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THE SITUATION ROOM

Obama Counting Clinton Out?; Interview With Clinton Campaign Communications Director Howard Wolfson

Aired May 7, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Hillary Clinton says she's still in it to win it. So, why is she having private talks with the Democratic Party? I will ask her communications director, Howard Wolfson. He's standing by live.

Also this hour, the next battleground is West Virginia next Tuesday. But will the Democrats' fight go all the way to the convention floor? We are going to listen to the buzz from some superdelegates and the latest calls for Senator Clinton to bow out.

And the focus on the fall -- Barack Obama and John McCain seem to have their sights right now set firmly on one another. Are they counting Clinton out?

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center, along with the best political team on television.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(AUDIO GAP) our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Hillary Clinton says she's moving full speed ahead, despite a cash crunch her and new call for her to drop out of the presidential race. She squeaked out a victory in Indiana last night, while Barack Obama won big in North Carolina.

CNN now estimates that Obama has widened his lead over Clinton in the total delegate count to 159. Now he's 180 delegates short of clinching the nomination. There are six Democratic contests left, with a total of 217 delegates at stake, up first, West Virginia, as I said. That's next Tuesday.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's watching this story for us.

All right. What is the message, Candy, that Clinton is sending out today?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think if there is a single message that Hillary Clinton is sending out today, it's that she is in charge of this campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I need your help in this campaign.

CROWLEY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton is determined, tireless , and in West Virginia.

CLINTON: West Virginia is one of those so-called swing states. Democrats need to win it in the fall. I want to start by winning it in the spring to lay the groundwork for a victory in November.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CROWLEY: West Virginia should not be a problem. Everything else is. Clinton has had to lend her campaign more than $6 million recently. And a new e-mail urgently asks for donations. "We have never campaigned with the stakes as high or the time as short" -- perhaps shorter than she thinks.

George McGovern, whose ties to the Clintons date back to McGovern's 1972 campaign, has switched his support from her to Barack Obama. McGovern argues, the math makes it all but certain Obama will win. "The time has come," he said, "for all of us to unite."

Clinton put on her game face.

CLINTON: Well, I respect him, and he has a right to make whatever decision he makes. I was pleased today to get Heath Shuler's endorsement.

CROWLEY: McGovern is a psychological blow, but he is not a superdelegate.

Senator Dianne Feinstein. She is also a Clinton supporter. Today, Feinstein told reporters the race is reaching a point of "negative dividends" for the party. It is a simple sentence and an ominous sign for Hillary Clinton, who cannot withstand large superdelegate defections. Clinton wants time to try to close the delegate gap with Obama while arguing other equations...

CLINTON: Look, if we had the rules that the Republicans have, I would already be the nominee.

CROWLEY: ... and other criteria.

CLINTON: We should stay focused on nominating the stronger candidate against Senator McCain and who would be the best president.

CROWLEY: Clinton met privately today with a group of superdelegates, pushing her case, asking for time. Hillary Clinton wants to move on.

CLINTON: Thank you all. Thank you all very much. We're getting on the road again.

CROWLEY: Barack Obama was home in Chicago today. His advisers are looking ahead to the fall campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Still, the Obama campaign is aggressively working those superdelegates as well. He will be in town tomorrow for his own meeting with the superdelegates -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, thank you.

Hillary Clinton once could count on superdelegates to give her an edge at the convention. At the start of the year, Clinton had 100 more superdelegates in her corner than Barack Obama.

But look at the trend line since then. After February's Super Tuesday's showdown, Clinton's edge was actually down to 87. A month later, despite wins in Ohio and Texas, Clinton's superdelegate lead slipped down to 39. And last month, she won in Pennsylvania, only to see the superdelegate difference drop to 23.

Now, after last night's split decision, Clinton holds a lead of only 10 superdelegates.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now. He's watching the story for us.

The undeclared superdelegates, Brian, they're really feeling a lot of heat right now.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, Wolf, feeling the heat not only to make a decision soon, but to make one that will help the party and not hurt them politically. They have to think about all that while trying to fend off more pressure from the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): The campaigns make no secret of it. With neither campaign likely to win enough pledged delegates to capture the Democratic nomination, they're pushing harder toward one elite group.

HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: We will be making the case today to superdelegates.

TODD: Superdelegates, members of Congress, other officeholders, and party leaders, Who can vote however they like, not bound by their state's primary results, and can switch allegiances at any time.

Right now, there are nearly 300 Democratic superdelegates who haven't committed to either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. They're under a lot of pressure not only to pick one soon, but to avoid the political consequences of choosing the wrong one.

Some are getting besieged, repeated calls from the candidates and their surrogates, e-mails like this one from Obama's campaign, imploring them to go with the candidate who has won the most pledged delegates. One undecided superdelegate called this process exhausting and likened it to choosing between your brother or sister. How will they choose?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Superdelegates think not just about how the vote went in their state, but who is most electable? Who do they think can lead the party to victory in November? That's part of their calculation.

TODD: And some are struggling to answer that. CNN asked one undecided superdelegate how he would determine who is most electable.

DAVID PARKER, UNDECIDED SUPERDELEGATE: I'm looking to see who is the most persuasive on the economy. The numbers are still not convincing as far as one candidate pitching their issues on the economy better than the other. And I think that's what's going to make the difference in the fall.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Those undecided superdelegates still have some time and some key deadlines ahead to make their decisions. They could wait until May 31, when the Democratic rules committee decides whether to count Florida and Michigan delegates. They could wait until the primaries end on June 3. They could wait until the convention in late August.

But there is growing pressure to end this nomination fight before then, Wolf. And Hillary Clinton just left a meeting a short time ago with Democratic superdelegates, so the pressure is continuing.

BLITZER: We will talk about that meeting shortly.

Thanks very much, Brian.

The house Speaker and superdelegate, Nancy Pelosi, says the Democratic race, in her words, is alive and well and will continue. Pelosi spoke to reporters just a short while ago, saying both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had bragging rights last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Certainly, the presidential election is very important. It's absolutely a matter of the utmost importance, not only to America, but to the whole world, who this person will be.

And I know that each -- either one of our candidates would be a great president. So, the outcome either way is a good one for us. And I think the American people see that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Tomorrow, by the way, in THE SITUATION ROOM, I will be speaking with Senator Barack Obama himself. It will be his first national interview since the North Carolina and Indiana primaries.

If you, by the way, have a question for Senator Barack Obama or some ideas you want to float by me, just go to my blog at CNNPolitics.com. Let me know what's on your mind. Once again, Senator Barack Obama tomorrow, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Jack Cafferty is here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You noticed he played basketball yesterday...

BLITZER: It was smart.

CAFFERTY: ... and he had a better day than he's had in weeks? And a while back, he said, I have a little superstition. I like to play -- shoot hoops on the day....

BLITZER: That's why I said it was smart.

CAFFERTY: Right?

BLITZER: Yes. Might not help. It can't hurt.

CAFFERTY: You should ask him tomorrow, what is it about your basketball skills that translates to the polls?

BLITZER: He's a much better basketball player than bowler.

CAFFERTY: Indeed.

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

The cost of gasoline, painful to a lot of Americans, averaging $3.61 a gallon, a lot of places in the country way over $4. But think about this. What if it goes to seven or eight bucks a gallon in the next 24 months?

While Hillary Clinton and John McCain pander to voters with a proposed gas tax holiday that will never see the light of day, Goldman Sachs is out with a report that oil prices could reach $200 a barrel within two years, the demand for gas globally outpacing supply. It's one of the reasons that oil prices have nearly doubled in the last year alone.

So, at $123, which is what it was today, reaching $200 in the next two years, not that far out of line. The prediction from Goldman Sachs, a weaker dollar, concerns in declining production helped push oil to $123-plus today.

The Energy Department says strong demand in places like China, India, Russia, Brazil and the Middle East will support these high prices and keep global oil demand growing by 1.2 million barrels a day this year. The government says it expects gasoline prices to peak at about $3.73 a gallon in June. I don't think so.

Some private analysts think gas will go even higher, above $4 -- this is on average for unleaded regular -- above four bucks by summer. So, what's the next president going to do about all this? Well, Clinton and McCain want to cut 18 cents off the price of a gallon of gas for three months this summer. That would save you about $32, max of $70.

It's the same old story from the Washington politicians. Put a Band-Aid on an open wound and then hope the public doesn't notice that it's still bleeding.

Here's the question: Which candidate has a plan for dealing with gas at $7 or $8 a gallon or higher within two years? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.com and post a comment on my blog.

The ostrich comes to mind when it comes to Middle East oil and gas prices.

BLITZER: Yes. It's a good question.

Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Sure.

BLITZER: See you in a few moments.

Some Democrats say Hillary Clinton should simply quit right now. But what does the Obama campaign say she should do?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, CHIEF OBAMA CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: She's poured her heart into this, and it's not for us to tell her what to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod.

Coming up, I will ask a top Clinton adviser what he thinks of these calls for Senator Clinton to bow out. Howard Wolfson is standing by here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Our exit polls show voters are clearly wondering, does Barack Obama have enough experience to be president? The best political team on television will weigh in on that.

And on to the next battleground. That would be West Virginia. How might what's already happened offer some clues to what might happen there next Tuesday? Our John King standing by to take a closer look.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Some in her own party are urging Hillary Clinton to quit the race. Others may be dropping more subtle hints. The candidate was involved in a high-level huddle earlier today over at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington.

Joining us now in Washington is the communications director for the Clinton campaign, Howard Wolfson. Howard, thanks very much for coming in.

WOLFSON: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: All right, what was she doing over at the DNC today? Because there's a lot of speculation, meeting behind closed doors. What was the agenda?

WOLFSON: Well, both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton are actively courting the remaining uncommitted superdelegates. Senator Clinton was meeting with a number of superdelegates this afternoon. I believe Senator Obama is meeting with some tomorrow.

That's part of the process at this point. Obviously, it's critically important that we focus on the upcoming states, West Virginia next Tuesday. But we, of course, also have to make the pitch to uncommitted superdelegates as to why Senator Clinton would be the best nominee to go up against John McCain.

BLITZER: We heard from Senator Dianne Feinstein today, a strong Hillary Clinton supporter, say this, and I will put it up on the screen.

"I would like to talk to her. I think the race is reaching a point now where there are negative dividends in terms of strife within the party. I think we need to prevent that as much as we can."

And she also went on to say she wants to hear from Senator Clinton the strategy for winning the -- how does she win the nomination?

How does she right now go ahead, given the mathematical problems that you're very familiar with, win the nomination?

WOLFSON: Well, I suspect Senator Clinton will speak with Senator Feinstein soon, if they haven't already. But I appreciate the opportunity to talk about the road forward.

You know, first, as I said, is West Virginia. West Virginia is a critically important swing state. It's a state that we won in presidential contests in '92 and '96. We lost it in 2000 and 2004.

Senator Clinton flatly predicted that she would be victorious in West Virginia if she were the nominee against John McCain in November. She's going to go to West Virginia tomorrow. She was there today. She's going to make the case as to why she would be the best candidate to win a state like West Virginia against John McCain.

Then, of course, we have upcoming primaries in Kentucky, and Oregon, and South Dakota, and Montana, and Puerto Rico. We're going to have to compete in all of those places. We're going to have to do well. We're going to have to take our case to the voters. Secondly...

BLITZER: But even if she does really well in all remaining six states, she's still going to be behind in those so-called pledged delegates.

WOLFSON: Well, we don't know that, so let's have the process play itself out. Let's have voters have their say. Let's let democracy and the genius of democracy run its course.

Secondly, we believe that the delegations of Florida and Michigan should be seated by the DNC. We won those primary contests. There were record turnout in those primaries. We believe that those people should have their votes honored, their preferences counted, commensurate with the way they voted on election day.

That, obviously, would accord us some additional delegates. This is a country with 50 states. We're not going to go into a convention and only honor 48.

BLITZER: Well, I think the Obama people are ready to find some way to make sure those delegates in Michigan and Florida are seated, but not necessarily according to the results of what happened, since he wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan and neither of the candidates actually campaigned in either state.

WOLFSON: Well, I don't know which particular voters we want to disenfranchise in those states. I don't believe we should be disenfranchising anyone. I don't think we need to get into backroom deals to determine how we count the votes.

We've seen a record turnout in those states, enormous enthusiasm. These are people that Democrats need if we're going to win those states in November. And so we think that those votes ought to be counted in the way that they were recorded on election day.

BLITZER: And I assume you'll make that case at the end of the month when the DNC Rules Committee, when they convene?

WOLFSON: We're making it every day. I'm making it right here.

And then the third point I would make is that we've won the big swing states that a Democrat needs to win in order to get elected. We've won Ohio; we've won Pennsylvania; we've won Michigan; we've won Florida.

Those are the key swing states that any Democrat needs. We won them because we're appealing well to working-class voters, to swing voters in this election, to people who are concerned about the economy. And Senator Obama has thus far not been able to successfully win those voters over.

I think any Democrat running against John McCain is going to have to be able to appeal to those voters. We can appeal to them. We can appeal to them in the swing states that we need. We can appeal to them around this country. We're going to be making the case about Senator Clinton's electability.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, but very quickly, if those undecided superdelegates right now and voters who still have a chance to cast some ballots, what is the single biggest difference, on a substantive policy issue, whether domestic or foreign policy, that you think would encourage those undecideds to go with Hillary Clinton as opposed to Barack Obama?

WOLFSON: Well, I think one of the reasons we've done so well with blue-collar, middle-income voters is there are key differences on economic issues between Senator Clinton and Obama.

Three, the gas tax. We believe the oil companies ought to pay it this summer. Senator Obama believes that consumers ought to pay it.

On health care, we cover every person in America. Senator Obama leaves 15 million people out.

On the housing crisis, we believe that we ought to freeze rates and foreclosures for subprime borrowers. Senator Obama disagrees with that. He'd let those folks have their homes foreclosed on.

Those are important differences. They're differences that voters are paying attention to. And it's among the reason why we've done so well with those swing blue-collar voters in the large swing states that any Democrat needs to win.

BLITZER: I congratulated David Axelrod on their win in North Carolina. I will congratulate you on your win in Indiana.

WOLFSON: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in.

WOLFSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Howard Wolfson is the communications director for the Clinton campaign.

Hillary Clinton draws her line in the sand. She's not quitting, as some are urging her to do. Instead, she's getting ready for the next battlegrounds. We're looking at the possibilities, the pitfalls, a lot more. What's going to happen in West Virginia?

And amid the devastation, a grim new prediction. Myanmar's government says more than 22,000 people died from the cyclone. One diplomat says it could be five times that number. What a horrendous story. We will have details when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton is playing up the importance of West Virginia. And there's good reason. It plays to her strengths and Barack Obama's weaknesses. We're going to map out the battleground. That's coming up.

Also, possible exit strategies for Hillary Clinton -- is there a way for her to bow out gracefully? What would she do? What would she do if she did? And new evidence that Republicans are ready to go after Obama's experience. It's all fuel for the best political team on television.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, Hillary Clinton vows full steam ahead, setting her sights on West Virginia, despite new calls for her to bow out of the Democratic race. But it's all up to the superdelegates right now. Where do the Democrats actually go from here?

Also, new questions about Barack Obama's experience. You're going to find out which former rival says he doesn't have enough, adding -- quote -- "The presidency is not an internship."

Plus, John McCain losing votes to Republicans who aren't even in the race anymore, what does it tell us about his chances in the general election?

All of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

Hillary Clinton is refusing to sound defeated after failing to get a lot of momentum, any momentum, for that matter, out of the latest round of primaries. She's telling West Virginia voters that their vote next Tuesday could be one of the most important Democratic contests yet.

And joining us now once again, our chief national correspondent, John King.

Let's look ahead. Where do we go from here, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The next state we go to immediately, Wolf, over the next week is West Virginia.

And, before we zoom in, let's look at the map so far. The dark blue is Senator Obama. The light blue is Senator Clinton, Texas with the stripes because you had the split primary/caucus system. They each won one round down there.

But as you see the map filling in, it tells you one thing. Time is running out, not that many states left, only a half-dozen, for Senator Clinton to try to close the gap.

The one thing working in her favor, next state up next Tuesday, West Virginia, is a state that is built for Senator Clinton, if you look at all the demographics in the race so far. It has five major cities, Charleston being the biggest one, but only about 50,000 people live here. Most of the population in the smaller cities along the Ohio River here, this is coal country, a little bit of steel country. Wolf, it is one of the oldest states in the country. It is 95 percent white. It is one of the least educated states in the country, a higher percentage of people without a high school diploma.

So, if you remember some of the other states, even the tough states for Barack Obama, we knew in Indiana last night, for example, he could at least have a base of African-Americans in Indianapolis and up here in Lake County, do well in the college towns like this.

And even over in Ohio, a tougher state for him, we knew African- Americans in Cleveland and in Columbus and a smaller degree down in Cincinnati.

But, when you look at West Virginia, the contest up next, yes, there are small college towns here. But there is no one place where you can look on this map and say bang -- there is at least a good foundation for Barack Obama to start in, because you have a smaller than 5 percent African-American population. You don't have affluent, white suburban Democrats like you've had in, say, Maryland or like we saw in Raleigh-Durham last night.

So when you look at this state, its history, its demographics and its voters, it is decidedly lopsided in favor of Senator Clinton -- one of the reasons she wants another week. She's hoping for a big victory -- hoping that brings money and buys her time.

BLITZER: And it gives her a little momentum going into the contests -- in the following Tuesday.

KING: Exactly right, because Kentucky is one of those contests. And if you look at this neighborhood right here, it would tell you odds are Kentucky, much like West Virginia, Kentucky is a bit more affluent of a state. It has a bigger African-American population, but not a sizable African-American population. Kentucky, like Tennessee, like Ohio, like Indiana, like Pennsylvania -- this area of the country has proven to be a good ground for Senator Clinton.

The issue there, though, is Barack Obama also moves back out here to Oregon in the week. And he has done very well out here. If there is a defining challenge, remember, Senator Clinton said going into North Carolina she wanted to make that the game changer. Well, she failed in North Carolina.

If there is another potential game changer for her on the map, it is out here in the State of Oregon. But, again, a very significant challenge for Senator Clinton.

BLITZER: All right.

Thanks very much, John.

And joining us now to talk about the delegate math and a lot more, "Time" magazine's monitoring editor, Rick Stengel; also, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; and CNN's Jack Cafferty. They're all part of the best political team on television. We include "Time" magazine, our sister publication, in that category. Rick, thanks very much for coming in.

RICK STENGEL, MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME": Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton, only a few moments ago, left DNC headquarters in Washington. She was meeting with superdelegates, among others, making her case.

Here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLINTON: I met with a number of members of Congress and others who have a role to play in this process. And we talked a lot about Florida and Michigan. There was another demonstration here right before I arrived from West Virginia. And I think everybody realizes we've got to resolve what's going to happen with the delegates from Florida and Michigan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That really is her last hope, if they could do something to either include those delegates from Florida and Michigan the way they actually voted or have some sort of revote down the road. Other than that, the math clearly doesn't favor her.

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, Florida and Michigan were told if you change the date of your primary, we're not going to seat your delegates. They changed the date of the primary. Therefore the delegates aren't going to be seated.

And what is this about Florida and Michigan?

Those elections were bogus.

BLITZER: But those two states are critically important come November.

CAFFERTY: No, no, wait a second...

BLITZER: If they...

CAFFERTY: If they...

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: They don't matter. Until something is done with the status quo, they don't matter.

BLITZER: They do matter in November.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: In November. You don't want to alienate a lot of...

CAFFERTY: This isn't November. BLITZER: ...a lot of Dem...

CAFFERTY: This is the primary race for the Democratic nomination and those two states don't count until the rules are changed from what they were set up to be.

BLITZER: They have a meeting at the end of this month...

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They do.

BLITZER: Potentially, they could change the rules if they want.

BORGER: They do have a meeting at the end of this month. And the people who are on that committee are represented proportionally by both campaigns. I guarantee you there's going to be some kind of a compromise worked out at some point so this doesn't have to go to the convention. But I'm not sure it's going to be the compromise that Hillary Clinton would like.

BLITZER: Is that her only hope right now, Rick?

STENGEL: I think, in some ways, ways she's staking so much on it. I have to say, I agree with Jack. I don't -- I've never understood the argument of why what we do about Michigan and Florida now will affect the vote in November.

BORGER: Right.

STENGEL: Those people will come out in November. The Democrats are going to vote for whoever the Democratic nominee is. And basically, you know, she didn't play by the rules and now she wants to change the game.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: Well, right. Look, she's in the last throes of a campaign here. She is making every possible argument that she can make in order to save her candidacy, right?

And most people agree that there isn't much left for her to argue. And as she tries to make this case to superdelegates -- and, again, it's a dwindling case after last night.

CAFFERTY: And even...

BORGER: This is the last best case she's got.

BLITZER: Here, Jack...

CAFFERTY: Have you ever...

BLITZER: Jack...

CAFFERTY: ...heard that expression when you're dead, lie down?

(LAUGHTER) BORGER: Well, you know what? Do you know what?

I've got to tell you something...

CAFFERTY: It's over.

BORGER: You could -- you know, yes. Yes. But you know what, people -- it takes awhile for you, when you've been running for two years, to run for the presidency, to kind of step back and say maybe it's time.

CAFFERTY: No.

BLITZER: Here's the other argument, Jack, that she makes.

I'll play this little clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: You are being asked to hire the person who will fill the toughest job in the world.

What do you look for? What do you need? What kind of experience? What kind of plans? What kind of results and accountability will you be seeking?

If you think about it in that way, who would you hire?

I hope next Tuesday you will give me a chance to be your president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Gloria, I know you think that's sort of gutsy for her. She's was out in West Virginia today.

BORGER: Yes, you know, look, I mean I think Hillary Clinton is somebody who is tough. Nobody -- you would not deny that. She is gutsy. She is determined. At some point, she's going to have to face the facts. And I believe -- you know, I believe that she will do that. You know, the stuff I'm hearing today, interestingly enough, from folks talking to the Clinton campaign is lots of discussion about gee, do you think Obama might offer her the vice presidency and do you think she would...

STENGEL: (INAUDIBLE).

BORGER: Are you hearing that?

STENGEL: I heard that today.

BORGER: And do you think she would -- now, the Obama people say we are not talking about that, I might add. But the Clinton people are suddenly saying, gee, she might not want to go back to the Senate. Maybe she would -- maybe she'd think about the vice presidency.

BLITZER: Well, it sorts of makes sense when you think about those exit polls we saw yesterday in Indiana and North Carolina.

BORGER: Yes. Yes.

BLITZER: Clinton supporters asked, would you vote for Obama, almost half of them either said they'd vote for McCain or not vote at all.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: If you're going to try to bring them in, what would be, Rick, the best way to bring them in?

STENGEL: Yes, I do think we have kind of overplayed the argument that his voters won't vote for her, her voters won't vote for him. In fact, once there's a nominee, there will be -- people will coalesce around that nominee and people will start saying yes, he looks pretty good or she looks pretty good.

Look, it is a big long shot for her. And she's got to like, you know, something has to happen. She has to, you know, hope for the game to break open in a different way.

So she has to emphasize these places where she can make -- have an advantage, because she does have an advantage in West Virginia, she's doing well in Kentucky, but that will not change the map.

BORGER: She is waiting for something to fallout of the sky on his head.

BLITZER: Of the six remaining contests...

BORGER: You know, that's...

BLITZER: ...she'll do well in three of them -- Puerto Rico, Kentucky and West Virginia. He will do well, presumably, if the polls are right, in the three others. I don't know, in the end, if it will mean much.

But are you familiar, Jack, with that Hail Mary pass in football?

CAFFERTY: This game is over. You know, you have to throw the Hail Mary pass before the game ends. The game ended last night.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Jack, tell us what you really think (INAUDIBLE).

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: I've been telling you for three months and everything I've said has come to pass.

BLITZER: Stand by. We're going to continue this conversation.

New questions about Barack Obama's experience and what some critics say a lack of experience. We're going to show you how it might factor into a general election against John McCain.

Plus, keeping an eye on the Democratic race -- you're going to find out how the Democrats' latest face-off is impacting his campaign.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: ...campaign. And for many of you, I feel as though you are part of my extended family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Here's Hillary Clinton. She's speaking to a -- what's called a Generations of Women event in Washington, D.C. , making her pitch for votes right now. We're watching it closely.

You know, Gloria, Hillary Clinton got a lot of white women's support...

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: But certainly she didn't get the numbers among women that he's been getting among African-Americans.

BORGER: No, she didn't. And that, you know, that's a real problem I -- in terms of uniting the party, because you have this Democratic coalition that's been split down the middle. And I agree with Rick when he says, you know, we can overplay this notion that the Democrats are not going to unite again.

But I think Dianne Feinstein today, coming out, Senator Feinstein, saying that she needed to call Hillary and talk to her about uniting the party is very important, because if Hillary Clinton were to have any chance, it would be sort of for women of a certain age to get together and say, you know, we really need Hillary Clinton, we need a woman to be president.

And I think if Dianne Feinstein is making a phone call and trying to get a reality check out of Hillary Clinton, I think that's important.

BLITZER: And she's a strong Hillary Clinton supporter.

BORGER: Very important.

BLITZER: Jack, Mitt Romney -- he came out and he was swinging away today at Barack Obama, I think setting the stage for what could be an attack line come November.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He has not accomplished anything during his life in terms of legislation or leading an enterprise or making a business work or a city work or a state work. He really has very little experience. And, you know, the presidency of the United States is not an internship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAFFERTY: Well, he lasted a lot longer than Mitt Romney did in the primaries. You know, he's still in and Romney's out there trying to be vice president.

I mean what is that? Who cares?

You know, I mean, Mitt Romney is, you know, doing some of -- he's throwing some rocks for John McCain.

BLITZER: But it's a preview of one of the...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ...one of the attack lines come November.

STENGEL: It certainly prefigures what John McCain will do to him which, by the way, is what Hillary Clinton tried to do with him in the early stages.

But his argument has been all along, look, what does experience matter?

Dick Cheney was the most experienced person we had in Washington.

BORGER: Right.

STENGEL: If experience means you just confirm the things that you did wrong over and over, that's not a good thing. We did a cover early on this year, how much does experience matter, and did actually some social science about it. And what we found is that experience often means you just do the same wrong thing over and over. He's got to make that argument.

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: Which is what the public thinks Washington is all about these days, anyway...

STENGEL: Right.

CAFFERTY: ...doing the wrong thing over and over and over.

BORGER: Right. Right. But it's also why the Obama campaign is now saying to their candidate, you've got to talk about your life history. Because what he's done in his life is overcome certain odds. I mean there he was, you know...

BLITZER: Huge odds. BORGER: ...huge odds, you know and overcame that, wound up at Harvard Law School...

BLITZER: A single mother on food stamps, that's...

BORGER: A single mother (INAUDIBLE)...

CAFFERTY: He did say some of that last night, though, in that speech.

BORGER: Well, and that is why he's talking about it more and more, because he believes that his life story tells you what he's done and what he's accomplished.

STENGEL: Right.

BLITZER: The -- McCain -- and I know you were looking at this earlier. Huckabee and Ron Paul, they're still getting a lot of votes out there.

BORGER: Well, they got...

BLITZER: What is going on in these Republican contests?

CAFFERTY: Why would anybody vote in a Republican primary three months after the nominee's been decided?

That's question one. And then, two, why would you not -- if you're going to go do it, why wouldn't you vote for John McCain?

BLITZER: And so what does that mean?

CAFFERTY: I don't know what it means. It means they're...

BLITZER: Do you know what it means?

STENGEL: He still has to unite his party. I mean there still is a wing -- that conservative wing of the party still feels that he's not a true blue conservative, he hasn't really shown us his integrity as a conservative and he still needs to do that. That's why he's endorsing things that are not helping him now, like with the Supreme Court...

BORGER: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: He...

BLITZER: In Indiana, Huckabee got 10 percent and Ron Paul didn't do bad, either.

BORGER: You know, but the point is because we've been paying so much attention to the divisions on the Democratic side, there are these divisions on the Republican side. And I would argue that McCain really hasn't done the fence-mending he might need to do with the evangelicals and those social conservatives, that do mistrust him, even though, I might add, he's with them on most of the issues. He just doesn't seem to care about those issues as much as he does defense and foreign policy.

BLITZER: As much, Rick, as McCain will want personally, I assume, to try to run a, you know, a high level campaign dealing with issues, there will be plenty of other groups unaffiliated who will really go after Barack Obama.

STENGEL: Right. And there are some people who are advocating now that McCain and Obama, if he is the nominee, should do a series of Lincoln-Douglas style debates. They should just go barnstorm around the country...

BORGER: (INAUDIBLE) at CNN.

STENGEL: Well, right. I mean I think it's good for the American public. But it's, you know, campaigns are always on two levels. There's the appearance level and there's the subterranean level. That's where those groups will be advertising. That's where the surro -- his surrogates will be saying things. And that has been going on already for the past six weeks.

CAFFERTY: I think one of the things that sealed the deal for Barack Obama is the immunity he showed to those very attack ads you're talking about in North Carolina.

Remember the ones John McCain denounced?

They were running ads in North Carolina, bringing up the Jeremiah Wright stuff, saying that this man will hurt people down ballot (ph). He crushed Hillary Clinton in North Carolina.

And the other place he was immune to that stuff was in Louisiana, where they tried to tie the Democratic candidate for the House...

BORGER: Right.

CAFFERTY: ...in a seat that had been held by Republicans for 30 years to Barack Obama. The Democrat won that seat.

I think the smart money said you know what, if can stand up in those two places under that kind of scrutiny and those kind of ads, he's going to be fine.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty, don't go away. We've got "The Cafferty File" coming up.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Gloria, thank you.

BORGER: Jack.

BLITZER: Rick, you've got a great issue of "Time" magazine, "The Time 100"...

STENGEL: Yes.

BLITZER: If our viewers out there haven't read it yet, I recommend it.

STENGEL: Thank you.

BLITZER: A big dinner tomorrow night in New York.

STENGEL: Yes, sir.

BLITZER: Rick Stengel joining us from our sister publication.

John McCain aims most of his verbal blasts against just one Democrat. Is the Republican already running against Barack Obama? Is he already counting Hillary Clinton out?

And as the price at the pump keeps going up and up, Jack Cafferty asks this question: Which candidate has a plan for dealing with gas at $7 or $8 a gallon within two years?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File."

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: What candidate has a plan for dealing with gas at seven or eight bucks a gallon within two years?

Goldman Sachs is suggesting oil could hit $200 a barrel in the next 24 months.

Stefan in Hoffman States, Illinois: "None of the candidates has a plan ready for two years out. Politicians can't even plan for two months ahead. When gas hits four, five, six bucks, the politicians run around, declare there's a problem, stick their heads in the sand and ignore any real debate about a solution."

Jim in North Carolina: "I'm not sure who has the plan, but I would suggest a 2,500 pound weight limit, 50 mile per gallon biodiesel fuel car for starters. In a few years, plug-in electrics can be added to improve performance, as the fuel cars downsize further when wind and solar generation boost our electric capacity. Europe has 80 to 100 mile per gallon cars now and we need to tell Detroit we don't need the 300-plus horsepower cars they put out."

Roy in Olympia, Washington: "I think Obama will address the issue the moment he steps into office, looking at alternatives to oil. If it comes to having to pay that much at the pump, it's time to get a subscription to "National Geographic" and just look at the places I can no longer afford to go to."

William: "So far, Hillary Clinton has the best idea. She's the first to talk about the facing up of the oil -- to the oil companies, energy trading companies that are manipulating the oil prices. Legislation has to be passed to regulate the energy markets."

Spero writes: "A trick question. The real answer is none of them. What will do we do? Probably the same thing the Brits are currently doing, as they pay $8 for gasoline, smile and kick ourselves in the butt when we think of all the programs we could have started 10 years ago to deal with this."

And Marcus in New York: "Does it matter? Look at tobacco. A pack of cigarettes in New York, eight bucks. But, incredibly, you still see people smoking. They figured out how to make it work and Americans will do the same with gasoline."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, I don't know what to tell you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes. There you go.

BLITZER: I mean hundreds of them are posted there.

CAFFERTY: Yes, they are.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

John McCain campaigning in Michigan today. He sets his sights on winning in November. But the Republican also is keeping an eye on the Democratic contest. And he can't ignore the results from last night.

Let's bring in CNN's Dana Bash. She's watching the story.

Dana, what are McCain sources telling you? Are they changing their strategy based on last night?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not really, Wolf, and here's why. You know, ever since February, when John McCain first accused Obama of platitudes and empty rhetoric, when the presumptive Republican nominee singles out one of his Democratic opponents, it's almost always Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Go ahead.

BASH (voice-over): Listen to John McCain rail against Democrats about Iraq at this Michigan town hall -- equal time for both Democratic candidates.

MCCAIN: If you want to set a date for withdrawal and surrender the way that Senator Obama and Senator Clinton want to do, that'll be a decision that the American people will make.

BASH: McCain advisers still insist, despite Tuesday night's results, that they won't count Hillary Clinton out until the day she bows out. But McCain aides do admit to CNN it reinforces a strategy that has been underway for some time -- one laying the groundwork to run against Barack Obama.

MCCAIN: Somehow Senator Obama's standards proved too lofty a standard.

BASH: Even before polls closed Tuesday in North Carolina, McCain used his speech there about judges to hit Obama for partisan votes against the president's nominees, even though Clinton opposed them too.

MCCAIN: But when Judge Roberts was nominated, it seemed to bring out more the lecturer in Senator Obama than it did the guy who can get things done.

BASH: And he's recently been pushing this...

MCCAIN: It's just a fact that Hamas -- apparently their North American spokesperson is endorsing Senator Obama. People can make their own judgment from that.

BASH: McCain advisers have been scouring Democratic data, looking for openings against Obama. The most obvious -- his weakness with rural Democrats. After Obama lost big with blue-collar Democrats in Pennsylvania, McCain visited the battleground state and appealed directly to those voters.

MCCAIN: Senator Obama refuses to endorse a tax -- gas tax holiday. It's a nice little break for Americans.

BASH: McCain aides say to expect more rhetoric like that after seeing these eye-popping exit polls -- 31 percent of Clinton voters in Indiana, 35 percent in North Carolina, say they'd vote for McCain over Obama.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: McCain aides say they're pleasantly surprised at the large number of Clinton voters who appear available to them if Obama wins the Democratic nomination. But, Wolf, they also say they realize that this reflects fresh wounds from the Democratic battle and many of those wounds will likely heal by November -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, thank you.

Hillary Clinton ignoring calls to quit, so the Democratic race continues. We're going to show you just how long it could go on.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Democrats' race for the White House -- when will it all end?

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes this Moost Unusual look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the battle between yes we can and yes we will.

But will it ever end?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE EARLY SHOW")

BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST: This race is over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA")

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: This nomination fight is over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: We're in the middle of it -- or toward the end of it.

MOOS: Publicly, at least, Hillary can't swallow the idea that she's toast.

(on-camera): The thing that waiting for toast to pop is that though it only takes a few minutes, it feels like forever -- sort of like this campaign.

(voice-over): Even before the latest primaries, some folks had had their fill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER")

GARY SHANDLING, COMEDIAN: I honestly can't watch it anymore. I got physically tired of watching either of them talk anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Maybe John McCain inadvertently found a solution to that...

MCCAIN: So I -- whoops.

MOOS: ...when he started talking into the wrong end of the mike. While Hillary was at the mike after she eked out her Indiana victory, she got a hand from two tiny hands.

CLINTON: And Indiana would be the tie breaker. Well...

(APPLAUSE)

MOOS: This kid applauded even when no one else did.

CLINTON: Having an opportunity to meet so many of you.

MOOS: Though he also got nabbed on TV picking his nose and repeatedly squealing.

The opposing spouses also stuck out -- Michelle Obama wearing orange and Bill Clinton looking red. Bill and Hill shared a long hug, while Barack kept in touch with his wife with a touch of his hand.

The Web site Jezebel photoshopped a famous photo to poke fun at predictions gone wrong favoring Hillary. And "Slate" was counting down her chances with a Hillary death watch. She's shown on a sinking ship with her chance of winning the nomination likewise sinking.

This campaign has gone on so long that "Obama Girl" has just released her seventh video, this one co-starring Libertarian presidential candidate, Mike Gravel.

MIKE GRAVEL, LIBERTARIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not a YouTube celebrity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you even see (INAUDIBLE) me?

GRAVEL: I'm seeking the presidency. You should drop your crush on Obama.

MOOS: Now, if Hillary did this, the race really would be over.

Instead, Hillary is saying...

CLINTON: We'll see where it all ends up.

MOOS: Who needs a crystal ball when you've got a toaster?

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Tomorrow, my interview in THE SITUATION ROOM with Barack Obama -- the first national interview since the Indiana and North Carolina primaries.

Thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT".

Kitty Pilgrim filling in for Lou -- Kitty.