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Obama Grabs Superdelegate Lead; Interview With Congressman Charlie Rangel; Disturbing Death Toll in China; McCain Addresses Global Warming

Aired May 12, 2008 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Hillary Clinton looks to seal a big win in West Virginia tomorrow, and Barack Obama looks toward neglected fall battlegrounds while claiming a new superdelegate advantage.
Also this hour, Congressman and Clinton supporter Charlie Rangel, he's critical of his candidate's claim of broad support from white Americans. I'll ask Rangel about that and if he thinks Clinton should call it quits.

And John McCain tries to prove he's no George Bush when it comes to climate change. How far is he willing to go to reduce global warning?

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

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigned in West Virginia today with little doubt that she's on track for a big win in tomorrow's primary. But it's Obama who's now in a better position than ever to clinch the nomination. He's jumped ahead of Clinton in superdelegate support, and now he's preparing to campaign in key fall battlegrounds, including Florida and Michigan.

Let's begin our coverage this hour of CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's in Fairmont, West Virginia, watching this story.

And they're going through the motions, at least, but give us a little sense of what's going on where you are right now.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at this point the Clinton campaign is doubling down on those primary states where she expects to win big in the next two weeks -- Kentucky and right here in West Virginia.



YELLIN (voice-over): They love her here. They really do.

CLINTON: So even when times are tough and it looks like the deck is stacked against you, Americans are resilient. And boy, West Virginians are sure resilient. And so... YELLIN: To West Virginians battered by the economy, Clinton promised help to keep families afloat. But the subtext was the help she seeks to keep her struggling campaign above water.

CLINTON: So, will you go out and vote tomorrow?

YELLIN: At times she seemed to reveal her current state of mind.

CLINTON: You get complacent, you get self-indulgent, you give up.

YELLIN: Clinton, trailing in delegates, states won and the popular vote, insists she's fighting to the end, telling a West Virginia audience on Mother's Day...

CLINTON: But I guess my favorite message was from a woman named Angela. "Keep strong," she said. "It's not over until the lady in the pantsuit says it is."

YELLIN: But many of her top supporters view her expected win here as little more than a last hurrah before Obama becomes the nominee. It's a widely-held view. has already started running Obama ads in key general election states.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a lifelong Republican and I'm voting for Barack Obama.

YELLIN: In his one West Virginia appearance today, Obama tipped his hat to Clinton.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am -- I am extraordinarily honored that some of you will support me.


I am grateful. I understand that many more here in West Virginia will probably support Senator Clinton.

YELLIN: Then he blew right past her to focus his comments on the race he hopes to run against John McCain.


YELLIN: Now, Wolf, as you pointed out, Barack Obama is planning in the next few weeks to campaign in key battleground states -- Michigan, Florida, Missouri. These are states though that are essential to win the general election.

And if location is everything, this also is telling. Tomorrow night, when Senator Clinton plans to hold a major West Virginia primary night party in Charleston, West Virginia, Barack Obama is down for the night. No evening event planned for him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, we'll see if that changes between now and then. Thank you. Jessica, let me ask you a quick question. The deck seems to be stacked against her right now. What are the insiders telling you why she's staying in this race?

YELLIN: Well, Wolf, she's frankly not sharing her thoughts right now with very many people at all, and even her closest circle of advisers are trying to understand what she really plans to do. Now, officially, of course, they're saying she's staying in this race through June 3. The question is, what does she want?

Does she want leverage to get Barack Obama to put some of her planks in the Democratic platform? Does she want a vice presidential offer? Does she just want her debt paid down?

It's not clear. She's meeting with some top supporters at her home in Washington -- or at least in Washington on Wednesday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica. Thank you.

Let's get a closer look at where the fight for those superdelegates stands right now.

Clinton's once daunting lead -- she was more than 100 superdelegates ahead of Obama at the beginning of the year -- is now completely gone. Obama leads by four right now. By CNN's count, Obama now has 277 superdelegates. Clinton has 273.

The gap in total delegates is wider. CNN estimates that Obama now has 1,869 total delegates. Clinton has 1,697. That's a 172 delegate advantage for Obama. But he's getting closer and closer to that 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. That's the magic number.

Once both parties' nominees are decided, superdelegates will be forgotten and electoral college votes will count big time.

Let's go to our chief national correspondent, John King. He's over at the CNN Election Center watching this for us.

Their travels right now, all three of these candidates, John, seem to say a lot about their calculations down the road.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. And let's start with Senator Clinton.

She obviously has a very steep hill to climb if she can somehow pull off a dramatic comeback and get the Democratic nomination. She's behind in superdelegates, you just mentioned, behind in pledged delegates.

So what is her argument? She is urging Democrats out on the campaign trail and in all these private meetings to look at this map, look at the states where she has won or is expected to do well -- in Pennsylvania, Ohio, out here in Tennessee. She's expected to win in West Virginia, then next week in Kentucky.

She says then, come over here with me. Let's look. Latino voters down here and out in California, giant electoral prizes.

Hillary Clinton's case to superdelegates and to anyone who will listen is, I think I'm a tougher candidate to go up against John McCain in November because I can win these white working class voters here, Latino voters out here.

That is her last best argument, Wolf, in making the case. But it is a very tough argument to make because of Senator Obama's advantage. And because of that right now, more and more people are focusing not on that map but on this map.

This takes you out to the fall, and this starts with the premise of this red is every state George W. Bush won, the blue is every state John Kerry one four years ago. We have this pinned as a McCain/Obama match up now.

And here's John McCain's message. He's out in Oregon today. And what he says is, I can appeal to Independent voters on issues like climate change, and I can take back a state like that. He says he'll be competitive out here.

He also says, you know what? I can put Minnesota and Wisconsin into play. Maybe I can get Pennsylvania if it's Barack Obama because he can't get those white Reagan Democrats. We saw that evidenced in the primary.

So John McCain is saying, look, I can put some 330, maybe even more, if I can appeal up here in the Northeast, but I can put some 330 electoral college votes in play. It doesn't mean he'd win them all, of course, but he thinks he can put more states in play than George W. Bush did and make the election competitive.

Now, here's Obama's returned argument. He would say this -- he would say, that's crazy, because you know why, Senator McCain? I'm confident I can get back Florida for the Republicans. I have great support out here in the state of Missouri.

I think because of all my support among African-Americans, you know, Virginia's been trending Democratic. Maybe I can get that.

And I'm going to come out here as well, because I'm registering new voters out here in Colorado. I'll get those Latino voters, you won't, and I'll get Nevada, maybe New Mexico as well. And you see Obama suddenly up, putting 320 or so electoral votes into play.

There's some other states too, but you see this would be Barack Obama's problem. No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. Can Barack Obama take it away? That's part of Hillary Clinton's argument, saying he can't win those voters, the white blue collar voters.

Barack Obama's biggest hole if you look at the electoral map is right here in the middle -- West Virginia, Ohio, his troubles in Pennsylvania so far. But both of these campaigns, Wolf, McCain and Obama, and Senator Clinton in her last-ditch effort on the Democratic side, are saying, yes, there are contests this Tuesday, contests next Tuesday, but they're all trying to position themselves based on what they expect and what they hope the swing states will be come November.

BLITZER: All right, John. Stand by, because we're going to have you back with more in the next hour.

John King reporting for us.

And John and Jessica Yellin, they are both part of the Emmy Award-winning best political team on television.

Tomorrow night, we'll bring you the election results from West Virginia from the CNN Election Center. Coverage begins right here in THE SITUATION ROOM at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

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

Hi, Jack.


Hillary Clinton should win big tomorrow in West Virginia. A new poll out shows her leading Barack Obama by 34 points. She remains strong among working class whites, women, older voters, and those demographics should play to her advantage in West Virginia, as well as in Kentucky the following week.

But how much does it matter? The answer is probably not a lot. Obama has this thing pretty much in the bag now.

He leads in overall delegates, states won, popular vote. And now, for the first time, as we just told you, he's ahead in superdelegates.

You may recall at the beginning of the year Clinton led in the superdelegate race by more than 100. She now trails by four.

Clinton's vowing to stay in the race until someone gets enough delegates to clinch the nomination. Her campaign is also pushing the idea that she is "within striking distance" of winning the popular vote. She says that ought to make her the nominee even though the rules are quite clear, the nomination is won based on delegates, not on the popular vote. And she knows that.

It's clear that Clinton has a steep road ahead for any chance at the nomination. If it exists at all. Her campaign's also confirming now that she is $20 million in debt.

For its part, the Obama camp is setting its sights on November. Instead of waiting for election night results in West Virginia, Barack Obama tomorrow will travel to Missouri, a swing state in November. Next week he's in Florida. It's also worth noting the tone of the introductory speeches at Obama events has turned now much more partisan, focusing exclusively on John McCain.

Here's the question: Is it possible for a landslide victory in West Virginia to put Hillary Clinton back in the race?

Go to You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thanks. See you in a few minutes.

Congressman Charlie Rangel supports Hillary Clinton's campaign, but not necessarily all of her most recent comments. I'll ask Congressman Rangel about his disagreement with her and what he knows about the future of her campaign. That's coming up next.

Also, John McCain is trying to break the Republican mold on global warming. What would he do differently than President Bush?

And he was a staunch conservative in Congress. Now he wants to be the Libertarian candidate for president. Could Bob Barr be a spoiler for Republicans this fall?

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


BLITZER: On the eve of the West Virginia primary Hillary Clinton supporters are ready for her to score a big win. But they can't ignore the delegate math that clearly works against her right now, or suggestions that it's time for her to call it quits.


BLITZER: And joining us now from New York, Congressman Charlie Rangel. He's a major supporter of Hillary Clinton.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Sure. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Where does this campaign between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama stand right now?

RANGEL: Well, I think it's abundantly clear that Barack is way ahead of us. And I thought you were going to ask the question they normally ask, you know, why doesn't she drop out? And then I would have responded by saying, for what?

I think this has been the most exciting primary for the Democrats and for Americans that we've ever had. So it's exciting people and I think it's going to make us all look better when we get to November.

BLITZER: So you think this is good for the eventual nominee, whoever that is?

RANGEL: I really do. Of course I do.

People want to vote, and they haven't voted. She gets out, some people are going to feel that they never got a chance to participate.

We've got people from all parts of the Democratic Party that's going to go out. She even went as far as to make an awkward and I describe it as a dumb statement that she's doing better in the white community than he's doing. You know, and candidates don't talk that way.

Obama has campaigned above the racial lines. But you know that this is politics. Whenever you find the TV stations talking about what's happening in the black community, which is obviously Obama's, and the white vote hasn't come in, so it's done in the back room. But certainly it is nothing to suggest that at the end of the game, that you bring these people in, you bring them into the Democratic Party.

And everyone would have anticipated against the extension of the Bush years with McCain. So I think it's going to be great.

BLITZER: You had suggested that that comment she made in that interview with "USA Today," in your words, was one of the dumbest things she could have said.

Let me play that little clip, and I want to discuss it with you. Just bear me out.


CLINTON: Senator Obama's support among working -- hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how the, you know, whites in both states who have not completed college were supporting me.


BLITZER: All right.

When you said it was one of the dumbest things she could have said, what did you mean exactly? Because I know you went out later that day and you were at a fundraiser with her. You obviously are very, very strong supportive of her.

RANGEL: Well, you know, I guess it's all right when pundits and reporters report things such as that. And there's no question in my mind that she could have said that in reaching out to bring in these people who are not participating for Obama, that she's going to go out and bring them in.

So at the end of the day we have Obama people, we have Clinton people, we have white people, black people, and people of all races. You know, that would have gone and that would have sold.

You can't leave those people just hanging out there because they don't support Obama now. And if anything, if she's doing so badly, she will bring them out, bring them into the party, and they'll stay in the party. And so it seems to me if you're a campaign manager, you would do what she was saying, but certainly we would not expect our candidates to do what reporters do.


RANGEL: And that is to talk about race. Reporters do it every night, every hour. BLITZER: I guess though what she was implying, and correct me if I'm wrong, is she thinks she would be more competitive against John McCain in the fall than Barack Obama.

Do you believe that?

RANGEL: Of course not. Of course not.

I think that Obama has shattered all of this business about white and black. But certainly not in certain parts of the country where you see big pro-Clinton areas. And certainly not in other areas where you have large minorities where they're big Obama.

He's done a great job, but the feeling of race and color is still out there. If the two of them, especially women who attach to her, come into the party, African-Americans come into the party, there is no question that McCain is not going to be the beneficiary of this type of diversity that we have in our great party.

BLITZER: Can she still win the presidential nomination?

RANGEL: Well, she would not be in there if she didn't believe that according to the rules and the math that she could. Most people said mathematically it's impossible.

BLITZER: What do you think?

RANGEL: That is -- that it doesn't make sense. If mathematically it was impossible, then the race is over. And I'm surprised that people use that term.

It may be that it's more difficult. But we in New York remember when the Giants were going to the Super Bowl, and I guess somebody might have said they don't stand a mathematical chance of winning. Well, we New Yorkers and the New York congressional delegation and those of us that love the Giants believe that as long as it is possible, we're going to be with her.

BLITZER: Have you spoken to her lately?

RANGEL: Sure. I spoke with her yesterday. I speak with her often.

BLITZER: And how did she sound?

RANGEL: Well, you can see it on TV. She's full of energy. I don't know how she does it. She's got a real great team behind her all over the country.

And the real question should be, is she more concerned with the party and winning than she is with herself? And most all the time that she talks with me, is what we are going to do come November. And that means working with Obama, working with other people who haven't checked out.

This is a great time in American history to have a woman there that's an outstanding candidate, to have an African-American that's an outstanding candidate, to have young people enthusiastic and coming together in order to make certain that the pain of the Bush years are behind us. I don't see -- I cannot think of any reporter that can show us a downside in letting everyone vote and going to the convention and coming out with one candidate. To me, it just makes a lot of sense.

BLITZER: We're out of time. But very quickly, should they be on the same ticket?

RANGEL: I think that would be absolutely terrific and -- and I hope it works out that way.

BLITZER: Congressman Rangel, always a pleasure having you in THE SITUATION ROOM.

RANGEL: Good to be with you.


BLITZER: Hillary Clinton seems to be softening her tone when she talks about Barack Obama right now. Is this an early glimpse of her efforts to rally the party behind her? We'll have a special edition of our "Strategy Session" coming up.

And one tornado tragedy after another. We're tracking powerful storms and pockets of devastation across parts of the U.S.

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



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

Happening now, a disturbing death toll that's likely to grow and grow. In China today, almost 9,000 people are dead after what's being called the biggest earthquake in over a generation. We're going to go there live.

John McCain sees two of his aides resign. This after it was revealed they previously did work for a country that McCain himself calls one of the most ruthless regimes in the world.

And is it proper or premature? Should the news media crown Barack Obama the Democratic nominee with Hillary Clinton still hoping for a showstopper?

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

John McCain is on the campaign trail today in a state that often votes Democratic -- Oregon. As Democrats say, that electing McCain would be like a third term for President Bush, McCain is in Oregon to disprove that claim regarding one specific issue.

CNN's Dana Bash is in Portland, Oregon -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Democrats call all this a masquerade, but John McCain's rhetoric on climate change is one of the issues his campaign thinks best positions him for the fall. It allows him to distance himself from an unpopular president and push a counterintuitive idea that a 71-year-old candidate can be an agent of change.


BASH (voice-over): Republican candidates don't often come to the Pacific Northwest to decry the effects of global warning. Precisely the reason John McCain did.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in Washington. Good stewardship, prudence and simple common sense demand, demand that we act to meet the challenge, and act quickly.

BASH: He rebuked President Bush, whose administration has been skeptical of science showing global warming.

MCCAIN: I will not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears. I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges.

BASH: McCain promised to abandon what he called dead-end diplomacy and push for a new global treaty. To reduce greenhouse gases, he proposes a cap-and-trade solution, which caps gas emissions, but allows companies to trade emission credits.

MCCAIN: And what better way to correct past errors than to turn the creative energies of the free market in the other direction? Under the cap-and-trade system this can happen. In all its power, the profit motive will suddenly begin to shift and point the other way, toward cleaner fuels.

BASH: Portraying himself as a rare species, a green Republican, is a regular part of McCain's stump speeches.

MCCAIN: ANWR, I believe, is a pristine place. I don't want to drill in the Grand Canyon and I don't want to drill in the Everglades.

BASH: But coming to Oregon to highlight his environmental proposals is all about the fight with Barack Obama for independent voters. In 2004, one-third of Oregon voters were independent, among the highest of the battleground states. It's why McCain is using one of his most precious resources, campaign cash, for this new TV ad here.


MCCAIN: I believe that climate change is real. It's not just a greenhouse gas issue. It's a national security issue.


BASH: Democrats and several left-leaning environmental groups blasted McCain for what they call hypocrisy, pointing out, for example, that he praised renewable energy here at this wind power plant, but voted against tax credits to promote research. The McCain campaign insists that legislation and others like it collided with another priority, cutting excess spending -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thank you.

Meanwhile, John McCain -- might, John McCain, that is, need to look over his shoulder for a possible political threat from the right?

The former Republican Congressman Bob Barr has just announced he's running for president as a Libertarian.

Let's get more from our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, who's watching the story for us.

Could Bob Barr, Bill, become the Ralph Nader of this campaign?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he could. But, then, so could Ralph Nader.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Should Republicans be concerned that former Republican congressman Bob Barr is running for the Libertarian Party nomination for president? In the 1990s, Barr was a staunch conservative who led the drive to impeach President Clinton. But after he lost his congressional seat in 2002, Barr made it clear that he is not a Bush Republican.

BOB BARR, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I have never been called a compassionate conservative.

SCHNEIDER: Barr calls President Bush a big-government Republican, too much spending, not enough regard for personal liberties.

BARR: Since 9/11, we have witnessed an historically unprecedented surge -- pardon the expression -- of power from the individuals and from the states to Washington.

SCHNEIDER: He is critical of the war in Iraq. So are a quarter of Republican voters. A third are anti-Bush. They could have voted for another Libertarian anti-war Republican in the primaries, Ron Paul. But anti-war, anti-Bush Republicans actually voted for John McCain. McCain may be anti-Bush enough for them.

When you vote for a third-party candidate, you are helping the candidate you like least. It makes sense only if you believe there's no difference between McCain and Barack Obama.

Do many voters believe that? RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The issue for a Republican voter will be, do I -- would I rather have John McCain as president, or cast a protest vote for somebody like Bob Barr, and throw the election to somebody like Barack Obama?

SCHNEIDER: He believes Barr could end up making McCain look more moderate.

GALEN: On a lot of these issues, he will show that John McCain is the more reasonable candidate.


SCHNEIDER: But, in a close election, even a small vote for Barr could tilt the out come to Obama in key states, like Florida in 2000, when Ralph Nader tilted the out come to Bush. Well, Nader's running again this year. And we don't even know if Bob Barr will get the Libertarian nomination. He faces opposition from some Libertarians who think he's too conservative on social issues. The Libertarians will meet to choose their candidate, Wolf, next week.

BLITZER: We will watch that convention. Thanks very much for that, Bill.

The party, by the way, that Bob Barr hopes to win over believes government is too big, too expensive, too inefficient, and intrudes its way in far too many people's lives. The Libertarian Party wants smaller government that gives Americans more freedom to make their own decisions.

In the last presidential election, the party was more politically active than any other third party. On abortion, Libertarians say it's a personal decision, and the government shouldn't be involved. The party advocates lower taxes and strongly backs the right to bear arms.

There are Republicans, and then there are Obamacans -- coming up, the new effort to try to get Barack Obama votes that might have gone to John McCain.

Plus: Hillary Clinton seems to be changing her tune. Is she seeking harmony with Barack Obama? A special edition of our "Strategy Session," that's coming up.

And two McCain aides step down because of embarrassing ties to a regime McCain himself calls ruthless.

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


BLITZER: The votes are in. And there's a winner in an online ad contest sponsored by -- the liberal group taking new steps to support Barack Obama's presidential bid.

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

Abbi, what's going on?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, more than 1,000 of these online ads were submitted, more than 1,000 to choose from. And, after five million votes and some input from a celebrity panel of judges, the liberal decided to go with a Republican voice.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need somebody that's going to represent the left and the right, the Democrat, Republican., everybody. I'm a lifelong Republican. And I'm voting for Barack Obama.


TATTON: The narrator there is identified in the video as Air Force veteran John Wyler (ph). The video is called "Obamacan," the name that Senator Obama gave to the Republicans that are crossing over to support his White House bid.

MoveOn has promised to spend $200,000 to air this ad. And now they are going back to the same people that voted for it to ask them to chip in -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

Coming up, a special edition of our "Strategy Session" -- the upbeat Hillary Clinton.


CLINTON: I'm excited, because I know there's not a problem we face in America that we can't solve. I am absolutely confident and optimistic that we can restore the greatness of America and that our best days as a nation are still ahead of us.


BLITZER: But does her optimism belie the fate of her campaign?

And, as McCain stumps for independents' votes, Obama heads to key general election battleground states. We're covering all of this with Donna Brazile, Paul Begala, and John Feehery. They're standing by for an extended version of our "Strategy Session."


BLITZER: Hillary Clinton says her presidential campaign is far from over. Yet, it appears she's not criticizing Barack Obama as much as she used to.

Joining us now for our "Strategy Session," two CNN political contributors and Democratic strategists, Donna Brazile and Paul Begala, and Republican strategist John Feehery.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in. She's -- the tone of her stump speeches out there clearly has changed. She's not really going after Barack Obama as much as she used to.


And, again, I'm -- I'm the guy who, from the beginning, has said I like negative campaigning. And I think this primary has been good for the party, because it's roughed the other -- each candidate up, but made them tougher and smarter.

But it's now time to turn direction. And, if you will recall, for several weeks, I have been saying, Hillary's key is to humanize Hillary, not to demonize Barack, that is, back off the attacks on Barack and start showing the party and the country the risk that John McCain poses as a third term for George W. Bush.

She's beginning to do that. And this was Hillary at her best, optimistic, positive. So, I love seeing her out there like that.

BLITZER: Let's listen to this little clip, Donna, the -- Hillary Clinton showing her resiliency and her optimism.


CLINTON: One thing about us is, we are always working for a better tomorrow. That's who we are. You know, even when times are tough and it looks like the deck is stacked against you, Americans are resilient.


BLITZER: All right. What do you think about this new tone, the change in tone, at least?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, it's a new day in the campaign. Paul is absolutely right. Democrats are ready to unify. We know that this race will not end until June 3. Senator Clinton has passionate supporters out there.

They want to see her get up every morning, fight for them, but as well as to draw -- begin to draw the contrasts with John McCain. I think what she's doing right now is absolutely the right strategy going forward.

BLITZER: Because, if the Democrats, John, can do that -- and that's a big if -- if they can really unite the party and join forces, that's a formidable challenge that John McCain will have.


But I would say that Hillary Clinton is looking stronger than she ever has in the campaign, and it's actually making Barack Obama look weaker. She's going to win big in Kentucky, win big in West Virginia. And that's going to highlight -- the story coming out of those two primaries is the weakness of Barack Obama. And that's going to be good for Republicans.

Actually, Hillary Clinton is not a Mike Huckabee, where Mike Huckabee kind of stayed in and kind of like played the Washington Generals to the Harlem Globetrotters. That's not what's going on here. This is really -- she's showing how strong she is as a campaigner. And that's going to hurt...


BLITZER: Will this highlight his weaknesses and -- and cause him problems, potentially, down the road, major losses, as expected, let's say, tomorrow in West Virginia, a week later in Kentucky, and then, if it goes June 1, to Puerto Rico among Hispanic voters?

BEGALA: Well, first, there's Oregon in there. There's, what, Montana and South Dakota?


BRAZILE: South Dakota, Puerto Rico.


BEGALA: Where Senator Obama is likely to be very strong, out in the West.

I think, actually, particularly West Virginia potentially highlights the vulnerability of Senator McCain. Now, the last two presidential campaigns, I am ashamed to admit, our party lost West Virginia. The Democrats lost West Virginia. And I think that's a tragedy.

BLITZER: Had you have carried it in 2000, there would have been a different president.

BEGALA: That would have been it.

Let's see how the turnout is, because, now, both Hillary and Barack are running in West Virginia, saying, reject John McCain. He's a third term for George Bush. I predict, even though there aren't attacks, fire -- there are no fireworks, but turnout will be up. And this will be very good for the Democrats. It's Senator McCain who needs to worry about...


BLITZER: Does it highlight, though, his vulnerabilities if she wins big in places like West Virginia and Kentucky?

BRAZILE: I don't see -- I don't believe it says anything about Obama. It says everything about Senator Clinton, they fact that she has run a very strong campaign. She's a very tough candidate.

And the truth of the matter is, is that Senator Clinton had enormous advantages in some of these states. Senator Obama has had an uphill climb in many of these states. And I think what you will see tomorrow night is Senator Clinton's ability to continue to get votes and to get delegates. And that's why this race should not end until June 3.

BLITZER: Senator McCain is really going after independents. You see this all the time. But, on this day, you know, he's talking about global warming, which is a very important issue for a lot of independent voters out there. What do you make of this?

FEEHERY: Well, it's important to about 4 percent of the voters, the number-one issue for about 4 percent.

The number-one issue is the economy, gas prices. So, as McCain does this, which I think is smart, because it shows that he's different than Bush, which he really needs to do, but, on the same token, he's got to swing back and get those Reagan Democrats. He's got to talk about gas prices. He's got to talk about the economy. He can't just...


BLITZER: So, global warming is not enough?

FEEHERY: It's not enough. It's certainly not enough. It's good for the -- the small percentage of upscale voters who can afford higher gas prices. Those are usually the Al Gore voters.


BRAZILE: And there are a lot of Al Gore voters out there, by the way.

BEGALA: He did win, by the way.


BEGALA: I keep hating having to raise that, but he did win the presidential election in the year 2000.

BLITZER: The popular vote.

BEGALA: And he won Florida, too. It was just those thieves in black thieves down in the Supreme Court.


BLITZER: All right, we're not going to rehash that.

BRAZILE: I'm not going to argue with him either.



BEGALA: I'm Donna's...

(CROSSTALK) BRAZILE: It's your birthday, honey.


BRAZILE: ... your birthday.

BEGALA: I do think McCain runs a big risk here, OK? He's trying to position himself as a moderate, as well as a maverick.

Well, he -- I don't even think he's either. But this is going to undermine his whole reputation for straight talk, because the truth is, it's just hot air. When he talks about global warming, it's hot air from or John McCain. He is somebody who does not actually have the sort of record that he holds himself out.

I saw today in "The Washington Post" the League of Conservation Voters pointed out that his rating is something like 26, 25, as opposed to Hillary and Barack, who both have 86. And Gene Karpinski, who helps run the League of Conservation Voters, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, that cares about the environment, the League of Conservation Voters says that McCain is not as green as he holds himself out to be.


BLITZER: But he's different, Donna, than George Bush on this whole issue.

BRAZILE: He is. Not only is his rhetoric different. His record is not much different, but Senator McCain says that this is going to be an issue, because he believes that he can solve this problem. He will put it on his agenda if he's elected president.

The truth is, is that he's trying to reach out of independents, and he knows that he cannot win, especially out West, unless independents come on board.

BLITZER: But if the Republicans were looking for a dream candidate who could reach out to independents, all those candidates who were out there, a lot of Republicans say they really got lucky in that John McCain effectively got this nomination.

FEEHERY: McCain is the best. He's been the best on the environment. A lot of Republicans don't like that record. He has been a stalwart on the environment. He's been strong on global warming. He's been talking about it for a long time. So, I would disagree.

And he also -- he has kind of threaded the needle. He's the guy who can talk about the environment, but also talk about real important issues for most Americans, which is the economy.

BLITZER: Paul, what does it say to you that, if we look at Barack Obama's schedule in the coming days, Tuesday, he's in Missouri, Wednesday, he's Michigan, and May 21, and May 22, he's in Florida?

Now, as far as I know, none of those states has any upcoming contests any time soon.

BEGALA: I know. Guys like me -- and probably Donna -- people who used to do this for a living and then watch it, all we do is second-guess. I could have done this better. I could have done that better.

I'm watching David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Barack Obama, and there's nothing I could have thought of that would be half as good as what Axe is doing for Barack. I'm not kidding.

He's going to places. Michigan and Florida didn't really have contested primaries. I have been worried about that from the beginning, because I want those contested primaries to get more volunteers, more voters, more Democrats. So, now he's going and doing that without a primary. He's going to campaign exactly where he needs to be.

Missouri has picked the president every election for the last 100 years. So, Obama's going there. He has the support of Claire McCaskill, popular new senator.

BLITZER: He beat -- he beat Clinton in Missouri, narrowly, but he did beat her.

BEGALA: He beat Hillary there. He did win narrowly. But he's got -- he's got real roots there now, because he's campaigned there. He's got to develop those roots in Michigan and Florida.

And he's doing it even before guys like me could whine about it. So, I'm mad at David Axelrod for being so much smarter than I am.

BRAZILE: What do you think, Donna?


BRAZILE: That's probably because he gets paid more than both of us.


BRAZILE: Look, the truth is that Obama must continue to campaign in these upcoming states. He cannot ignore these voters in the upcoming states.

At the same time, John McCain had a head-start in presenting himself a bio tour, forget -- America tour. Well, Obama also needs to go out there and present himself to many of these voters, before the Republicans try to define them.

BLITZER: We will end this discussion by just saying happy birthday to Paul.

BEGALA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Happy birthday, Paul.


BEGALA: ... John McCain.

BRAZILE: Happy birthday...


BEGALA: Thanks, honey.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Barack Obama is ready to roll out a welcome mat for John McCain. We are going to tell you about the unconventional idea they're kicking around right now.

Plus, are journalists and pundits jumping the gun and crowning Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee? We are going to take you inside the news media coverage.

And, later, new warning signs for Republicans in the general election. Do they need to change their message? And do they need to do that fast?

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


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In Oklahoma, a firefighter rescues a dog trapped in debris that was left after a tornado leveled a town.

In Thailand, U.S. soldiers load supplies in a C-130 plane bound for Myanmar.

In India, men struggle as they carry stacks of bricks on their heads.

And, in Hong Kong, a woman wearing a traditional opera costume dances during a Bun Festival parade. The festival celebrates the god of the sea -- some of this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth 1,000 words.

On our Political Ticker today, Barack Obama is leaving the door open to holding some joint campaign events with John McCain if he winds up facing the all-but-certain Republican nominee in the fall. Obama says it's a great idea, if the logistics can be worked out. McCain also is open to the idea. The Republican cites his joint appearances with Democrat Bill Bradley in 1999, when they were running for their respective parties' presidential nod.

Hillary Clinton comes out on top in a new measure of how the Democrats might do against John McCain in November. A new "Los Angeles Times"/Bloomberg poll shows Clinton leading McCain by nine percentage points among registered voters nationwide. The poll shows Obama leading McCain by six percentage points. The survey was taken May 1 through 8, before and after the mixed results from the Democratic primaries in Indiana and North Carolina last Tuesday.

The first daughter Jenna Bush now is a married woman. The wedding in Crawford, Texas, went off without a hitch on Saturday night and without any public displays of partisanship.

But here's an interesting fact you may have missed. The pastor who officiated the wedding and who is a longtime spiritual adviser to President Bush is himself a Barack Obama supporter.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can check out That's also where you can read my daily blog post, Posted one just a little while ago.

Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour: Is it possible, is it possible for a landslide victory in West Virginia to somehow put Hillary Clinton back in the race?

Most of you don't think it is.

Judie in Saint Augustine, Florida: "Hillary only thinks she is still in the race. The race has been over for some time. But please don't let her know. It's a secret that we are keeping from her. She is basically running against herself, like one of those hamsters running on a wheel, getting nowhere. This is really getting sadder day by day."

Robert writes: "The horse is dead. Stop beating it. It's over. Good night, Irene. Elvis has left the building. The fat lady doesn't do encores. Remember to tip your servers. The entire world, except for Hillary, recognizes that it is over for Mrs. Clinton."

Susan in Missouri: "Jack, the race is not over. Hillary can still win the nomination."

Travis writes: "Honestly, a year ago, I couldn't imagine even having this conversation. Obama came out of nowhere, took this nomination away from the Clintons, because they felt they were entitled to it. He worked really hard, played by the rules laid out by the DNC, and he won it fair and square. Looking at Hillary's shortsighted campaign, divisiveness and campaign debt, how good would she be at running the country? This thing is over."

Lanny in Kentucky: "I live in Kentucky. A co-worker told me months ago that, for the first time in history, we might have a chance to change the outcome of an election. I would have never believed him, but now it looks like it could become a reality. My family and I will be voting for Hillary Clinton on May 20."

Winsten in Berrien Springs, Michigan, says: "A landslide victory in West Virginia is just one more reason for Barack Obama to put Hillary on the ticket. Who else but Hillary can deliver the Hatfield/McCoy vote?"


CAFFERTY: And Tom in Huntington, New York, says, "You just love stirring the pot, don't you, Jack?"

Yes, I do.

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at Look for yours there, along with hundreds of others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, China's worst earthquake in a generation kills nearly 9,000 people, reducing schools, factories and countless homes to rubble. Authorities warn, the toll may go much higher.

The cyclone disaster in Myanmar leads to political trouble for John McCain -- why two of his aides have suddenly quit the campaign.

And will West Virginia be more than a last hurrah for Hillary Clinton? Barack Obama doesn't need to win there -- why a poor showing could come back to haunt him, nevertheless.

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