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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Clinton Wins West Virginia

Aired May 13, 2008 - 20:00   ET

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


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And this is one of the states, he says, where that sense of familiarity is crucial. They want to know what these people are like as people.
And he says, Barack Obama has been at a disadvantage here, because they don't know him in that way. And he said, you know, in the worst case -- this is the governor speaking -- he said, if Clinton should not become the nominee, and Obama is, he will have a lot of repair work to do. That was the phrase the governor used, repair work.

And, by that, he says he meant Obama will have to go into these rural communities and let people get to know him as a guy. He says, the governor says, it's possible. He believes Obama can win here, but it's a lot of work, he acknowledges. So -- but tonight the folks in this room are focused not on what happens if Obama becomes the nominee, but on Senator Clinton, and, as you can see, very excited -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thanks very much.

Jessica Yellin is in Charleston, West Virginia.

Once Hillary Clinton comes to the stage, starts speaking, we will go there live.

I want to walk over right now to a special guest that we have invited here into the CNN Election Center. Howard Wolfson...

HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Wolf.

BLITZER: ... the Clinton communications director, has come in.

Thanks very much for coming in.

WOLFSON: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Congratulations on the win in West Virginia tonight.

WOLFSON: Thank you. Thank you.

BLITZER: I guess you could say a lot of those West Virginia working-class voters weren't necessarily paying attention to the pundits, who said this was all wrapped up, because she has a wide margin based on our projection.

What's your reaction when you see this impressive win for her tonight in an important state like West Virginia, but Hillary Clinton basically being written off as done, as toast, if you will, by so many of the pundits?

WOLFSON: You know, we have seen this time and time again in this race, where the pundits write her off and the voters have a different thing in mind.

And here in West Virginia, it looks like we're going to win a huge victory. It's a real testament to Senator Clinton. She's out there connecting with voters. And I think superdelegates tomorrow are going to look at this. They're going to say, here's another swing state that Senator Clinton has won, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida.

And they're going to say, you know, we want somebody at the top of the ticket in November who can win those swing states.

BLITZER: All right. So, can you sit here tonight, Howard Wolfson, and tell her supporters out there that she is absolutely, positively staying in until the final contest on June 3?

WOLFSON: You know, I don't think there's been anyone in the history of American politics who's gotten out after a 30-point win. So, yes, we are staying in. We are in until the very end. We think we're going to be the nominee. We're going to make our case to the superdelegates.

BLITZER: But the math is so much against you. How do you -- walk us through the scenario how she becomes the nominee.

WOLFSON: Sure.

BLITZER: She's way behind in the pledged delegates. She's now behind in the superdelegates. Walk us through a scenario where she can overcome those numbers.

WOLFSON: Well, last week, when I was asked this question, I said it started in West Virginia, and it did. We had a big victory there tonight. Voters there have ratified Senator Clinton's vision for the Democratic Party. They want her to be nominee. West Virginia is a key swing state.

No Democrat has won the presidency without winning West Virginia since Woodrow Wilson back in the early part of the 20th century. So, this is a big victory for Senator Clinton.

BLITZER: But even if she has impressive victories in the five remaining contests, given the way the Democrats divide up delegates, on a proportionate basis, she's still going to be behind when the dust settles on June 3.

WOLFSON: You know, we don't know that, and we don't leave the field in the fourth quarter of a game in which we are down slightly, and that's where we are now.

And you certainly don't leave the field when you are making progress. We won Indiana. We won Ohio. We won Texas. We won Pennsylvania. We weren't supposed to win these states. Senator Obama had an opportunity to knock Senator Clinton out. Time and time again, the pundits have written her off. And each time, the voters say, just a minute. Wait a second. Let's have our say.

And, in West Virginia, they had a big say tonight.

BLITZER: What about the financial burden that she has, the reports suggesting she's $20 million already in debt? He has a lot more cash on hand than she has.

WOLFSON: Well, there's no question that Senator Obama has the ability to outspend us.

He did it in West Virginia. We won a big victory there tonight, despite the fact that we were outspent. He did it in Pennsylvania. He shattered the spending records in Pennsylvania. We beat him there. We have shown that we can beat Senator Obama, even getting outspent.

Our donors are still eager and active for Senator Clinton to continue. I hope that they're all going to HillaryClinton.com right now and giving generously. We're going to have the resources that we need to compete and get our message out. We're going to be outspent. That's OK. We have shown that we can win being outspent.

BLITZER: All right, now, stand by for a moment, Howard.

You're here at the CNN Election Center.

WOLFSON: I am.

BLITZER: I'm going to take advantage of our own John King.

And, John, I want you to show the math to Howard Wolfson, assuming that she not only does incredibly well tonight, but incredibly well in the five remaining contests where this presidential nominating process would stand after June 3.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'm going way out on a limb and I'm going to bet that Howard has studied this math as much as I have, if not more than I have, in the recent weeks.

But I just gave -- while you gentlemen were talking, I assigned West Virginia to Senator Clinton by a 65/35 margin. Therefore, you see yellow is where we started the light, the greenish-yellow line. You see a little bit of movement, blue, just over the line. Senator Clinton picked up roughly, her proportion, if she wins 65 to 35, delegates tonight, which gets us to this math here.

And I know Howard is well aware of it, but I would like to hear his thoughts on it. There are 201 delegates left to be decided in the five remaining contests, five remaining contests, including Puerto Rico, and then 240 superdelegates, who we have not -- who either say they are undecided or undeclared or we at CNN have not been able to verify which candidate they would support yet. Looking at this math, just over 440 delegates left, including the superdelegates, Barack Obama needs three in 10, just three in 10, and he is the Democratic nominee. So, that is the challenge, because as you go into the remaining contests, Barack Obama in most states -- yes, he may get blown out in West Virginia tonight, but in most states even if he's losing it's in the 55/45 range.

But, Wolf, I'm just going to do this and just say, if he wins roughly there, come down here, those are superdelegates, and then he wins these in the pledged contests left to be, I am give him only -- of the 200, I am going to give him 56. That comes down to 50. Let's give him a few more and he's right up at the finish line.

And all he has to do -- that's fewer than -- that's three in 10 and he goes over the finish line.

So, I guess my question to Howard is, how, with the momentum Senator Obama has had, with the contests going out to Oregon and other places in which he is favored, how do you win 71 percent from here to the finish line?

WOLFSON: Well, John, I appreciate the question.

First of all, I don't think it's 71 percent, because it does not include Florida and Michigan. Your calculations do not include Florida and Michigan. We believe that Florida and Michigan should be seated in the direct proportionality to how the citizens there voted -- 2.5 million people voted in Florida and Michigan. We think that those votes and those preferences ought to be honored at our convention.

The Democratic Committee is going to decide on May 31 what to do about Florida and Michigan. We think that 100 percent of those voters ought to be honored, their preferences ought to be honored. So, we will have more delegates as a result of Florida and Michigan being seated. That's the right thing do. So, it will not be 71 percent. It will be some percent less than that.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: But you agree that, tonight, it is 71 percent, tonight? Unless and until the Democratic National Committee, the Rules Committee changes those rules, that is the math, roughly 70, 71 percent?

WOLFSON: I don't accept any math that doesn't include Florida and Michigan. I have absolutely no doubt that the Democratic National Committee in its wisdom is going to decide how to seat Florida and Michigan. Those votes are going to count. We are not going to go into a convention with only 48 states represented. There's no chance of that.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: One more quick question, then. Back when she was campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire and the voters in those states were mad at Michigan and Florida for trying to move up on the calendar, Senator Clinton was among those who supported the penalties, who supported the Democratic National Committee's decision at the time to tell those states, don't cheat the rules. Iowa and New Hampshire must be respected. Fall in a little bit lower on the calender.

So, she was for those rules at the beginning. She wants them changed now.

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFSON: Actually, I don't think that's correct.

None of the candidates, actually, I think, took a position about the DNC's original decision to strip Florida and Michigan. But nobody thought that 2.5 million people were going to come out in Florida and Michigan at the point in which the DNC stripped Florida and Michigan from having its delegates.

When you have 2.5 million people come out, that's not 100,000 people in a primary that nobody's paying attention to. That's an enormous turnout. The Democratic Party is not going to turn its back on 2.5 million people. We're going to honor those votes and we're going to honor 100 percent of them.

And, you know, I think superdelegates are going to wake up tomorrow and they're going to say, West Virginia, it is a pretty important swing state in the context of beating John McCain. Senator Clinton has predicted she would carry West Virginia against John McCain. She showed tonight just how she would do that.

This is not just a small victory. This is a huge victory. You know, the media has been telling voters Barack Obama is the presumptive nominee, it's all over, give up, don't come out and vote. And yet, in overwhelming numbers, they have come out and voted for Senator Clinton tonight.

I think superdelegates are going to look at that tomorrow and say, you know, let's slow this down. Let's take a look at this. Can we really deny the nomination to somebody who's won the key swing states of West Virginia and Ohio and Michigan and Florida and Pennsylvania? I don't think that's a good idea for our party.

BLITZER: All right. I just want to make the point, if, in fact, Florida and Michigan are counted, then the magic number needed to secure the nomination goes from 2,025 up to more than 2,200, right? What's the exact number?

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFSON: Twenty -- 2,209.

BLITZER: Now, what gives you any reason to believe that, when the Rules Committee meets on May 31, they're going to make that change, what you want, so that the overall number would go up, and she presumably would have a chance of getting more of those delegates from Florida and Michigan?

WOLFSON: Well, for two reasons. One, it's the right thing to do. America is founded on the principle of democracy. When people come out and vote, the votes are counted. They're honored. We believe in that.

Two, it's the smart thing to do. The Democratic Party is not going to turn its back on 2.5 million people in two key swing states and say, you don't count. We don't want your votes. That would be a very bad idea if we're going to try to win those states and appeal to those voters in November against John McCain.

BLITZER: So, if you're right, May 31 will be an incredibly important date that we are going to be watching.

I want to welcome back Campbell Brown. She's got the best political team on television, also, one of the members of that Rules Committee, Campbell, who is going to be able to give us her assessment of what Howard Wolfson has just been suggesting.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: That's exactly what we want to do, Wolf.

We have got Donna Brazile with us, who, as Wolf just said, is a member of the Rules Committee that is going to meet on that issue.

Donna, you heard what Howard just said, his quote: "I will not accept any math that does not include Florida and Michigan."

He's putting it all on your shoulders.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Actually, I think he's putting it on the shoulders of all 30 members of the Rules Committee. We will meet -- Howard is right -- on May 31 in Washington, D.C.

I don't know the hotel. Otherwise, I would gave that out as well. But Howard Dean has said that he will try to figure out a way to ensure that everyone is represented at the convention. We don't have a formula yet. But we have not made a decision.

We will hear from the two state parties. We will hear from the candidates and their representatives, if they would like to attend. But we will also hear from the challengers, those who are challenging the rules.

Look, 48 states complied with the rules. I have been on the Rules Committee for 10 years. I know the rules just like everyone else, but I respect the process. And we have to respect the integrity of the process.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: You know where everybody stands on this. You just heard Howard make his case. You have certainly heard from the other side. We have heard you make a case on this issue time and time again on this -- on these election nights here on CNN. I mean, what do you think should happen? What is the right thing to do?

BRAZILE: Well, the rules are the rules. And we went through this process for a long, long time.

And I respect what Howard said tonight in terms of the people who voted in Florida and Michigan. But I also respect the millions of voters in the 48 states that also complied with the rules. We have to insure that the integrity of the process is not messed up in such a way that would hurt us in years to come.

At the same time, I think Howard Dean has made it very clear, we're going to sit down and try to figure out a resolution on May 31.

BROWN: And Howard suggested that -- that Senator Clinton had not necessarily agreed to those -- to support those rules early on, but the candidates did all sign a pledge saying that, in fact, they would. Isn't that correct?

BRAZILE: The candidates signed a pledge to the four early states, who complied with the rules, that they would not campaign in the two states. And they did not. I know there are some people who said that, you know, some people ran ads, some people had a fund- raiser later that night or a victory rally. The rules are the rules.

We spent a lot of time trying to avoid a train wreck because some states even threatened to go before Christmas. And no one should be forced to vote before Santa Claus delivers our Christmas gifts.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: All right. Wolf, you want to get Howard's reaction?

BLITZER: Yes, I do want Howard to react.

You just heard Donna. She's a key member of the Rules Committee. She said there are 30 members of that Rules Committee. They meet May 31, only days before the final primaries, June 1, in Puerto Rico, June 3 in Montana and South Dakota. What's your reaction?

WOLFSON: I have known Donna for a long time. She's a great Democrat. There are a lot of great Democrats on that committee.

I think the committee, in its wisdom, will decide to seat the delegations from Florida and Michigan, and they will do it for the reasons I have outlined. It's the right thing to do. We don't want to punish the people of Florida and Michigan because the leadership in those states made a decision...

BLITZER: But it's one thing to seat the delegates. It's another thing to divide up the delegates in a proportionate way or some sort of way between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. How do they do that?

WOLFSON: They do it in the manner which people voted. This is America. (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But he didn't even campaign in -- none of them campaigned, and his name wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan.

WOLFSON: And he took his name off the ballot in Michigan presumably because he thought he wasn't going to win. That's OK. That was his right to do that.

But we believe in America that, when you come out and vote, your vote is honored. We're not going to tell the people of Florida and Michigan that their votes didn't count. Again, this isn't one of these elections where nobody was paying attention and nobody came out and voted, that people were told not to vote and they stayed home.

They were told not to vote, and they came out in droves, in record numbers. We're going to honor those rules.

BLITZER: But the rules were the rules. The DNC said, if they move them up to January, they're going to have no say in selecting the nominee.

WOLFSON: And I don't believe that we're going to punish the people who voted for the mistakes that the leadership in those states made -- Republican mistakes, by the way, in -- in moving the calendar.

I think we're going to allow those people to have their say at the convention.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Howard. I think you're going to be with us a little bit longer.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Howard Wolfson is going to be here.

We're also standing by to hear from Hillary Clinton. She's the winner, an impressive winner, tonight in West Virginia. She's getting ready to speak in Charleston, West Virginia. Once she speaks, we will go there. We're all going to be anxious to hear the tone of her remarks tonight, as she wins in West Virginia.

Remember, CNNPolitics.com is the best place out on the Web where you can be right now, get all the information. We're beginning to get the real numbers coming in from the precincts in West Virginia.

We want to see precisely how big of a margin she has going forward.

Much more of our coverage from the CNN Election Center -- right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Almost an hour since the polls closed in West Virginia. We immediately projected an impressive win for Hillary Clinton tonight. She will win. She will carry West Virginia by a wide margin.

But we want to see how wide exactly that margin is. We're standing by. The real numbers will start coming in. Once they do, you will see them right here at the CNN Election Center.

I want to walk over to Soledad O'Brien and Bill Schneider, because they're continuing to digest these exit poll numbers.

And, Soledad, I can't stress how important these numbers are, because these were actual voters, as opposed to likely voters, maybe voters. These were people who emerged from the ballots. They came out and spoke to our individuals who were there gathering the information and shared their thoughts with us.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it gives you a very good insight in really what the voters across the nation maybe would do.

And we have talked a lot about these blue-collar whites, where Hillary Clinton was very strong. But was there an area where she was weak? So, we wanted to take a look at the numbers on both sides of that equation.

So, let's start where she was strong.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Strong, blue- collar whites. Everyone has been talking about that constituency. It was very important. Here's how they voted in West Virginia.

White voters who did not get a college degree, non-college white voters, 72 percent -- hello -- 72 percent for Hillary Clinton, 23 percent for Barack Obama. This is one of her strongest constituencies. And it points up a problem that a lot of people are talking about. Namely, can he make inroads into that vote? Let me add that those voters have rarely voted for a Democrat for president in past elections.

O'BRIEN: And what percent of the total electorate is that voting bloc?

SCHNEIDER: Two-thirds in West Virginia. So, in West Virginia, you have a lot of voters who don't have a college degree. It's a little higher than in many other states.

O'BRIEN: OK. Then white voters with a college degree.

SCHNEIDER: Well, here, Obama usually does better. And he did do well -- he did do better in West Virginia among white voters with a college degree. Clinton still won, 55 percent. But Obama's support is up to 41 percent. But there weren't too many of them in West Virginia. He clearly had a problem with the blue-collar voters, but even with the college-educated voters, he didn't do all that well.

O'BRIEN: So, we have heard tonight that Hillary Clinton's win is a big victory. We have also heard, well, it's a small state, not a big victory. Which is it?

SCHNEIDER: Big victory, small state.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHNEIDER: I call Hillary Clinton -- that's the summary of the election. I call her the comeback-of-the-month kid. Her husband was the comeback kid.

But, every month, when everything looks like she's gone, she comes back. After Iowa and New Hampshire, then after a string of losses in February, it was Super Tuesday. And then in March, after a whole bunch of losses, she came back and won Ohio, and then, in April, Pennsylvania. And now people have given her up and here she comes back in West Virginia. Is it enough? I repeat, big victory, small state.

BLITZER: All right, guys. I know you have got a lot more numbers that you're going through.

We're going to check back with you shortly, Soledad and Bill.

Let's go back to Campbell. She's going to digest what we just heard and a lot more with the best political team on television.

BROWN: Thanks, Wolf.

And we do want to mention again that we're waiting to hear from Hillary Clinton. She's expected to speak to her supporters shortly.

So, with that in mind, let me ask you guys, this could be a very telling speech for her, especially in terms of the tone that she takes, that could essentially set the stage for the duration of this campaign. What do you think we will hear from her tonight, John?

KING: I think you will hear a very upbeat, positive message, that she won West Virginia. She believes the voters of West Virginia there have sent the party and the country a message about that what they want. And then she will move to Kentucky, and other places where she has strength, while these other issues, including Michigan, and Florida in the Rules Committee are resolved.

She has a very, very, very, very small window through which she could become the Democratic nominee. And, yes, she will have to draw contrasts with Senator Obama in Kentucky, in Oregon, in Puerto Rico, and elsewhere, but it is not by going completely whack, whack, whack against Barack Obama. We're too late in the process for that. Her window is too small. She has a big win tonight. She should get attention with that big win and move on.

BROWN: The big win, does the margin of victory, I mean...

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Huge.

BROWN: Does it matter? It's going to be huge, but does it matter how huge? Are we paying attention to those numbers at this point? BORGER: Well, because we were -- it's all about expectations, as usual, and because we were expecting such a large margin, you're getting such a large margin. And so, I think Hillary Clinton should clearly take credit for that.

She and Bill Clinton ran a terrific campaign in West Virginia. He's very popular there, as we were talking about earlier. Six in 10 voters said that he was very important to their vote.

So, tonight, I think she should talk about herself and I think we're going to hear her talk about the stakes of the election. I don't think we are going to hear from Hillary Clinton what we heard from Howard Wolfson tonight, because they have two very different roles. You know, Howard Wolfson is the -- is representing the campaign that wants to continue, that wants to fight on.

And I think Hillary Clinton, as the candidate tonight, you're going to hear her talk about the larger stakes for the Democratic Party.

BROWN: OK. I'm going to come back to that theme in a minute.

But, Suzanne, I know you have a little bit of news to report.

(CROSSTALK)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I have been on the phone with the Obama folks. And also our own Chris Welch, producing with the Obama campaign, says that Obama did call Clinton when he was taxiing on his plane to congratulate her. He got voice- mail.

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: ... 21st century. Got voice-mail. OK.

But he made the gesture. He's done that every single time. One thing about the Obama folks as well that they're saying is that, OK, she got West Virginia, big night for Hillary Clinton. But look at the superdelegates. They're not winning them over. They're not making their case here -- 27 superdelegates they have gotten since Indiana and North Carolina. They also believe that, by the end of the month, that they will have the remaining superdelegates. So, they just don't think it's going to make all that much difference.

BROWN: All right.

We're going to take a quick break, but stay with us. We are still waiting to hear from Senator Clinton, who is expected to be speaking to her supporters shortly. We have got some numbers coming in as well.

We will be back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're standing by to hear from Hillary Clinton. She is about to speak to her supporters in Charleston, West Virginia. Once she starts speaking, we will go there live.

We're going to be listening very closely to hear her message tonight, the tone of her remarks. How hard will she be against Barack Obama? What will she say about John McCain? That speech coming up.

An impressive victory for Hillary Clinton tonight in West Virginia. We have projected that she will be the winner by a wide margin. Right now, about 1 percent of the precincts have reported -- the numbers only beginning to trickle in from West Virginia, right now, Hillary Clinton with 56 percent, to Barack Obama's 36 percent.

If we zoom in on the actual numbers that have come in so far, we can see that this is just the beginning of the process in counting these numbers, 1,436 for Clinton, 910 for Obama. But, remember, this is only 1 percent of the votes that have come in.

If you look at the counties in West Virginia, only two counties have actually started reporting. And you see, one, the dark blue, is an Obama county where he's ahead right now. The light blue is Hillary Clinton, where she is ahead.

And we will watch to see these other counties begin to fill in the blanks as this night moves on. But, once again, she is protected to be winner.

I want to bring in one of her main supporters right now, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

He's been with Hillary -- with Barack Obama now for some time. He helped Barack Obama in Pennsylvania. Didn't exactly work out the way he wanted, but, certainly, he did a pretty good job helping him.

Senator Casey, what's your reaction to this big win for Hillary Clinton in West Virginia, a neighboring state to Pennsylvania, right now?

SEN. BOB CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, Wolf, I think Senator Clinton should be congratulated on this win.

And I do think, though, that what's happening already is, I think people are beginning to think about the fall election. And I think Senator Obama is going to be able to garner an awful lot of support in places like West Virginia and parts of Pennsylvania, where maybe, against a strong Democrat, a very strong Democrat, like Senator Clinton, he didn't win.

But I think, in the fall, when the choice is between Senator Obama, a Democrat who stands for change, vs. John McCain, who's a Republican, standing for basically more of the same, I think he's going to do real well. But this is -- we should certainly congratulate her tonight.

BLITZER: We spoke a little while ago with Howard Wolfson from the Clinton campaign. He's the communications director.

And he makes the point that, when the Rules Committee of the Democratic National Committee meets at the end of May, May 31, they have to decide to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida, and let their delegates be counted in this process.

And, as a result, he sees the math moving toward Hillary Clinton's favor. What do you think about that -- that notion?

CASEY: Well, I wouldn't expect him to say anything else. I don't think there's any question there's going to be a fair seating of delegates from both of those states. But I think what people are beginning to focus on now is the real debate in this campaign, which is going to be whether or not America's going to stay on this path we've been on, or whether we're going to change.

I think that the strength of Senator Obama's candidacy is not only a message of change and taking on and fighting very hard against the special interests in Washington and doing things a different way, but also his own story, which is a story of struggle and triumph over a lot of difficult circumstances in his life. And I think in my home state of Pennsylvania in the context of a general election, he's going to do real well in --

BLITZER: Well, why wasn't that strength manifested in West Virginia tonight or in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago?

CASEY: Well, because, Wolf, I think it's very simple, and I don't think this has been very well analyzed by a lot of people. We're talking about a primary election. In certain places, Senator Clinton's very strong. The choice is between a very strong Democrat and another strong Democrat, and she's done -- she's done well in certain places.

In Pennsylvania, she's done well in places like West Virginia. But I do think in the fall, when voters have that choice between a Republican who's saying basically continue the Bush policy in Iraq, the same tax cuts, the same kind of inside Washington game, versus a Democrat like Senator Obama with his life story and his focus on the middle class taking on special interests, I don't think there's any question it is a different election, and I think he's going to do real well.

BLITZER: There were some disturbing exit poll numbers on the Hillary Clinton supporters in West Virginia. Look at this. Obama, we asked, would you vote for Obama if Hillary Clinton did not get the nomination?

Only 36 percent of those Democrats who voted today in West Virginia said they would vote for Barack Obama. Thirty-five percent said they would vote for John McCain. Twenty-four percent said they would not vote.

Now, this is a high number. But even in Pennsylvania and Ohio, we saw a similar number, a large number of Hillary Clinton supporters saying, you know what, come November, we're not going to vote for Barack Obama. That must be disconcerting to you.

CASEY: Wolf, it really isn't because I've been through a lot of tough primaries in my home state of Pennsylvania. I want to talk about real tough primaries. And I've heard vows and promises over the years, I will never support the other candidate. Those promises and those vows usually melt away.

Democrats fight very hard because we really believe in change. We really believe in changing the course of the country. But I think in the end, Senator Obama is going to be able to unify this party. I think Senator Clinton and her supporters are going to come together and help us.

I think he's going to be the nominee. We're not there yet, but I think we're going to unify, because the question for a Democrat at the end of the day is do you want more of the same or do you want change? And I think they're going to vote for change.

BLITZER: We're out --

CASEY: I'm not saying we don't have to work hard at unity. It's going to be a challenge, but I think we can bring people together.

BLITZER: We're out of time. But are you among those Democrats who would like him to pick her for the ticket?

CASEY: Oh, Wolf, I won't weigh in on the vice presidential question. I think that Senator Obama, if he's the nominee, will have to make that decision. But I don't think I should weigh in on that. That's really going to be up to the candidate.

BLITZER: A diplomatic answer. Senator Casey, thanks for coming in.

CASEY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And once again, we're standing by. We're waiting to hear from Hillary Clinton. She's going to be speaking momentarily to her supporters in Charleston, West Virginia, on this, a night where she wins impressively the Democratic presidential primary.

We'll go there live when she starts speaking. Remember CNNpolitics.com. That's the place to be where you want additional information. The numbers are only trickling in, but we're watching closely to see what the margin -- what the margin will be.

Remember, tomorrow in "THE SITUATION ROOM," I'll be sitting down one-on-one with Hillary Clinton. We'll be talking with her about all these issues facing the country right now. Hillary Clinton in "THE SITUATION ROOM" tomorrow. Much more of our coverage from the ELECTION CENTER right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back, everybody. We are waiting now to hear from Senator Hillary Clinton who is in West Virginia tonight. We can show you a live picture of her supporters gathered at the Clinton headquarters waiting for her to arrive to give her speech. Should be happening any moment now.

You can see -- apparently they know CNN is on, showing a live shot of the headquarters. We want to bring in -- bring back our panel in for a little bit of analysis.

Now, I want to reintroduce the members of our panel. Leslie Sanchez, Republican strategist, Jamal Simmons, who, we should say, is an Obama supporter. Welcome to Hillary Rosen, who's just joining us, a Clinton supporter, Alex Castellanos, Republican strategist, and our very own CNN contributor Roland Martin. Welcome, everybody.

And Hillary Clinton has been hearing for the -- certainly the last week from some of her most important supporters. We're trying to get a read on what it is that she's going to do. Is she staying in? Is she getting out?

And I want to ask you, guys, kind of a philosophical question. What is it do you think that Hillary Clinton really wants? Does she want to be VP? Is she thinking about 2012? You know, does she want to go out on a high note?

And let me start with you, Hilary. You're a supporter. What do you think it is that she wants?

HILARY ROSEN, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Well, she really wants to be president. And I don't think that there is anybody who's convinced her yet that she shouldn't still try and be president.

BROWN: What about her staff? Are they divided on this internally? We've got Howard sitting over there, so we can ask him about it later on.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: And he says they're not, they're not. I take him at his word. Look it -- listen, you know, Hillary Clinton has spent the last week since when the whole -- all of Washington and the political world said she was dead, has spent the last week on the campaign trail. And I guarantee you that every single person she met said, stay in there, Hillary. Keep fighting. You're speaking for me. Don't give up.

I think that's what she hears, and I don't see that changing, you know, in the next couple of weeks.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: And, you know, she's got something -- she's got a case to make. If you look inside these numbers in West Virginia, it wasn't just a vote for Hillary Clinton. There was a vote there against Barack Obama.

Of the people that voted for Hillary Clinton, if you ask them, does Barack Obama share the views of Reverend Wright? Sixty-five percent say yes, 2-1. There's a problem there.

This wasn't just a vote for Hillary. There was a vote against Obama. Hillary Clinton is sitting there thinking why don't we let this go another month and let's see what happens. And if something does happen and I've dropped out --

BROWN: Well, Jamal, you know the exit polls do tell somewhat of a frightening story that a lot of sizable number of Clinton supporters rather saying that if, in fact, Obama is the nominee, they don't want to support him.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, we ought to just take sort of a step back and a deep breath, because we have to remember, Barack Obama didn't really campaign in West Virginia. So without him campaigning in West Virginia, letting people get more familiar with him, he didn't do those roadside stops and do all the stuff that he used to --

BROWN: Well, he didn't campaign there for a reason because he didn't have a lot of support there.

SIMMONS: Well, maybe he didn't have a lot of support, but if he had campaigned there what we've seen in every other state when he started off with this kind of margin with Senator Clinton, he's narrowed that margin even when he's lost. So that's just all keep that together.

I think, listen, Senator Clinton is running -- has run a great campaign. She's got a lot of supporters who are really energized inside of her candidacy. She can probably stay in until June 3rd. That's what she wants to do. Nobody can tell her not to.

The issue though is how she campaigns. And what we've seen over the last week is that she has started to lower the rhetoric, the level of the rhetoric. I think Democrats feel a little better about her staying in the race if that's where the campaign is going to go, where she talks about her herself, her strengths, goes up to John McCain. I don't think anybody has a problem with that because she's not digging up the ultimate nominee.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Let me let Hillary.

ROSEN: It's not the kind of patronizing, oh, let the nice lady stay in the race if she wants to. That's really not what she's trying to --

SIMMONS: I wasn't being patronizing. I'm being respectful.

ROSEN: What she is really trying to do, and this is, I think, the problem that Senator Clinton is facing right now. Her voters are not being spoken to.

When you look at the exit polls from West Virginia, as income levels go down, Clinton's support goes up. And I think that what her voters are really saying and what Senator Clinton is really saying is start to talk about the issues that I am speaking about that are attracting -- (CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if you didn't get it last night --

ROSEN: And that I think is Barack Obama --

SIMMONS: We want to get back to him.

ROSEN: I think he can do that.

BROWN: Hold on, Jamal.

Let me go to Roland on this because we talked about this I don't know how many times on how many panels -- his issue with white working-class voters. You know, it's not something we're making up. Clearly, he's got a serious problem here.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. And looking at all the exit polling data for this entire primary, guess what? His issue, white working class. Her issue, black voters. OK.

You have two great candidates with core constituencies, and so we've been covering this from day one. Remember the night he won Mississippi, we said, OK, that was expected he was going to win Mississippi. Let's talk about Pennsylvania. OK.

Both of these candidates realize where they are strong, where they are weak. So, therefore, you don't spend a lot of time where you're weak, you focus on where you're strong. You also look at the fact that John Kerry blew away all the candidates back in 2004.

In the general election, Bush beat him out 13 points. You're looking at them saying how can we reshape the map. That's about earlier when we talked about when you look at the map, what states are particularly in play? Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan.

It's much broader than just let's just pick Ohio and Pennsylvania. So, yes, he has to focus on those folks in the general election campaign, but he has to begin to run some kind of general election campaign because you have to begin to defy John McCain and not give him a head start.

BROWN: Everybody, hold that thought. I know (INAUDIBLE) but we got to take a quick break. Again, we are waiting for Senator Hillary Clinton about to speak to her supporters in West Virginia. We'll be right back.

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BROWN: And we are back. Welcome back, everybody. We're waiting again for Hillary Clinton to take the stage in West Virginia to speak to her supporters, a victory speech tonight for her big win in that state. And we are back now with our panel.

And I want to pick up right where we left off, talking about the fact that Obama has essentially gone on to begin running a general election campaign. He blew off West Virginia, and with one quick fly- by and that's about it. Is that acceptable? I mean, can he -- does he have to go back to West Virginia and make a strong case to people there in a general election fight, Leslie?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It's not so much even the state as the state being competitive, though I think West Virginia, you know, should continue to be. It's the voters in the state, the types of voters that you're talking about.

BROWN: White working-class voters.

SANCHEZ: Exactly, and how they translate very much through the rust belt. You have a lot of Reagan Democrats, the conservative Democrats who have may be an intolerance or not quite inaccessibility of a Barack Obama yet, that he's going to have to work on especially when they're laying out that map. That's where it becomes critical. And again, I reiterate, faith is going to be one of those issues that it rests upon.

BROWN: And Jamal, what's the strategy for doing that?

SIMMONS: You know, Jay Rockefeller I think talked today and he said he lost his first race when he ran for governor of West Virginia. He came back and he won, so he doesn't think it's a disqualifier that because Barack Obama lost this primary they're going to lose the general election.

But if you look at what Barack Obama --

BROWN: But even with this margin?

SIMMONS: Sure. But even -- if you look at what he's been doing, he's now -- he's going to Michigan tomorrow. He's going to be at Macomb County. It's the home of where the Reagan Democrats come from.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: The birth of Reagan Democrats.

SIMMONS: Bill Clinton gave a great speech there in 1992 when he talked about race relations in Macomb County then went to Detroit the next day and gave the same speech. It's one of the things that helped him, propelled him in Michigan.

Barack Obama is going back to Michigan because he knows he didn't campaign there. He's going to go to Florida because he didn't campaign there, and I'm sure as we get closer to the general election he will also be in West Virginia and some of these other states because that's what a general election strategy is.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: You know what's the institutional issue? The Democrats. It's an institutional issue. When you begin to say how can you -- how is it that you can have folks who economically you would think line up with Democratic principles, who frankly don't fall in line with the Bush tax cuts but then vote for Bush? And so, there's something else there besides this whole issue of if you're named Barack Obama or if your name is Hillary Clinton. And that is the Democrats have to be able to speak to those voters.

That's a party issue. They have an infrastructure problem there, and they have to somehow begin to take that measure to say, look, we're speaking on your behalf. We are talking to your interests. We're talking your language.

And so, that goes beyond Obama because West Virginia is a largely Democratic state. West Virginia, North Carolina, largely Democratic State. How is that they keep losing those states to Republicans?

SANCHEZ: It's interesting because we haven't gotten into the philosophical debate. There are very stark differences that were not on the Democratic side. But once you pit the Democrat against the Republican, what the unknown is, is how somebody like Barack Obama would do in the west, which is an area that has very high Hispanic population, larger registration and turnout.

It is divided in terms of becoming more swing voters, open-minded independent conservatives who don't necessarily follow party lines. They don't like party IDs. So this is all very new and I don't think any of us yet know --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Independents are people that John McCain is out there targeting. He's, you know, on this environmental tour right now.

MARTIN: Right. But he's weak with his base.

ROSEN: The good news about what Barack Obama is doing this week is that John McCain had a free ride for the last couple of weeks. And the fact that Obama is out there now hammering back is good, and all Democrats appreciate that. And I think in some respects for Clinton supporters, we want to see how he does up against McCain. We want to see him taking on McCain because this free ride that McCain is getting is just unacceptable.

And what he needs to do to be more successful, I think, is make sure that those lower middle class working voters who have historically been Clinton supporters, you know, go along for the ride because I don't think John McCain can get them. Barack Obama has to be speaking to them, too.

SIMMONS: I think we saw that tonight in a speech that he gave to Missouri.

BROWN: OK, Alex, sorry.

CASTELLANOS: Well, you know, I think it's a very different election. First of all, the only negative ads running against presidential candidates have been run by the Democrats against John McCain so far. So, the negative campaign, I say, McCain having a free ride, I haven't exactly seen a lot of that.

BROWN: Oh, come on, Alex, generally the media coverage has been intensely on the Democratic race.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: It's not free, but he's painted reduce fair.

Come on. Come on, Alex.

BROWN: We could argue he's also not getting a lot of attention right now.

CASTELLANOS: So the negative ads and Democrats running against McCain don't count. All right. I'm glad you all agree on that.

(LAUGHTER)

Looking to that in the fall. All right. Both sides can run a very small campaign and score some points this fall. Republicans could run a campaign about guns and faith, and Democrats can run a small campaign about hey, we're going to protect your job and give you some free health care.

What's on the table is the middle, and that is the economy. Who's going to grow this economy and take a little more for everybody and take it into the future? Neither candidate has stepped up to that.

Barack Obama took the first step I thought in that tonight when he said prosperity from the bottom up for everybody. Let's see what Republicans say in response.

MARTIN: And, Campbell, this feels like "Minority Report," you know, with Tom Cruise sitting there, moving all things, also like John King with the map over there. We have no idea how this demographic is going so shape up. You have John McCain strong among Hispanics in terms of immigration issue, but he sort of retreated on that whole point in terms of coming back to the Republican fallback position.

And so, you got them back, well, who's going to get the Hispanic vote? Who's going to get the blue-collar vote? I mean, they are all, all over the map.

BROWN: Let me point out -- one of you. Obama said the same thing. I just noticed over the last couple of days, he's now wearing a flag pin on his lapel. Have you seen that?

MARTIN: Right. And he said -- he said he worn it before. Sometimes he wears it, sometimes he doesn't. But --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: To be clear about this --

CASTELLANOS: Tomorrow he's going to wear four of them. SANCHEZ: I do have to say something on Hispanic votes. Hispanics are concerned about the economy. They're concerned about health care. They're concerned about national security, you know, education. And then, comes immigration.

So, immigration is not going to be a deciding factor for a lot of people. But the thing about the middle is those voters tend to be the most cynical, the hardest, most difficult to convince one way or the other, and they're going to be looking at who you surround yourself with. That's one thing we hear a lot in these focus groups is who would Barack Obama put around him? Would it make us more vulnerable or would it strengthen our economy and our security?

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: Before we go too far that Barack Obama in these earlier contests was winning independent voters on the same days when Democrats and Republicans were voting in these primaries together, that independents were going for Barack Obama over John McCain. And even in some of the latest polls, we're still saying that Barack Obama is I think getting 14 percent of independents while Hillary is getting seven, or whatever it is. But he still got an advantage when it comes to independent voters. Let's not --

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: Actually we saw in Pennsylvania that that wasn't true. But one of the things that I think will happen with independent voters in particular is this issue of reform, the message of Obama, that reform and change in a time of really tough economic scarcity right now is not going to be a compelling message.

He's got to broaden that, and I think that's why Hillary Clinton is doing well. That's what the superdelegates are looking at. That what those undecided delegates need to figure out is can we broaden this message beyond this sort of reform? People who need something from government aren't really focused on reform.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: They want meat. They want specific meat with potatoes. They like that Hillary Clinton has spoken to the women in the diner. They like that.

CASTELLANOS: I hope Democrats run that campaign. I'm going to have to get something. I'm going to have to take it from you. That's old Democrat, not new Democrat.

Barack Obama's only shot is to be the guy he was earlier in this race, which was I'm going to take America and take us all to a better place.

BROWN: All right.

CASTELLANOS: If he does old politics, I think it's a good day for the Republicans. BROWN: OK. All right, guys. All right. Much more to come. But right now, we want to send it back over to Wolf.

BLITZER: Campbell, thanks. Terry McAuliffe is now introducing Hillary Clinton in West Virginia, Charleston, West Virginia. You can see a huge crowd has gathered there. They're going to be hearing from the winner of the West Virginia Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton, momentarily. Once she starts speaking, we'll go there.

We want you to hear what she had to say. Earlier, we reported on what Barack Obama said earlier today in the -- in Missouri. He's already moving on to Missouri, one of the battleground states for the fall. He's making it clear that in a contest against John McCain, John McCain would represent, what, four more years of George Bush. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His only answer to the problems created by George Bush's policies is give them another four years to fail. Just look at where he stands and you'll see that a vote for John McCain is a vote for George Bush's third term.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, John McCain is obviously disagreeing with that. In fact, he's made a major effort over these past several days to distance himself from George Bush, especially on the issue of global warming. Listen to John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This recent disagreement beginning in 2002, I believe it was, or 2003, I held hearings as chairman of the Commerce Committee, and I took great exception to the testimony by administration officials on this issue. So, there's this longstanding, significant, deep and strong difference on this issue between myself and the administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Dana Bash covers the McCain campaign. Dana, how assertively, how aggressively is McCain now trying to walk away from George Bush?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's doing it on the issues where it's abundantly clear that he can, like what you just heard from John McCain here in Washington just a few hours ago.

He was asked by a reporter about climate change, and you heard his answer. I mean, he really jumped at the chance to make it clear not just that he is very different from President Bush now on climate change but from his perspective he has been for years and years. And the fact that he as Commerce Committee chairman wanted to make the point to some of the Bush administration officials who came before him that he thought that they were dead wrong when it comes to this issue, that really he hopes will help him especially in places like the pacific northwest, where I am with independent voters, swing voters.

So, you know, he is definitely taking the opportunity where he sees fit to differentiate himself with the president and do it in a very stark way, as you just heard in that sound bite. But, you know, it's a little bit schizophrenic, Wolf, because at the same time, they understand that there are some issues where it will benefit John McCain, particularly with those conservatives he still is trying to appeal to, to say that he is not that different from the president like, for example, last week the speech that he gave on judges.

He said he was going to appoint the same kinds of judges that President Bush put -- justices, I should say, that President Bush put on the Supreme Court. Bottom line is they hear Barack Obama every day on the campaign trail. They see the press releases from the Democratic National Committee. They know it doesn't take a rocket science to know the fundamental way that the Democrats are going to run against John McCain, as somebody who is going to bring a third Bush term.

So, they do see that there are legitimate from their perspective ways to differentiate himself from President Bush, just like you heard today. They're going to use every chance they get to show it.

BLITZER: In his stump speech, Dana, is he singling out Barack Obama as his likely opponent or is lumping the two of them, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, together?

BASH: You know, for the most part, he is. When he sorts of talks generally about the Democrats, he will say either of my opponents. For example, today on the issue of climate change, he said that he has been much more of a long-standing supporter of new ways to find different energies, much more he said than either of his potential opponents.

But when you look at the strategy, when you hear John McCain single out either of the candidates, it is always Barack Obama. They have been planning on that and working towards a Barack Obama matchup for some time, really for months. It has been abundantly clear in John McCain's rhetoric for some time and absolutely behind the scenes now. You can bet, you know, that the kind of strategy that they are working on towards the general election is to run against Barack Obama. There's no question about that, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much. Dana Bash is in North Bend, Washington in Washington State as opposed to South Bend, Indiana.

We want to walk over to John King. He's got the latest numbers that are coming in, the hard numbers. And also, we're standing by to hear from Hillary Clinton herself. Once she starts speaking, John, we're going to go there. We want to hear the tone specifically of her remarks, the big win for her tonight in West Virginia.

What? We have eight percent of the precincts now reporting. She's ahead 60 percent to 33 percent.

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Still early at eight percent, but she's building a pretty big margin, Wolf, and just stop me when the senator does come out and speak. We've talked about this on prior nights. Politics is about what? It's about math. And these are the major population centers right in here, along the Ohio River inland in the case of Charleston and Morgantown. And right now, Senator Clinton is winning where the people are and winning by big margins.

Let's look right in here in the center of the state. Charleston, she's winning 53-43 there. That's a relatively close race in Charley (ph) out here. Move out here along the Ohio River, Huntington, Senator Clinton winning. That's 48-48 percent so far. So they're tied in those communities up here which is getting her winds.

This is a relatively small vote coming in so far, with 67-25. As you move further up, again, you're right along the Ohio border. You're along the river, and some of these other counties 62-61. So, especially up along the areas that border Ohio in the northern part of West Virginia, she's winning big.

And over here, this could be a battleground area, the college town here. And there you go, 48 percent to 47 percent. Senator Clinton ahead right now at the moment where the college towns are here. But to pull back out to statewide, if you see there was one county here earlier, Senator Obama was running ahead in the early returns in Randolph County.