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Crisis in Myanmar: Numbers and Aftermath are Staggering; What's at Stake in the Democratic Primaries?; Reactions From Exit Polls

Aired May 6, 2008 - 17:00   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 Obama/Clinton showdown -- only moments away the first exit polls in today's crucial Democratic primaries. We're getting a closer look at what's on the minds of the voters as they cast their ballots in Indiana and North Carolina.

Gas price politics -- oil reaching another new high and the candidates rev up their engines in a fierce debate about how to lower your price at the pump.

And the Edwards' factor -- the former candidate and his wife take turns praising and criticizing Clinton and Obama. How much clout do they have?

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The clock is counting down in Indiana and North Carolina right now. The first polls closing in just an hour or so from now. The first exit polls coming out only minutes from now when and we're going to tell you what the voters are actually saying on this day.

With every vote still crucial, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are making last ditch efforts and last minute speeches. Obama leads in the overall delegate count, with 1,745. Clinton's total is 1,602. Seventy-two candidates are at stake -- delegates are stake today in Indiana, 115 in North Carolina.

Let's go to CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's in Indianapolis watching all of this for us. A lot of people say make or break. We've heard that a lot over these past few months.

What's going on today, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the candidates have been campaigning so furiously in the last few days, you'd think that the entire nomination rests on the outcome of today's vote.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): High speed, high stakes -- the Indy 500 a fitting stop on this closely watched primary day. SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think there's a good driving analogy. If you want to go forward, you put it in D. If you want go backwards, you put it in R.

YELLIN: Hillary Clinton posed there with Sarah Fisher. She helped break racing's glass ceiling -- get it?

Senator Obama is also going at full throttle.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm campaigning hard. I've been up since 5:00. I'm going to keep ongoing until -- until we win.

YELLIN: He says he's feeling good, but expects today's results to be close. In the last hours before this primary, a new issue has emerged -- Senator Clinton's making a populist promise to take on OPEC.

CLINTON: And we're going to go right at OPEC. They can no longer be a cartel, a monopoly. And we're going to give power to people in our country under our anti-trust laws.

YELLIN: Barack Obama accuses her of pandering.

OBAMA: You say you've been in the White House for eight years. You've had two terms as a United States senator and haven't said a word about OPEC.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And now suddenly you're going to take it right to OPEC?

YELLIN: Clinton supporters insist no matter who wins today's primaries, the nomination is up for grabs.

GOV. MIKE EASLEY (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Neither one of them are going to have the delegates they need when they get to this convention we know that.

YELLIN: They are hoping to make Clinton's wins in Michigan and Florida part of the official tallies. But the Obama campaign insists that's not going to happen. Today, DNC Chair Howard Dean seemed to leave that question open.

HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: We want to respect the voters who went to the polls. It was politicians that made a mess of this and not the voters. Secondly, you cannot change the rules at the end of the game and change the outcome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Wolf, a little puzzling there to know what Dean really means, because it would be hard to see how you can count the votes without changing the rules -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I take it we heard from Al Gore today, Jessica. Some call him the ultimate superdelegate out there.

What is he saying?

YELLIN: Well, Wolf, you know he's remained silent while a lot of people have speculated he could be the party elder to broker some sort of deal in the end, if the nomination isn't resolved. Gore said he does not plan to play that role. He has not endorsed yet, but he still could, he says. He believes that the nomination will be decided, he said, before the convention -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica, thank you.

The other crucial primary state is North Carolina, the home state of John Edwards. The former candidate and his wife haven't handed out any endorsements yet, but they are speaking out.

CNN's Brian Todd is watching this story for us.

What are they saying -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they're being more pointed than they've been in a long time toward their opponents. But they're still not tipping their hand.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Still no endorsement from them through primary day in North Carolina. But John and Elizabeth Edwards aren't exactly keeping silent about their former rivals.

John Edwards says he admires Hillary Clinton's strength. Elizabeth Edwards says she likes her health care plan.

Asked what they don't like about Senator Clinton, John Edwards: "Still a lot of the old politics."

Mrs. Edwards: "The lobbyist money."

In their interview with "People" magazine, John Edwards seems more willing to go negative about Clinton and Barack Obama than he's been in other public venues.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We would be blessed as a nation to have either one of them as our president.

TODD: John Edwards tells people he admires Obama's message of change, but, "Sometimes I want to see more substance under the rhetoric."

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Democratic sources have said repeatedly that John Edwards' biggest concern about Barack Obama is does he have enough substance, does he have enough toughness and experience to actually bring about a message of change.

TODD: Mrs. Edwards praises Obama for getting more young people involved in politics, but also says, "I don't like his health care plan."

An Obama spokesman responded by saying only that, "Senator Obama has great respect and affection for Senator and Elizabeth Edwards and credits them for spotlighting the issue of poverty."

The Clinton campaign did not respond to our repeated calls and e- mails.

Both campaigns may be treading carefully because of this couple's political clout in North Carolina. And for the handful of uncommitted delegates John Edwards still carries from his primary showing.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ADVISER: His agenda about poverty actually has been picked up. Hillary Clinton has what -- they've promised a poverty member of the cabinet -- a poverty czar.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But John Edwards also has something to gain or lose with the candidates. He's said before he would be open to a cabinet position if a Democrat wins the White House and observers say he's had talks with both Clinton and Obama about his future -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You've been speaking with some former Edwards campaign officials.

What are you hearing from these guys, Brian?

TODD: Well, specifically about the delegates that John Edwards still has out there, he's 19 uncommitted delegates. And one close aide who ran his campaign in South Carolina told us the eight delegates he won in that state have been contacted by the Clinton and Obama campaigns, he said, to sound them out on which way they would go if Edwards releases them. Those campaigns, Wolf, clearly watching his delegates very closely, because it is so close.

BLITZER: Very close.

All right. Thanks, Brian.

Thanks very much.

Let's come back to Jack Cafferty. He's here with us. He's got "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Something that might surprise you -- it surprised me. After 16 months of this bruising fight, Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama, most Democrats don't want either candidate to drop out of the race. After all the contests and debates, speeches and TV commercials, flyers, phone calls, the Democrats want the suffering to continue. A new "USA Today"/Gallup Poll finds 60 percent of Democrats say Clinton and Obama should keep campaigning.

Of those who want a speedier resolution, 23 percent say that Clinton ought to give up. Only 15 percent say Obama should drop out. There have been calls for Clinton to get out of the race a while back, but they've quieted down since some of her strong performances in Ohio and Pennsylvania, along with Obama's problem with Jeremiah Wright and the "elitist gate." It's looking increasingly unlikely now that the party's going to have a nominee until the uncommitted superdelegates weigh in. This poll also shows that most Democrats think the superdelegates should commit to a candidate by the end of June, which is what the party chairman, Howard Dean, is calling for. Only about a quarter say the superdelegates should be able to decide at the party convention in August.

All of this seems to suggest that Democrats aren't too worried about the Clinton/Obama contest tearing the party apart. Instead, there seems to be a willingness to sit back and allow all of the rest of the voters have their say -- even Puerto Rico.

Here's the question: Why can't the Democrats make up their minds?

You can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, stand by. Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: I'll be right here for you.

Let's go right to Bill Schneider. He's getting the first exit poll numbers coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

What are we learning -- Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we're learning something about Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who was a big -- a very big issue in this campaign.

But how important an issue was he to Democrats who voted today?

Take a look here at Indiana. Among Democrats who voted in the Indiana primary, we asked them was Wright important or not important and the answer is they're split. Forty-nine percent say not important. Forty-eight percent say he was an important factor in their vote.

What about in North Carolina?

Well, same thing -- split -- 50 percent not important, 48 percent important. So it looks like Democrats really are divided over whether this is an important issue or not. It probably won't surprise you to know that those Democrats who said it was important issue voted for Hillary Clinton. Those Democrats who said Reverend Wright was not very important voted for Barack Obama -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So on this issue, they seem to be split, Bill, apparently along Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama lines, depending on who they support.

SCHNEIDER: That's right, but with one interesting twist here. We found out that those Democrats who go to church regularly have a -- in both states -- said they thought Jeremiah Wright was a more important issue. So it has something to do with church-going and the fact that Jeremiah Wright is a religious figure. Those who went to church tended to treat him more seriously.

BLITZER: All right, Bill, thanks very much.

Bill is going to continue to go through these exit poll numbers. More of them coming up.

We have the best political team on television poring over all of these numbers and a new update coming up in a few minutes.

Also, we'll talk to one of Hillary Clinton's most important Indiana supporters, Senator Evan Bayh, a former governor. I'll ask him what she has to do to win the nomination.

Plus, the battle for blue collar voters -- you're going to find out why they're so important and how the candidates are courting them.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go right back to Bill Schneider. He's getting some more exit poll results on this important day.

What are we learning -- Bill?

SCHNEIDER: We're learning that the recession -- and Democrats overwhelmingly agree it is a recession -- is a big issue. In Indiana, 65 percent -- nearly two-thirds of the voters say the economy is the number one issue, much more than Iraq, 19 percent; health care just 13 percent.

And the economy is definitely affecting their vote. Among those voters in Indiana, Democratic voters who say the recession has affected them, Hillary Clinton leads 53 to 46 percent.

Among those Democrats who say the recession has not affected them very much, Barack Obama leads 54 to 46 percent. So it looks like the recession is having an impact on the vote. And for those voters who are having serious economic problems, that seems to be producing support for Hillary Clinton -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Bill.

We're going to be getting more of these exit poll numbers coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's go out to Indianapolis right now.

Joining us, the former governor, the current senator, Hillary Clinton supporter, Senator Evan Bayh.

Thanks very much, Senator, for coming in.

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Everyone says the math is really working against her right now, no matter what happens between now and June 3 the final primaries.

How does she turn the math around?

BAYH: Well, Wolf, we'd like to think we're kind of important here tonight in our state. And if she starts winning in places like Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, I think that will begin to turn the math around. And, ultimately, if she can prevail in the total popular vote so that Senator Obama has more pledged delegates but she has more actual voters, then I think the superdelegates will begin to look at things like electability, who was the best chance to beat John McCain. And so it's that kind of dynamic that needs to take place and can take place.

BLITZER: But since Super Tuesday, the superdelegates -- by our estimates, they seem to have gone about three to one in favor of Obama. They seem to be moving in his direction, even though he's lost some very important primaries in recent weeks.

How do you explain that?

BAYH: Well, he did have a stretch there where he won, I think, 11 states in a row. And so all those states have committee chairmen and Congressional members and that sort of thing. But she's been doing better since Pennsylvania. And I think particularly, you know, if she does well here in our state -- it's very close. I don't know which way it's going to go. But then she goes on next week, I think it's West Virginia and then after that in Kentucky. I think then you can begin to see people begin to re-evaluate.

And you look at the numbers now, Wolf, she runs about 8 points better than Barack in Ohio, about 10 or 11 points better in Florida. And you look at some of the key constituencies -- seniors, women, Independents, blue collar voters, she does better among those groups.

And so, again, if she can win the popular vote -- and I think that's important -- then we'll have to look at things like electability.

BLITZER: What do you say to those critics, including Barack Obama, who say she's simply pandering for the votes by agreeing with John McCain that there should be a three month gas tax holiday?

BAYH: Well, I'd say a couple of things, Wolf. You know, Barack's a good guy, but he voted for gas tax holiday three times when he was in the state Senate...

BLITZER: But he says that was a mistake...

BAYH: ...in Illinois.

BLITZER: He acknowledges publicly that was a mistake. He learned from that mistake. BAYH: Well, was he pandering?

I mean it's -- really, it's one thing to make a mistake and change your mind. It's another thing to accuse someone of pandering when you did the same thing yourself -- not once or twice, but three times. And so that's the first thing I'd say.

The second thing I'd say is, you know, folks out here are really hurting. As Bill Schneider mentioned, 65 percent the economy is the top issue. It's affected many people. And I think there's a fair amount of skepticism about any political pledges. And we all agree this is not a long-term solution. But in the short run, I think people say, look, a little help -- even if it's $50 or $60 -- that's better than nothing. And if the choice is $10 billion more in oil company profits or $10 billion to help hard-pressed motorists, well, trying to help hard-pressed motorists is not a bad thing to do.

BLITZER: I wrote about this today in my blog at CNNPolitics.com, Senator. Michigan is already scheduled to hold a statewide primary on August 5. Florida is scheduled to hold one on August 26. That would be the second day of the Democratic convention in Denver.

Would it be wise if no one -- if neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama has this thing wrapped up after June 3 to let the Democrats, let the people in Michigan and Florida have their say in this process, even though they were stripped of their delegates because they moved up their primaries to January?

BAYH: Well, I think we need to find a way for them to have a say, Wolf. There are no perfect answers at this point. Obviously, having an election in the middle of our convention would kind of delay things. But, look, they need to have a say. And we can either count the votes the way they or find some way for them to revote. And so however we work through that, I do think it's important.

They had record turnouts in both those states. More people voted in Florida than any election ever. And they voted for Congress, for state legislature, to amend their constitution. I mean those were legal votes.

So if we can have them vote again, yes. If it's not possible for them to vote again, well, then I think counting them the way there are is preferable to just disenfranchising them.

BLITZER: Would it better to have those votes, again, coming up on August 5 and August 26 or let there be a credentials floor fight in Denver?

BAYH: Well, I'm a big one for letting people decide this, you know. And if it's got to go that late, then I suppose that's better because, you know, we just can't take two big states like that -- or really any states -- and just say they don't count, don't count people's votes.

So if we can find a way for them to have a new vote -- I'm not speaking for the Clinton campaign here. I'm just giving you my own personal opinion. I think would be preferable than just some artificial splitting them 50/50 or denying them any vote whatsoever.

BLITZER: Senator Bayh, thanks for coming in.

BAYH: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, I'll speak with a strong supporter of Barack Obama, as well. That would be Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. That's coming up in our next hour.

And we're only about 40 minutes or so away from the first polls closing on this major primary election day.

Up next, though, the numbers, the delegates and whether either candidate can move ahead. John King standing by to break it all down for us.

Plus, a disaster of a whole new magnitude -- the toll from a killer storm now said to be more than 22,000 people -- and that number going up.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More exit poll numbers are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Let's go back to Bill Schneider. He's going through the numbers -- Bill?

SCHNEIDER: Wolf, we asked people who they would vote for if the race turns out to be Barack Obama versus John McCain.

How badly is the Democratic Party divided?

Let's take a look at what they said in Indiana. In a choice between Obama and McCain, Clinton voters -- everybody here is Clinton voters -- said they'd vote for Obama 48; 33 percent would vote for McCain. One third of them would vote for McCain and 17 percent wouldn't vote. That means half the Clinton voters in Indiana say they would not vote for Barack Obama if he's the Democratic nominee.

Let's look at North Carolina, Clinton voters again. Only 45 percent in North Carolina said they would vote for Barack Obama if he wins the Democratic nomination; 38 percent would vote for McCain; 12 percent wouldn't vote. So, again, a very big split in the Democratic Party in both of these states. Some very bad news for Democrats there.

BLITZER: Republicans love those numbers, when they see those numbers.

All right. Thanks very much for that, Bill.

I know you're going through more of these exit poll numbers. And we're going to have a lot more of them coming up. Much more of our special election coverage in just a moment. But we want to give you, right now, an exclusive look into what's going on on the other side of the world.

The killer cyclone tragedy in Myanmar is growing worse and worse with each passing hour. This is a devastating story. State media now puts the death toll at more than 22,000. Almost twice that many are reported missing. The United Nations says up to a million people -- a million people may be homeless. The White House says the U.S. will send more than $3 million to help cyclone victims.

CNN's Dan Rivers has an exclusive report from the area hardest hit in the devastated city of Bogalay.

We must warn you, some of the images in his report may be disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It took almost everything. Cyclone Nargis has left Bogalay a shell of a town -- people scavenging in what looks like a war zone. The blank, numb stares of survivors tell of the horror here -- and the horror is still stalking these streets. Some scenes are beyond words. Bodies are being unceremoniously dumped in the river. Monasteries are being used as temporary shelter for hundreds of people. Here, 600 are sleeping where they can.

(on-camera): Everyone in this room has lost their home and many have lost their loved ones. The monks say there's enough food to feed these people for two more days. After that, they don't know what they're going to do.

(voice-over): The food carefully watched by young novices. This woman says there's nothing left. She's totally dependent on the monastery. This man says, "I'll have to survive somehow. I'll eat whatever people donate."

In another monastery, we find what they call the operating theater. This place seems utterly without medical supplies, as this man's wounds show.

(on-camera): Well, this is one of the relief center in Bogalay, if you can call it a relief center. But there's not much in the way of aid being given out -- a little bit of rice. But many of these people have lost everything they own and including many of their loved ones.

There are horrific scenes here, with the bodies being dumped in the river. We can't really film very overtly here. The authorities are not pleased we're here. And at the moment, I think soldiers are coming so we're going to have to leave.

(voice-over): Myanmar's top military brass flew in to assess the damage. From the air, the epic scale of this disaster was clear -- mile upon mile of devastated countryside. But it's only up close, on the ground, that you see the human face of this tragedy -- making shelter where they can, under the black skies that brought such mayhem and suffering.

Dan Rivers, CNN, Bogalay, Southern Myanmar.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: What a heartbreaking story happening halfway around the world. We'll stay on top of this story for you.

We'll get back to our political coverage.

John King is standing by to give us a delegate breakdown -- where they stand and how tonight can make a difference. That's coming up.

Also, exit poll information about one of the more sought after voting groups.

We'll be back with the best political team on television to show you what's going on.

You'll also find out what Hillary Clinton is doing to win over those blue collar voters and why she's been successful so far.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, an FBI raid on a federal whistleblower protection agency. Sources say agents seized computers from the office of special counsel, whose director has been under a criminal investigation and accused of obstructing justice.

Also, House Democrats are trying a new tactic to influence the war in Iraq. A proposed new spending bill gives President Bush the money he's seeking but requires Iraq to match spending on reconstruction and arming security forces.

Plus, some 100 people arrested in a massive drug sting at San Diego State University, including 75 students. Federal agents seized marijuana and cocaine and several guns and $60,000 in cash.

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

I want to go right back to Bill Schneider who is going more exit poll numbers coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM.

What are we learning, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: Well, a minute ago we reported how would Clinton voters vote if Obama was the nominee. Fewer than half of them would stick with him if he were the Democratic nominee.

Let's change that and ask what the Obama voters in both states would do if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee. The answer, let's take a look at Indiana. In that case, 59 percent of the Obama voters say they would support Hillary Clinton if she gets the Democratic nomination, a solid majority.

Turn to North Carolina. What would they do? In North Carolina, fully 70 percent, 70 percent, of the Obama voters say they would support Hillary Clinton if she gets the Democratic nomination.

So the Obama voters are more likely to support Hillary Clinton if she's the nominee than would be the case if Obama's the nominee, he'd get less support, substantially less support, from the Clinton voters in both states -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Fascinating figures. We'll see what happens, Bill, thanks very much.

I want to go to John King who is looking at the delegate map out there, the all-important delegate map.

What are we seeing, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're seeing that the end game is in play in the Democratic race. Hillary Clinton still has a very slight chance but we need to emphasize it is a very slight chance to overtake Barack Obama because of the delegate math.

If you look at this map right here, the states that are white or near white except for the gold states that are the states in play today are the one that are left. There are very few opportunities left for Hillary Clinton to catch up.

We want to give you a hypothetical to show you how daunting the mathematical task is. Let's assume tonight that Senator Clinton wins the state. Let me begin actually by coming up here to show you how we start the day right about here. Obama is ahead, Clinton behind here. Let's take it off. Let's assume that Clinton carries the state of Indiana tonight as the polls have suggested. Going in, she is favored. And let's even, even though the polls say Obama is favored in North Carolina, let's give it to Senator Clinton.

This is by a 55/45 margin and let's give her everything else. There's no reason to believe she would win the rest but even if she won everything left by a 55/45 margin including Puerto Rico down here and the states down here and come out to Oregon and look what happens when we get to the end. Hillary Clinton has narrowed the gap somewhat, but Barack Obama would still be ahead if Hillary Clinton won every remaining contest by 55/45.

A different way to look at it is to come up here and look at it in graph form like this. This is where we start the day. The green line is where each candidate is. The red line is the finish line. Wolf, they have been trading places in these states back and forth. Obama having a slight edge. But let's assume for the sake of argument they split the delegates the rest of the way out 50-50. These are the delegates still to be decided in the primaries and caucuses left. That's about 50 percent for Senator Clinton. This is the other 50 percent for Senator Obama.

And look what happens. She is still back here and he's close to the finish line. You'll have roughly 270 superdelegates who would decide it and if they split those evenly, Barack Obama is your nominee. He doesn't need 50 percent to get over the finish line.

So what it shows you is that Hillary Clinton needs to win tonight. She needs to surprise Barack Obama because the math for her is almost impossible. She needs to win and change the math and the psychology, Wolf, a daunting challenge for Senator Clinton.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, John. Stand by. We're going to be getting back to you.

Senator Clinton has also been working methodically to increase her blue-collar credibility. Let's go back to Carol. She's looking that part of the story for us.

Carol, has Senator Clinton been able to appeal to these blue- collar voters in these critically important numbers that she desperately needs?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She absolutely has, Wolf. As one political analyst told me, she did that by carefully changing the way she talks, the words she uses and the things she does. And it appears to be working.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary, how are you doing?

COSTELLO: Hillary Clinton is bent on proving she's a blue-collar gal at heart. There she is in Indiana sipping a shot of Crown Royal, a Canadian whiskey. There she is at a gas station watching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When was the last time you pumped gas?

CLINTON: Oh, I haven't personally bought it for a long time because of Secret Service. So, you know, I have a unique situation.

COSTELLO: Despite that, and a family income surpassing $100 million over the last seven years, Hillary Clinton is connecting with the blue-collar crowd, and some say she's done that by ripping a page from the Republican handbook.

GEORGE LAKOFF, UNIV. OF CALIFORNIA BERKELEY: What she's doing in attacking Obama as an elitist is taking that Republican conservative strategy and using it against Obama as if she were the Republican candidate.

COSTELLO: Lakoff says she's using GOP-inspired language to attract Reagan Democrats. When she said she'd totally obliterate Iran if it attacked Israel.

LAKOFF: That is like McCain saying bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. It's saying we're going to get those guys, those guys are bad guys, and we're going to just wipe them out.

COSTELLO: It's the kind of straightforward language blue-collar workers use on the job when they're talking politics. Clinton also talks about her grit.

CLINTON: Let me tell you something, when it comes to finishing the fight, Rocky and I have a lot in common.

COSTELLO: It taps into the pull yourself up by the boot straps that the blue collar America prided itself on.

CLINTON: I think we should have a gas tax holiday.

COSTELLO: And Clinton's gas tax idea? Lakoff says there's a reason she describes it as a gas tax holiday instead of a gas tax break. The word holiday and gas bring to mind family values.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was thinking about shooting over to 74 and zipping down to Libertyville.

LAKOFF: The summer holiday trip is very crucial to American mythology where you get off your job. You pack up your family, get into your car and you drive off to Yellowstone.

CLINTON: I know how to fight for you and that's exactly what I will do.

COSTELLO: While, the polls show her tailored message is resonating with blue-collar voters it doesn't mean that the high- powered Wellesley graduate is blue collar at heart. But for many right now, well, she's talking their language.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: And one political analyst told me today another reason she's doing better than Barack Obama in attracting the blue-collar vote, she simply pounced on the economic issue faster than did Obama -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol, thanks for that.

Carol Costello reporting.

We're going to have more on the exit polls. They're coming in momentarily. Bill Schneider and his team going through them. But we're going to continue to watch those very, very carefully.

But let's discuss what we know so far. For that we're joined by three guests. The Democratic strategist and Obama supporter, Jamal Simmons, our CNN political contributor and Clinton supporter, Paul Begala and Republican strategist, Leslie Sanchez.

Guys, thanks for joining us.

Why, Jamal, does she do so well with these blue-collar voters, a key constituency if you will, the key base of the Democrats?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, she is talking about economic issues but so is Barack Obama. I think what's been interesting about this is we've been very focused that and it's a big deal. But Barack Obama's also doing very well with another constituency which is African-Americans, which Senator Clinton is not doing so well with.

And we know from past performance that how this thing shakes out in the fall if African-Americans don't turn out for the Democrats, it's going to be tough. So Hillary Clinton has to prove that she can win in African-American votes like Tom Shaller wrote in "Slate" magazine yesterday.

BLITZER: Here's some numbers that Bill Schneider, Paul, just reported. Exit poll numbers from North Carolina first among Clinton supporters, Clinton voters, they say if she doesn't get it, if Obama gets the nomination, 45 percent of them say they would vote for Obama, but look at this, 38 percent say they'd vote for McCain. 12 percent say they would not vote. That's 50 percent of Clinton supporters would not vote for Barack Obama at least in North Carolina.

Much smaller number among Obama voters -- Obama supporters in North Carolina. 70 percent of them say they would vote for Senator Clinton if she got the nomination -- 12 percent say they'd vote for McCain, 14 percent would not vote. Twenty-six percent, in other words, wouldn't vote for Clinton.

Why are Clinton supporters, at least in North Carolina, similar numbers, by the way, in Indiana, why are they so adamant at least right now in saying they wouldn't vote for Barack Obama?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, the key phrase I think in your question is "right now." That's what they are saying right now. Almost six months to the day we have in the Democratic Party to put this thing back together. That's plenty of time.

Senator Obama is popping Hillary right now. I don't think it's fair. I think it's been good. The facts are factual and they are fighting about the gas tax and health care and jobs and that's what Democrats need to be talking about is how to break our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs. But I think that's some of it.

I remain an optimist, though, the Democrats can put this back together. It has been a very good contest. Not a bad one. It's been spirited, but it has not been bitter. The ability to put it back together will depend on the leadership qualities, of the winner, but also the leadership qualities of whoever loses.

BLITZER: Leslie, those numbers must be amusing. When you hear the numbers, they must be music to your ears.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There's no doubt from the Republican standpoint it's a great battle to see. I think you're seeing the Clinton machine at its finest.

But the reality is it's really interesting to see where women, how this is going to be a gender gap. We already know about the race issue. But even if you look at what we were just tacking about with respect to women and how Hillary Clinton is doing with working-class voters, particularly, I think to answer that point, if you just look at the fact that she's starting to gain momentum I think among working-class white men.

She already has educated older white women and this is a constituency that is based on identity politics that really wants to see the first woman president and they're not going to walk away from that easily. She knows that. I think the Obama campaign is starting to realize that. And I don't think you can minimize that. There is a battle that's going to happen in the Democratic Party and it's going to be bloody. There's no doubt about it and I think it's an advantage to republicans.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. I want to pick up the thought. But we have to take a quick break.

We're also standing by for some more polling information. It continues to roll into THE SITUATION ROOM from North Carolina and Indiana. We're going through the exit polls right now. Who voted and how they voted, and why. Bill Schneider will be back with the latest numbers coming in.

Also, could some Democrats be too loyal? Will some voters refuse to take part in the election if their candidate doesn't win? We're assessing what that means. We've got the numbers. The best political team on television will be back in a moment.

And we're also just a few moments away from the first poll closings. Results expected soon thereafter.

Don't go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go right back to Bill Schneider who is getting more exit poll numbers for us.

What are we seeing now, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: We're seeing something very interesting, Wolf. Hillary Clinton support among African-American voters in both these states is now down to single digits. Look at Indiana where the African-Americans made up 14 percent of the voters, Obama 92, Clinton 8. In Ohio in March, Clinton got 13 percent of the African American vote, in Pennsylvania 10 and now in Indiana, just 8.

Look at North Carolina. Obama 91 percent among African- Americans, Clinton down to 6. If you compare another southern state, the state of Georgia on Super Tuesday, Clinton got 11 percent of the African American vote. In North Carolina today, again, down to single digits, just 6 percent for Hillary Clinton -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Bill, very much.

Jamal, is this a surprise? I guess it shouldn't be to anyone who has seen these trends over these past few months.

SIMMONS: Well you know in some cases -- in some ways it sort of is. A year ago we were all talking about how Hillary Clinton was at 46 percent splitting the African-American vote with Barack Obama.

Sort of refer to the Tom Shaller piece of Slate, he argued that if Hillary Clinton who got 19 percent in South Carolina, got 22 percent of African-American voters in Tennessee, that if she had maintained that percentage, she would probably be ahead in the total popular vote right now without Michigan and Florida. But the fact is she's not only lost these voters to Barack Obama, they sort of turned against her.

You know who else is getting 8 percent of the African-American vote? George W. Bush. Hillary Clinton's got a black problem and she has to figure out how to fix it going into the fall if she hopes to get the nomination.

BLITZER: All right -- Paul?

BEGALA: She does. The problem is named Barack Obama. I don't think it's a rejection against Hillary. It's Senator Obama -- Jamal remembers this, Barack Obama started out behind among African- Americans.

So Leslie is wrong, it's not simply identity politics. They knew he was black when they were supporting Hillary against him. But he earned their support. He earned their votes the old fashioned way.

What's really unique I think about the Obama coalition is he's put together the college professors and the college students and the educated elite of the Democratic Party, the Adlai Stevenson, Paul Tsongas sort of voters and African Americans. What he lacks in the middle are Latinos not many of which are voting today and blue collar white folks. And Hillary with her coalition of Latinos and blue collar white folks doesn't have quite enough to win but neither does Senator Obama with African-Americans and sort of highly educated whites so somebody is going to have to pull from the other guy or gal's pile to win this thing out.

SANCHEZ: Let's look at a different thing. When I'm talking about identity politics I'm talking about women in particular, women that are wanting to see the first woman president that are not going to walk away from that.

But the bigger issue is let's look to November. What does it exactly mean? If you're talking about a core part of the Democratic constituency of their coalition is African-American voters who may not turn out if Barack Obama it looks like the election was stolen from him, which is the Democratic word, not mine, there's going to be an issue in terms of mobilization, excitement about the base, especially young voters who may be just demoralized by the whole process, think it's politics as usual and decide to stay home.

When you're talking about a series of too-close-to-call elections, like we've seen in the last three presidentials, that 2 percent can make a difference between the Republican and the Democratic win.

BLITZER: Jamal, are you as confident as Paul is?

BEGALA: That's a hope, not a strategy.

SANCHEZ: That's a reality, Paul.

BLITZER: Jamal, do you think the Democrats will unite and forget about the bitterness that we've seen over the past few months?

SIMMONS: Here's the good news, Wolf. I spent yesterday with a bunch of union leaders from all over the country in Michigan and what they said to me was they were tired of hearing all about the side small issues. They want to talk about outsourcing. They wanted to talk about the economy. They wanted to hear more about health care and how do they pay for the kids' college education.

And you know what? These are all Democratic issues, and it was a primarily white audience. They were happy with either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. They wanted a chance to get the issues in front of them. I think when the other candidate's gone out of the race, the Democrats will rally behind who our nominee is and take on John McCain and beat them.

BLITZER: The answer is you're just as helpful and optimistic as Paul is when it comes to that.

All right, guys, stand by. We'll be talking a lot more as the night continues. Appreciate it.

We're only about ten minutes away from polls closing. And we'll get the early results here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, as oil reaches another new high, the candidates rev up their engines in a hot debate over how to lower your price at the pump.

And amid the wear and tear of a hard-fought campaign, Jack Cafferty is asking this question, why can't Democrats make up their minds?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right, seven minutes and counting or so until the first polls close in Indiana. Most of the state's polls will close at the top of the hour. Some of the polls will remain open for another hour in the western part of the state. We're watching all of this closely.

Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File."

CAFFERTY: What kind of a state has two time zones?

BLITZER: Indiana.

CAFFERTY: Are there any others?

BLITZER: Florida I think because of the west coast. CAFFERTY: The panhandle. OK, very strange. All right.

The question this hour: Why can't the Democrats make up their minds? It's actually a good thing they haven't, because we would have nothing to do for the last four months.

Jim in British Columbia says: "They are making up their minds. When the votes are counted, the results will be clear: 52 percent for Obama and 48 percent for Clinton. So the Supreme Court will be called in and Clinton will be declared the winner since she reflects the true Bush values more than McCain does."

Sara in Indiana: "Dear, the choice one has to make. Senator Clinton could be the least pleasant candidate but is highly qualified for the job but wait, the media hates her and there's that unhip husband of hers. Senator Obama is hopelessly unqualified for the job but damn, the man can deliver a speech. Wait though, there's that whole elitist attitude and then calling his own grandmother a typical white women and he sat listening to Reverend Wright for 20 years. Can you say serious lack of judgment? But the media loves him and if I don't vote for him then I get labeled a racist. Oh, Jack, what is a Democrat with common sense and a brain to do?"

Kay writes: "Isn't that what they are doing?"

David in California says: "Democrats tend to be like herding cats. We like to think of ourselves - think for ourselves and don't go in lockstep with what the national party tells us. Hillary and Obama argue and fight with each other and it makes for great theater. I want it to go all the way to the convention."

Mike in New Orleans: "Democratic voters have made up their minds: half are for Clinton, half are for Obama. It is the Democratic National Committee that has to make up its mind how it is going to fix the colossal mistake it made with regard to counting Florida and Michigan. If the Democrats lose in the fall, they can thank Howard Dean's DNC for the self-inflicted failure."

And Anthony in Webster, Wisconsin: "It's like asking a 6-year-old to choose his favorite M&M."

If you didn't see your e-mail here you can go to my blog at CNN.com/CaffertyFile. You can look for yours there along with hundreds of others. So we're going to get some actual numbers in maybe five or six minutes.

BLITZER: 5:30 or so before the first polls close. Once those polls are closed and the precincts start reporting, we'll bring those numbers to our viewers. But there will be other counties in Indiana that won't close for another hour.

CAFFERTY: The polls are open in those places. We won't get in trouble for that?

BLITZER: No, we can report the numbers. We won't project anything until all the polls close in the state. CAFFERTY: And they close in North Carolina?

BLITZER: All the polls are closed at 7:00 p.m. eastern.

CAFFERTY: I'm new here.

BLITZER: Jack, stand by.

The candidate clash over the price of gas, as Hillary Clinton targets OPEC. Barack Obama targets Clinton. Can they do anything about the price you pay at the pump?

And only a few minutes from now, 4:48 to be precise, the first polls will close in Indiana. The best political team on television, standing by to bring you the results.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The soaring cost of oil and what to do about it. It's one of the few issues where Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are right now in sharp disagreement. Mary Snow's looking at this story for us.

All right. What are the candidates saying right now, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, we've heard a lot about the gas tax holiday, but Senator Clinton has also been hitting two themes, using antitrust laws against OPEC and weeding out market manipulation. We asked experts to weigh in on them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Another day, another record high, as oil tops $120 a barrel. It's fueling debate between candidates over what to do to lower costs. Hillary Clinton is targeting OPEC, the organization that controls the significant part of the of the world's oil production and influences its prices.

CLINTON: We're going to go right at OPEC. They can no longer be a cartel, a monopoly, they get together every couple of months in a conference room in some plush place in the world.

SNOW: Barack Obama charges his rival of saying things just to get elected.

OBAMA: I thought to myself, you say you've been in the White House for eight years, you've had two terms as a United States senator and haven't said a word about OPEC.

SNOW: Will pressure on OPEC help reduce the cost of oil? Two energy analysts have differing opinions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've basically been treating them with kid gloves for the last several years here, and all we do is occasionally beg them for oil and they ignore us and nothing happens. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're playing the blame game. It's either the oil companies or OPEC and I think the current situation, we need no further look than beyond the mirror to see what the real problem is.

SNOW: Translation? American consumers share the blame. Analysts say consumer demand keeps growing, and there's a lack of conservation. Some analysts say market manipulation is a big factor in record oil prices.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really not OPEC. It is all the financial players that found that oil is a new asset class, is the only game in town. This is the only thing that they can make a huge, huge profit on.

SNOW: Analyst Fadl Gates (ph) says Hillary Clinton is accurate when she says that market manipulation is unnecessarily adding to the price of oil, but he say, that's nothing new.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, the Senate has been looking into market manipulation. There's no clear answer on how much it factors into the cost of oil. Estimates range from 20 to 60 percent -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thanks very much for that.