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Public: Things are Going Badly; Dems' Big Push on Gas Prices; Interview With Congressman Ron Paul

Aired May 2, 2008 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Hillary Clinton predicts the next round of primaries will be a game changer. And Barack Obama pushes back on gas prices after one of his bumpiest weeks yet.
Plus, John McCain says he won't sugarcoat the economy. Are voters responding to his message?

We have new snapshots of Americans' fears that things are going from bad to worse.

And new surprises from Republican Ron Paul. The presidential candidate-turned-best-selling author is refusing to endorse John McCain. Wait until you hear who may -- who may get his vote. Who does he like?

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

The presidential candidates can't seem to tell voters enough that they understand the hardships they're going through right now. And there's new evidence coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM that the sour economy will be issue #1 for quite a while.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's been looking at all the numbers.

We've got a brand-new poll that you've been reviewing, Bill. What does it say about the mood of the country right now?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: It says the country's in a very bad mood. A very, very bad mood.


SCHNEIDER (voice over): Things are bad. Even the cheerleader- in-chief admits it.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have been through a recession, we have been through a terrorist attack, we have been at war, we've had corporate scandals, we have had major natural disasters, and yet this economy always recovers.

SCHNEIDER: Good to hear. But meanwhile, 70 percent of Americans say things are going badly in the country. That's a lot worse than two years ago, when 48 percent thought times were bad and the Republicans lost control of Congress. Want to see what good times look like? 2000, when Bill Clinton left office and only 19 percent thought times were bad.

How does this year compare with 1992, when the "stupid economy" got Clinton elected? In 1992, 65 percent said things were bad. Now they're worse.

How does this year compare with 1980, when Ronald Reagan got elected to save the country from malaise? In 1980, 68 percent said things were bad. Now they're worse.

In 1980, President Carter was running for reelection and lost. In 1992, the first President Bush was running for reelection. He lost too. That's the big difference.

This President Bush can't run for reelection, and his vice president is not running either. No matter. The Democrats are still running against the status quo.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In recent months we've seen the problems in our economy grow worse and worse.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're not supposed to be losing jobs in America. We're supposed to be creating jobs in America.

SCHNEIDER: John McCain's response? Me too.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Americans are hurting today. The latest jobs report, although not maybe as bad as some had predicted, is still bad.

SCHNEIDER: Is anybody here the incumbent? Apparently not.


SCHNEIDER: Voters do believe either Clinton or Obama would handle the economy better than McCain. In both cases, by 53-42 percent. Not as big a margin as you might think with the country in such a bad mood -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Bill.

Right now Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are in another race to the finish line. They're heading into this, the final weekend before the Indiana and North Carolina primaries.

She's looking for a new shot of momentum. He's looking to get back on track. And they're both trying to convince voters they'll feel their pain at the pump.

Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's watching the story for us.

They really latched on to this issue, specifically the pain at the pump, Candy. CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. You know, and looking back at the primaries and caucuses before this, we've talked a lot about how very similar these two candidates are in terms of issues. But when we got to Indiana and North Carolina, they finally did find something that they can differentiate one from the other.


CROWLEY: A John Deere service center in North Carolina, an aging steel plant in Indiana. Campaigning from one working class backdrop to another, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton go down to the wire arguing over a bottom-line, working-class issue -- the price of gas. Specifically, lifting the federal gas tax for three months. Yes, even a little break is better than no break.

CLINTON: I want the oil panes to pay the federal gas tax for the summer.

CROWLEY: No. It would save consumers a grand total of $30, and would likely drive prices up.

OBAMA: This is not a real solution. It's a political stunt.

CROWLEY: Economists largely agree with him. Political types think she's on to something with voter appeal.

Clinton and Obama go into this final weekend before the Indiana and North Carolina primaries from two different places. He's coming off a loss in Pennsylvania and Wright week, the worst several days of his presidential bid. Losing both states will send a massive shudder through his campaign, not to mention the Democratic Party.

He's up 10 in North Carolina, dead even in Indiana. "I think we have a terrific chance," he says. But what of the Wright effect? He doesn't know. But there is a perceptible hedging of bets.

OBAMA: What I don't spend a lot of time doing is obsessing about what ifs and should have beens. What I'll do is we'll see what happens on Tuesday and then we're going to keep ongoing to the next -- next contest.

CROWLEY: She's coming off a nice win in Pennsylvania, but two losses for her is a doomsday scenario. Two wins and she still can't catch him in pledged delegates but, oh, what a superdelegate argument she'd have.

CLINTON: You know, this primary election on Tuesday is a game changer. This is going to make a huge difference in what happens going forward. The entire country, and probably even a lot of the world, is looking to see what North Carolina decides.

CROWLEY: For all the policy, all the polls, all the pundits, politics is still an art of the unknown.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY: So if they split this, one take Indiana, one take North Carolina, well, then, we'll go on to the next pivotal primary day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And that would be West Virginia. A week from Tuesday, all eyes will be on West Virginia.

She did get a big endorsement today in Indianapolis. Tell us about that, Candy.

CROWLEY: Right, from "The Indianapolis Star." It's a major newspaper. She did get their endorsement. They talked a lot about her experience, her ability to get some of these things done.

It's always hard to tell how much these endorsements actually mean, whether they go for Obama or whether they go for Clinton. Nonetheless, it is a big front page story here in Indiana. They do pay attention to the newspapers. And if nothing else, you get a headline for a little while and it keeps for Hillary Clinton that momentum going, which is what they'd really like to do at this point.

BLITZER: As my dad used to say about having a glass of tea, it might not help, but can't hurt. I guess that's what these endorsements are all about too.


BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Candy, for that.

John McCain is reminding voters today that the gas tax holiday was his idea first. In Colorado, McCain brushed off suggestions that it's just a gimmick.


MCCAIN: The price of a gallon of gas continues up. Why don't we give American working men and women a little break for the summer. Just a little break for the summer. I mean, it's not the end of western civilization as we know it.


BLITZER: Hillary Clinton, by the way, is speaking about the economy right now in Greensboro, North Carolina. I want to listen in briefly, hear what she's saying.

CLINTON: ... trusted me to be the commander in chief who will end the war in Iraq with honor and bring our troops home.


And when we do, when we bring them home, we're going to take care of them. We're not going to have our veterans coming back and languishing in Walter Reed in terrible conditions or having the 82nd Airborne come back to Ft. Bragg and finding deplorable conditions. We have to keep faith with those who have kept faith with us. And we have the strongest and best military in the world. But a commander in chief respects them, supports them, doesn't send them off to war without adequate body armor or armored Humvees, makes clear that we're going to take care of the families as well.

BLITZER: All right. There she is, Hillary Clinton, speaking in North Carolina. The governor, Mike Easley, you saw him up on the stage with her. He endorsed her just a few days ago. A good endorsement to have in North Carolina.

Let's go to Hack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Didn't she vote to send them off to war?

BLITZER: Yes, she did.

CAFFERTY: Yes. I guess that was left out of the speech.

For the last two years, May 1st has been the day that an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in this country have the opportunity to rally for immigration reform. Two years ago, you'll recall the turnout was staggering, a million people, maybe more, packing the streets of big cities all over the country, bringing traffic to a standstill.

Chicago, 400,000 people turned out. Yesterday, they were nowhere to be found.

In Tucson, Arizona, 500 turned out yesterday. There were 12,000 last year. In Los Angeles, a few thousand. Nothing close to the half a million that were there in 2006.

And the streets of Phoenix, Arizona, empty yesterday. No signs of the activists with the colorful banners of the last couple of years.

Gone, too, were the calls for nationwide boycotts of business and work. Spanish language deejays who had heavily promoted the previous marches for the most part didn't say much yesterday, stuck to regular programming.

So why the change? Some say growing deportation fears kept people home. The United States deported almost 300,000 people last year, a 44 percent increase over the previous year. Others say it was because of the stalled effort in Congress to revamp the immigration law.

And then there's this heated political race, the run for the White House. Immigration seems now to be lost in other political headlines. As Bill Schneider was talking about, top concern by far for voters now, the economy, not immigration.

So here's our question this hour. Is illegal immigration less important to you than it was two years ago? Go to Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. See you in a few moments.

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul won't give up and support John McCain. Would he actually consider voting for a Democrat?


REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The one who would most likely keep us from expanding the war is probably -- probably Obama.


BLITZER: So is that an endorsement? I'll ask Ron Paul why he's still fighting his own party's all but certain nominee.

Plus, a remote island is about to have its day in the political sun. We're going to tell you why in this primary season Guam matters.

And can he create a new legion of McCain Democrats? We'll look at McCain's strategy and why he's refusing to look for silver linings.

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


BLITZER: Once John McCain clinched the Republican nomination, his primary rivals fell by the wayside in the name of party unity. But one Republican who sees himself as something of a revolutionary did not.


BLITZER: And joining us now, Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. He's the author of a brand-new book entitled "The Revolution: A manifesto," already a major bestseller.

Congressman, congratulations on the new book. Thanks very much for coming in.

PAUL: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Why haven't you officially dropped out of this race yet?

PAUL: Well, I guess the race is still on. You know, I made a statement a few months ago that I would stay in the race as long as there's enthusiasm. Supporters are wanting to do things, and our numbers are growing, and there's money in the bank. And instead of us fading away with less and less, we seem to get more and more enthusiasm for what we've been doing.

BLITZER: The other Republican challengers have now endorsed John McCain, basically almost all of them. You're not ready to do that yesterday, are you?

PAUL: No, not quite, because I think our platform is a little bit different. And that would really confuse the supporters, because they know we have a precise program, and we have to defend that program.

BLITZER: But don't you want to see a Republican in the White House?

PAUL: Well, that's secondary to wanting the Constitution defended and wanting the country to go in the right direction, bringing peace around the world, having sound money and balanced budgets. All the things the Republicans, you know, traditionally have stood for. That's more important than just having a Republican. We have to know what we believe in.

BLITZER: What's your biggest problem with Senator McCain?

PAUL: I would say it was the issue that motivated me probably a year and a half ago to get involved. And that has to do with our foreign policy and the war in the Middle East, because I see it's so damaging to us around the world, as well as something we can't afford. And now we're facing a financial crisis.

And -- but I can't get that many allies in Washington. I mean, they are continuing to spend on war and welfare like there's no economic problem. I mean, any time a problem pops up, the Congress just appropriates more money and the Fed prints more money, and nobody seems to want to slow up.

BLITZER: It seems, Congressman -- excuse me for interrupting -- the two Democratic remaining presidential candidates, when it comes to the war in Iraq, are a lot closer to your stance than McCain.

PAUL: Yes, I would think so. But unless you look at the voting records, I mean, they really haven't voted that way. Even Obama has voted to support the war and the spending. And Hillary certainly has.

So I think their rhetoric is definitely better. And you have to give John McCain some credit. At least he's honest about it.

You know, he says, we're staying and we need to be there and we need to take on Iran if we have to, which is scary to me. But at least he's up front. The I think the Democrats are playing on some of the sympathies that I get that we ought to, you know, back away from some of these commitments.

BLITZER: If you had to pick one of those three right now, who would it be?

PAUL: It would be a tough choice, because I see them as all about the same. But I would think the one who would most likely keep us from expanding the war is probably Obama. But that doesn't mean that's an endorsement, because he'd spend the money somewhere else, and his voting record isn't all that great. But you asked me the question and I would say he would be slightly better on foreign policy.

BLITZER: So as long as McCain, I think I've heard you say in the past, supports continuing the war in Iraq, there's no way you could formally endorse him. Is that right?

PAUL: No, I think so. I think the war -- I want people to be talking about monetary policy and fiscal policy and all these things that are so important.

You know, I also believe in unity in the Republican Party. But unity is secondary to what we believe in. If we unify on something that's non-Republican, it doesn't have a whole lot of meaning. And that's what I'm afraid the Republicans are drifting into.

They're begging and pleading for unity, but we've got to know what we believe in. And I think that's where our problem is today.

BLITZER: All right. The book, "The Revolution," it's a huge bestseller. It's already out. Subtitled "A Manifesto."

I see the word "manifesto" and I'm sure a lot of our viewers see that word and it reminds them of another book that had the manifesto in the title, "The Communist Manifesto."

Tell me what the point is of "The Revolution: A Manifesto."

PAUL: Well, it's a declaration. But the manifesto has been used in other places less violently signed (ph). And than "The Communist Manifesto." It's just a statement of facts and beliefs. And it's an attention-getter.

So, this is the purpose, is to get the attention of the American people, what we need to do, what we need to believe in. And actually, it sounds revolutionary in the sense that it's brand new, but really what we're talking about is a peaceful revolution by just returning to the goodness of America, to our Constitution, and to free markets and personal liberties, and a noninterventionist foreign policy. Unfortunately, it is revolutionary to talk about obeying the Constitution, but that in essence is what's going on right now.

BLITZER: A lot of your main ideas are certainly very popular with your base. And you've got thousands, millions of people out there who love your ideas. But none of them really have been translated into policy yet in terms of the establishment, the Democrats and the Republicans.

What's the problem?

PAUL: Well, we're competing with people who believe we can still live off other people and off the government. Today, you know, we're processing a bill in Washington where George Bush is asking for $100 billion for the war. Well, the Democrats are going to vote for it as long as they get $50 billion of more spending on there. And there's too many special interests still in control of Washington.

I believe the people are really with me on these issues and want to see us cut back and have a balanced budget and have more common sense in what we do. But the special interests are still very much in charge in Washington.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, thanks for coming on.

PAUL: Thank you very much.


BLITZER: Ron Paul supporters may not have given him the Republican presidential nomination, but his online supporters have another goal right now. That would be best-selling author.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

What are we seeing, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, these are the same online Ron Paul supporters that had us all talking about the money bombs that they did at the end of last year, raising millions of dollars online in a day. Well, now it looks like we're in the middle of a book bomb.

For the third day now, "The Revolution: A Manifesto," Ron Paul's new book, is at number one at on their best-seller list. This comes a couple of months after Ron Paul himself touted the book and Amazon online, where else, in a YouTube video. And since then, his supporters have been really hard at work with this Web site, RonPaulBookBomb, they've been signing people up to pledge that they will purchase at least one copy of the book. And there's been YouTube videos as well and e-mails going out to these lists of supporters with the message, let's help debut it at number one.

Why have they been doing this? The same reason that they brought you the Ron Paul Blimp. They want more publicity for this candidate, more press attention than he's been getting, and they think he hasn't been getting enough.

Their real goal, though, "The New York Times" best-seller list. We just got a copy of their upcoming list. Number seven right now, so a little ways to go -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Not too shabby to start at number seven.

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

Certainly nothing can make up for the lives lost in last year's bridge collapse in Minneapolis. But state lawmakers have come up with a plan to try to compensate families and survivors for their pain and suffering.

And labor unions often stand together on issues affecting them, but not when it comes to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Why are unions split over these two candidates who are both so pro-union?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (NEWSBREAK)


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

Happening now, it's anyone's guess what outspoken columnist and author Arianna Huffington will say about politics. So what does she think about the Democratic candidates and what does she think about John McCain?

Arianna Huffington is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk with her.

Secret tapes revealed -- as the Vietnam War politically president hurt Lyndon Johnson, you are going to hear him struggling with whether or not to run for reelection. The secret recordings show his mind-set days before his historic announcement.

And Barbara Walters is famous for getting celebrities to tell all. Now it appears she's ready to tell all herself in her forthcoming book. She admits an affair with America's first elected African-American senator since Reconstruction.

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

In four days, North Carolina and Indiana will hold Democratic primaries. But there's another contest in the race for the White House. And it's happening in less than four hours. It's in Guam, a U.S. territory with more than 170,000 people. It's more than a 20- hour plane ride from here in Washington.

Guam is 6,000 miles away from the U.S. mainland and very close in terms of the political contest being fought there. At stake for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, four coveted delegates. To earn them, both have been on the airwaves talking about issues important to Guam, like getting more power in Congress, for example, and getting extra money for thousands more U.S. military service members who will be moving there over the next few years.

Brian Todd has been following this story for us. He is joining us now live with more.

Who would have thought, Brian, that Guam and its delegate selection would play a significant role, potentially, in this contest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, no one would have thought of it. That's the short answer.

Now, Guam has long been a crucial strategic hub, a huge military presence there with big Naval and Air Force bases. The Marines are going to be there soon as well. Still, the island's been way off the political path until now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): Score one for the little guy. For a few hours, Guam becomes the epicenter of the Democratic presidential race. Guam?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Normally no one, even the fourth tier in the campaigns, would play the slightest attention to what was going on, on Guam. There hasn't been this much attention since World War II.

TODD: That was when the U.S. lost the island, then won it back from the Japanese. Now this remote American territory, nearly 4,000 miles southwest of Honolulu, population 175,000, is drawing unprecedented attention from the Democratic hopefuls for its caucuses, which are more like a primary.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama took out radio and print ads. Obama's had three staffers on the ground for weeks. Neither candidate has set foot on the island during this campaign. But Senator Clinton did stop there as first lady, a connection she cited in a recent video conference for a rally on Guam.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I so fondly remember my visit to your beautiful island in 1995. When I got home, I told my husband that, if he went, he wouldn't want to come back.

TODD: Clinton and Obama are expending this energy for a total of eight pledged delegates from Guam, who only have half-a-vote each. In addition, five superdelegates each get a full vote. So, Guam sends 13 delegates to the convention, but carries nine total votes. With the Democratic race so tight, those votes matter.

SABATO: If this thing is extremely close in the end, it's possible that all the territories together will have made the difference, potentially having picked a Democratic presidential nominee and a possible president.


TODD: But the actual vote for president is another matter. For the general election, Guam doesn't have any votes in the Electoral College, so its votes for president essentially don't matter. These caucuses are where the territory has juice. And, Wolf, it has got more juice now than ever before.

BLITZER: Brian, what was it, about 20 years ago, you were actually working in Guam? We have got some video of when you were a young reporter in Guam.


BLITZER: What was it like? There he is, Brian Todd, Guam, 1987.


TODD: That's a great look, isn't it? Yes, I was there for -- Guam Cable TV was the -- was the station I worked for. It's a great place to live and work, as it was then.

And it's very remote, obviously. To give you an idea, back then, they didn't even have fresh milk on the island. You had to basically fly in vacuum-packed milk. Now, of course, they have got fresh milk. The island has really exploded in development. it is a huge mecca for Japanese tourists. It was a lot of fun to work there back then.

BLITZER: I suspect it was. They're probably still about Brian Todd on Guam.


BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian, for that. Good memories from Guam.

Voters in Guam, by the way, will cast their ballots in just a few hours. That begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Of course, CNN will bring you all the results. You can tune in tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. Eastern for our special coverage of the Guam caucuses.

BLITZER: While the Democrats wait it out, Republican John McCain is not breaking much of a sweat. He's free to court a group that Democrats hope will be on their side.

Let's bring in Dana Bash. She's watching this story for us.

Dana, John McCain is looking specifically at a city right now that will be very important come November. What is going on?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And it has nothing to do with Guam. I assure you that.

Ironically, McCain was instead in Denver today. That is the city where Democrats will hold their convention this summer. And as Democrats fight over who they're going to nominate there, McCain is working against all odds to try to turn voters' economic woes, especially a certain type of voter, to his advantage.


BASH (voice-over): At a Denver town hall, first things first.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Americans are going through tough times now, my friends. And I don't think we can sugarcoat it.

BASH: News of April's 20,000 lost jobs was better than economists predicted and not as bad as the 81,000 lost in March. But John McCain knows that, as a Republican running in this stark economic climate, to look for a silver lining would risk looking out of touch.

MCCAIN: Americans are hurting today. The latest jobs report, although not maybe as bad as some had predicted, is still bad. Unemployment continues up. Americans are suddenly and recently losing their jobs. BASH: That kind of talk is aimed at McCain's political reality. Seven in 10 Americans now say things in this country, under a Republican president, are going badly. But it's also targeted at the sector of voters McCain is now homing in on, blue-collar whites, what Republican pollsters call this year's soccer moms.

WHIT AYRES, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: We have been doing a lot of focus groups with blue-collar whites in swing states. They're open to voting for Hillary Clinton, but there's no way on God's green earth they're going to vote for Barack Obama. They will vote for John McCain instead. So, reaching out to those people we used to call Reagan Democrats is a very smart strategy for John McCain.

MCCAIN: It's on the poorest Americans. They drive the furthest, and they drive the older automobiles, which are the highest gas- guzzlers.

BASH: All week long, as Barack Obama voiced his opposition to a gas tax holiday, McCain tried to use his support as a way to connect.

MCCAIN: And I want to give the American consumer a little bit of relief just for the summer. Maybe they will be able to buy an additional textbook for their children when they go back to school this fall.


BASH: McCain insists he knows temporarily removing the gas tax wouldn't do anything to solve the bigger issues around gas prices or dependence on foreign oil, as Obama regularly points out.

But McCain advisers hope, by telling voters he understands that even a few dollars would go a long way for struggling families, he can at least establish himself as somebody who is on their side. And, Wolf, as you know, it's a tough task for any Republican, especially these days.

BLITZER: Given the mood of the economy right now, absolutely. Thanks very much, Dana, for that.

The Democrats are fighting very hard for the votes of working- class Americans. And that's left labor unions with a serious split. We're going to take a closer look at why they're so divided right now and why that's almost certain to change in the fall.

Plus, few people may be as happy to see this weekend as Barack Obama. Does he head into next week's primaries that much worse for wear? Stand by for our "Strategy Session."

And, later, the veteran journalist Barbara Walters reveals a long-kept secret involving a U.S. senator and what she did for love.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: America's labor unions stand together on many issues affecting U.S. workers, but their union ends when it comes to one question. Between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who would be a better president for organized labor?

Let's go to our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff. He's in New York watching this story.

I guess the unions pretty much divided right now on whom to support.


Organized labor almost always votes Democratic. The dilemma in this primary season is that labor is confronted with two very pro- union candidates.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both aggressively courting organized labor.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unions are America, and unions built the American middle class.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're ready to play offense for a decent wage.

CHERNOFF: Both Democrats have been telling unions what they want to hear on the issues of wages, health insurance, the right to organize workers, and engage in collective bargaining.

CLINTON: I believe we can help more workers join unions to improve wages and conditions in our workplaces.

OBAMA: If a majority of workers want a union, they should get a union. It's that simple.

CHERNOFF: The similarity has caused a split between unions. Supporting Clinton are many public sector unions, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Amalgamated Transit Union and the American Federation of Teachers.

RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: Hillary is better because she's a fighter, she's experienced, and she's going to be thinking about, on a day-to-day basis, how to help people who need to pay for gas, who need to pay for their kids' college education.

CHERNOFF: Obama has the support of some major unions in the private sector, including the Service Employees International Union, Teamsters, and Unite Here, which represents apparel, hotel and restaurant workers.

BRUCE RAYNOR, GENERAL PRESIDENT, UNITE HERE: We think he's a tremendous advocate for working people. CHERNOFF: Bruce Raynor was the first major union chief to support Obama, in part because he says he doesn't trust Clinton's claim that she will rework NAFTA to benefit American workers, since Bill Clinton championed the trade bill.

RAYNOR: We have a big problem with believing that the Clintons are committed to fair trade policies that will protect American jobs. That worries us.

CHERNOFF: What unifies unions is their opposition to John McCain, who argues his call for lower taxes should benefit all workers. The AFL-CIO attacks McCain on its Web site. And the union's chief, John Sweeney, says, McCain just doesn't get it.


CHERNOFF: In the Democratic race, it's a tough battle for union votes between Clinton and Obama. But, once a Democratic nominee does emerge, you can be sure that he or she will get strong union backing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Allan, for that.

Barack Obama tells voters he's certain to take the nomination.


OBAMA: If you will vote for me, then I promise you I will not let you down. I will fight for you every single day.


OBAMA: I will win Indiana. I will win this primary. I will win this general election.


BLITZER: Just days before the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, how important is it for Barack Obama to win both states? Donna Brazile and Kevin Madden, they are here for our "Strategy Session."

And, as this Democratic race continues, a new poll gives Democrats something else to worry about. We're going to show you what it is.

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


BLITZER: The candidates are pouring it on, this, the final weekend before Tuesday's Indiana-North Carolina Democratic primaries. It's been a particularly rough week for Barack Obama, who appears to have lost some of his comfortable edge over Hillary Clinton. Can he bounce back?

What's going on?

Let's discuss in our "Strategy Session." Democratic strategist Donna Brazile is joining us. And Republican strategist Kevin Madden is here as well.

And, guys, thanks very much for coming in.

BLITZER: A bad week, relatively speaking, for Barack Obama. What's going to happen Tuesday, you think, Donna?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, I think it was a challenging week, because, once again, he had to denounce and condemn and distance himself from his former pastor. That clearly was a distraction.

But I think Senator Obama is regaining his sea legs. He has a great deal of support in those two states. I think he will get out his vote. It's about get-out-the-vote. Senator Clinton has momentum, on the other hand.

BLITZER: What do you think about the -- obviously, the get-out- the-vote is really, really important. And it's going to be -- at least the polls show -- very close in Indiana. He's got a slight advantage in North Carolina.


Barack Obama couldn't have had a worse week going into this, into the final run. But he's also done the right things since the Reverend Wright controversy has taken over the last two days. But it's about the expectations.

Hillary Clinton has to get this down into single digits. The closer she gets to 5 percent in North Carolina, the better. And, then, Indiana becomes a big jump ball. Indiana will decide where the momentum goes from here.

BLITZER: So, if she wins in North Carolina, and he wins in -- excuse me. If she wins in Indiana and he wins in North Carolina, then we just, what, go on to the next contest?

MADDEN: It's perfect for Republicans.

BLITZER: We go to West Virginia a week later.


BRAZILE: Absolutely. Then we will go on to Kentucky and Oregon and all the other states.

Look, Wolf, this will not end until June 3 or some time right after it. Obama continues to maintain a lead in some of the national polls, some of the key states. Senator Clinton has a lead as well in some key states. This race will not end next week.

BLITZER: So, we're -- we have at least got another month to go?

BRAZILE: Well...

MADDEN: It's perfect for us Republicans. We want to watch this. We want to see everybody split on Tuesday and then go on to West Virginia.

BRAZILE: You know, what's not good for Republicans is that Democratic registration is up, Democratic turnout is up, the fact that Democrats are raising money, and Democrats are out there now taking on John McCain. So, it's not so good for Republicans.

BLITZER: You know, the...

BRAZILE: Don't count your blessings too quick.

MADDEN: I mean, I do believe that the fundamentals are there. You're right. There's a certain level of excitement on the Democrats' side that we have to take into account.

But the fact that you're tearing apart the Democrat coalitions, and you have essentially a Republican nominee who is the Democrats' favorite Republican, that does work to our favor in a general election.

BLITZER: How worried are you, though, about the fact that, on this right track/wrong track numbers, it's almost a record wrong track? The mood of the American people is that things are bad in the country. And, usually, when that mood is that bad, whether it was in 1992 or 1980, the incumbent party in the White House suffers.

MADDEN: Well, we have, in John McCain, a Republican nominee who's always had a brand or a reputation for running against the status quo of Washington.

And people aren't going to have a choice on whether or not this administration -- it's not going to be a referendum on this administration. But, instead, it's going to be a choice between John McCain and whoever the Democrats nominee -- nominate.

And then it's going to essentially be about whether or not that candidate is the real candidate of change, and are they going to challenge that status quo in Washington? People are angry at Washington.

BLITZER: You expect that he will try to distance himself very aggressively from the Bush/Cheney economic policies?

MADDEN: On some -- I believe, on some issues, like spending, like the way that Katrina was handled by this administration, John McCain is going to make a very clear break from that.

And I think that's going to probably be rewarded at the polls by a lot of conservative Democrats, a lot of independents, and a lot of like-minded Republicans. BLITZER: He's got this response -- and I will play it for you -- when he was asked about this whole right track/wrong track, the high disapproval numbers, record high disapproval numbers for President Bush right now.


MCCAIN: Have you seen the approval ratings of Congress lately, my friends? We talk about the low approval rating of the president. When you get down as low as the approval ratings of Congress today, you get down to paid staffers and blood relatives.


BLITZER: That's a pretty good line.

BRAZILE: And a couple dogs and cats, throw them in as well.


BRAZILE: Look, the fact is, is that John McCain has to run the kind of campaign that reaches out to independents, reaches out to moderates, because the Republican brand itself is in bad shape. That's one of the reasons why John McCain is out there on the forgotten America tour. I haven't forgotten you, too.

And who knows with next week, forget-me-not tour.

BLITZER: But the more he reaches out, let's say, to moderate Democrats, independents, how concerned should he be with that conservative base, simply, a lot of them saying, you know what, he's not my cup of tea; I'm going to sit on my hands and not go out and aggressively work for him?

MADDEN: Well, he has to work very hard to get those conservatives. And he did very well in the primaries. He was very competitive among conservative voters. He didn't necessarily win them all the time, but he was very competitive there.

But this race -- and I believe John McCain's path to victory -- is going to be built around winning what a lot of people call the big middle. He has to build this right-of-center coalition that's going to essentially bring in those conservative Democrats and independents, along with all those like-minded Republicans. It's the only way he can do it, with -- given the fact that there are a lot of structural advantages that the Democrats have.

BLITZER: And, Donna, while -- while the Democrats are fighting still amongst themselves, he's going on to Pennsylvania, to Ohio, to Florida, to Colorado, the states that will be the battlegrounds in the Electoral College run-up. He's spending a lot of time in those states already.

BRAZILE: He's trying to reintroduce himself. And that's one of the reasons why the Democratic National Committee is running these ads right now to remind voters that John McCain has a record. He has a record of supporting George Bush on the war, a record of supporting George Bush on the economy.

If you want four more, eight more years of George Bush, vote for John McCain. That's what Democrats are saying.

BLITZER: All the polls show it could be very, very tight, could be very competitive. And that's what we should expect.


BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Things -- there are things you never necessarily heard about Barack Obama, sort of. You are going to find out what's on Obama's top 10 list of surprising facts.

Also, so many voters to convince, so little time. You will go on a unique journey with Bill Clinton, as he campaigns for his wife.

And one on one with Arianna Huffington -- I will ask the outspoken columnist and author what she thinks about the Democrats, what she thinks about John McCain, and the man they hope to replace.

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


BLITZER: On our Political Ticker, new evidence that the Democrats fear, the marathon Obama/Clinton presidential contest is hurting the party.

A new Gallup poll shows 62 percent of Democrats and Democratic- leaning independents say the unsettled race makes it less likely either Clinton or Obama will win in the fall. Fifty-six percent felt that way in a similar survey back in March.

About two dozen African-American ministers from the Chicago area are rallying behind Barack Obama today. They say they support the Democrat, despite his split with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. The ministers say they're speaking out because they believe media attention on Wright has distracted from important issues in this presidential race.

Obama may be trying to put his rocky week behind him by going for some laughs. He appeared on "The Late Show With David Letterman" last night, delivering the top 10 list of surprising facts about himself.

Listen to number eight.


OBAMA: When I tell my kids to clean their room, I finish with, "I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this message."


(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: The number-one surprising fact about Barack Obama, he hasn't slept since October. That one maybe is even true. They work hard out there on the campaign trail.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out That's where you can read my daily blog post as well.

Let's go to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Did Letterman bleach his hair?


BLITZER: I don't know.


BLITZER: I do know that that top 10 list that Obama did last night was hysterically -- and he delivered it really brilliantly.

CAFFERTY: You see, at my age, I don't get to stay up late enough to watch "Letterman," because I'm an old guy. But it looked to me like Letterman has bleached his hair.

BLITZER: I don't know the answer to that.

CAFFERTY: Well, I don't either. I just -- just, you know, I'm a trained observer. So, I point these things out as I see them.

Is illegal immigration less important to you than it was two years ago?

Linda says: "Let's see: food prices up 50 percent; gasoline $3.65 a gallon; deficits my great-grandchildren will be paying off; children and grandchildren of my friends dying for nothing in Iraq. Immigration of any stripe does not even make the list. My biggest concern is whether or not we will be able to return the village idiot to Crawford, Texas, before the damage he does is totally irreversible."

Larry in Ohio: "Jack, this is one the most important issues to me. I have absolutely nothing against legal immigration. After all, we are a country of immigrants. But to allow illegal immigration to go on without enforcing the laws is just crazy and way too expensive."

Paul in Louisiana: "No way to really stop illegal immigration. They will always find a way. What we need to do is punish people and companies found hiring illegal aliens. Heavy fines and prison time for those responsible would help to stop it."

Brian in Cincinnati says: "So, why the change? You forgot one reason. Our economy is getting to be so bad, that it's not worth it anymore for a lot of illegals to remain here. After paying their living expenses, there isn't enough money left over to send home, so it's not worth it, a lot of them are self-deporting. The irony is, the border may very well be sealed up at the rate things are going, not by us -- by Mexico and Canada -- to keep us out."

And J.W. in Atlanta, Georgia: "Immigration, to me, comes in fourth, behind the economy, the war, and stupid chief executives."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to, and you can look for yours among hundreds that are there.

I wonder if he has any more luck getting his kids to clean up their room, Barack Obama, because he's like -- maybe he's going to be the president. Most kids go, yes, dad, right away, and, then, as soon as you turn around, they go back to whatever they were doing.

BLITZER: I think you're right.


BLITZER: I don't know if he does.

Thanks, Jack.

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

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