether it's Dukakis or whether it's McGovern. None of them followed George Bush into a presidential election. None of them had the kind of situation that the United States is confronting right now. None of them had to deal with 9/11.

Barack Obama's done some things with voter registration and young people turnout that we haven't seen in this country in 50 years.

BLITZER: So they make it...

CAFFERTY: So to sit here and compare him to Michael Dukakis is not legitimate.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: I think Jack makes a good point. The stars, basically, are aligned right now for the Democrats to win in November. But here's the question.

If they don't win in November, should this party simply...

BORGER: Go good-bye.

BLITZER: ...wrap it up...

BORGER: Bye-bye.

BLITZER: ...and say you know what, time to move on?

TOOBIN: Yes.

BORGER: Night, night. Time to figure out what else to do, honestly. The -- you know, the good thing about this fight between these two Democrats is John McCain is moving up in the polls and very competitive. And the Democratic Party is understanding that it cannot be complacent, no matter who's the nominee, because they're going to have a tough fight.

But if they were to lose this, by -- if you want to talk about Walter Mondale's margins, 49 states -- then they really better think of another profession.

TOOBIN: They'd better go back to calling themselves the Whigs or something, you know, if they lose this election.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: Because it would be really a total humiliation.

I mean, one thing that I think is worth mentioning is for all that we're focusing on this Democratic fight, John McCain is barely breaking even against either one of these two candidates. So it's not...

BORGER: That's still better than he should be doing, don't you think, given the president's popularity?

TOOBIN: Well, but I mean that's not that great.

CAFFERTY: This is a...

TOOBIN: And I think when the Democratic Party gets unified, even if it's at the convention -- I think it will be before that -- they will certainly get a benefit. So I wouldn't take a great deal of comfort, if I were John McCain, from this.

CAFFERTY: All you have to do is reread the idea that we should be in Iraq for 100 years and cutting taxes is more important than balancing the budget when we have $9 trillion in debt and people trying to find a job. I mean I could run against John McCain.

BORGER: But it...

BLITZER: That argument about cutting taxes has worked well for the Republicans over the last few decades.

BORGER: Right.

CAFFERTY: It worked well when the national debt was $4 trillion. The national debt is now $9 trillion and we're financing the war in Iraq with Chinese money. It doesn't work anymore. We're going bankrupt. The dollar is worth less than half of what it was two years ago.

BLITZER: Gloria?

BORGER: Well, I just think the big job for the Democrats right now is to figure out a way out of this where no one feels cheated. And maybe it's the arranged marriage at the end, with Obama and Hillary Clinton or -- I don't know who's at the top of the ticket. But it's going to have to end in a way where people feel...

BLITZER: That's what a lot of Democrats believe. That's what the party believe. But we'll see.

BORGER: (INAUDIBLE).

CAFFERTY: Didn't Hillary say yesterday -- yesterday, I think, she said, you know, I'm going to play nice when this is over and we're going to unite this party.

BLITZER: Oh, they both say that.

TOOBIN: They both have said that.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Yes, they both have said that.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: You're laughing. You don't believe it.

CAFFERTY: No.

BLITZER: Stand by, guys.

Jack, you've got to stay here, because we've got "The Cafferty File."

BORGER: You stay.

CAFFERTY: I'm never leaving.

BLITZER: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show that begins at the top of the hour. He's going to tell us what he's working on -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you.

At the top of the hour, you won't believe why Mexico's president is so aggressive in demanding amnesty for illegal aliens. Calderon on American soil admits he has friends and relatives living in this country illegally. We'll have a special report on the Mexican president's efforts to subvert the will of the American people and ignore a few borders and U.S. laws, in addition.

Also tonight, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledging what we've been reporting here for years -- the so-called virtual fence along our Southern border doesn't work. Well, maybe it does work. We'll have that story.

And we'll have the latest on the impact of Senator Clinton's convincing and impressive victory in Pennsylvania.

And why isn't mainstream media reporting the celebration of such a wonderful win for the senator? Could it be there's gender bias in our national media?

And three of my favorite talk radio show hosts will join me to tell us what their listeners are saying.

Join us for all of that, 7:00 Eastern, right here on CNN, all the day's news.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll see you in a few moments, Lou. Thank you.

Our question for you this hour: How much concern are rising food prices in your household?

Jack Cafferty is going to be back with your e-mail.

Plus, they wanted to see him in person. They wound up getting punished for it. We're going to show you the price two teens are paying for Obama mania.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Checking our political ticker, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted today to block the Bush administration from cutting federal Medicaid spending. The White House sought to slash $13 billion over five years to fund health care for the poor. Opponents, including many Republicans, warned the cuts would be devastating. The White House is threatening a veto, saying it's plan would fight waste and abuse in the Medicaid system. But today's measure passed by a veto-proof margin in the House of Representatives.

A couple of teenagers paid a price for getting close to Barack Obama. It happened Monday, when Obama made an impromptu stop at a diner in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Two high school seniors asked for and got his autograph. They also asked him to sign an excuse slip. It turns out they cut gym class to rush over to see Obama. The excuse did not impress school officials. They were slapped with a one day suspension. They say it was worth it.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can check out CNNPolitics.com. The ticker is the number one political news blog on the Web. It's also where you can read my latest blog post.

Jack Cafferty, who never skipped any school when he was in high school growing up, is joining us with "The Cafferty File."

CAFFERTY: I don't know this for sure, but I'd be willing to bet that no kids ever cut class to go meet Michael Dukakis.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: You want to bet on that?

The question is: How much of concern are rising food prices in your household?

The last three months, the government says food price inflation is running at 5.3 percent.

Scott writes: "It's hard when you can't afford the gas to get the food -- less meat, more canned soup, less entertainment, more dry goods, less air conditioning, etc. We've had to compromise everywhere and it just makes life harder to live. We ought to be able to come home from work and relax, not rationalize every decision. I never thought I'd need a part-time job in order to afford a bag lunch."

Michael in Taiwan writes this: "I live in Taiwan, the second most crowded country in all the world. Rice prices in Asia have doubled in the last two years. While it's only affected the amount I can save each month to this point, there are many people struggling to buy rice, vegetables and other necessary items. If it's a problem here, it's bound to become a much worse problem in the poorer countries in the region, as well as those more dependent on imports, like Japan and Korea."

Michele writes: "This is terrible. My family and I are forced to go to local food banks and pantries just to eat every month. I've never had to do this in the past. And get this -- I'm employed. The portion of my paycheck that is allotted for food has gone to cover the high price of gas. What a Catch-22."

Chris in Montana: "I'm a 22-year old man about to get married in a month. I'm scared we won't even be able to afford an overnight honeymoon. With the cost of our housing going up, afraid even being stocked up on something such as bread could break us, scary and pathetic."

Brad in Amarillo, Texas: "I'm not so concerned for myself as I am for the potential for war in other countries. Not only are we supposed to be the bread basket of the world, we're also supposed to be the world's police -- as long as the country in question has oil -- i.e. Iraq versus Darfur. Lately, we've overstretched our military, spent billions and accomplished nothing. What are we going to do when more and more countries descend into chaos?"

And Mary in Alabama writes: "Rising food prices concern me a hell of a lot, as does the price of everything else. I'm a senior citizen, but I still like the taste of food."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there.

There are hundreds of them. We got a ton of mail today.

BLITZER: This is a sad story. This is a crisis out there.

CAFFERTY: Oh, it's terrible.

BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack. Thank you.

CAFFERTY: Sure.

BLITZER: Barack Obama was center stage, but a couple of guys in t-shirts took the spotlight. Jeanne Moos will fill us in when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's Barack Obama's Abercrombie moment. Only was he aware that it was happening at all? The product placement took place behind him.

Jeanne Moos has this Moost Unusual look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There was Barack Obama's message of hope, his message of change, his message of Fitch -- as in Abercrombie & Fitch, the store?

OBAMA: It's easy to get caught up in the distractions and the silliness.

MOOS: Distractions like the three guys behind you, Senator, each decked out in Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirts?

They booed on cue.

OBAMA: He's offering four more years of a war with no exit strategy.

(BOOS)

MOOS: They cheered.

(CHEERS)

MOOS: Sure, Hillary may have had a guy with boxing gloves behind her playing up the "Rocky" theme... But the Abercrombie & Fitch guys had the blogs buzzing about product placement -- Barack Obama, brought to you by Abercrombie & Fitch. A&F, by the way, caters mostly to teens and college kids and is known for ads full of half naked bodies.

Even their cologne bottles feature rock hard abs. Bare-chested models adorn their stores, like this one on New York's Fifth Avenue, where we went hunting for Obama's Abercrombie & Fitch guys.

(on-camera): You're not one of these guys, are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no. I'm not.

MOOS (voice-over): A group called Improv Everywhere organized an event at which over a hundred regular, unchiseled guys descended on the store and took their shirts off.

At least the Obama boys kept their chests covered.

MOOS: All campaigns try, to some extent, to arrange their backdrops. When Michelle Obama appeared at Carnegie Mellon University, a reporter for the student paper overheard an event coordinator saying, "Get me more white people."

What campaign isn't looking for a nice racial mix?

But a nice retail mix?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is very definitely strategic (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They went to the mall that day, picked out some nice shirts and said let's get on stage behind Barack Obama.

MOOS (on-camera): So you don't think it was intentional?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not intentional.

MOOS (voice-over): The Obama campaign laughed off a question about the Abercrombie boys. And we may never know if the company itself put the guys up to it, since our calls weren't returned. To us, they seemed like genuine Obama supporters, waving at the senator, even getting to shake his hand. But if they're going to distract from the candidate...

... They could have at least altered their T-shirts to Aberobama & Fitch.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne.

And thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.