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Clinton Says She Would Accept VP Post; Interview with Rep. James Clyburn; General Motors Hurt by High Gas Prices; Clinton Campaign Chairman Discusses Hillary's Chances

Aired June 3, 2008 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, guys.
Happening now, breaking news -- Hillary Clinton tells New York lawmakers she's open to being Barack Obama's vice presidential running mate, on this, the last pivotal primary day. Is she reaching out to Obama and getting close to a concession?

I'll speak live with her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe. Stand by for that.

Plus, Barack Obama closing in on the nomination and sending a message to John McCain. Could he also be reaching out to Hillary Clinton? I'll talk to Obama's new supporter, the House majority whip, James Clyburn. That's coming up.

And McCain is set to take new swipes at Obama on the Democrats big night. We'll set the stage for McCain's speech tonight and this turning point in the presidential race.

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

Well, we begin with the breaking news this hour. Hillary Clinton now acknowledging she'd consider taking the number two slot on the Democratic ticket. Of course, that's if Barack Obama makes the offer. All of this playing out on this, the final day of the Democratic primary season, after five long months of bitterly fought contests.

Our Suzanne Malveaux has been reporting on Clinton's vice presidential prospects. She's joining us now with more.

What exactly are you hearing, that this is a very delicate, sensitive subject, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely and as we first reported yesterday, Senator Clinton through an emissary, an informal channel basically reached out to the Obama campaign to express interest in that number two job, saying that if offered, that she would be interested. And that she would accept. What is really happening now is what these private conversations that have been taking place, now, they are public. And what this means is that this puts a real pressure on the Obama campaign to make a decision about whether there's going to be a joint ticket.

Already through a conference call through the New York delegation, Congressman Charlie Rangel saying that that was the message delivered to him, that if offered, she would accept this position, Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne, stand by. We have much more to discuss as we look at where the Democratic race stands right now.

Barack Obama is inching ever closer to the nomination. Even before the polls close later tonight in South Dakota and Montana. That's only a few hours away. Obama has picked up a dozen more delegates so far today. Most of them are super delegates finally announcing their endorsement. At this moment, CNN estimates that Obama has 2,088 total delegates to Clinton's 1,917. That puts Obama just 30 delegates short of the number needed to clinch the nomination.

Clinton is still 201 delegates shy of that number. Thirty one delegates are at stake in today's primaries, 188 super delegates still are uncommitted. Now, most signs point to Obama having the nomination and is grasped by the end, perhaps, perhaps, by later tonight.

Let's go back to Suzanne Malveaux. She's watching the story as we've been talking about.

Suzanne, so what are you hearing exactly about Senator Clinton's immediate plans?

MALVEAUX: Well, she's looking at this evening and really what she's going to do is be conciliatory without giving a kind of concession speech. But there's more bad news for her. She is looking at these numbers, looking at the endorsements that are going Barack Obama's way. A real heavy-hitter, of course, is the former President Jimmy Carter.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): It's the end game for Hillary Clinton and she knows it, close friends say. After nonstop campaigning Monday, she got home at 3:00 a.m. and slept most of the morning. The day consisted mostly of making calls to the list of some 15 remaining uncommitted super delegates in Congress she believes could go her way, to friends, colleagues and party leaders and a conference call to her New York delegation.

Barack Obama's day was starkly different. Persistent all-night calls by members of his team urging super delegates to swing his way is paying off. A steady stream announced they were moving into Obama's column with the highest ranking African-American in Congress leading the charge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've decided to cast my ballot in the convention for Barack Obama.

MALVEAUX: Rumors of Hillary Clinton conceding erupted early afternoon. According to the "Associated Press," officials say Clinton will acknowledge, Tuesday night, tonight, Senator Barack Obama has the delegates needed for the nomination followed by quick denials. TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: They're 100 percent reporting incorrectly. I don't know who the officials are. Anyone can be an official in this world. I can unequivocally say as chairman of the campaign that until (INAUDIBLE) this nomination fight continues on.

MALVEAUX: But even her most strident supporters urged her to call the race.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), C.A.: I think after the campaigns are wrapped up today, it is in fact a moment of truth. And I think a decision has to be made whether keeping this nomination wide open is in the best interests of winning in November.

MALVEAUX: Close friends to (INAUDIBLE) what Clinton's thinking say in her mind, it is very clear, tonight's speech will be conciliatory but not a concession. She feels an obligation to her supporters to end her campaign in a thoughtful way. And she will not be rush. She also knows just how close this contest is. As one of her friends put it, Obama can still feel her breath on his neck.


MALVEAUX: And those familiar with her speech tonight say that it is going to be very Hillary in their words. That essentially meaning that she will reach out to her supporters. She will talk about her commitment, the people that she has met along the way and how she hopes her own role in this campaign will be the kind of legacy that she and her supporters can be proud of, Wolf.

BLITZER: These next few hours are going to be very, very dramatic. Suzanne, thanks very much. Stand by. We got a lot of work to do.

Barack Obama closes out this primary season in the fall battleground state of Minnesota. It's no coincidence at all that he'll be at the very same place where Republicans will crown John McCain as their presidential nominee at their convention in early September.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is joining us now from St. Paul, Minnesota with more.

Obama is sending a clear cut message out there to the Republicans, isn't he, Jessica?


This is a shot across the bow from Barack Obama to John McCain. McCain, as you say, is holding the convention. He will appear here for the Republican convention later this summer. And Barack Obama is poised to clinch the nomination. He comes here to Minnesota to say the Democrats are claiming this ground as theirs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) YELLIN (voice-over): He's been here before.


YELLIN: But this time, Obama is marking Minnesota as Democratic turf. He returns as he's poised to clinch the nomination. And Obama's communication director Robert Gibbs tells CNN it's the perfect place to start the next phase of his race. He chose the location John McCain will use to accept the nomination for George Bush's third term because America is ready for a change. Minnesota has been a blue state for more than three decades. It's gone Democratic for every president since Nixon.

But President Bush came close to winning here in 2004, losing by only 3 percent. And Republicans are hoping to turn this state red in November. The head of the Republican Party here insists Obama is the most liberal candidate to run for president of the United States in his lifetime. And therefore, he said, Minnesota is, quote, certainly within our reach.


YELLIN: Now, Wolf, Barack Obama's team has made it clear that they plan to try and change the electoral map as they approach the general election. Obama will compete vigorously to win in red and purple states like Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. But to be successful, they can't risk losing states that have traditionally been blue like Minnesota. That's why we're seeing him here tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thank you.

We're going to be standing by also by the way to bring you the first exit poll results from today's primaries in South Dakota and Montana. That's coming up shortly right here in THE SITUATION ROOM and please be sure to join us here in the CNN election center at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for our complete coverage of the primary results and where the presidential campaign goes from here.

Lots of news happening on this important day. We bring in Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File."

You sense it's coming to an end, at least this chapter?


It was, believe it or not, five months ago today, five months ago today, unknown black Senator Barack Obama rode into the all-white state of Iowa and absolutely ruined Hillary Clinton's day and the day after and the day after that. And pretty much every day since. Now, it looks like it's about over. It's been historic and bloody and very, very expensive. And despite the open invitation from George Bush for the Democrats to simply walk into the White House, a Democrat presidency starting in 2009, still a long way from a sure thing. The breakthrough candidacies of the first woman, the first African-American with a real shot at the nation's highest office, may have ripped the Democratic Party to shreds. Clinton and Obama polarized the electorate and along the way it got very nasty. We still don't know what it will take for Hillary Clinton to climb aboard the Obama express. So far, she's done little more than pay lip service to the idea of being a real team player and working as hard to unit the Democrats as she did to defeat Barack Obama.

Unless the Democrats can pull this thing together, the campaign of 2008 will go into the history books as the greatest opportunity ever squandered in American politics.

Here's the question: What's the best way for the Democrats to begin uniting the party for November?

Go to, post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Good question, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Great question.

BLITZER: Not an easy answer. But a good question.

CAFFERTY: I don't have to get the answer. That's for those people.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. We're standing by once again to bring you the first exit poll information from both South Dakota and Montana. Stand by with us for that. Also, we're watching the breaking news. Hillary Clinton now saying she's open to being Barack Obama's vice presidential running mate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to take a look at all of the assets and the liabilities of such a ticket. And hopefully, not be emotional about it, but be very, very political about what is best for our party, what is best for our nation.


BLITZER: I'm going to be talking about that, the prospects of the so-called dream ticket with a brand-new Barack Obama supporter, the House majority whip James Clyburn. He's the highest-ranking African-American in the U.S. Congress.

Also coming up, I'll ask Clinton campaign manager Terry McAuliffe about Clinton's VP option if, if Obama were to make the offer.

And what are the odds that there will be an Obama/Clinton ticket? People are speculating lots about it right now online. Stay with us. Lots of news happening on this pivotal day right here in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news this hour. Hillary Clinton telling New York lawmakers that she's open to the idea of being Barack Obama's running mate. Let's talk about that with Gloria Borger. She's here.

What do you hear, Gloria, I know you've been doing some reporting. What are we going to hear in her speech tonight? She's here in New York City.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well I've been talking to a source in the Clinton campaign. You won't be surprised that this source says it will be a gracious speech, that she's going to express her gratefulness to the process, to her supporters that she's going to be very complimentary of Barack Obama and she's going to speak about her issues. But this is not -- he said to me, you will no doubt in the media interpret this as a concession speech. He said, it will not be a concession speech. There's time for that. She really is spending the day on the phone, talking to all of her supporters trying to get a sense of what her next step should be.

BLITZER: It's interesting, on this night we'll be hearing from all three of these presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain will be doing a major prime time speech as well. We'll, of course, carry all of those speeches here at the CNN Election Center.

Gloria, stand by.

As voters in South Dakota and Montana cast their last primary votes of this presidential race, there's a new rush of super delegates jumping on the Barack Obama bandwagon. And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Congressman James Clyburn. He's the highest ranking Africa-American in the United States Congress. He's the majority whip in the House of Representatives.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D) MAJORITY WHIP: Wolf, thank you so much for having me.

BLITZER: A big day, you've waited this long going way back all these months to make an endorsement. Why now? Why not wait until the final two contests are over and then make your endorsement. What motivated you in other words to do it today?

CLYBURN: Because Senator Obama decided to have this big event in Minnesota tonight. And he wanted to be able at this event to let the world know that he's reached the threshold of 2118. I thought it would be best for him to reach that at the close of the polls than to wait until tomorrow and reach 2,118 because of super delegates stepping in the day after the voting was over. Let us close out the voting with him having reached the threshold.

That way, he can give credit to the voters in South Dakota and in Montana for having done it than those of us here on Capitol Hill. That's just a much better position for him to be in. BLITZER: Because some people are interpreting it as a slap in Hillary Clinton's face at this late, late moment.

CLYBURN: No, it's not that at all. I think she will acknowledge, at least I heard that she will tonight, that he has reached the threshold of 2,218.

BLITZER: Her campaign Chairman Terry McAuliffe is denying that Associated Press report.

CLYBURN: What I understand he's denying. He's denying that she will concede. I don't think she will. I think that what she will do, I believe, is to acknowledge that the 2,118 is in fact there. That 2,118 number is something that is very, very critical to this process, and I think that he will reach that by the close of the voting in Montana and South Dakota tonight.

BLITZER: And, remember, a long time ago, it seems like forever, it was back in January, you were angry at former President Bill Clinton for some of the comments he made. And I think your famous quote was "chill, Bill." You told him to chill. I want you to listen to what he said yesterday reacting to a very, very explosive article in "Vanity Fair." but he also said this, listen carefully.


WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's another way of helping Obama. You know, they did not do any studies but they had all these people standing up in this church cheering, calling Hillary a white racist and he didn't do anything about it. The first day he said ah well, because that's what they do, he gets other people to slime her.


BLITZER: All right, that's a pretty strong comment about Barack Obama from the former president. He gets other people, referring to Barack Obama to slime her. How much of a factor in your endorsement of Obama was Bill Clinton as opposed to Hillary Clinton?

CLYBURN: None of it, not a bit of it. But I will tell you this, I think we have to understand that very often people get emotionally involved in these campaigns. And it's very unique (INAUDIBLE) for President Clinton. He's caught in the emotions, reacting to the candidate or attacks on the candidate. Then he's also reacting to attacks on his spouse. That's a pretty peculiar position to be in.

If it were not his spouse, I think he would be reacting differently. I know what it is to have a spouse of long-standing and how you feel about it when somebody says something unkind about them. So I think that that's what's happening here, it's very unfortunate, but it's a reality.

BLITZER: There are now reports, congressman, that Hillary Clinton is open to being his vice presidential running mate. What do you think, is that a good idea for Obama to pick Clinton and put them both on the same ticket?

CLYBURN: It sounds OK to me. I don't know how it sounds to others. I think that's something that Senator Obama is going to make up his mind about. I think that the two of them need to sit down and think about -- what all can factor into this. I think they're supposed to meet face-to-face very soon. I believe that ought to be a topic of discussion. Then we ought to have some vetting to take place.

We need to take a look at all of the assets and the liabilities of such a ticket and hopefully, not be emotional about it, but be very, very political about what is best for our party, what is best for our nation and which ticket will be better for our candidate to run on.

BLITZER: Congressman Clyburn, thanks for joining us.

CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.

BLITZER: So what's next for Hillary Clinton now that she's apparently open to being Barack Obama's vice presidential running mate? Might that actually happen, the Clinton campaign manager Terry McAuliffe, he's standing by live. He's here at the CNN Election Center. We'll talk about that and more.

And the political drama appears to be nearing an end. But could this story still change dramatically? What might cause some super delegates to snatch support from Barack Obama and throw it behind Hillary Clinton? Can they still change their minds? That among other subjects coming up in our strategy session.


BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, how low will it go? The current interest rate may be as low as it's going to get for a while. Fed Chief, Ben Bernanke, hints more rate cuts are unlikely in the near future. Some experts warn not to expect any more this year. The issue, more rate cuts could raise inflation. Bernanke says recent rate reductions and the economic stimulus package should create better economic conditions this year.

High gas prices aren't just hurting those who drive cars, but also the people who make them. General Motors says it will close four plants between this year and 2010. Why you ask? Well, because gas prices are steering more people away from gas-thirsty pickup trucks and SUVs. The plants are in Ohio, Wisconsin, Canada and Mexico. That will impact about 10,000 employees. GM says it will focus on making more fuel-efficient vehicles.

And the parents are eager to reunite with their children but they may have to wait a little while longer. A leader in that polygamous sect in Texas says so many parents are showing up at foster homes across Texas to claim their children, the reuniting process may take a few days. A judge said that more than 400 children could go home, as long as polygamist families agree to certain restrictions.

That's a look at the headlines right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much Carol. We'll get back to you shortly.

We're waiting for a first batch of those exit polls coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. When we get the numbers from Montana and South Dakota, we'll share them with you. Also, it soon will be over, or will it? In a few hours, we'll see the end of the Democrats' primary season, but will we see the end of a deep division? Might the political damage linger on?

And place your bets. Some people on the Internet are wagering who will win the vice presidential spot. Guess who is and is not getting a lot of buzz. Stay with us. We're in the SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now, oil prices unexpectedly fall, slipping below $125 a barrel. This after the Fed chief, Ben Bernanke hinted there won't be more interest rate cuts. Those cuts added to the dollar's decline and that helped spike oil prices.

Iraq's prime minister will meet with Iran's president once again next week. An Iraqi official tells CNN, Nuri al Maliki and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will discuss security and other issues. It will be al Maliki's second trip in a year to Iran.

And in front of a pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington, Condoleezza Rice called Iran a dangerous state whose vulnerabilities must be exploited. She says the world must never allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. But the secretary of state also said that the U.S. should be ready to talk, talk to Iran if Iran gives up its nuclear ambitions.

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

Only hours to go before one of the most dramatic Democratic primary seasons ever draws to a close. We now know that Hillary Clinton is opening to running on a presidential ticket as vice president. But what clues should we watch for to see if that actually might become a possibility.

Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is watching this for us.

Bill, tell us what you're going to be looking for tonight?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we will be trying to answer a very important question. At the end of this race, how divided are the Democrats?


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): In some ways, Democrats look pretty divided. Barack Obama is likely to win the nomination, but Hillary Clinton has won five of the last seven primaries.

In Pennsylvania, a major swing state, women voted strongly for Clinton. African-Americans were solidly for Obama. Some of her supporters are angry about the way they have been treated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a travesty of democracy. You can't make up votes. You can't decide what other people wanted to vote without asking them.

SCHNEIDER: Why so much animosity? There's no real ideological divide. Liberals split evenly between Clinton and Obama. The candidates differ more in style and temperament than on issues and ideology.

Clinton has run as a fighter.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I have fought it the only way I know how, with determination, by never giving up and never giving in.

SCHNEIDER: Obama promises to end all the fighting.

OBAMA: We're not looking for politicians to be calling each other names and, you know, acting with a lot of bluster. That's been the politics we have had for the last 20 years.

SCHNEIDER: The last 20 years would include the Clinton years. Obama has run as a dreamer.

OBAMA: It's about your hopes. It's about your dreams. We're going to change this country. And we're going to change the world.

SCHNEIDER: Clinton has scoffed at Obama's dreams.

H. CLINTON: The sky will open.


H. CLINTON: The light will come down.


H. CLINTON: Celestial choirs will be singing.


H. CLINTON: And everyone will know we should do the right thing, and the world will be perfect.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER: Why can't the fighters and the dreamers join forces, maybe on the same ticket? You know, Hillary Clinton is raising that question. And she's putting Barack Obama on the spot.

If he doesn't ask her to be on the ticket, some Democrats may accuse him of perpetuating the division in the party -- a very interesting move on her part.

BLITZER: Very interesting. We will talk about it with her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe. That's coming up.

Thanks very much, Bill Schneider, for that.

And speculation on who will fill the vice presidential slot in both parties is a hot topic on those online betting Web site.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's looking at some of the predictions online.

Abbi, what's the sense of these online political markets?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, money is on Hillary Clinton. That's what you are going to see if you log on to these online futures markets today, where people go online and are predicting who they think is going to fill each of the vice presidential slots.

What that looks like right now on the Web site Intrade, this is the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton the favorite, followed there by Virginia Senator Jim Webb, and then a whole host of others here, and a pretty healthy amount of people also saying that they don't think it's going to be any one of these candidates, Hillary Clinton included.

You can find some long shots as well online. On the Web site Betfair, we found odds 270-1 for Dennis Kucinich there, if you fancy those odds. And pretty active trading also going on, on the Republican side.

Back to Intrade here, this is the Republican vice presidential trade that they have going on. It's been going back and forth all day by former -- between former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, with Romney there just getting the edge in the last few hours.

If you think this all seems a little bit like online gambling, CNN has their own political market, which uses virtual dollars, but, there, too, virtual or real, the money's on Clinton -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. Abbi, thanks very much.

We will see how smart that money is.

We're standing by to bring you the first exit poll results from today's primaries in South Dakota and Montana. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM. And please be sure to join us right here at the CNN Election Center at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for our complete coverage of the primary results and what the candidates have to say tonight. We're going to be hearing from all three of them in the course of the next few hours.

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

And how would Barack Obama do with Hillary Clinton on the ticket and without her? Donna Brazile and Ed Rollins, they're also standing by for our "Strategy Session."

And, later, I will talk to Obama supporter and senator, Claire McCaskill. Does she think sexism hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign?

It's one thing for Hillary Clinton to say she's open to being Barack Obama's running mate. It's actually -- it's another thing to actually get the nod. We will speak with her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe. I will ask whether a joint ticket is possible. Terry McAuliffe is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Tonight, one of the most dramatic Democratic primary seasons ever will end. But right now, the political drama is still unfolding.

Questions that remain, what might Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama do next? And how will they heal divisions in their party.

Let's discuss this and more with Terry McAuliffe. He's Clinton's campaign chairman. He's here at the CNN Election Center.

Terry, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: What are we going to hear from her tonight?

MCAULIFFE: I think she's going to talk about the race, talk about the 18 million votes that she's received, talk about all the people who have come out to help support her. She did get more votes than anyone ever running for president before. And I think she's going to talk about the issues that matter to...


BLITZER: Is she going to acknowledge that he has the delegates necessary to get the nomination?

MCAULIFFE: Well, we haven't seen that yet.

I have been saying that. I started this morning saying, if you got them, put them out there. Still not out. I have been making superdelegate calls all day. So has Hillary and others. Until someone has the number, we're going to continue to work it. And she's going to spend the next couple days making calls and going forward.

BLITZER: But he's very, very close, as you well know. The math has -- it's become a cliche -- is really not in her -- on her side anymore.

MCAULIFFE: Well, listen, it's been an uphill struggle for a while, but we have been working hard.

She keeps winning races, Puerto Rico, and before that Kentucky and West Virginia. You look at the coalition that Hillary Clinton has put together, it's just unbelievable, the people that she's brought into the Democratic Party. So, we're going to continue to fight hard until this...


BLITZER: So, she's not going to concede tonight; is that what...

MCAULIFFE: Absolutely not.

Luckily, CNN called me earlier. I was able to knock that story down. It's not over until -- you know, listen, we have got a few more delegates to go.


BLITZER: Is she going to acknowledge that he effectively has the votes to get -- to clinch the nomination?

MCAULIFFE: If he's not over the number, we should be talking to our supporters.

BLITZER: What if he is over the number tonight?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I will let her address that.

And I think she ought to be able to speak and give her speech tonight. I think what she wants to say is, it's important for me. Here are the issue I have raised. We need to continue to make sure these issues are raised between now and the convention, and the convention to the general election.

BLITZER: Well, what about these reports that she's now telling lawmakers here in New York that she's open to being his vice presidential running mate?

MCAULIFFE: Yes. You know, it's consistent with what she has said all along. She still plans on being the nominee.

But she said, if I'm not, I will do whatever it takes to help the Democrats win this fall, not only at the presidential level, House, Senate, local elections.

She's raised a quarter a billion dollars, you know, $250 million almost. She has brought in people, 18 million people, more votes. So, she's a huge asset. And whatever that role may be, she will be there to help the Democrats?

BLITZER: Do you think she would like to have that role, if she didn't get that nomination?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I haven't had that conversation with her.


MCAULIFFE: I was talking to her today about how we bring more superdelegates.

But I have said this on the campaign trail, Wolf. They have to be together in some capacity, because, if you look at the popular vote, we have brought in 20 million more voters than were brought in 2004. They have both got to be engaged, working together.

Whatever that capacity is, she will be involved. And she will do whatever it takes. Her whole life has been about helping the Democrats. I remember when I was chairman of the party, she couldn't do enough for the DNC when she was first lady. She has helped this party literally for the last 35 years. Electing Democrats is what her fiber and being is all about.

BLITZER: And all your talk and Harold Ickes' talk over the weekend about taking that DNC Rules Committee meeting to the Credentials Committee at the end of the June and July, maybe even go toward a floor fight at the convention in Denver, is that history now, or is that still on the table?

MCAULIFFE: Well, listen, what I think Hillary will do is talk to her supporters over the next couple days. And we will all sit and talk about what we do going forward. You never take anything off the table.

But we have got to be unified. It's been, as you say, a 17-month campaign. We have all been in this. I think, if we would have thought 17 months ago we would be here today, with all these new people brought into the party, you look at the Electoral College map, you look at where Hillary wins the general election, it truly is astounding the people she has brought into our party.

And we have got to look and see where we go. But we're getting close. We have all got to be unified going forward.

BLITZER: So, it sounds to me like that threat is really off the table.

MCAULIFFE: Well, I never like to say anything is off the table.

Let's remember, we're getting close to the end of this process. And we all have to begin working together. We didn't like what happened. Just quickly, we won those delegates. They were just arbitrarily taken away from us. We didn't like it. The uncommitted, they voted uncommitted. They were taken away and given to Senator Obama. It is what it is.

But the same people who chair these committees chair the credentials.


BLITZER: A lot of talk that she still has millions of dollars in debt from her campaign.


BLITZER: And Barack Obama, who has been a fund-raising machine, as you well know, especially out on the Internet...


BLITZER: ... he could really help pay off that debt.

Has there been, as far as you know, any discussion of that going forward?

MCAULIFFE: No. And I would know if there had been discussions. It's an important point, because there's been so much misinformation out there.

We have had no discussions at all with the Obama campaign on anything at this point. We're still in the primary process. You know, she has -- you know what? She gave it all she had. And we're still going.

You look at the women, you look at the seniors, you look at blue- collar Latinos, you know what? She's so proud of what she's done. And we're still going. It's not over yet.

BLITZER: Do you think that, if she does go forward, Bill Clinton would play a significant role in trying to help Barack Obama be the next president of the United States? What role, in other words, would Bill Clinton play, as far as you would see the situation?

MCAULIFFE: Oh, listen, he's been out there, as you know, for 17 months. He's been doing, as I said today in "The New York Times," 12, 14 events a day, huge crowds everywhere he goes, one of the most popular men in the world today. He is such a huge asset.


BLITZER: Did he help or hurt her?

MCAULIFFE: No question -- and I said today -- he helped her tremendously, literally brought in lots of people into the party, huge crowds, lots of enthusiasm.

People do remember so fondly, Wolf, those eight years when he was president, record economic growth, peace around the world. People remember those things.

BLITZER: So, 24 hours from now, this could be a totally different situation?

MCAULIFFE: Could be. You know, you don't know. Every day's been exciting.

I know that I have been talking to you now for several months. And people have been saying, it's over. Every time, Wolf, they say it's over, Hillary wins another race.

BLITZER: But there's going to be a Democratic unity event in New York City tomorrow. She will be here. He will be here. What do you think is going to happen there?

MCAULIFFE: Well, we will see.

As I say, we're still fighting. No one has the magic number. I have made superdelegate calls all day today, as have others in our campaign. Listen, it's extraordinary, the people who become involved in this process.

Hillary Clinton, more voters than ever of any candidate ever running on the Democrat or the Republican side. Will we all be together at the end? There's no question. And this hasn't been an overly aggressive, tough primary. You and I have seen a lot tougher. This hasn't been that bad. We will all come together.

But we're still voting right now in South Dakota and Montana. Let's let them vote. Let's let all the voters vote.

BLITZER: Good point.

MCAULIFFE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Terry, thanks for coming in.

MCAULIFFE: Great to be with you, sir.

BLITZER: Thank you.

MCAULIFFE: You're welcome.

BLITZER: We're also going to talk with a key Obama supporter about how this race may proceed. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, she's standing by to join us live. That's coming up later as well.

And we're only minutes away from the first look at our exit poll results for today's two contests, but, first, our "Strategy Session."

Barack Obama has the fall campaign on his mind. And are there any circumstances that the superdelegates could still break for Senator Clinton? We will the undeclared superdelegate Donna Brazile. She and Ed Rollins, they're here in our "Strategy Session."

We will be right back.


BLITZER: In today's "Strategy Session," Hillary Clinton says she's open -- open to the idea of being Barack Obama's vice presidential running mate. But could he win with her? Might he lose without her?

Let's discuss this and more with our CNN political contributor the Democratic strategic Donna Brazile, an undeclared superdelegate, at least for a few more hours, and Republican strategist Ed Rollins.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

You heard James Clyburn, the majority whip in they House, say just a few moments ago he's open to the idea. Robert Wexler, another Obama supporter, saying he's open to the idea. What do you think?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm hoping to having a nominee, so that the nominee will be able to make this decision.

Look, they're both equally strong, qualified, exciting.

BLITZER: Does it make sense, from the Democrats' perspective, to have that -- quote -- "dream ticket"?

BRAZILE: I'm not prepared, Wolf, personally to talk about vice presidential considerations, because I think it's important that the nominee has an opportunity to sit down with the other candidate and to discuss these matters in private, not to discuss it in public. It makes good theater, but I'm not prepared to discuss that.

BLITZER: What do you think, Ed?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think -- I think Hillary has performed extremely well over the last three or four months. She's a great candidate.

Can she take a secondary position? It's easy to say that today, as you're about to lose the nomination, but can you really take a back seat? And is her life better by going back to being a United States senator? And I think that's the critical question that she has to answer, and equally as important...

BLITZER: But do you remember a lot of people before offered the number-two spot on the ticket turning it down?

ROLLINS: No, I don't. And, I mean, Ronald Reagan is one who basically didn't want to be to be Ford's running mate. And a few obviously for McGovern turned him down.

But, at the end of the day, obviously, you know, my sense is, there's great pluses to her. She could help bring that party together. But the critical thing is, if he doesn't want her, it ain't going to work. And if she doesn't want to be the number two, it's not going to work.

BRAZILE: And I think it's premature important to talk about, does he want her? Does she want him? We had this conversation during the Mississippi primary. And both candidates say, yes, we might be on each other's short lists, but we're competing to be number one.

And, right now, Senator Clinton is still hunting for delegate, and Senator Obama. Until we get to the magic number, 2,118, it's still a fight for the finish.

BLITZER: But that magic number could be reached tonight.

BRAZILE: It could be reached within hours. It could be reached by tomorrow morning.

But, until we get there, let's wait and celebrate the nominee. And then the nominee will have the opportunity to reach out.

BLITZER: Does this put pressure on him by her saying to New York lawmakers, as has now been wildly reported, Ed, that she would be open to being on the ticket? Does it sort of put pressure on him to ask her?

ROLLINS: He doesn't have to have any pressure at this point in time. He's going to be the nominee. And he has a little bit of time here before his convention. They're not out campaigning together at this point in time.

I have been around a long time. I watched Ronald Reagan say there were two men he didn't want to have on his ticket when he first began discussion. One of them was George Bush. And the other was Howard Baker. One ended up being his chief of staff. One ended up being his vice president.

So, a lot of things happen in the course of this process. There's a little bit of time. And I think I would -- if I was advising him, which, obviously, I'm not, I would say, take a little bit of time. Make a very deliberate decision here. Look at some other alternatives.

BRAZILE: In my conversation yesterday with Senator Obama, he called to thank members of the Rules Committee for, you know, giving up our weekend, and I was pleased to hear from him.

And he wanted to know if I was ready to endorse. And I said, no, not until we have a nominee, and I want my vote to unify the party.

He went into -- and I don't listen to a lot of candidates after a few seconds. But you know what? He is real sincere. He respects Senator Clinton. He wants to work with Senator Clinton. He wants to sit down with her, give her an opportunity to take a breather. But he's not rushing her to get out. He's not rushing her to make a decision. And I think that is healthy for the party and the process.

ROLLINS: One last thing I would say.

I have never seen a candidate -- I mean, I have never seen a voter ever say to me, I voted for that ticket because I really like the vice president.

This is about kind of making your own party a little bit happy in the short term here. Long term, if he can't bring his own voters back and he can't reach out, he's not going to be viable.

BLITZER: Because there may be a first, though, this time, because there are a lot of Hillary Clinton supporters who really love her, don't really like him that much, who may in fact say, you know what, I will vote for this ticket because Hillary Clinton is on the ticket.

ROLLINS: If he can't make the sale in the months that he has left, he's not going to be a viable candidate in November.

BLITZER: He's got five months.

What do you think about superdelegates, because this may be her only hope -- and it's a real farfetched one -- that the superdelegates, like you, Donna, they're entitled to change their mind, if they want to?

They may have said publicly they support Barack Obama, but, you know, maybe on reflection, as Terry McAuliffe said, she won five of the last seven primaries, if she does really well in South Dakota and in Montana tonight, she crushed him in Puerto Rico with that Hispanic vote over the weekend, is it possible, do you think -- or realistic, I guess -- is it realistic to think superdelegates in significant numbers might change their mind and go from him to her?

BRAZILE: Superdelegates are politicians. They are public officials. They are public servants. They're activists.

Some of them answer to their constituents. Many of them answer to their conscience. And I think, in all likelihood, the superdelegates who pledged for Senator Obama will stick with Senator Obama. And those who pledged with Senator Clinton will stick with her, until such time that she releases them.

BLITZER: All right, guys, don't go away, because we're going to continue this conversation. Thanks for joining us right now.

And, Donna, we will be waiting to hear your decision. That's going to be coming up as well.

We're also waiting for the first exit poll results from today's primaries. They're only minutes away. We will share those numbers with you when they come into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, Bill Clinton is angry, as you know, at that "Vanity Fair" article filled with rumor and innuendo about him and what he sees as the news media's unfair treatment of his wife. But are his recent outbursts impacting his legacy? We're watching the story.

Also, why is the leader of the Senate telling other Democrats to leave Hillary Clinton alone?

And if you want a change, John McCain says, give him a look. How will his -- how will he press his case tonight, as the Democratic primary season wraps up?

Lots of news happening on this important day -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: On our Political Ticker right now: Senator Ted Kennedy's office says he's recovering well after surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumor.

The 76-year-old Democrat is said to be walking the hallways of Duke University Medical Center a day after his operation, which doctors call successful. Kennedy is expected to leave the hospital in about a week and later undergo radiation and chemotherapy.

Senator Robert Byrd's office says he will remain in a Washington- area hospital for several more days to get treatment for a mild infection. The 90-year-old West Virginia Democrat was admitted yesterday after feeling lethargic while at work. A spokesman says the longest serving U.S. senator is in good spirits.

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

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: What is the best way for the Democrats to begin uniting the party for November?

Bob in Canada writes: "Hillary and Bill" -- as in the Clintons -- "need to campaign for Obama without Hillary being on the ticket. Nothing else will tell the Democratic Party the Clintons put party before the Clintons. And nothing is more unlikely."

C. J. writes: "Bring Hillary on board, reluctantly, as V.P., but not immediately. Prep work has to be done to give her a healthy dose of humility and a real plan to manage big Bill. Make sure that Michelle is on equal footing with Hillary. If this can't be accomplished, look elsewhere."

"Senior White Woman" in Florida writes: "I am an Obama supporter. For the first time in 48 years, I donated money to a political campaign. However, if Hillary Clinton's name is on the ticket in November, it will also be the first time in many years that I will not vote. I donated money from my Social Security check to help elect Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton."

Tim in Ohio writes: "Very simple. Hillary bows out gracefully, then works to convince her supporters to vote for Obama. If that happens, McCain has no chance. Hopefully, Hillary can swallow her pride, suppress her enormous ego, and do what is right for the Democratic Party. And I believe she will."

Andru says: "It's simple. Senator Obama offers Senator Clinton the role of vice president. Clinton supporters, including me, jump on the bandwagon. This would be much more convincing than not having Hillary on the ticket, and having her try to convince her supporters to vote for Senator Obama in November."

Georgeanne in Maryland says: "All folks need to do is think about how bad we have it now President Bush. They will unite overnight."

And Grace in Brooklyn, New York: "Hire the food taster and a backup, and give Hillary Clinton the vice presidential spot. Then hope that Reverend Wright doesn't show up to bless the food. Sorry. I couldn't help myself."

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

BLITZER: Jack, thank you for that.

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