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Senator Ted Kennedy Diagnosed With Brain Cancer; Interview With Illinois Senator Barack Obama; Clinton Projected Winner in Kentucky

Aired May 20, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, breaking news -- a Democratic icon now battling a cancerous brain tumor. This hour, Senator Ted Kennedy's grim diagnosis and the stunned reaction from colleagues, including Senator Barack Obama.

Right now, Obama is poised to declare partial victory on another important primary night. In my new interview with the senator, he's looking past Hillary Clinton. He's accusing John McCain of flip- flopping on foreign policy.

In Kentucky, the voting will be all over about an hour from now. And Clinton may find out if she's getting another monster win. We're standing by for the first results. I will speak about it with the Clinton communications director, Howard Wolfson. He's standing by live -- all that coming up, plus, the best political team on television.

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

Less than an hour from now, all the polling places in Kentucky will be closed, a lot of anticipation right now about the Democratic primary there and in Oregon as well -- 103 delegates are at stake in those two states.

Tonight, Barack Obama is expecting to claim he's won a majority of the pledged delegates. He's just 14 shy of that milestone right now.

Our correspondents are covering this primary night across the country.

But we're also following the breaking news out of Boston: Senator Edward Kennedy diagnosed with brain cancer.

Our chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, standing by, but let's go to CNN's Dan Lothian. He's in Boston with the very latest.

All right, Dan, update our viewers on what we know.


I want to show you these pictures that we have just received, courtesy of the "Associated Press" showing Senator Kennedy inside the hospital behind me here surrounded by his family members. I can tell you that his wife, Vicki, has been by his side throughout this entire ordeal. And today we also saw his sons Patrick and also Ted Jr. showing up here at the hospital.

A short time ago, we saw the driver who brought them here go out and get some food and bring it back into the hospital. So, based on those pictures that you're looking at there, you can see that his family is by his side during this very difficult, very difficult time.

But by all accounts, based on what doctors are saying and also Democratic sources, Senator Ted Kennedy is in very good spirits. And, right now, doctors are doing -- performing more tests. They want to look at what options they have in terms of treatment.

Right now, they're looking at a combination between chemotherapy and radiation, although Democratic sources close to the Kennedy family are saying that both Senator Kennedy and his wife, Vicki, want to wait and see the results of those tests before they look at whether or not surgery might be a viable option, a viable treatment option -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian, stand by. We're going to be getting back to you.

I want to talk a little bit more now about Senator Kennedy's diagnosis, his treatment options.

We're joined by our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, you're a neurosurgeon. Unfortunately, you're very, very familiar with this kind of diagnosis.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a malignant tumor. This is one of the toughest diagnosis I think that we have as neurosurgeons have to give to our patients.

A couple of things are so important here. The location specifically of the tumor here, we're zooming in on the brain, specifically looking at an area of the brain where we're told this tumor is located, lights up in red here. It's called the parietal lobe. This is a very important area of the brain, especially on the left side.

That area that just lit up is the motor strip. And then you have a speech area as well, Wolf. So there are areas of the brain that are called eloquent areas. They do a lot of things. This is one of those areas which may make it very difficult to actually perform surgery, do any kind of operation on that.

What they're probably doing now, Wolf, is very interesting. They actually do what's called a functional MRI scan. They have the senator probably move his arm and his leg and on the right side and they see exactly where that motor strip is. They have him talk, see exactly where that speech area is. If it's too close to the tumor, this is probably not going to be something that can be operated. BLITZER: The fact that he already had a seizure Saturday morning, maybe two seizures, and the doctors are now saying that those seizures were the result of this brain tumor, what does that say to you?

GUPTA: This is exactly how most times people who have a brain tumor, that's their first sign that something is wrong, especially in adults.

Kids can have a fever and have a seizure. But, as you get older, it becomes less likely. And if the seizure happens, you have to think about a brain tumor. It's the first thing that will go through a neurosurgeon's or a neurologist's mind. The question is, where is the tumor located? How big is it? Is it operable? What's the grade?

What we now is between Saturday and today they performed a brain biopsy where they actually put a catheter into the brain, took some of that tissue out and examined it under the microscope and made this diagnosis of malignant brain tumor.

BLITZER: So, if surgery is not an option, the other options would be chemotherapy and radiation.

GUPTA: Yes, absolutely. These are sort of the conventional therapies, if you will.

They may give chemotherapy with radiation. They will usually do that for several weeks, and then get another MRI scan. The hope is that the tumor is starting to decrease in size, starting to shrink.

If it's not, then there's another decision tree here. Do you continue going on with the chemo and radiation, which is tough on anybody? It's tough on a young person, certainly a 76-year-old as well. If it's not working, he might be eligible for some sort of clinical trial, which are the newest, if you will, therapies.


BLITZER: These are experimental procedures, if you will, but are there good ones out there that potentially have some benefit?

GUPTA: They're pretty novel, so it's hard to know how well they work over the long term.

One of them, they actually -- it's fascinating, Wolf. They actually teach the body's own immune system to target that brain tumor. So, they recognize the brain tumor as foreign and your white blood cells and your blood actually go and target that brain tumor.

BLITZER: This is some sort of vaccine that is a clinical trial, right?

GUPTA: That's essentially what it is. You're basically creating a vaccine and giving it to the patient.

The other type of therapy, which is also experimental, is where you take viruses and those viruses to attack that specific tumor, and nothing else. Again, both these are experimental and would only be used, Wolf, if chemo and radiation don't work.

Wolf, this is one of the toughest tumors out there. Out of all the tumors that you can get in your body, brain tumors, malignant gliomas, they're tough to treat.

BLITZER: All right, Sanjay, stand by, because I want to continue this conversation.

And, of course, we wish Senator Kennedy only the best.

Senator Kennedy is one of Barack Obama's most prominent supporters. His endorsement back in January helped tilt the momentum to a certain degree in Obama's way.

I spoke with Senator Obama just a little while ago and got his reaction to the news of Senator Kennedy's cancerous brain tumor.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's heartbreaking. I had just spoken to Ted two days ago, right after the seizure, and he seemed in great spirits. He sounded terrific.

I think the family was feeling more optimistic. Obviously, we're all shattered by the news today. But you know what? Ted Kennedy is a fighter. The reason he is the giant of the Senate, the reason that he has accomplished more than any of the others who were there, the reason that he has been able to help deliver voting rights and immigration rights and helped people who are vulnerable is because he fights.

He fights for what he thinks is right. And we want to make sure that he's fighting this illness. And it's our job now to support him in the way that he has supported us for so many years. He's not just a great senator. He is a great friend. He is beloved by me and beloved by my colleagues. And, so, we're going to do everything we can to support his family during this difficult time. And my thought and prayers are going to be with him.

BLITZER: Give us a final thought, Senator, on what Senator Kennedy means to you.

OBAMA: Well, you know, keep in mind that I think you can argue I would not be sitting here as a presidential candidate had it not been for some of the battles that Ted Kennedy has fought.

So, not only is he a personal friend. Not only has he been one of my most important supporters during the course of this campaign, but he's somebody who battled for voting rights and civil rights when I was a child. I stand on his shoulders.

And the fact that he's also a great friend, somebody who always has a kind word to say, always has good humor, even with his adversaries, you know, he's been, I think, a great model of what a senator can and should be. And I expect that he's going to fight as hard as he can to make sure that he's dealing with this illness.


BLITZER: The rest of my interview with Senator Barack Obama is straight ahead. He lays into Senator John McCain. You're going to want to hear this.

All three presidential candidates are, of course, colleagues of Senator Kennedy.

Here's what Hillary Clinton had to say about Senator Kennedy's brain cancer and what may lie ahead.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's a fighter. There isn't anybody like about him. He gets up and goes out and does battle on behalf of all of us every single day. And I know he's a fighter when it comes to the challenges he's facing right now.


BLITZER: John McCain choking up on his campaign bus today when he got the news about Senator Kennedy's illness. Listen to this.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Apparently, reports are that Ted Kennedy has a malignant brain tumor.

Obviously, our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to him. We hope and pray that they will be able to treat it and that he will experience a full recovery.


BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on Senator Kennedy's diagnosis and the stunned reaction. Our analysts are standing by for that.

Also coming up, would Barack Obama really sit down with the president of Iran?


OBAMA: I think this obsession with Ahmadinejad is an example of us losing track of what's important.


BLITZER: Senator Barack Obama tells me what is important and explains exactly how he would deal with trouble spots -- my interview with Senator Obama on national security and other matters coming up.

And less than an hour to go until the final polls close in Kentucky and after that, the deadline in Oregon. Just ahead, why these two mostly white states are expected to vote so differently.

The first results are actually coming in for Kentucky, where some of the polls already have closed.

Hillary Clinton is looking for a landslide in Kentucky, but is she running out of time? I'll ask a top member of her campaign. I will ask him why she thinks she still has a chance.

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


BLITZER: The war of words between John McCain and Barack Obama is ratcheting up dramatically, McCain accusing Obama of flip-flopping on foreign policy, and not only when it comes to Iran.


MCCAIN: Just a few years ago, Senator Obama had a very clear view on Cuba. When he was asked in a questionnaire about his policy toward Cuba, he answered, and I quote, I believe that normalization of relations with Cuba would help the oppressed and poverty-stricken Cuban people while setting the stage for a more Democratic government once Castro inevitably leaves the scene.

An interesting perspective on Cuba.

Now Senator Obama has shifted positions and says he only favors easing the embargo, not lifting it. He also wants to sit down unconditionally for a presidential meeting with Raul Castro. An unconditional meeting with Raul Castro.

These steps would send the worst possible signal to Cuba's dictators. There is no need to undertake fundamental reforms. They can simply wait for a unilateral change in U.S. policy.


BLITZER: But the Democratic White House hopeful says it's McCain who's backtracking -- more now of my new interview with Senator Barack Obama.


BLITZER: Senator McCain has leveled some very serious charges against your strategy in dealing with Cuba on this day. Let's go through a couple of them. We heard what he just said.

Are you ready to normalize relations with Raul Castro's regime?

OBAMA: No. And so I have to say, first of all, Wolf, his charges aren't serious. That's the problem.

I have never said that I was prepared to immediately normalize relations with Cuba. The only person who has flip-flopped on this issue is John McCain, who, in 2000, said that he would be prepared to start normalizing relations, even if a whole host of steps had not yet been taken. That is a reversal from the position he is taking now.

What I have said is that we should loosen up the ability of Cuban Americans to provide remittances to their family members, to travel to Cuban -- to Cuba to visit family members, as a show of good faith, and that, if we could see progress on a whole host of issues, then we should move in the direction of normalization, because what we have done over the last 50 years obviously not has worked for what is the primary criteria of U.S.-Cuban policy, which is making sure that the Cuban people have freedom.

And what I have also said is that I would be willing to engage in direct talks with Cuba. Now, I know that John McCain likes to characterize this as me immediately having Raul Castro over for tea.

What I have said is, is that we would set a series of meetings with low-level diplomats, set up some preparation, but that, over time, I would be willing to meet and talk very directly about what we expect from the Cuban regime.

BLITZER: Because he says...

OBAMA: And so John McCain -- John McCain keeps on making these statements that simply aren't based on anything I have said.

BLITZER: He says that you would be ready, in his words, to sit down unconditionally for a presidential meeting with Raul Castro. Those were his words.

OBAMA: And what I have said is, I would be willing to meet without preconditions, but with a lot of preparation. And this is -- this is the same argument that we've been having with respect to Iran. This is the same argument that we're going to be having throughout the next several months, should I end up being the Democratic nominee.

John McCain essentially wants to continue George Bush's policies of not talking to leaders we don't like and not talking to countries we don't like. It has been a failed policy. Iran is stronger now than when George Bush took office, partly because he engaged in a war in Iraq that John McCain facilitated that has strengthened Iran.

The fact that we haven't talked to them has not had them stand down on nuclear weapons. It hasn't led them to stop funding Hamas and Hezbollah. It hasn't stopped them from threatening Israel. And, so, what I have said is, we should open up direct talks.

By the way, George Bush's own secretary of defense, Robert Gates, has indicated the same thing.

BLITZER: Well...


OBAMA: I believe the same thing -- I believe that the same thing is true when it comes to Cuba.

And the -- I believe, by the way, that the same thing is true with North Korea. That's one of the few areas where we have seen some progress, primarily because the Bush administration reversed its policy of not having direct talks with these rogue nations, and we have actually started seeing some progress.

Prior to that...

BLITZER: All right.

OBAMA: ... North Korea developed a series of nuclear weapons.

BLITZER: There seems to be some confusion whether you would be willing, personally, as president, to sit down, without preconditions, with Ahmadinejad of Iran or other Iranian leaders.

Is your openness to a meeting with Iranian leaders inclusive of Ahmadinejad?

OBAMA: You know, I think this obsession with Ahmadinejad is an example of us losing track of what's important.

I would be willing to meet with Iranian leaders if we had done sufficient preparation for that meeting. Whether Ahmadinejad is -- is the right person to meet with right now, we don't even know what is going to -- how much power he is going to have a year from now. He is not the most powerful person in Iran.

And my expectation, obviously, would be to meet with those people who can actually make decisions, in terms of having them stand down on nuclear weapons, or stopping funding Hamas or Hezbollah, or meddling in the affairs of Iraq.

But the -- the bottom line here, Wolf, is that John McCain wants to pursue policies that George Bush has pursued for the last eight years, with no success. When it comes to Cuba, what he is now saying is, essentially, the policy we have pursued for 50 years. And the Cuban people are not more free.

And the notion that we would keep doing the same thing over and over and over again, when it doesn't work, and that that somehow is a sign of toughness, is extraordinarily naive, I think does a disservice to the Cuban people. That's the kind of break from the Bush administration that I want to initiate when I am president of the United States.


BLITZER: Senator Barack Obama speaking with me earlier today. And we're going to continue to watch this story.

We're getting the first raw votes coming in from Kentucky right now, the polls there closing in about 39 minutes. We're going to update you. You can see at the bottom of your screen the numbers that are coming in, small numbers so far.

We're also getting some exit poll numbers -- Bill Schneider going through those. Hillary Clinton isn't giving up. She's spending every last moment battling on the campaign trail. We're live in Kentucky with her story.

And back where it all began -- Senator Barack Obama returning to Iowa, where his sights are set on November's presidential election.

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


BLITZER: We're getting some numbers coming in. The polls in some of the precincts in Kentucky have already closed. All of the precincts in Kentucky will be closed at the top of the hour.

But, right now, less than 1 percent of the precincts have reported -- Hillary Clinton, as expected, doing very well, 63 percent so far to 32 percent for Barack Obama.

If you take a look at the actual numbers, though, tiny, tiny numbers trickling in right now, only a few thousand numbers. These are the counties that have already started to report. You see the light blue here. Those are counties where Hillary Clinton is ahead. It's very, very early right now.

But I want to get some exit poll numbers that are coming in as well. Bill Schneider is looking through those for us.

Bill, what are we seeing?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We're seeing a very different set of Democratic voters in these two states.

Let's take a look at voters, Democratic voters voting today in Kentucky. What percentage of them call themselves liberal? In Kentucky, 35 percent of the voters said that they were liberals; 65 percent did not. Now, compare that with the Democrats voting in Oregon, you get a very different result. In Oregon, a majority, 57 percent of the -- 57 percent of the Democrats voting in Oregon are liberals.

That could point to a different result, if you want to believe that Obama and Clinton appeal to different voters. So, what you're seeing there is a lot more liberal voters in Oregon than in Kentucky. And that could show up in the election results.

BLITZER: All right, Bill, thanks very much.

And, as we just saw, the first actual votes are starting to come in from Kentucky. The first polls there are closing. All of the polls in Kentucky will be closed at the top of the hour.

Will Hillary Clinton's hopes of a landslide win tonight be realized? Will they be dashed? We're going to know fairly soon.

Senator Clinton says her treatment by the news media is deeply offensive to millions of women. You are going to find out what the best political team on television makes of that.

And the stunning news that brought the U.S. Senate to a standstill -- some of the most powerful people in the United States brought to tears as the news that Senator Ted Kennedy has brain cancer spread.

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


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

Happening now, polls across Kentucky set to close at the top of the hour, with statewide returns expected soon thereafter. We're on the campaign trail with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Also, time is running out for Senator Clinton as she makes her case for the Democratic nomination. How can she actually pull it off? I will speak live with her communications director, Howard Wolfson. He's standing by live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Plus, the fallout from Senator Ted Kennedy's stunning diagnosis of malignant brain tumor -- all of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

Let's begin with the actual vote tallies that are beginning to come in from Kentucky. All the precincts in Kentucky will be closed at the top of the hour. But, right now, some of the polls have actually closed. About 1 percent of the precincts have now reported in -- Hillary Clinton still maintaining a very significant lead, 65 percent, to Barack Obama's 29 percent. But, remember, the numbers are just trickling in.

If you take a look, Hillary Clinton has about 4,100 to Barack Obama's 1,800. You can see there in those counties, the light blue, those are counties where Hillary Clinton is maintaining a lead. There's a dark blue, one county, where Barack Obama has a lead.

But, right now, it's very, very early in this process. All the polls will be closed at the top of the hour.

Voters are having their say right now in Oregon and Kentucky, but Barack Obama isn't in either of those states this evening. He's choosing to mark this moment where the presidential campaign began.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is joining us from Des Moines, Iowa, right now.

Suzanne, Obama is looking beyond these primaries. He's looking toward a general election contest against John McCain.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. Barack Obama is confident that he's going to win Oregon, but he's here in Iowa to deliver a very clear message to the superdelegates -- that they can be confident that he can win a cross-section of voters that's going to be critical to the general election. All have you to do is remember what happened here in Iowa.


OBAMA: We are one nation. We are one people. And our time for change has come.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Iowa -- where it all began. Barack Obama's explosive win here made him the frontrunner to beat. So tonight's rally in Des Moines brings him full circle, but not full victory.

OBAMA: They're ready to turn the page and write a new chapter in American history. And on June 3, we are going to bring this nomination to a close.

MALVEAUX: While Obama is expected to declare he's reached a milestone today by winning the majority of pledged delegates, he still won't have enough to clinch the nomination.

OBAMA: We made a promise.

MALVEAUX: Which makes the picture of him here, in a swing state 95 percent white, all that more important -- a reminder to the superdelegates -- those party officials likely to determine who gets the nomination. Here, Hillary Clinton came in third, despite her appeal to the white working class.

The message tonight -- the majority of voters have spoken, time for the superdelegates to get on board.


MALVEAUX: And aides say the sooner the better. They hope that he gets those superdelegates. It is the DNC Rules Committee that's going to meet at the end of the month to make a decision what happens to those delegates in Florida and Michigan. The hope is he'll have enough superdelegates on his side that that fight will not even be necessary -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Suzanne. Thank you.

Hillary Clinton is in Kentucky at this hour. She's hoping to claim a blowout victory later tonight. As the primary season winds down, Clinton is seeking every opportunity to make the case she's still very much in this game.

Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

She's in Louisville. This is an important victory, assuming she gets the victory tonight in Kentucky for Hillary Clinton -- Candy. CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. They believe a big victory here, in particular, will be able to bolster their argument that she wins an important demographic within the Democratic Party. And they hope to add whatever voters they get here to their claim that, at the moment, they have more popular vote.


H. CLINTON: And I believe that I have a unique set of experiences and qualifications on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

CROWLEY (voice-over): Universal health care, improved education and end the Iraq War -- the experience to get it done. Hillary Clinton of May '08 is like Hillary Clinton of May '07.

H. CLINTON: I need your help.

CROWLEY: Except she's running out of time, out of states, out of paths to the nomination -- but not running out of ways to win a battle in this long war.

JERRY LUNDERGAN, CLINTON CAMPAIGN KENTUCKY CO-CHAIR: We need to send Hillary Clinton out of Kentucky with the biggest majority that any state could ever have done.

CROWLEY: It may not make history, but she will win big in Kentucky. But it will not be enough to overcome what is almost certainly an insurmountable Obama lead in elected pledged delegates.

She'll press on regardless, encouraged to do so in a full-page ad from a women's group.

As both Hillary Clinton and her most passionate supporter made their way through a Louisville diner this morning, he argued there will be no finality to this race until Florida and Michigan are in the mix.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Republicans are supposed to be the people who don't count votes in Florida, not Democrats.

CROWLEY: Because Michigan and Florida broke party rules, it is longer than a long shot that Democratic officials will seat their delegates in a way that would change the outcome.


CROWLEY: But even if Clinton can't get enough delegates out of Florida and Michigan to put her over the top, they do expect that after the DNC decides whatever they're going to do with seating those two delegations, that Clinton can add to her argument that the popular vote in both those states still gives her the edge in that category -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

Thanks very much, Candy, for that.

Let's discuss the strategy for Hillary Clinton's campaign with the communications director, Howard Wolfson.

Thanks, Howard, very much for coming in.


BLITZER: So, assuming he reaches this milestone tonight -- the majority, most of the pledged delegates -- realistically, can the superdelegates tell all those elected delegates, you know what, we know what's better for the party?

WOLFSON: Well, I don't even think he's going to reach the majority of the pledged delegates tonight because I think on the 31st, the DNC will seat some delegates from Florida and Michigan. We hope a hundred percent.

BLITZER: Because right now, those two states aren't being counted by the DNC.

WOLFSON: They are not. But I think that they will be. I think observers are looking at this and saying we're not going to go into a convention with only 48 states participating. On the 31st, we do believe that the DNC is going to -- are going to seat those delegates.

BLITZER: And we're showing our viewers what the -- what, about 5 percent of the precincts have now reported. Hillary Clinton, 52 percent, to 44 percent. Still very early. But I assume you're expecting a very impressive victory in Kentucky tonight.

WOLFSON: Well, we hope so. Senator Obama outspent us in Kentucky by about half a million dollars.

BLITZER: He really didn't campaign there,, though.

WOLFSON: Well, he campaigned on TV. And if he wasn't there, it was because he anticipated that we might have a significant victory.

I think by the end of tonight, we will have more votes than Senator Obama, if you look at both states, and we'll have more delegates.

BLITZER: If you're looking in Michigan, where he didn't camp...

WOLFSON: No, no, no. I'm saying if you look at Oregon and Kentucky, we will come away from tonight with more votes and more delegates.

BLITZER: In these two states?

WOLFSON: Um-hmm.

BLITZER: Well, what are you hearing?

I mean Oregon is -- is a state that all the polls were suggesting he was going to do really well in.

WOLFSON: I think he will do well in Oregon. But I think at the end of the night, we will have more votes and more delegates.

BLITZER: I ask you this question all the time, but for viewers who are unfamiliar with this, walk us through the scenario that Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic presidential nominee.

WOLFSON: Sure. We have three more contests after tonight. We expect and hope, at the end of those contests, to be ahead in the popular vote. That's a very critically important metric. We hope that that will convince superdelegates -- in addition to the fact that Senator Clinton has won the key swing states of Florida and Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania -- that she would be the best nominee for our party and the best president.

BLITZER: What happens if the DNC, on May 31, says you know what, they were not supposed to move up their primaries earlier into January, we told them they wouldn't have delegates if they did and they're not going to change it?

WOLFSON: Well, that's the second piece of this. We do believe that the DNC will seat Florida and Michigan.

BLITZER: What if they don't?

WOLFSON: We expect that they will. I think...

BLITZER: I mean, because -- I ask the question because some have suggested you, the Clinton campaign, will say you'll fight it and you'll go to the convention floor.

BLITZER: Well, Senator Clinton is passionate about this. She's going to Florida tomorrow. She's going to call on the DNC to seat the delegation from Florida and Michigan. We don't believe that it's the right thing to do to exclude them.

BLITZER: So let me just be precise.

WOLFSON: And we don't believe it will be good for the party.

BLITZER: Are you telling the DNC right now, if they decide on May 31, in their all day meeting in Washington, that they're not going to change the rules, they're not going to give Florida and Michigan that delegate ability to determine the nominee, you will then, the Hillary Clinton campaign, will go to the convention floor and fight it on the floor?

WOLFSON: My hope is that the party will come together and recognize the wisdom of seating Florida and Michigan. That's our hope. That's our expectation. It's the right thing to do. It's also the smart thing to do for the party.

BLITZER: Is it -- because a lot of people are looking right now at Hillary Clinton's campaign and saying you know what, unless she really crushes Barack Obama in all the remaining -- the three remaining contests -- and gets, what, 70 or 80 or 90 percent, mathematically, she doesn't have the numbers.

WOLFSON: Well, that's not so. Neither candidate is going to finish this primary process with the requisite number of delegates needed to secure the nomination. Senator Obama went to Iowa tonight. He's going to claim some sort of victory that he doesn't have.

BLITZER: Is it appropriate for him to do that?

WOLFSON: I don't think so. No. I think these kind...

BLITZER: Will it irritate your supporters?

WOLFSON: I think a premature victory lap is unnecessary and unwarranted. I think we've got three more contests...

WOLFSON: He denies he's doing that.

But do you think that's what he's planning on doing tonight?

WOLFSON: Well, it was reported that that's what he was doing. That's why he's in Iowa, to take this kind of premature victory lap. I think it's unnecessary. I think it's unwarranted.

I think we've got to bring this party together at the end of this process. And I don't think Senator Obama declaring himself the nominee is the way to do that.

BLITZER: All right. I don't think he's going to do that. He's just going to say it's a milestone.


BLITZER: But we'll see what he says later tonight.

Howard, thanks for coming in.

WOLFSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Senator Kennedy diagnosed with brain cancer. We're going to talk about his outlook, the impact and more. That's coming up.

Also, some results are already coming in from the voting in Kentucky. You'll see them here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: About 7 percent of the precincts in Kentucky have now reported. Hillary Clinton has a lead, 51 percent to 45 percent, of the precincts of -- those precincts that have reported so far. Some of the polls in Kentucky, in the eastern part of the state, closed at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

The rest will be closing at the top of the hour, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern -- 29,800 or so for Hillary Clinton right now, 26,335 for Obama. You can see the light blue are counties that Hillary Clinton is ahead. The darker blue are counties where Barack Obama is ahead. In Louisville and Lexington over there, those are counties where Barack Obama is ahead. But it's still very, very early in this process. Only 7 percent of the precincts have reported. And all the precincts will start reporting at the top of the hour.

We're going to talk about that and more, though.

But let's also talk about Senator Ted Kennedy. He's been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.

We'll talk about it with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, she's here; Our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin; also, our CNN contributor, Republican consultant, Alex Castellanos, and he was an adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign; and our Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile. She's neutral in this campaign so far. She's a superdelegate. Always good to have a superdelegate here at the CNN Election Center.

Let's talk, first of all, about Ted Kennedy.

And Jeff, let me start with you -- because he has been a giant for these decades.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I was reading not too long ago the last volume of Taylor Branch's biography of Martin Luther King. And one of the things that really startled me was that Ted Kennedy, then a very junior senator, marched with Martin Luther King all over the country in the '60s -- in the mid-'60s. It just gives you some sense of the breadth of his career, the length of his career. And you know, he was -- he voted for the Civil Rights Act. He voted for the Voting Rights Act.

And all through the '70s and the '80s and the '90s, he has been a principal author of so much of the most important legislation that's come out of the Senate that even independent of his, you know, family connections and the fact that he is John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy's brother, he left this -- he has left -- and presumably will still leave -- a wonderful, extraordinary imprint on our country.

BLITZER: You've known him for many years, Donna.

What goes through your mind?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I met Ted Kennedy when I was a young girl working on the bill to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. He was the principal sponsor. And Coretta Scott King took me over to his office, along with a bunch of other interns, and said, he is going to lead the charge in the Senate. And at the time, I just remembered as a child growing up, we had the Kennedy photo.

Of course, we had Jesus and we had Martin Luther King. And it just seemed -- Ted Kennedy reminded me of all of those stories we heard when we were growing up in the segregated South, that the Kennedys stood for justice, they stood for equality and they championed the rights of the poor.

BLITZER: A lot of us remember that "60 Minutes" piece you did, Gloria, when you worked at CBS.


BLITZER: You got to know him quite well.

BORGER: Yes, I did. I mean there -- I went -- I actually went out to Hyannis with him and interviewed him out there. And the memories in that house are unbelievable. On the piano are photographs of his brothers and his parents and all the children. And he loved showing you around. And he loves to play the piano and sing at the piano.

And the thing that I, though, remember -- I think about when I think of Ted Kennedy is the legislator. I know Jeff was talking about that. But you know a lot of senators who sign their names on bills and they say OK, I'm for this and I'm for that.

Unless you've actually seen Ted Kennedy work in a conference committee or work on writing a piece of legislation, it's unbelievable. I know all his friends in the Senate want him back there because he's the one doing all the work.

BLITZER: And you know, it's really -- a lot of people don't understand Washington. But I think it's fair to say, Alex, some of his best friends in the Senate are Republicans.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, if you're going to be a liberal, Ted Kennedy is the kind of liberal you want to be, because he's a -- he's been a tremendous accomplishment. You know where he stands. He's respected, of course, on both sides of the aisle. You know, there are a lot of stars in the Washington sky. This one has shown so brightly for so long, that it has -- he's led his party there.

BLITZER: So you weren't surprised when John McCain, the Republican nominee, for all practical purposes, chokes up in just talking about Senator Kennedy when he heard about the tumor today.

CASTELLANOS: Of course not. It's -- when you are going to work across the aisle to get anything done in Washington, if you're a Republican, you're going to have to work with the lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy.

BLITZER: That's a fact.

All right, guys. Stand by. We have a lot more to talk about.

Hillary Clinton blasting the news media for what she calls deeply offensive coverage of her campaign. You're going to find out what's behind her allegations of sexism.

Also, two states -- two very different primary contests. We're going to show you what's going on in Oregon and Kentucky right now. Here are the numbers that are coming in as we go to this break.



H. CLINTON: The manifestation of some of the sexism that has gone on in this campaign is somehow more respectable or is more accepted. And I think there should be equal rejection of the sexism and the racism, when and if it ever raises its ugly head. But it does seem as though the press, at least, is not as bothered by the incredible vitriol that has been endangered by the comments and reactions of people who are nothing but misogynist.


BLITZER: Let's discuss these provocative words from Senator Clinton with the best political team on television.

Gloria, what do you think?

BORGER: Well, I think that Hillary Clinton probably -- I don't know what she's referring to. But I do think that if she says that there is incredible sexism, a woman knows it when she sees it. And so I'm sure there is.

However, I don't think it's smart or good or right now to be talking about that, because she's the iron lady. She's the tough fighter. She's the one who's continuing. And you can't be both the iron lady and the one who feels besieged at the same time. I think it's probably not the right tone she wants to strike now. I'm not doubting what she feels in her head about the way she's been attacked.

BLITZER: Because a lot of the so-called pundits have said racism, you can -- you know when there's racism.


BLITZER: Sexism, it's a little bit more difficult to discern.

BRAZILE: Well, as a black and a woman, I've seen them both, Wolf. And, yes, there's undercurrents of racism and sexism in every presidential campaign. And, clearly, in this historic election season, with two unconventional candidates, we've seen subtle forms of racism as well as sexism.

But I don't think that that defines Senator Clinton's candidacy, nor Senator Obama's. They have been two exceptional candidates. That's why they're in the finals. They're in the finals because they are the very best. And I think to blame their standing right now in the polls among delegates on racism or sexism will not give credit to the American people, who have put these two unique human beings in the position of becoming the next president of the United States.

TOOBIN: I think Hillary Clinton is dead right. There was a column in "The New York Times" not too long ago where it talked about some of the humor in the campaign. And the punch line was a line that was -- that Hillary Clinton was a white bitch. You couldn't say that. I mean that is acceptable about a woman.


TOOBIN: You couldn't say the equivalent thing about a man. And I -- I mean about a black person. And I think appalling, but I think she's absolutely right that there has been a level of sexism...


TOOBIN: ...that is not (INAUDIBLE).

CASTELLANOS: If I can disagree, I think you're dead wrong. She's dead wrong. And I think she thinks her problem is she's a woman. Her problem is she's Hillary Clinton. And some women, by the way, are named that and it's accurate. So it's...

TOOBIN: Well...

CASTELLANOS: ...she can -- she is a tough -- that tough, lady tough in politics, that's been her great strength. But let's face it, she can be a very abrasive, aggressive, irritating person and a lot of voters, I think, see her that way.

TOOBIN: Well...

BORGER: Yes, but a lot of voters don't, you know. And you can't -- are you...

CASTELLANOS: It doesn't have to be unanimous.

BORGER: Look, I mean she can't blame...

CASTELLANOS: But, look, she's very good at playing the professional victim until she gets up closely...

BORGER: Right.

CASTELLANOS: ...and then can put a knife in your ribs.

TOOBIN: I don't...


TOOBIN: I don't think she's saying...

CASTELLANOS: There is no weakness in this lady.

TOOBIN: I don't think she's saying that the whole problem with her campaign is due to sexism.

BORGER: Right. She can't say that.

TOOBIN: And it isn't. Clearly, she had many problems in this campaign.

But was there sexism and is there sexism in the coverage of her? You bet.

BRAZILE: Absolutely. No one would disagree with that. But I would...

TOOBIN: Well, Alex does.

BRAZILE: Well...


BRAZILE: Alex has a problem with this woman. But, clearly, I don't think that's the issue. I think Senator Clinton has been able to break so many barriers. But at the same time, she has faced some unique handles and a double standard...


BRAZILE: ...that applies to women in leadership positions.


CASTELLANOS: I have a problem with Hillary Clinton playing victim when it's convenient. I have a problem -- it's not a problem at all when she's doing well. It's not a problem -- but the minute she's trapped in the corner, it doesn't look like the math adds up, she doesn't look like she has her way (INAUDIBLE), then all of the sudden she's the...

BORGER: But here's the thing...

CASTELLANOS: ...poor, weak...

BORGER: Here's the thing...

CASTELLANOS: ...cookie baking lady.

BORGER: But we don't know -- but what we don't know about this interview is whether she's saying I have lost in these states or I didn't do well enough because there was sexism out there and that was held against me. I doubt she's saying that.

What she's saying is look, there are some people who treated me differently because I'm a woman. And I think every woman in America understands that that occurs.

BLITZER: Let me just say...

BORGER: You know...

BLITZER: Let me just move to one quick subject, because we're almost out of time.

Alex, you heard my interview with Senator Obama. He really went after Senator McCain, who earlier went after him on the whole issue of flip-flopping on Cuba. You know this subject about as well as any political operative right now.

Has Senator McCain flip-flopped on this -- on the subject of Cuba?

CASTELLANOS: No. I think Senator McCain's position has been steady and constant. He has never been for negotiating without any conditions at all in Cuba. He's supported -- he's supported you've got to have free elections, you've got to change the system and then some things are possible. But not unilateral disarmament at the negotiating table.

And I think Senator Obama is doing it and it's not a bad political move. Senator Obama's area where he needs to go is not so much foreign policy, it's to demonstrate strength. And that's why he wants to tackle John McCain.

BLITZER: The Cuban-American vote in Florida right now...


BLITZER: How critical is that still, because you hear all this talk that a younger generation of Cuban-Americans, you know, they don't necessarily agree with their parents or grandparents.

CASTELLANOS: They don't. But, still, the idea of unilateral disarmament at -- in diplomacy with Raul Castro and Fidel Castro is not appealing, I think, to the vast majority of Cubans. Senator McCain won the Florida primary, the Republican primary, primarily with the Cuban vote coming out of Miami and the help of Senator Mel Martinez. It positions him well for the general in Florida.

BLITZER: All right, guys...

BRAZILE: But back in February -- February of 2000, Senator McCain did support normalizing relations with Cuba. This is 2000. So let's just remember, he said it once before he now flip-flopped. That's the story.

BLITZER: All right. Guys. We're going to continue this conversation.

But let's check and see what's going on right now. We've got two big primaries that are coming up. The polls closing a little bit more than four minutes from now. All the polls will be closed, all the precincts will be closed in Kentucky. The polls will be closing much later in Oregon, out on the West Coast.

Let's go over to John King, because he's looking at these two states for us and giving us a sense of what we should be looking for.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Wolf, just look nationally first before we zoom in on Kentucky. The map is filling in, which means we are running out of primary contests. After the two tonight here in Kentucky and out in Oregon, only three remaining -- Puerto Rico down here and then in the Mountain West. Let's look into Kentucky, because results are starting to come in. Some of the polls -- some of the polls have already closed. And you see Senator Clinton leading very early. Eleven percent of the results in, 51 percent to 46 percent. As you look at this state, two things to look for tonight. The major concentration of the population is right in this swipe here, from Louisville over to Lexington. And then across this area here, for much of the state, you have much more sparsely populated, rural counties -- places where in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in West Virginia, Senator Clinton did quite well in the area outlined in red.

If we look at what's happening so far, we do see this county here. This is Jefferson County, where Louisville is. Barack Obama is carrying that county. This is a state with a very small African- American population, largely concentrated right here in this county -- in Jefferson County. Obama is winning, but only by a very tiny margin, Wolf...

BLITZER: They're 17 percent of the population of the state.

KING: If he were to have any chance in Kentucky, he would have to post big numbers here and a much bigger margin than that as the results come in. And we already have 53 percent of the precincts reporting in Kentucky.

So, Kentucky, so far -- and, again, I'm going to pull back to the national map. If you look at the neighborhood, you know why it favors Senator Clinton. This is Barack Obama's home state here. She has done so well in these areas where you have white, blue collar voters, working class voters and voters of a lesser education scale, those with below college degrees, tend to favor her, and lower income voters tend to favor her.

So as we see the early results come in, it is starting to fill in much like its neighbors in Kentucky.

BLITZER: And let's give a little preview of what we can expect in Oregon. The polls will be closed in Kentucky, all of them, in a few minutes. But we've got until 11 p.m. Eastern, 8:00 p.m. Pacific, when the polls will close in Oregon.

KING: If there is a difference in the two contests tonight, you can sum it up in two words -- affluence and education. The voters out here tend to be more affluent. They also tend to have higher education. There's a much higher percentage of college degrees out here among the voters in Oregon.

The population centers right here in the western part of the state, especially Portland up here in the north, college towns in Salem, college towns in Eugene. These are the areas, Wolf, where we expect more highly educated, more affluent Democrats, college towns -- those have been the bedrock of Barack Obama's support across the country, which is one of the reasons he is heavily favored out here in the State of Oregon.

Most of the votes, but especially for Democrats, will come in Portland, but also decent pockets of voters in Salem, down here in Eugene, out here, again, largely rural. Not -- it's not as populated. If Senator Clinton is to have natural strengths, they would be out here.

But most of the votes will come in this narrow column right here.

BLITZER: A tale of two states. Both of these states largely white, but very different.

KING: Actually, more African-Americans in Kentucky, and yet Barack Obama has better chances, according to the polls and according to both campaigns, out here in the State of Oregon, because African- American is one demographic by which we've broken down this race. But education and income are two other key critical demographics. And we'll watch that play out tonight.

BLITZER: And as we take a look, John -- and we're going get ready at the top of the hour to see what's happening in Kentucky. I want the viewers to get an appreciation, John, of -- let's go back to Kentucky right now, because this is a contest that he spent a lot of money on in Kentucky, but he didn't necessarily campaign there.

KING: He did not campaign as much in Kentucky, Wolf, because of the fact that he said Senator Clinton was so favored and he wanted to spend more of his time out here to the west, in Oregon. And, again, the demographics have favored him there.

But he did spend money. But he was not of the ground much.

BLITZER: All right, John. Thanks very much for that.

We're only seconds away from all the polls in the State of Kentucky closing, a state where Hillary Clinton was widely expected to do well. And by all accounts, she will be doing well. And when all the polls close in three seconds, we're going to be able to project.

CNN projects that Hillary Clinton is the winner of the Kentucky primary by a wide margin. We project perhaps 30 points -- a margin of 30 points. Hillary Clinton will defeat Barack Obama in the State of Kentucky, based on the exit polls that have been coming in, as well as the actual numbers that have come in over the past hour, since the polls closed in the eastern part of the state.

All of the polls are now closed in Kentucky. And CNN projects that Hillary Clinton will be the winner.