Return to Transcripts main page


Hillary Clinton Counts on Blowout in West Virginia; Obama/Clinton Ticket?; Obama Speaks in Missouri

Aired May 13, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Hillary Clinton counts on a blowout in West Virginia. We're counting down to the first results on this important primary night.

And we're waiting to hear from Barack Obama live only minutes from now. He's looking beyond his contest with Clinton to a likely matchup with John McCain in the fall.

And there's a new push by some top Democrats for an Obama/Clinton ticket. Is it more or less likely than ever? The best political team on television is standing by.

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

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. On this primary day in West Virginia, Barack Obama already has moved on. Just moments from now, he's due to speak to supporters in the fall battleground state of Missouri. It's the only time we expect to hear from him on a night when Hillary Clinton is expected to win big. We're going to be carrying his remarks live. That's coming up in a few minutes.

Back in West Virginia, the polls close in about 90 minutes, and we may find out then if Clinton gets the landslide victory she is certainly expecting -- 28 delegates are at stake today in West Virginia. Even if Senator Clinton gets a blowout, she's still the underdog, though, moving forward.

After tonight, there are just five more Democratic contests and 189 pledged delegates up for grabs.

As West Virginia votes, Clinton is making the case that today's primary shows her strength and Obama's weakness in a fall showdown with John McCain.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is in Charleston, West Virginia. She's watching the story for us.

Senator Clinton clearly makes the case that what happens in West Virginia is very important.


Today, her campaign is making the case that a Democrat really cannot win the White House without winning West Virginia, and that record-high turnout here today means there's enormous enthusiasm for Clinton's candidacy.


YELLIN (voice-over): Senator Clinton in Washington, D.C., to vote says she's feeling good.


YELLIN: No surprise. She's expected to score a landslide victory today.

Her campaign insists a win in West Virginia has far-reaching significance. Declaring, Senator Obama has been unable to close a significant gap in the polls here. With a win in West Virginia, Senator Clinton will have once again proven her greater ability to win in the key swing states.

Her campaign is showing no signs of letting up. Today, announcing she'll visit upcoming primary states South Dakota, Oregon and Kentucky. And daughter Chelsea is in Puerto Rico, which votes in almost three weeks.

But team Clinton seems to be fighting gravity. Obama, also in D.C. to vote, was received like a hero. After working out in a U.S. Senate gym, he was cheered by a group of kids and swamped by reporters.

The drip, drip, drip of bad news for Senator Clinton is turning into a torrent. Today, former Colorado Governor Roy Romer, who had stayed neutral, announced he's backing Obama. Romer, once a co-chair of Bill Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign, told reporters, I believe it is over. Obama's lead cannot be overcome. It's time for the party to unify and get on to the general election.

And while Clinton is wildly popular in West Virginia...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She understands the middle class person. And that really is one of the big reasons I'm for her.

YELLIN: ... there are signs her blue collar base is open to Obama.


YELLIN: Wolf, and tonight, the Obama campaign has just released a memo to reporters emphasizing that, while Clinton might be strong among blue-collar voters, Barack Obama is stronger among independents than any Democratic candidate in years. They think this is his winning argument -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica, thanks.

Jessica is in West Virginia for us.

Now we're getting some more numbers. The exit polls are coming in from West Virginia.

Let's go back to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, all year long, that has been a debate between change and experience, change and experience. Obama says he's the candidate of change. Hillary Clinton says she will run on her experience.

So, we asked the West Virginia Democrats, what quality is most important to you when looking for a candidate? Those who said experience, no surprise here, they voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton, 93 percent. Just 3 percent picked Obama as the candidate of experience. That clearly is not his strong suit, to say the least.

But here is the surprise. We asked among those voters who said, who can bring about change? People looking -- Democrats looking for a candidate who can bring about change, well, they did vote for Barack Obama, 53 percent, but Clinton is very competitive in this category. Almost half of the change voters in West Virginia, the Democrats there, said they want Hillary Clinton.

So, it looks like she's made some headway in West Virginia, offering herself as the candidate of change -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider going through these numbers for us. These are the thoughts of what the voters actually told our exit poll people as they were coming out of the polls today.

A reminder, Barack Obama is about to speak to his supporters in Missouri. This is the only time we expect to hear from him today, as he braces for a big loss in West Virginia, his supporters there in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. We will go there live once he starts speaking.

Senator Obama is choosing his campaign stops very carefully.

Let's go to our chief national correspondent, John King.

John, Obama, as we said, is in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, right now. Help us understand what he's doing there.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one of the reasons he's in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, is to deal with his problem that we will see later tonight in the state of West Virginia and that we have seen throughout the primary campaign.

Where has Barack Obama struggled? He has struggled with white voters, especially in rural areas, and white blue-collar voters. So, let's look at the state of Missouri. It already voted in the primary season. Obama carried the primary there, but by a very narrow margin. And if you look at state, Obama is the dark blue. He won in Saint Louis. He won in the Jeff City-Columbia area. He won out in Kansas City. He won in the major population centers. But look at the rest of this map. Senator Clinton won across the broad swathe of Missouri, especially in small rural areas. And that is where Senator Obama is at the moment, preparing to speak to a town hall in Cape Girardeau City.

Now, that is the home of Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio talk show host. It is a conservative area. I will show you in a just a minute how conservative it is. But in the primary in that state, Senator Clinton won the voters here. She won by 57 percent to 39 percent. So Obama is addressing a weakness tonight, trying to reach out to people who did not vote for him, saying, I expect to be the Democratic nominee, and I will work to unify the party and I need your vote.

That is part of the medicine, if you will, that Obama is taking as he tries to address his campaign weaknesses. Now, we noted Senator Clinton won in the primary, but it's interesting that Barack Obama chose this place in Missouri to go to sort of offer a reconciliation speech. It voted Republican, solidly Republican, in every recent presidential election. This is Bush-Kerry back in the last cycle four years ago -- 69 percent, this particular county voted for George W. Bush over John Kerry.

So, he's going into conservative southeastern Missouri and he's saying, I want your vote come November, in an area where he has struggled and where the Democratic Party has struggled. This is likely to be one of the swing states, Wolf, a state carried twice by George W. Bush, and Barack Obama says he wants to put it back in the blue column, the Democratic column, come November, this one of several events we will see over the next 72 hours or so where Barack Obama is coming face to face, if you will, with the weaknesses that Senator Clinton has exposed during the primary campaign.

But Barack Obama saying he's doing that, Wolf, from a position of confidence. Right off the bat, in Cape Girardeau, he will say, I expect to be the Democratic nominee and I will be back looking for your vote in November.

BLITZER: And he's gearing up, John, to head over to Florida and Michigan as well.

KING: That's right, Wolf. I will pull back out to the national map. And let's bring us back to 2008 on the screen up here and the Democratic nomination battle, so you can see.

Remember, Michigan and Florida, we have them in brown on this map because they didn't count because they voted in violation of the Democratic Party rules. Well, that's caused some bad blood, some sour feelings with Democrats in those states. So, Barack Obama has to go back and say hello to those Democrats.

Senator Clinton, her color shows up here because she won those contests, but the delegates don't count at the moment, because they voted outside of the rules. But, again, he's going to tell Democrats, look, I expect to be your nominee. I will put these bad feelings behind us. I work hard to earn your votes.

But it's also quite interesting where he's going in Michigan. He's going to go to Macomb County. That is known as home of Reagan Democrats, white, union blue-collar workers who came north from Detroit. There are -- car manufacturing out here. There's defense manufacturers out here.

It is an area that is struggling as the U.S. auto industry has struggled. The economy is facing some tough times out there. But these are voters -- and again we will go back in time -- back in 2004, John Kerry carried the state of Michigan, but not Macomb County. These are you classic Reagan Democrats swing voters. If a Democrat is going to win an election, he needs to win the Reagan Democrats here. He needs to win them in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

So, again, this part of a new outreach effort by Barack Obama to say, I'm going to be the nominee. I'm going to go to the places where I need votes the most come November.

KING: All right, John, don't go away. We are going to be touching base with you early and often as this night continues.

This important programming note for our viewers as well. Tomorrow, Hillary Clinton will be in THE SITUATION ROOM. We will be back in Washington. We will have a one-on-one interview with her tomorrow.

Our interview will start airing at 4:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's take a look ahead to what we're about to hear from Barack Obama.

Joining us now for some analysis, our own Jack Cafferty and Gloria Borger and Alex Castellanos.

We're looking at these live pictures. The senator in Missouri, Claire McCaskill, a major Barack Obama supporter, Jack, is introducing Barack Obama. He's made a very important decision tonight. He's not in one of these states that still has primaries. He's already moving on. He's in Missouri, a state he narrowly, narrowly carried in the state's primary earlier in the year, which he would desperately need to carry if in fact he goes against John McCain in the fall.

So, he's made a decision. He's going to be speaking tonight, and he's also going to be speaking before the results in West Virginia come in. In fact, she's just finished introducing him. And he's about to start speaking.

You can see the people standing up to hear him, hear his remarks. He's got a lot of ardent supporters there. And it's significant that he's doing this before the results come in.

Let's listen in to Barack Obama as he speaks. These will be his only public -- this will be his only public appearance tonight.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... to my good friend Claire McCaskill and her husband, Joe, who are just great friends.

This is -- this is a state that voted for change in 2006, when you sent Claire to the United States Senate, and she has been shaking things up ever since. She is somebody who, when you have got her in your corner, you couldn't have a better friend.

And she is always thinking about what's best for the people of Missouri. And I am just so grateful to have her on the team.

So, thank you again, publicly, Claire, for all the great work that you do.


OBAMA: A number of other people I want to acknowledge, first of all, the plant manager here, Tina Blise (ph). Where did Tina go? Here she is right here. Please give her a big round of applause.


OBAMA: She worked her way up here in this facility, and it's a story of American success. And I'm just so proud that she took the time to be here.

Jim Rooney (ph), the vice president of manufacturing, thank you so much. Where's Jim? You're around. There he is right there.


OBAMA: The local president of Unite Here, Theresa Simms (ph). Where is Theresa? Here she is.



And Joe Costagin (ph), secretary treasurer UNITE HERE Midwest Board and a Chicagoan and a good buddy of mine. Thank you, Joe, for taking the time to be here.


OBAMA: By the way, I'm proud to be wearing my UNITE HERE- certified suit. So, I just want to make sure.


OBAMA: Am I modeling it OK? Just want you to know, it looks good. Fits like a glove, absolutely, made right here in the U.S. of A. A couple of other thank-yous. I think Susan Montee, your state auditor and a great friend of mine, is here. Is Susan here?

I thought -- there she is, right there. And she has been such a great supporter.

Former Missouri Secretary of State Becky Cook. Where's Becky? There she is.

Mayor Jay Knudtson, where -- there he is. Thank you, Mayor.

And Democratic candidate for the 8th Congressional District Joe Allen. Where is Joe? There he is.

Hey, Joe. How are you?

And, finally, if you don't mind, I would like to do a quick moment of silence for the tornado victims of southwest Missouri, and Arkansas, and Oklahoma who have been affected.

All right. I can only imagine what they have been going through, the devastation that we have witnessed. And our hearts and prayers go out to their families and to those communities.

Hopefully, they can recover as quickly as they can. And, obviously, we in the United States Senate and hopefully the president will do everything that we can to make sure that they rebuild.

You know, there's a lot of talk these days about how the Democratic Party is divided. But I have to tell you, I am not worried. I have been campaigning in 46 states over the last 15 months all across America. And I'm not worried about the Democratic Party being divided come November.

And the reason is, is that there's too much that unites us as Democrats. There's too much that's at stake as a country. And there is going to be a clear choice when it comes to the election on November 4.

Now, there is one thing that is certain. And that is the name George W. Bush will not be on the ballot in November. We know that's the case. We're certain of that.


OBAMA: The name of my cousin, Dick Cheney, will not be on the ballot.


OBAMA: Some of you all heard about that.


OBAMA: That was a little embarrassing. But we're -- I said I would not attend the family hunting party, no matter what the request. (LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: So, the Bush/Cheney ticket won't be up for reelection, but Bush/Cheney policies will, because John McCain has decided that he is running for George Bush's third term in office.

That's what his campaign has been about, to offer the American people four more years of the same approach that has failed the American people over the last eight years. Now, there's a reason that record numbers of Americans think that the U.S. is on the wrong track. The number has never been higher -- 82 percent of the American people think we are going in the wrong direction, and there's a reason for that.

Because we have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs just since the beginning of this year. The cost of everything from health care to a gallon of milk, to a gallon of gas have gone up at the same time as wages and incomes have actually flatlined. This is an amazing statistic.

We just -- before this recent downturn, we had gone through an economic expansion. There had been economic growth. But this is the first economic expansion since they kept records -- started keeping records in World War II where the average family income actually went down by $1,000.

The economic pie has grown, but ordinary Americans were getting a smaller and smaller slice. Millions of Americans are worried about losing their homes, because nobody was regulating the mortgage lending industry.

And, so, people were being offered mortgages that suddenly surprised them by doubling or tripling when the interest rates went up. We're spending billions of dollars fighting a war that I believe should have never been authorized and should have never been waged, while 47 million people don't have health insurance in this country, and there are millions of children who can't go to college, because they simply can't afford it.

So, when I decided to run this race, it was based on the idea that the American people were desperate for change, because part of the problem we have is not just that our policies aren't working; it's also that the American people have lost faith that Washington can or will do anything about it.

They don't really have confidence that anybody is listening to them, because the troubling statistics only begin to tell the story of what's going on around the kitchen table, the story of empty factories that shut down, and suddenly somebody who has worked in a plant, a facility for 20, 30 years, they have got the rug pulled out from under them. They don't just lose their job. They lose their health care. They lose their pensions.

Suddenly, they are having to compete with their teenage kids for a job paying seven, eight bucks an hour at the local fast-food place. And they lose a sense of their own worth when they lose their job. People are proud in this country. They want to work. They want to be self-reliant.

And when suddenly, they can't find a job, it's not just the income that's lost, but sometimes a sense of self-respect and a sense of community, because communities get torn up. I can't tell you how many people I walked around -- or I meet as I have campaigned around the country who are so frustrated and angry that they can't provide decent health insurance for their kids.

I'm a father of two, nine and six. And I remember, you know, nothing scares me more than when my kids get sick. And the idea that I couldn't provide basic health care for them would be -- just would drive me crazy.

But there are people all across America who are in those circumstances, not because they love their kids any less, but because the jobs that they have got don't offer health care. Or, if they do offer health care, the premiums and co-payments and deductibles have gone up so high, that you can't even afford to have your family member go get a regular checkup.

There are people all across America right now who not only are having trouble getting to the job because of rising gas prices, but I know people -- I have met a couple of folks who can't even go on a job search after losing a job, because they can't afford to fill up a gas tank. Imagine hoe frustrating that would be.

You want to work, but you can't find the money to fill up your gas tank to go find a new job. Now, this is the story of the American dream slipping away. And what the American people need right now in this defining moment of leadership is a president who will restore the fundamental American belief that if you -- if you try hard in this country, you can make it, that your dreams matter more than the demands of special interests or the convenience of political posture.

That's what our government should be about, not about who's high in the polls or who is saying what about who, but rather who is helping you make sure you can achieve your American dream. That's what this is -- at stake in this election.

So, that's why I'm running for president. And that's why I think that the Democrats are going to be united in November, because Washington has failed the American people, and this election is our chance to turn the page.


OBAMA: That's what this election's about.

Now, just very briefly, want to talk about John McCain, because he's served his country with honor, and I respect that service. He's a genuine American hero.

But, for two decades, he has supported policies that have shifted the burden away from special interests and on to working families. And 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 will see that a vote for John McCain is a vote for George Bush's third term, four more years of Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, who don't need them and weren't even asking for them, four more years of a health care plan that works for the healthy and the wealthy, but doesn't work for ordinary Americans who are struggling with rising costs, four more years of a president who supports privatizing Social Security, four more years of a war that has cost us thousands of lives and hundreds of billions, soon trillions, of dollars, while we're running up a mountain of debt that is mortgaging the future of our children, four more years of a White House that's run by the kind of lobbyists who run John McCain's campaign, while Washington tells the American people, you are on your own.

Now, we know that the American people cannot afford four more years of those policies, the Bush/McCain program, not this time, not when the stakes are so high, not when the opportunities are so great. We need a new direction in Washington. And that's what we have been offering throughout this campaign.


OBAMA: We know the government can't solve all of our problems. And we don't expect it to. We don't want our tax dollars wasted on programs that don't work or perks for special interests. We understand that we can't stop every job from going overseas or build a wall around our economy, and we know we shouldn't.

We have got the best workers on earth right here in the United States. We're ready to compete. But that's not an excuse to spend another four years telling the American people there's nothing the government can do to help them reclaim their dreams.

We're the nation that built the largest middle class in history. We have all got a stake in each other's success. We can't continue an economic program that rewards Wall Street at the expense of Main Street, because then we all end up hurting.

It's time to end a failed approach that tries to build prosperity from the top down and start on an approach that builds prosperity from the bottom up. That's when our economy works.


OBAMA: So, here's what I want to do. Instead of a tax code that rewards wealth and not work, we're going to provide an income tax cut to ordinary families, like the ones who work in this plant, that's worth up to $1,000 per family per year.

If you're a senior citizen and you are bringing in $50,000 a year in income or less, then we don't even want you to pay income tax on your Social Security, because you're on fixed income, and you need that money to keep up with rising costs.

(APPLAUSE) OBAMA: Instead of more inaction on health care, we're going to bring the country together, and we're going to provide universal health care. If you have already got health insurance...


OBAMA: If you have already got health insurance, then we are going to work with your employer to lower your premiums by up to $2,500 per family per year, so that -- and, if you're a member of the union, that means that you won't have to sit across the table, simply bargaining on health care. You can actually bargain for a better wage once in a while. That's going to be important.


OBAMA: If you don't have health care, then we're going to set up a program that provides you the option of health care that's at least as good as the health care that Claire and I have as members of Congress. And you won't be excluded for preexisting conditions.

If you can't afford it, we will subsidize you. We will emphasize prevention, so that you're getting regular checkups and regular screenings, because that's how we will save money and improve quality and make sure that everybody has the health care they can count on. And we won't wait 20 years from now to do it. We will do it by the end of my first term as president of the United States of America.


OBAMA: Instead of putting a secure retirement at risk, we're going to safeguard Social Security. We're going to protect pensions, instead of CEO bonuses, and we're going to make sure that all Americans have the opportunity to save, because some may not have a pension plan through their job.

But we're going to make sure that every employer at least has to set up an account. And the government will provide some matching funds to make sure that people have an incentive to save more above and beyond what they're getting on Social Security, because a retirement of dignity, that's something that should be the right of every single American who has worked hard. If you play by the rules, you should be able to retire with some dignity and some respect.

And that's what I'm going to be fighting for when I'm president of the United States of America.


OBAMA: Instead of gimmicks like a tax -- a gas tax holiday that every economist says will just go into the pockets of the oil companies, we're going to be serious by not only passing tax relief for you to deal with immediate rising costs, but we're going to invest in alternative fuels and raise fuel efficiency standards on cars, help our carmakers create the kinds of new automobiles that will save our environment, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and put millions of people back to work. We can create a green economy in this country, so, that the old steel mills are suddenly building windmills, and the told textile mill that have closed in some areas, they can start making solar panels. And we can start creating the kinds of jobs that pay well and provide the benefits that afford a middle-class life.

And that's something we can do just with some vision and some motivation and some inspiration out of this White House, something that we simply have not had.

And, by the way, while I'm on that topic of what the White House needs to do, it's about time that we had a White House that enforced our trade agreements, because we can't keep on letting our jobs go away. I want to stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas. I want to crack down on countries that aren't allowing our products into their markets or don't have labor and environmental standards, because that's just not fair.

Like I said, we can compete with anybody, but we can only compete if we're on a level playing field. And instead of providing a blank check to fighting an endless war in Iraq, I want to restore our military, finish the fight against al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and invest some of those dollars right here in the United States in rebuilding our roads, and our bridges and laying broadband lines in rural communities, and making sure that all of our young people can go to college by giving them a $4,000 tuition credit, every student, every year, so they can compete and get the skills they need for a 21st century economy.

That's a priority.


OBAMA: Now, that's the new direction that we need to take this country.

The other party has already decided they want to run on the failed policies of the past. And that's why we need to be the party that stands for the future.

Everywhere I go, I meet Americans who can't wait another day for change. They are desperate for it right now.


OBAMA: They want change that refuses lobbyists. They don't want lobbyists to be dictating the rules in Washington. They want change that puts folks back to work, change that finally delivers on the promise of health care that's affordable and an energy policy that makes sense, change that leaves behind the partisanship that stands in the way of progress, because we're all in this together as Americans.

So, this is our chance to build a new majority of Democrats and independents and Republicans who know that four more years of George Bush just won't do. This is our moment to turn the page on division and distraction and actually get things done. That's why I'm running for president, and that's why I hope you will support me here in Cape Girardeau and all across Missouri. We are going to spend a lot of time in Missouri making sure we win this state.

So, thank you. Thank you.


BLITZER: All right, Barack Obama.

These are the only remarks he will be making publicly tonight. He decided, deliberately, to speak out before the results in the West Virginia Democratic primary are going to be coming in. We will be able to report on those results in about one hour from now.

But let's assess what we just heard.

Gloria, there is no doubt that he laid out, in only a few minutes here, the major themes he'll be running on if, in fact, he is the Democratic presidential nominee, against John McCain.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, he's clearly pivoted to the general election. We've been seeing that over this past week. No mention in this speech of Hillary Clinton, for example.

Just to mention really talking about how his theme of change can be translated into specific policy areas, which is something I think you're going to hear him talk a lot about -- not a McCain third term for Bush. You know, he said that's what -- that's what it's going to be.

But in terms of policy, health care, Social Security, energy policy, ending the war. And, again, this is the kind of change he says that the American people want -- tying change to policy.

BLITZER: The themes are abundantly clear, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, he cited a cited a poll. It was a "Washington Post/ABC News poll today. Eighty-two percent of this country thinks we're going in the wrong direction. That is a huge number. And the reason they feel that way is what's happened in this country over the last eight years.

All eight of those years, John McCain has been an upstanding member of the member of the United States Senate and a cheerleader for George W. Bush, who is directly responsible for a lot of the people in that 82 percent being a little teed off at what their government has done, which is, in their opinion, has failed them.

This election will be a referendum on George Bush and on the fact that the country has had a belly full of Washington, D.C.

Hillary Clinton, John McCain have been in Washington forever and are identified very strongly with the status quo. He's beginning to lay out a program that says you know what, we can leave all that over here, we can move the country over here, this is what I can do for you. He's going to be tough to beat.

BLITZER: You know, but, Alex, that same poll showed that McCain is pretty competitive with both Obama and Clinton in a hypothetical match-up, at least right now.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that's the benefit of being a maverick all your life. And McCain has certainly posted up against the Republican establishment often -- or more -- than many Democrats have.


CASTELLANOS: ...which makes him now a great general election candidate. But, you know, it must have been tough for Hillary Clinton to sit there and watch Barack Obama walk off with the Clinton economic program -- basically giving a speech saying it's the economy, stupid, and tax cuts for the middle class.

There was one moment where he sounded a tad naive, I thought, saying that steel mills are going to build windmills. We'll hope he doesn't start tilting at them too much that way.

BORGER: But he also, Wolf, gave you the plan of attack against John McCain. He talked about the maverick, about the lobbyists who run John McCain. That's going to be a theme that you're going to hear from this Obama campaign.

CASTELLANOS: The most powerful thing in that speech was a new concept from Barack Obama, which was trickle down prosperity. That's what he's accusing Republicans of. He wants prosperity from the bottom up. That's the community activist, his economic...

BLITZER: His basic theme, though, is if you want four more years of Bush, vote for McCain.

BORGER: For McCain.

BLITZER: I'm going to walk over to our other analysts and get their thoughts on what we just heard.

Jamal Simmons, a major Obama supporter, if I must say.

What do you think about this strategy of forgetting about West Virginia, at least on this night -- Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, Puerto Rico, South Dakota -- the other remaining states, but already leapfrogging over to Missouri?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Well, I wouldn't say he's forgetting about them (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: On this day, I said.

SIMMONS: Well, yes. I think today he just gave a speech where he talked about what the fall campaign is going to be about. He talked about really important things. Health care, jobs, continuing the fight against Al Qaeda and not just staying in Iraq, but actually going after Al Qaeda, who attacked us. And then investing in the money that we're saving from being in Iraq in infrastructure projects and a $4,000 tuition credit for students. I mean that is back on the economic plan that people wanted to hear from Barack Obama.

And if there's anything that's been good about this long, extended campaign, it's that Hillary Clinton really has toughened Obama up on the economy. And Democrats can thank her for that.

BLITZER: And Leslie Sanchez is a Republican analyst.

What do you think -- what did you take away from this brief statement he made tonight?

SANCHEZ: I thought it was very strong imagery. If you looked, he had working class families behind him. I think he definitely got the message that's where the ball is in play. He was talking about, you know, jobs, the economy very much.

But this health care issue -- I think looking at it and listening to it, the devil is in the details. Yes, you know, you want government-run health care, but what does that mean?

Is Congress making those decisions?

He's talking about the textile mills and changing them and new jobs. I think American workers are ahead of him in their thinking and, you know, we need jobs that can basically address today's economy. So I think those details are what people are going to be looking for.

BLITZER: Donna, was this smart strategy for him to basically ignore West Virginia?

Because if he is the Democratic presidential nominee, he's going to really need that state. It's been an important state over these many years.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think that what Senator Obama decided to do, Wolf, is to begin to focus on the general election. John McCain has had a head start for two months. He's been going around the country on a biotour, on a Forget Me Not Tour or The Forgotten America Tour.

What Senator Obama is trying to do right now is to introduce himself to voters across the country. So while he was in West Virginia yesterday talking about a new G.I. Bill, he's in Missouri tonight talking about, you know, economic policies and how he will strengthen the economy. Barack Obama needs to go out there and expand his base across the country.

BLITZER: All right. We're only getting started. We've got a lot more to discuss. Stand by.

Much more of our coverage coming up. Less than an hour to go until the first votes come in from the West Virginia primary. We already have exit poll results. We're going to share those with you. The news, by the way, isn't great for the Democrats in West Virginia. We'll tell you why. That's coming up.

Also, the former New York governor, Mario Cuomo, we'll be speaking with him and asking him why Barack Obama needs Hillary Clinton as his vice presidential running mate. You're going to want to hear what Mario Cuomo has to say about that.

And the two Democratic candidates actually were both on the Senate floor in Washington today. You're going to want to see what happened.

Lots more of our coverage coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, has been looking at the West Virginia exit poll numbers and they're pretty, pretty significant.

What are we learning right now -- Bill?

SCHNEIDER: Well, again, some sobering news for Democrats about the deepening division within the Democratic Party. We asked the voters in West Virginia -- again they were all Democrats -- does each candidate share your values?

Now, let's take a look at the Obama voters.

Do the Obama voters say that Senator Clinton shares their values?

Sixty-two percent say no. Just 37 percent say yes. So that's a pretty sharp and clear answer -- they do not think she shares their values.

How about the Clinton voters? Do they believe Barack Obama shares their values?

An even bigger no. Sixty-nine percent say no. Just 30 percent say yes, Obama shares their values.

So we're getting over 60 percent of the supporters of each candidate saying the other candidate does not share our values. And that could be trouble for the Democrats as they try to bring the party together.

BLITZER: At least right now, it looks like an ominous sign. We'll see what unfolds.

Thank you, Bill. We'll check back with you shortly.

Let's get back to the best political team on television. Once again joining us, Gloria Borger, Jack Cafferty and Alex Castellanos.

Gloria, these poll numbers -- the exit poll numbers on Obama voters, Obama voters, if he doesn't get the nomination would they support Hillary Clinton, 51 percent said they would support Hillary Clinton, 31 percent said they would support McCain, 14 percent said they wouldn't vote.

But look at this. Clinton voters -- and this might be more significant, assuming he gets the Democratic presidential nomination.


BLITZER: Only 36 percent of those Democrats who voted in West Virginia on this day say they would actually vote for Obama in November. Thirty-five percent say they would vote for McCain. Twenty- four percent say they would not vote.

Now that's obviously going to change. But those have to be very worrying numbers, because it's a much bigger number when you add up those two categories, McCain or not vote at all, than occurred among Clinton voters in Pennsylvania or Ohio or several of the other states.

BORGER: You know, if Hillary Clinton were to make that argument this evening, she could. She could say this shows that I appeal to Independent voters. This shows that he cannot really attract the kind of voters that I can attract and that my voters might just stay at home.

However, two things. This is West Virginia. This is not every state around -- across the country. This is -- West Virginia is a nightmare for Barack Obama. It's not a great state for him. But it is troubling in the Democratic Party, because he does have glaring and obvious problems, which is why you saw him, as we were saying before, in Missouri giving an economic speech, to try and appeal to working class, white voters.

BLITZER: How worried, Jack, should Democrats be looking at these exit poll numbers that have just been released?

CAFFERTY: Well, I -- you know, it's six months until the election. I don't think you can compare West Virginia to Ohio and Pennsylvania. The population makeup is entirely different in Pennsylvania and Ohio than it is. It's different in every state in the Union than it is in West Virginia.

Six months until the election. And I think it's a twisted bit of logic to suggest that if 82 percent of the country is unhappy with the direction it's going in, that all these people are going to simply sit home and ignore their opportunity to affect a change in the direction of the country because their candidate in the primary got beat. I think that's short-sighted. I think it's a shallow way of thinking. I don't think that's the way people ultimately will turn out.

And, you've got to remember, these are primary voters. They have a little more burning interesting in the process than the slubs (ph) that will register at the last minute in October and run out and vote in November. They're out voting in the primaries. They have a vested interest in this. They're passionate. They're emotional. And right now, if it's not breaking their candidate's way, they're a little steamed. They'll get over it.

BLITZER: If it's a close election -- and Democrats are especially nervous looking at these numbers Alex, as you know, because they remember West Virginia in 2000. That's a state that Bill Clinton carried twice, in '92 and '96. Al Gore lost it in 2000. He would have been president had he carried just West Virginia.

CASTELLANOS: If they carried just a few more working class voters, yes. If the Democrat Party forgets it's the Andrew Jackson party, they're going to have trouble in the fall. It's a very -- they could be headed for another Michael Dukakis kind of campaign.

No, they need those working class voters. And, you know, you saw Barack Obama giving a speech trying to get them back the very day he's losing that vote in West Virginia.

CAFFERTY: Well, where are they going to go?

I mean (INAUDIBLE)...

CASTELLANOS: They're going to go to John McCain.

CAFFERTY: No, they're not.


CASTELLANOS: your point, I think you're exactly right. This election is about change. Both parties know that. Nobody's been a thorn in Washington's side like John McCain for years and years.

CAFFERTY: Yes, but...


CASTELLANOS: if you want change, the Republicans have a case to make.

CAFFERTY: This economy is hemorrhaging jobs. Over a quarter of a million jobs lost since the first of the year. The economy is in a recession. Gasoline is approaching $4 a gallon.

You think these people are going to flock to the Republican Party and say give me some more of that?

BORGER: But, you know, John McCain has been a thorn...


BORGER: your point, John McCain has been a thorn in the Republicans' side on a lot of issues, most notably ethics, lobbying reform, that kind of thing. He has not been very active in the tax cut debate, for example. And...

CAFFERTY: He was opposed before he was in favor.

BORGER: Exactly. Right. Exactly. So, you know, yes, it's not his strong suit -- the economy is not his strong suit. Maybe he'll pick a running mate for whom the economy is. CASTELLANOS: Not exactly. I think Republicans would make the case that the economy is not exactly Barack Obama's strong suit, either. At least McCain would make the case that at least he has the experience dealing with a global economy, where Barack Obama's economy has been limited, perhaps, to Springfield.

So, you know, who's got the experience to change things around and the strength of character?

But there's no doubt this election is going to be about -- Barack Obama wants it to be about change and prosperity. And right now McCain is saying he wants it to be about strength and security. If McCain doesn't move to the economy, then it's going to be big trouble for Republicans.

BLITZER: All right. I'm going to walk over and get some other assessments of what's going on, as well.

Jamal Simmons, let's talk a little bit about these pretty, pretty depressing numbers, if you're a Democrat, if you're a Barack Obama supporter. So many of these Clinton voters in West Virginia say they would either vote for McCain or not vote at all. And Mario Cuomo the former

governor of New York he was here in THE SITUATION ROOM just a little while ago. And he offered this remedy to that problem.


MARIO CUOMO (D), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Here is what you have to focus on -- win this race win this race against McCain. And the way to do that is to get all those women, all those people who love Hillary, all those workers who like her for whatever reason and bring them in with all the people who like you, Obama, which may be a few more than like her. Put them all together. Look, we might have the first African-American president in history. Hallelujah. But imagine the first African-American president and the first woman vice president.


BLITZER: All right, he makes the case that if he has a problem here, he needs Hillary Clinton to unify the party, bring her on the ticket, that will help him become the next president of the United States.

What do you think about Cuomo's recommendation?

SIMMONS: Well, I hate to disagree with Governor Mario Cuomo. He's one of my political icon heroes. But I don't think that we're headed toward a big unity ticket. I sort of agree with Nancy Pelosi on this. I think that neither one of these candidates really offer each other a reinforcing reason to be on the other ticket. I think Senator Clinton may detract from Senator Obama's electability, because if it takes away from his newness and freshness and bringing a change to Washington. But I think there are a lot of things that Hillary Clinton would be good for. She may find another role in the cabinet. She may find another role in Washington or New York State or globally. She's an international figure.

So I think to just go ahead and sort of slot her in the vice presidency may not be her best use. And Senator Obama needs to actually attract more Republicans. And I think we saw in that "Washington Post" poll today, when you look at the difference between where white voters are in terms of McCain versus Obama, Obama and Clinton score the same nationally with white voters versus John McCain, even though Senator Clinton clearly has an advantage among white voters in some of these big states that we're fighting right now.

BLITZER: Leslie, you're a Republican strategist.

What do you think?

How formidable would a ticket involving Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton be to John McCain?

SANCHEZ: I think it would be a toxic relationship, I think, very much so, because of the nature of this primary process.

But I think you do raise an interesting thing. One thing people don't think about is, you know, you can't sideline Hillary Clinton, regardless of this process. The people that have supported her have a vested interest in this, as well. Not only does she have to feel comfortable with whatever role she may take, but she has to sell it to the voters who have been adamantly fighting for her. And if they feel it's just some sort of lukewarm response, they very much may sit at the sidelines.

I mean we didn't see this coming to be a gender debate or a gender kind of race, but it's also an ethnic one -- not only with African-Americans, but I think Hispanics. The way this map is laying out, it's going to be a very different election.


BRAZILE: Well, I'm not in the marriage business, so I'm not going to try to put the two of them together. Both campaigns have said that it's premature, we don't have a nominee yet. And as soon as we get a nominee, I'm sure that both candidates would look at each other.

BLITZER: Well, I'm sure -- they looked at each other today, when they were on the Senate floor...

BRAZILE: They did googly (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: ...walking around. I think we have some of that video. I want to -- I want to show it to our viewers as soon as it comes up there.

SANCHEZ: Was it love? (LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Actually, we don't have it yet, but we're going to get it momentarily. They seemed very cordial.

Cuomo makes the point that while neither of them has accepted this notion of a joint ticket, neither has rejected it yet either.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: What do you think?

Is it likely, Donna? Is it not likely? You know both of these candidates very well.

BRAZILE: Well, Wolf, I don't want to, you know, put together a short list for either candidate, because we don't have a nominee and God knows last time Al Gore, you know, called me in the room and said, Donna, I would like you to help me with this decision. And I really wanted to offer up Tina Turner, but they were both in Tennessee (ph)...


BRAZILE: And I settled with Joe Lieberman, who became the nominee. When that moment, you know, arrives, I will, you know, give my suggestions. But to suggest right now that Hillary would pick Obama or Obama would pick Hillary, it's premature, because we are still fighting for the nomination.

BLITZER: There's the video right there, if you take a look. They were both on the Senate floor earlier today and they had a chance to talk. I'm trying to figure out who is that person is in the middle.

SIMMONS: Salazar.

BLITZER: Is that Ken Salazar of Colorado?

Yes. Well, they had a little -- they had a little exchange.


BLITZER: People are going to read into, probably, a way lot...


BLITZER: ...a lot more than it's justified.

BRAZILE: Well, we'll...

BLITZER: But go ahead, Donna.

BRAZILE: We keep talking about the divisions that exist in the Democratic Party. There's also a lot of harmony. There's a lot of unity. And I know that both campaigns, both supporters are very passionate. But I'm hearing now from people who are saying, you know, we've had a big fight. This is going to end some time in June.

Let's keep, you know, fighting. But we will come together. That's what people are saying. I think Obama echoed that tonight. And I hope Hillary will do the same when she speaks.

BLITZER: All right, let me walk over to our other analysts and go back and get their thoughts on this -- sort of we're setting the stage for the concern that some Democrats, Gloria, have said that all of this, what's happening in West Virginia today sort of highlights the weaknesses of Barack Obama and gives ammunition for the McCain camp to go forward.

BORGER: Yes. It does. And, no doubt, the McCain camp will take advantage of the results this evening, if Obama loses substantially.

And I think, you know, going back to this marriage of convenience that we all seem to want, you know, one thing I think of when I think of Hillary Clinton as vice president is don't forget, she spent eight years observing the vice presidency very closely. Some in that White House, particularly those who worked for Al Gore, thought she was undermining the vice president for much of that time.


BORGER: She has a very interesting view of the vice presidency, because she have a big chunk of his job, some would say. She might not think a lot of the vice presidency. You know, I'm not sure that it's...


BLITZER: Alex, go ahead.

BORGER: I think she would take it, but...

CASTELLANOS: And I think Barack Obama would have to hire a food tester...

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes.

CASTELLANOS: Because these are the most politically ambitious people on the scene in America today. And hey, look, it canceled out. Its matter and anti-matter. His message is change. And, I think as Jack said, to pick as a vice presidential running mate someone who represents experience and the status quo, to the degree she does, I think would shut him down.

BORGER: And McCain has to go for change, right, and youth and inexperience, right?

CAFFERTY: And plus, he hasn't asked her yet.

BORGER: Right. CAFFERTY: That's, you know, I mean as long as we're saying it. I mean Mario Cuomo is talking about some sort of, I don't know, ideal world, I suppose. He doesn't need her. He's got the nomination wrapped up. She has the highest negative ratings of any national Democrat on the political scene -- any of them -- something over 50 percent.

What does he need with that?

You know, he's going to -- he's going to have enough headaches. He doesn't need another one.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. The night is still young. We've got a lot more we're watching. A little bit more than a half an hour before the polls close in West Virginia. We'll see what the results are when we actually start getting some numbers.

Hillary Clinton says West Virginia is a small example of what might happen in November. John King is over at the CNN multi-touch board. He's going to break it all down for us. That's coming up next.

And the countdown to the polls closing in West Virginia, what, a little bit more than 40 minutes or so from now.

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


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're only about 34 minutes or so away until the polls close in West Virginia at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Once they close, we'll have a good sense of where this contest in West Virginia between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama stands.

Right now, we have been getting exit poll numbers coming in throughout THE SITUATION ROOM.

Bill Schneider has been looking at those exit poll numbers -- Bill, what are you seeing?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Wolf, we asked -- there have been a lot of problems in this campaign. And we asked the voters in West Virginia about two of them.

Do they think Obama shares the views of Reverend Jeremiah Wright?

You remember there was a huge controversy over his pastor and his views. So we asked them. And the answer was they're split. Fifty-one percent of the West Virginia Democrats say yes, he does share those views, which were criticized as anti-American by people. Forty-seven percent say no. So that is still a very open issue to the Democrats in West Virginia.

Then there have been charges that Hillary Clinton has attacked her opponent unfairly.

Do the voters in West Virginia believe that? Yes, they do. Fifty-nine percent say Hillary Clinton attacked Barack Obama unfairly. Only 38 percent say she did not. And I can add that when we asked the same question, did Barack Obama attack his opponent unfairly, the voters of West Virginia were evenly divided on that. So she appears to take most of the blame for the unfair attacks on her political opponent -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Bill.

Thank you.

Bill Schneider with these exit poll numbers.

I'm going to walk over to John King. He's over at the multi-touch board for us.

You're looking at this race for the nomination, the big picture. What do you see right now?

KING: Based on everything we expect tonight from the polls coming into this race, from Senator Obama's decision not even to be in West Virginia tonight, Wolf, I think what we might see is both a spotlight shine on his weaknesses, but also a glaring spotlight on the significant, daunting challenge, when it comes to the delegate math, for Senator Clinton.

And what I mean by that is look up here at this. This is where we start entering the night -- Senator Clinton just shy of 1,700 delegates, Barack Obama at 1,870. Those numbers fluctuate just a little bit. So in the sense of where the finish line is to get the nomination, you have Clinton back here and Obama out here.

And so what will happen tonight?

Let's assume, for the sake of argument -- West Virginia is flashing because that's the contest up tonight. Let's say she has a huge victory, she wins 65-35. So we tap that twice. That gives Senator Clinton a 65-35 we give her. Now watch this. Here's where we start the night. We give her West Virginia by a 65-35 margin and it just barely moves the math, Wolf, because there are only 39 delegates at stake...

BLITZER: Given the proportionate nature of how they divide up delegates.

KING: The proportionate nature. But even if she wins 60, 65 percent of them tonight, there's only 39 at stake. So she just moves the bar a little bit.

And a better way to understand it might be to go to this approach here. And let me clear these other lines so people aren't confused.

Here's where we start the night. Senator Clinton is back here, Senator Obama is up here. The red line is the finish line. So, as you can see, he already only needs 30 percent of the remaining delegates. There are more superdelegates available than the pledged delegates available. So even if she gets a good bulk of the delegates out there tonight, there are 39 available.

Let's say she were to win there -- there's 33 of them. That would be more that she wins under the proportional rules. But let's just say, for the sake of argument -- that's more than she can win tonight, probably. But we'll give them to Senator Clinton. Look what he needs in the remaining contests. He needs only a small slice of these, not even half. A small slice of these, not even half, and he's right up to the edge. So he picks up a few more superdelegates and Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee.

She needs 71 percent of the remaining delegates. He needs 30 percent.

So, if he wins three in 10 from here on out, he's the Democratic nominee. So even if there's a big night for Senator Clinton tonight, the math is still incredibly difficult for her.

BLITZER: So that helps explain why he's looking beyond these -- not only today, but the five other contests and is showing up tonight, as we just saw live here, in Missouri?

KING: He is looking beyond already. He is looking at general election battlegrounds.

Let's go back to the big map to show that. And let's pull it out nationally. But, Wolf, there's a risk in that, as well. Because if Senator Obama thinks that what happens in West Virginia tonight is an aberration -- you were just talking about this with Jack. I want to make just one quick point.

By looking at it, this is the full county map of the last presidential election in 2004. And the Obama campaign wants to say tonight, well, West Virginia is unique -- what happens doesn't matter.

With the red, I'm going to trace the border. And then with this, I want to show you, just on both sides of the border in Ohio and West Virginia. These rural areas in Ohio and West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, they tend to vote alike. So Senator Obama does have an issue he needs to deal with, but he says he's confident, Wolf, he can get that done down the road.

BLITZER: All right, John, thanks very much.