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Clinton: 'More Determined Than Ever'; Interview With Senator Hillary Clinton

Aired May 14, 2008 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Hillary Clinton opening up about the fight ahead. I'll go one-on-one with the Democratic fresh from her West Virginia blowout. You're going to find out why she's defending Barack Obama and why she admits she said something dumb.
We'll also get quick reaction to our Clinton interview from former senator and Obama supporter Tom Daschle and from Florida governor and McCain supporter Charlie Crist. They're both standing by live.

Plus, Obama focusing in on the fall and undaunted by Clinton's West Virginia win. He scored a powerful new endorsement that some see as a slap in Senator Clinton's face.

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

My interview with Senator Hillary Clinton is just moments away. But first a quick check of where the Democratic race stands right now after Clinton's West Virginia landslide.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is in Charleston, West Virginia -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, becoming the Democratic nominee is a long shot for Senator Clinton. But after last night, she's made it clear it's a shot she's going to take.


YELLIN (voice-over): Don't count her out.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am more determined than ever to carry on this campaign.

YELLIN: That's the message Hillary Clinton is delivering today in a barrage of TV interviews and in a powwow with her top fund- raisers at her Washington house. According to her aides, at least a million dollars poured into the campaign overnight.

ANN LEWIS, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SR. ADVISER: People have really turned in -- the Internet, the kind of responses we're getting over the Web, from people saying, yes, I want this to keep going.

YELLIN: Clinton insists it will. She's opened offices in all the next primary states and deployed her family members.

Chelsea to Puerto Rico...

CHELSEA CLINTON, HILLARY CLINTON'S DAUGHTER: The decisions that the president makes impact all of us.

YELLIN: And Bill to Montana...

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact that she's been knocked down so much, then declared dead more times than a cat's got life, and just keeps kind of coming back has endeared her to a lot of Americans.

YELLIN: Endearing as it may be, Clinton continues to lose the endorsement game. The latest, the influential National Abortion Rights Action League just declared they're backing Obama.

Today, he's laying the groundwork for a general election run, campaigning in Michigan, whose primary he skipped because of party rules. There, he toured an auto plant and spoke to Reagan Democrats who are crucial to a White House win.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people know we need a new direction in Washington. That's why we're going to win Michigan. That's why we're going to beat John McCain here in Michigan.


YELLIN: Now, to win over the remaining superdelegates, Wolf, Clinton is banking on big victories in Kentucky and Puerto Rico, and a ruling that would allow her wins in Florida and Michigan to count. All of that would pump up her popular vote total.

And frankly, a scandal over at the Obama campaign wouldn't hurt. So far, no signs of that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica. Thank you.

Jessica Yellin in Charleston for us.

An angry reaction today to the NARAL endorsement of Barack Obama. It comes from EMILY'S List, the group dedicated to electing Democratic women who support abortion rights, including Hillary Clinton.

In a statement, EMILY'S List president Ellen Malcolm cites Senator Clinton's longstanding work for abortion rights and she says this of the NARAL endorsement -- and I'm quoting now -- "I think it's tremendously disrespectful to Senator Clinton to not give her the courtesy to finish the final three weeks of the primary process."

We're going to have more on this friction within the pro-abortion rights community. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Once again, our interview with Senator Clinton only a moment or two away. But let's get to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File."

Jack, what's going on? JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton, Wolf, is starting to look a little like the last guest at a dinner party who doesn't recognize that it's time to go home. Her win in West Virginia is being called large, but largely symbolic. That's because the numbers just don't add up.

In West Virginia she won 20 delegates, Barack Obama won eight, a net gain of her -- for her, rather, of 12. In fact, Obama's lead over Clinton has actually increased in the last week despite her big win in West Virginia. He picked up two more superdelegates today, a sign the Democratic leaders know exactly where this thing is headed.

The "Associated Press" now reports Obama has picked up an additional 30 superdelegates in the last week. He now leads Clinton by 11 superdelegates. She once led him by more than 100.

One of these new Obama superdelegates is Roy Romer. He's the former Democratic Party chairman. He told reporters, "This race, I believe, is over." He says only Clinton can decide when to withdraw, but that it's time to focus on the general election.

Obama is also being endorsed by three former chairmen of the Securities and Exchange Commission, one of whom was appointed by Hillary's husband, then-president Bill Clinton.

And rubbing salt in the wound as you just heard, this afternoon Obama received the endorsement of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a leading abortion rights group that has supported Hillary Clinton throughout her entire political career. Until today.

All this seems to beg the question, what part of "go away" doesn't Hillary Clinton understand?

We're going to hear from Senator Clinton in just a minute. But before we do, here's our question.

If you could interview Senator Hillary Clinton, what would you ask her?

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

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. Thanks very much.

Let's hear from Senator Hillary Clinton herself right now on the issues on her critics and whether Senator Barack Obama has the nomination already in the bag. We sat down here in Washington just a short while ago.


BLITZER: And joining us now, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, the Democratic presidential candidate.

Senator Clinton, thanks very much for joining us.

CLINTON: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Congratulations on your win yesterday in West Virginia. A big win for Senator Clinton.

CLINTON: Well, it was a big win. And it was a very gratifying one because I had campaigned hard there, and I think that the issues that I've been championing on the economy and health care really resonated with the voters in West Virginia.

And as I have said many times in the last couple of weeks, no Democrat has won the White House since 1916 without winning West Virginia. So I took that as a good sign.

BLITZER: You did well there.

All right. Let me get your reaction.

The current issue of "TIME" magazine, which you've probably seen, you see a cover like this and it says, "And the Winner Is...", and a little asterisk. What do you think when you see something like this?

CLINTON: I think it's a great picture of Barack.


CLINTON: You know what I think? Is that this is the closest election we've ever had that anybody can remember. Each of us has brought millions of new people into the process. I think I've now been privileged to receive the votes of 17 million Americans.

And that's pretty much the same as Senator Obama. The delegate race remains close. We have contests yet to go. People have been trying to end it. And the voters just won't let it happen.

As a recent poll suggested, 64 percent of Democrats want to see this continue. And I think for good reason, because it's one of the most substantive, exciting, energizing political events I can remember in my lifetime.

And there is no winner yet. You have to have, now with the special election of a Democrat from Mississippi, 2,210 delegates to actually stay...

BLITZER: You're including Florida and Michigan.

CLINTON: Which we have to. We have to include them.

BLITZER: Because in -- they're going to be meeting, the Rules Committee of the DNC...


BLITZER: ... May 31st.

CLINTON: That's right. BLITZER: They have to make a decision.


BLITZER: What do you want them to do?

CLINTON: Well, what I would want them to do is to seat the whole delegations based on the votes that were taken, because I think the voters who came out, over 2.3 million of them in both states, clearly believed that their votes would count. And they may have violated the DNC rules, but other states did as well.

BLITZER: Because right now the DNC says that the number is, what, 2,025 or 2,026?

CLINTON: That's just not a practical answer. That would mean that only 48 states would determine who the nominee of the Democratic Party is. And that's not the way the election works.

BLITZER: So you're staying in at least through May 31 and June 3...

CLINTON: That's right.

BLITZER: ... which is the last -- you're not going anywhere.

CLINTON: I'm not going anywhere, Wolf...

BLITZER: All right.

CLINTON: ... except to Kentucky and Oregon and Montana and South Dakota, and Puerto Rico.

BLITZER: In these remaining states.

Let's talk about some of the issues, the key issues, the economic issues, issue No. 1, the economy. Gas prices...


BLITZER: ... right now. You've said in recent days you want to get tough with the major oil exporting countries, OPEC, because of the huge cost per barrel, the resultant price of a gallon of gas.

But when you say get tough with OPEC, what does it mean when you have members of OPEC like Ahmadinejad of Iran or Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, or Gaddafi of Libya? How do you plan on getting tough with them?

CLINTON: Well, I actually have a four-part program that I would put into effect were I president today to deal with these rising gas prices, which are going to hit $4 soon. And it's an enormous burden on people who drive any considerable distance.

BLITZER: But what kind of leverage do you have on OPEC? CLINTON: Well, four things, and I'll get to OPEC quickly. I would go after the energy traders and speculators. I think they are adding to the cost of a barrel of oil. I believe there is significant evidence of that.

So I would launch a Department of Justice/Federal Trade Commission investigation and really try to rein them in and close what's called the "Enron loophole." I approve and voted for what the Congress did yesterday, which is to quit filling up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and I would even release some money.

I have advocated a gas tax holiday that is paid for. That is not what Senator McCain wants. He wants one that is not paid for. And Senator Obama doesn't want one at all. But I would pay for it out of the record profits of the oil companies.

Nine countries that are members of OPEC are members of the WTO, the World Trade Organization, where they have agreed to certain rules that I believe OPEC by definition violates. Also, we have never used antitrust laws in our country to really go at the heart of what is a monopoly cartel.

There is something fundamentally wrong and outdated in having the oil-producing countries getting together a couple of times a year and saying, OK, here's how much we're going to produce and here's how much we're going to charge for it. And I think there is enough market power in the world, if we use the tools available to us, to rein that in.

BLITZER: Because Barack Obama says this...


OBAMA: You say you've been in the White House for eight years, you've had two terms as a United States senator, and haven't said a word about OPEC. And now suddenly you're going to take it right to OPEC?


CLINTON: Well, he's wrong about that. I have voted, actually, in the Senate on several occasions to try to get the president of the United States to do something about OPEC. Obviously, President Bush wasn't inclined to do so, the Republican Congress before him was not inclined to do so.

So we're going to have, I hope, a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress. That is the time when we'll be able to take on this unfinished business when it comes to energy.

BLITZER: Looking back, did the Clinton administration, during eight years of your husband in the White House, do enough toward energy independence?

CLINTON: Well, they certainly tried between both the president and the vice president. And my husband often says laughingly that tax credits and energy programs were the only things that he couldn't get the Republican Congress to even look at, because obviously they had a very different view about what we should be doing.

But now I think it's clear to everyone, even the Republican nominee, Senator McCain, who has been very eloquent in the last few days, talking about how we have to cap greenhouse gas emissions, this is not a Republican or Democratic issue.

We need a long-term strategy, like the one I've outlined on my Web site, You can read all about it. And we need a short-term strategy to try to provide relief to citizens right now.

BLITZER: You were recently asked about your proposal to have a holiday on the gas tax. And you would pay for it by having a windfall profit tax on ExxonMobil and some of the other big oil companies. And then when you were pressed on economists who would endorse your idea, you said you're not going to put your lot in with economists.


BLITZER: Which raised questions. Are you not going to believe in what economists say?

CLINTON: No, but I think there's that old saying. You can find an economist to say nearly anything.

Now, some of the economists were against it because they misunderstood my policy. They thought it wasn't paid for. And I would agree with those who said we can't afford a gas tax holiday that will add to the deficit, that will take money out of the highway trust fund. Others are against the mechanism of a windfall profits tax. They think that doesn't necessarily work well and that the cost will be passed on.

My attitude is I think we could design such a windfall profits tax that would work, that would be enforceable and that would not be passed on. I have been advocating a windfall profits tax on the oil companies to supplement a strategic energy fund that I have recommended for more than three years, and it's because I think that there is such a disconnect between what the oil companies have been raking in as profits and any comparable investment or effort that they've made to produce those profits.

There does seem to me to be an opportunity here both to take away the subsidies for the oil companies, which clearly don't need our tax dollars to make these huge profits, and to try to impose a windfall profits tax.

BLITZER: But you will consult with economists...

CLINTON: Of course.

BLITZER: ... you believe in economists, and if you're president of the United States you'll work with economists, because when you said, "I'm not going to put your lot in with economists..." CLINTON: Well, not totally. Not totally. You know, sometimes economists are not right. And I think there are political...

BLITZER: But most of the economists have criticized your plan.

CLINTON: Well, again, some of them didn't understand it and some of them don't believe it could be done. But you listen to all kinds of advisers, but then you have to try to make up your mind.

Franklin Roosevelt, during the New Deal, a lot of economists said that's a terrible idea, you're going to be priming the pump, you're going to be putting people to work. That's a terrible idea, that's a betrayal of the American capitalist system. But he said, you know we've got to put people to work.

Well, I think we've got to reign in the oil companies. And there are certainly economically appropriate ways of doing that.


BLITZER: Stand by for much more of my interview with Senator Hillary Clinton. She's strongly defending Barack Obama from his critics.


CLINTON: I think that that's really, you know, just an overstatement and exaggeration of any kind of, you know, political meaning.


BLITZER: So what exaggeration about Obama is Clinton talking about? You're going to find out. That's coming up in my next installment of this interview.

Plus, the one thing in our interview that got Senator Clinton rather emotional. You'll want to see this.

And a new shocker in the battle for control of Congress. We're going to tell you why it could help Senator Obama make his case that he can win the White House.

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


BLITZER: Now back to my interview with Senator Hillary Clinton on racial divisions in the Democratic Party and on global tensions that some say could play to John McCain's strengths.


BLITZER: When it comes to the war in Iraq, another issue on the minds of Americans right now, you've criticized Senator McCain for suggesting U.S. troops could stay there perhaps for 100 years. But you yourself back in 2005 suggested, you know what? If there's a peaceful environment like along the lines of Korea or Germany or Okinawa, maybe it wouldn't be that bad for a long-term U.S. military presence in that kind of environment.

Is the criticism of Senator McCain, who's made similar comments, is it warranted?

CLINTON: Well, I think it is for this reason, that there isn't any significant milestone that the Iraqi government has met. It's a very different situation than Germany or Korea.

BLITZER: But if they were to meet those milestones and if there were a new peaceful environment?

CLINTON: But Wolf, I don't think though -- I think you're confusing kind of cause and effect. I don't believe that they will serious attempt to meet those milestones until they are absolutely convinced we are going to withdraw. I believe that is the best way to focus their attention.

Everything we've tried, including the most recent effort with the surge, has not resulted in the gains that were either hoped for or forecasted. I believe we've got to bring our troops home. There are continuing missions -- guarding our embassy, Special Forces perhaps dealing with al Qaeda -- but that's a very different scenario than what we have today. Therefore, I would begin to bring our troops home.

BLITZER: The Israelis are celebrating their 60th anniversary right now as an independent state. Here is what McCain said about Barack Obama. And I want to get your reaction.

He said, "I think" -- this is McCain -- "I think it's very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas' worst nightmare. If Senator Obama is favored by Hamas, I think people can make judgments accordingly."

McCain was referring to a statement by the North American spokesman for Hamas endorsing, in effect, Barack Obama. Is McCain right?

CLINTON: No, I think that that's really, you know, just an overstatement, an exaggeration of any kind of, you know, political meaning. And I don't think that anybody should take that seriously.

BLITZER: But you have confidence in Barack Obama as president would be a strong supporter of Israel?

CLINTON: I would -- yes, I do. I would believe that that would be the policy of the United States, and it's been our policy for 60 years.

BLITZER: Because the criticism he gets from McCain and his supporters -- McCain's supporters -- is that he would be willing to meet unconditionally with the leader of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and given the statements that Ahmadinejad has made about destroying Israel, that doesn't -- that doesn't reassure, let's say, Israel.

CLINTON: Well, I think that's a different issue. You know, I objected when that statement was made back in an early debate, because I don't believe that a United States president should commit to meet unconditionally with leaders of rogue nations. That doesn't mean you don't eventually meet with them under appropriate circumstances, but not without conditions.

BLITZER: Let's talk about an issue that's come up in this campaign. The issue of race in the campaign. You were widely quoted in that "USA Today" interview.


CLINTON: There was just an "A.P." article posted that found how Senator Obama's support among working -- hard working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how the -- you know, whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me. I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.


BLITZER: Now, your great friend and supporter, Congressman Charlie Rangel, said -- and I'm quoting now -- "It's the dumbest thing you could have said."

CLINTON: Well, he's probably right.

BLITZER: Oh, he is? All right. Well, explain.

CLINTON: Well, absolutely. Well, I was -- I was referencing an AP article, and, you know, obviously I have worked very hard to get the votes of everyone. And I have campaigned hard, I understand that we've got to put together a broad coalition in order to win in the fall. We've got to get to that 270 electoral vote margin. And I know Senator Obama has worked hard to reach out to every community and constituency.

So I'm going to continue to do that. That's what I think is in the best interest of our party and that's how we will win in November.

BLITZER: Well, as someone who has championed civil rights all of these years, and you see all these stories coming up, and he's getting 90 percent of the African-American vote, you're doing well with these white working class voters, as you did in West Virginia, for example, Pennsylvania, in Ohio, how does that make you feel when you see this issue all of a sudden explode out there?

CLINTON: Well, I obviously regret people exploding an issue like that because I think it's not only unfounded but, you know, it's offensive. I think people vote for me because they think I'd be the better president. I think people vote for him because they think he'd be the better president. I think people vote for me because they believe I'll fight for them. I think they vote for each of us for whatever combination of reasons that appeal to the individual voter.

That's the way it's supposed to be in America. And I've worked very hard to make it clear to people in this campaign that we need a champion back in the White House.

I am not one who believes that we're going to be able to come to Washington in 2009, hold hands with everybody, and take on the drug companies and the oil companies and the health insurance companies, and everything we have to do, and that just somehow that will all happen. I think politics is the hard boring of hard boards, as Max Weber said. And from my perspective, people who know how hard it will be to create the changes we need are attracted to my candidacy.

People who feel that maybe life hasn't been fair, the odds are stacked against them, they want somebody who is going to go to bat for them.


BLITZER: And you also got a chance to ask Senator Clinton something.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Clinton, I have a question for you. I was wondering, why do you believe that so many of your strongest Democratic supporters say that they would vote for Senator McCain over Senator Obama in the fall if you were not to win the nomination?


BLITZER: As a CNN iReporter, you posed questions like that one. Straight ahead, you're going to find out how she answered those questions.

Also, one question I asked her actually made Senator Clinton very emotional. You're going to want to hear exactly what was asked and how she responded.

Stay with us. More of the interview with Senator Clinton right after this.


BLITZER: We continue now with my interview with Senator Hillary Clinton. She's defending her decision to keep on fighting, and she's vowing her party will be united in the end.


BLITZER: At we invited people to submit a question through our iReporters. A couple came in that I want to play for you, get your brief response. This one was from someone named Billy Sutton (ph). He is a Clinton supporter-turned-Obama supporter. But watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Clinton, I have a question for you. I was wondering, why do you believe that so many of your strongest Democratic supporters say that they would vote for Senator McCain over Senator Obama in the fall if you were not to win the nomination?


CLINTON: Well, I've heard that from both my supporters and Senator Obama's supporters.

BLITZER: Because the exit polls showed that -- a big chunk of it.

CLINTON: Both his supporters and my supporters might stay home or not vote for the other, and I just have to say as strongly as I can, Billy (ph), that that would be a terrible mistake. Anybody that has ever voted for me or voted for Barack has much more in common in terms of what we want to see happen in our country and in the world with the other than they do with John McCain.

So I'm going to work my heart out for whoever our nominee is. Obviously, I'm still hoping to be that nominee. But I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that anyone who supported me, the 17 million people who have voted for me, understand what a grave error it would be not to vote for Senator McCain -- Senator Obama and against Senator McCain. And I know that Senator Obama has said that he will do the same to campaign for me.

So, you know, in the heat of a primary campaign people get -- their passions are high, they feel intensely. That's all understandable. But once we have a nominee, we're going to have a unified Democratic Party.

BLITZER: Because Mario Cuomo, the former governor of New York, among others, says the best way to heal this Democratic Party, irrespective of who gets the nomination, is for the two of you to be on the ticket.

CLINTON: I know. I think he made a speech or wrote something to that effect. And it's premature for either of us to talk about that. I think both of us are committed to doing everything we can to win in the fall. I certainly am.

And I will do -- I mean, I will do whatever it takes, because I know what four more years of basically the same Bush policies would mean to America, even though they would be carried out by someone else. They are more of the same. And we cannot afford that.

BLITZER: We also got a variant of this question from a lot of our viewers. This was from a McCain supporter. He asked this question. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you continue to stay in this race for the Democratic nomination? Barack Obama is well ahead of you in the delegates and now ahead of you in the superdelegates. Many of them have switched to him after he won by a large margin over you in North Carolina primaries last week.


CLINTON: Well, I'm really touched that a McCain supporter would be so concerned about our primary.

But let me say that, after my big win last night in West Virginia, the delegate difference is extremely narrow. It is -- people have gone to conventions and fought out nominations with far fewer delegates. We have a close, close race here. And it is a matter of inches. And we're going to keep going until someone gets 2,210 delegates. That's the way our system works.

BLITZER: John Edwards has says he gives you a lot of credit for being willing to stick -- stick in there and fight it out. He, as you know, dropped out.

And I guess the question is, how do you do it every single day?

CLINTON: You know, Wolf, something happens every single day that just lifts my spirits and energizes me.

A lot of the people who have worked their hearts out for me in this primary season, they're not quitters in their own lives.

I mean, the single mom in Indianapolis who's never given money to anybody and gives me $20 a month out of her paycheck, and goes to my headquarters every lunch hour to work for me, or the little boy who sells his bicycle from Kentucky, or the 88-year-old woman dying in a hospice in South Dakota who just demands that her daughter bring her an absentee ballot, I mean, these are people who I feel like I'm representing and that I have a -- a very personal connection to.

So, you know, I don't believe in quitting. You may not win in life, but you do the best you can. You go the distance. You don't walk off the court before the buzzer sounds. You never know. You might get a three-point shot at the end.

And, so, we're going to -- we're going to finish this process. It's been a privilege and an honor to have met so many Americans, been to so many of the beautiful places in this country. And I feel like I'm doing it for the right reasons. And I still believe I would be the better president and the stronger candidate against Senator McCain.

BLITZER: We have one final question, because we're out of time, and it involves your daughter, Chelsea.

I have been watching her since she was a little girl. She came to Washington back in '93, in the '92 campaign, and now she's a grown woman. And she's out there, campaigning for you every single day. I think she's in Puerto Rico right now.

And I know you talk to her every single day.

CLINTON: Right. Right.

BLITZER: And what goes through your mind, when you have your own daughter out there, working as hard for you as she is?

CLINTON: Well, it's one of the most incredibly gratifying experiences of my life, as a person and as a mother. You're going to make me get very emotional.

She is an exceptional person, and she's worked so hard, and she's done such a good job, that I'm just filled with pride every time I look at her.

You know, obviously, we are very close. We are in communication all the time. But she is doing this because she believes I would be a good president, but also because she cares so much about our country's future. She did grow up in the White House. She knows what a difference a president makes.

If anybody ever doubted what difference a president makes, after seven years of George Bush, I think the doubts should be put to rest. So, she's doing it because she's my daughter, but she's doing it because, as she says, she's a young American who cares about our future.

BLITZER: And she's doing it because she loves you.

CLINTON: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Senator Clinton, thanks very much.

CLINTON: Thanks.


BLITZER: Last week, Senator Barack Obama was here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We have a standing invitation to Senator John McCain to join us as well. We hope he will. And we hope he does it soon.

Meanwhile, how are supporters of John McCain and Barack Obama reacting to what we just heard from Hillary Clinton? We're going to be speaking with both sides. Standing by live, the Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist -- he strongly backs John McCain -- and the former Democratic senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a major Barack Obama supporter.

They're going to both react live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Something's happened in Mississippi that's leaving some Republicans nationwide very, very fearful. One party leader even says it's a wakeup call for the entire party. You're going to find out what happened and how it could help Barack Obama and might impact you.

And might Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's long race badly hurt whoever becomes the party's nominee? History may have some clues.

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


BLITZER: Something's happening that's giving Republicans chills regarding the fall elections. It involves the battle for control of the Congress and some districts that are ordinarily safe for Republicans flipping into Democratic hands.

Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's watching this story for us.

There was a shockwave yesterday for the Republicans, Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There certainly was. But it didn't happen in West Virginia.



SCHNEIDER: When something happens three times, it's a trend.

PELOSI: Three for three, batting 1000, batting 1000.


SCHNEIDER: Tuesday, for the third time this year, Democrats took a House seat away from the Republicans in a special election. In March, a Democrat won the Illinois House seat held by former Speaker Dennis Hastert since 1986.

This month, Democrats won a Louisiana House seat held by a Republican since 1986, and on Tuesday, a Mississippi House seat held by a Republican for 14 years, three Democratic gains in staunchly Republican districts that George W. Bush won handily in 2004.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: It was another wakeup call that we have to show Americans that we can fix the problems here in Washington.

SCHNEIDER: In Louisiana and Mississippi, Republicans ran ads tying the Democratic candidate to Barack Obama.


NARRATOR: Travis Childers endorsed by liberal Barack Obama.



NARRATOR: A vote for Don Cazayoux is a vote for Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi.


SCHNEIDER: The result?

OBAMA: I mean, they were trying to do every trick in the book to try to scare folks in Mississippi, and it didn't work.

SCHNEIDER: That's good news for Democrats who are worried about Obama's electability. Democrats are looking for big gains in Congress this year. Republicans in both the House and Senate are defending more open seats and more vulnerable seats.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has warned his party -- quote -- "Either congressional Republicans are going to chart a bold course of real change, or they're going to suffer decisive losses this November."


SCHNEIDER: The House results also give Barack Obama an argument he can make to superdelegates who were unnerved by his weak performance in West Virginia. When Republicans tried to make Obama the issue, it backfired. A heavy turnout of new voters brought the Democrats big gains three times -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thank you.

In our "Strategy Session" with Donna Brazile and Dick Armey, we will talk about the Mississippi House race and presidential coattails. We will also ask the former House majority leader, if he were in charge, would he tell Republican congressional candidates to run away from or run with John McCain this fall?

And what's next for the Democrats? You have now heard Senator Clinton explain why she's staying in this race. Superdelegate Donna Brazile assesses the state of the presidential race.

Plus, the abortion rights community at odds right now over -- at odds right now over presidential endorsements. What does it mean for the Obama/Clinton race?

All that and a lot more coming up -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: In our "Strategy Session" today, let's get some reaction to my one-on-one interview with Hillary Clinton.

Joining us, our CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Republican former House Majority Leader Dick Armey. Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

She's in it. She's not going anywhere. She made that abundantly clear. She's hoping for a three-point shot at the buzzer.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't see any reason for her to depart until the end, for obvious reasons.

Her supporters are still with her. Voters clearly are still with Senator Clinton. And what I heard from the interview is that she would like to end this race on a joyful note, meaning she would like to continue to get large turnout of voters to her cause, as well as to inspire Democrats to prepare themselves for the fall. I see no reason for Senator Clinton to exit the race.

BLITZER: Is she under any illusions, do you think?

BRAZILE: Well, you know, I have never been able to check anyone's psychological health, but I think -- politically, I think it's important that she stays in this race until the race ends, on June 3.

BLITZER: What do you think, Congressman?

DICK ARMEY, FORMER REPUBLICAN HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, I agree with it. I -- she should stay in.

And, quite frankly, one of the things about this race that cracked me up was the Clintons talking about using the superdelegates to stop the elitist, Obama. I got a little confused by that rhetoric. But I think she should stay in it. I would like to see a lively convention. We haven't had one for a long time.

And as long as the Democrats are having a lively convention, I think it's a good thing.

BLITZER: Well, she says the pressure is on you along, as a member of the Rules Committee, together with, what, 29 others at the DNC, to come up with a solution May 31, when you meet, that will allow the Democrats in Florida and Michigan to have a say in selecting this nominee.

And, if you do, do it the way she wants, she thinks she would be competitive.

BRAZILE: Well, Senator Clinton will have an opportunity to make an argument or someone from her campaign. But we're under an obligation to enforce the rules, to abide by the rules, and to protect the integrity of the process, not to overturn rules or to create new rules in the middle of the game.

BLITZER: But there have been times in the past when rules have been changed as you go into this process, right?

BRAZILE: I'm sure that, if you look at Delaware in 1996, when they had an opportunity to revote and come out with an alternative process, at the end of the process, absolutely. We had a nominee, and the nominee was able to, of course, encourage people to do that. That was Bill Clinton at the time.

But, look, if we -- if we don't get it right on May 31, the Credentials Committee will have to handle it. I hope we get it right on May 31.

BLITZER: You think she should finish it off, but do you think she's going to be the nominee? Does she have a realistic chance, or is this just a hope for her?

ARMEY: Well, I don't know. I think the numbers are working against her. But the one thing you can count on is a real possibility for something extraordinary to happen in politics between now and then.

I do think there's a real problem with two major states being left out. I don't understand the Democratic Party and the way they set their rules. My theory was always that each and every state had a right to set their own time and place...


BLITZER: Well, the Republicans had their own rules, but they only limited half the delegates from Michigan and Florida. The Democrats removed all of the delegates. We're not going to go over all of that right now.

I do want to get your reaction to this battle that is under way between NARAL and EMILY's List, both very strong in favor of women's abortion rights. After years of supporting Hillary Clinton, NARAL has now today, with three weeks to go or so, endorsed Barack Obama, to which EMILY's List president Ellen Malcolm said, "I think it is tremendously disrespectful to Senator Clinton to not give her the courtesy to finish the final three weeks of the primary process."

What's going on here?

BRAZILE: Well, clearly, NARAL, the board met at the Political Action Committee. They had an opportunity to look at both candidates. I don't -- I don't understand the urgency, but I understand the feeling inside the Democratic Party. Many Democrats...

BLITZER: After all that Hillary Clinton has done for NARAL over the years?

BRAZILE: Look, Senator Obama is also pro-choice. And he has a lot of pro-choice supporters out there as well.

And while the pro-choice community has been solidly behind Senator Clinton, they're also behind Senator Obama. So, it's not a split. It's just that Ellen Malcolm, I'm sure, is, you know, quite angered that they made the endorsement today, and not some time after June 3.

BLITZER: Let me get your reaction to this, a Democratic win a seat in Mississippi for a seat that was open in Congress, following a win in Louisiana, following a win in Denny Hastert's seat, three -- three in a row, these open contests.

Here's the question to you, as a Republican strategist. Should Republicans seeking to get elected in the fall in the House and Senate run with the McCain or against McCain?

ARMEY: I think they need to run their own race on ideas.

And I would say to the Republicans, much like Newt Gingrich has, if you can't get in the world of big ideas and stand tall and proud with some really good ideas and some show of commitment, you're not going to win election.

BLITZER: He's very worried, Newt Gingrich. How worried are you that the majority that the Democrats have in the House and the Senate is going to explode come November?

ARMEY: I think that their majority could explode, and for the same reason they won it in the first place. Republicans cannot thrive in a world of petty, small, parochial ideas.

A world that has a desire to vote for Republicans wants to vote for big people with large commitments to large ideas. That's what the Contract was. That's what Ronald Reagan was. And that's what they don't seem to feel like they can find today.

BLITZER: Dick Armey, Donna Brazile, guys, thanks very much.

BRAZILE: I want to tell you, I agree with him.

BLITZER: All right, good. It's important that the two of you agree.

BRAZILE: Absolutely, on that.



BLITZER: It's a new Washington.

We're standing by for more reaction to my interview with Hillary Clinton. We will get reaction from her opponent's camps. Just ahead, former Senator and Obama supporter Tom Daschle and the Florida governor, McCain supporter, Charlie Crist, they are standing by live.

And President Bush marks Israel's 60th anniversary, as rocket fire casts a pall on the country's celebration.

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


BLITZER: On our Political Ticker today, a new poll suggests Barack Obama is heading for a big win in Oregon next Tuesday. The survey of likely Democratic primary voters shows Obama with a 20-point lead over Hillary Clinton. The "Portland Tribune"/KPTV poll was taken before Senator Clinton's blowout win in West Virginia last night.

A new national poll shows both Obama and Clinton could beat John McCain if -- if the general election were held right now. The Quinnipiac University poll shows Obama ahead of McCain by seven percentage points. It shows Clinton defeating McCain by five points. Another recent national poll showed Clinton doing slightly better against McCain than Obama.

The Republican National Committee has a new Web ad likening Obama to Jimmy Carter. The spot slams Obama for opposing a gas tax holiday. And it accuses him of wanting to tax oil companies, the way Carter did in the late '70s.


NARRATOR: Obama's proposals have been tried before. Sound familiar?

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congress must enact the windfall profits tax without delay.

NARRATOR: Sound familiar?


BLITZER: Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is responding to speculation that Obama might tap him to be his running mate. Rendell is a Clinton supporter, not yet willing to concede that Obama will win the nomination. But, if he does, Rendell says Obama should not settle for a Clinton backer as V.P. He should tap Clinton herself.

Rendell spoke on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."

Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always check out That's where you can read my daily blog post as well. Posted one just before the show on my interview today with Hillary Clinton.

The former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is speaking out about her private pain. Coming up, O'Connor tells Congress about her husband's battle with Alzheimer's. This is a remarkable story of love and sacrifice.

And highlights from my interview with Hillary Clinton -- we will get reaction from her opponents' camps and analysis from the best political team on television.

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


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

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: If you could interview Senator Hillary Clinton, what would you ask her?

Steve writes: "I would ask her why we need another president who can't see when it is right to get out -- leave the campaign trail -- why we need another president who can't balance a budget -- running her campaign in the red -- and why we need another president who will not listen to the experts -- gas tax holiday. How would she be a different decision-maker than George Bush?"

Angus writes: "I would ask her to explain her feelings and involvement in her husband's pardoning of all those criminals during his time as president."

Dave in Iowa City, Iowa: "I would ask her how she did in math in high school. She doesn't seem to be very good at it."

Tracy in Indianapolis: "I would ask her why she is trying to get Michigan and Florida to count, when she agreed beforehand, as all the others did, that they should not count."

Janet in West Virginia said: "I would ask her, please tell me you won't quit, that you will stay in the race until the last vote is counted."

Debbie in New Jersey said: "I would ask her to look into her heart and be honest. Is she more concerned about the country and the Democratic Party than she is about her winning? And, if her answer is yes, then I would ask her why she isn't supporting and campaigning for the person who can win the most votes come November. It certainly isn't her. If it were, she would have them now."

Gary in California writes: "I would ask, would you entertain a revote in California, a primary you won months ago? Here on the left coast, we would love the chance to switch sides. How's your confidence that it could never happen?"

And Marylee in Atlanta writes: "Hillary, just how many pantsuits do you own exactly?"

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

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.

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

Happening now, Hillary Clinton talks about how she manages to keep ongoing every single day, a possible dream ticket for the Democrats, and what she concedes was a dumb remark about race. It's all in my one-on-one interview.

And I will get reaction to Hillary Clinton's remarks from an Obama supporter, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, and from a McCain supporter, the Florida governor, Charlie Crist.

The Democrats' West Virginia primary may have stolen the spotlight, but the GOP is reeling from a big loss in the Mississippi congressional race. We're going to tell you what that might mean in November.

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