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Hillary Clinton to Speak at National Building Museum

Aired June 7, 2008 - 11:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton went further than any American woman has ever gone in pursuit of the White House.

CLINTON: You've come out strong. You've defied the skeptics. More people across the country have voted for our campaign. More people have voted for us than for any candidate in the history of presidential primaries.


BLITZER: Now her record run is over.


CLINTON: I want the nearly 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected, to be heard and no longer to be invisible.


BLITZER: But what's next for the New York senator?

You're looking at live pictures from here in Washington, D.C. On the left, that's Hillary Clinton's house. She's expected to depart at any moment now to head over to what you're seeing on the right of your screen. That's the National Building Museum also here in Washington, down Massachusetts Avenue, not all that far away from where she lives. Supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton are now gathering to hear the New York senator's final words as a presidential candidate.

Good morning. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. CNN special coverage of the Clinton exit is beginning right now. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Joining us the best political team on television.

Senator Clinton is expected to thank her supporters for their efforts, and to enthusiastically endorse her former rival for the nomination, Senator Barack Obama. There you see live pictures from inside the National Building Museum, where right now people have gathered. They've come in from all over the city, but more importantly, from all over the country. She got nearly 18 million votes in these primaries. She has many very, very enthusiastic supporters, and what she says in her remarks right now, could be very, very important to determining the fate of Barack Obama as the democratic presidential nominee. How far will she go in encouraging her supporters to enthusiastically go out and work for Barack Obama? Will it be tepid support or will it be a robust amount of support?

There's new video by the way that's just coming in to CNN of the presumptive democratic presidential nominee, Senator Obama, leaving his home in Chicago this morning, headed apparently for a round of golf. There you see the video that's just come in. We hope he enjoys his day on the golf course. That's what we were told he was doing. We'll see, though, when he actually may be doing, golf or something else? Joining us also on this important day, as I like to say the best political team on television, I say it because they are, it happens to be the truth. Joining us our chief national correspondent John King, he's over there at the National Building Museum along with our CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. They're both standing by. John, set the scene for us, because this is an important day in the history of the Democratic Party. I think -- more than that, it's an important day for the country.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A very important day in both regards. As you noted, Wolf, this is an amazing structure, the National Building Museum and rare is the day when a candidate is getting out of the race endorsing her opponent, essentially conceding to defeat and yet you have such a grand event as this. That is a testament to those 18 million votes you spoke about, to the role Hillary Clinton had in this campaign, will continue to have in this campaign and have in the Democratic Party. There are, of course, so many questions about what comes next for Senator Clinton. But without a doubt, this is both the last day of her official campaign for the democratic nomination for president, and some might say the first day of the general election.

She will step aside today, she will endorse Barack Obama. She will do so in a room full of supporters, they are lining up outside, Wolf, by the hundreds. It is nearly 100 degrees. Oppressive humidity here in Washington, D.C., but they are out there lining up for the event scheduled to begin here in about an hour. And there are so many questions about Senator Clinton. What will her tone be? How enthusiastic will she be? What will she tell many of her supporters who here are still bitter, who at least want her to be considered seriously for Barack Obama's vice presidential nomination. Well I want to bring in my colleague, Candy Crowley, because she has been with the democratic campaign from the beginning. She knows Senator Clinton and her staff as well as any one in the business. And Candy, what are you looking for in terms of what she needs to tell her supporters today and how she might give a hint about what role she wants in the weeks and months ahead?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you that in the weeks and months ahead they really do inside the Clinton campaign think that this can't be a one-shot deal. As one of them said to me, she can't go up on the stage say, rah, rah for Barack Obama, you all need to support him and then leave. Because they think those 18 million voters that she talks about so often will in fact need more than that to bring them along. So they say that she intends to make good on her constant campaign promise, which has been, listen, no matter who the nominee is I will quote, "Work my heart out." What does she want? That's been obviously the big question when she didn't get out on Tuesday, tried to answer that question in her speech. Listening to that clip, when she said, I want my 18 million voters to be respected and I want them to be heard, I think she could have inserted her own name there, too. Because this is not just about how will Barack Obama move forward, it's also about how will Hillary Clinton move forward? What is her role in the party? She is a national political figure. Where does she go from here? I think she wants to be heard, I thinks he wants to be respected. They don't think that always happens along the campaign trail. Sometimes by Barack Obama, many times they believed by the media. So she is looking to also plot her future and this, in fact, is where she will begin to do that. But you will see her out on the trail. You will also see we are told an enthusiastic endorsement of Barack Obama true to her word again that she will work her heart out. John?

KING: Candy, let's talk a bit about the very delicate balance you need. Because you're right. She must talk about her future, her legacy in this campaign and her role in the party. So she needs to be very enthusiastic in endorsing Barack Obama, but go around this room. You will find people from and other groups that are trying to encourage, pressure even, Barack Obama to pick Senator Clinton as his running mate. Of course, she has a powerful case to make. She can say among older voters, among women voters, especially among white working class voters in critical battleground states she did so much better than Barack Obama, but where is the line for how she must approach this question and give Barack Obama the space and not seem unseemly if you will in pushing to be the number two?

CROWLEY: Absolutely. I think we saw a little of that earlier this week when the Clinton campaign felt it necessary to put out a statement saying, she's not demanding the vice presidency. She has said she would be open to it, and you're right. So many of her supporters and close surrogates, by the way, are out there actively pushing her towards the vice presidential slot. What they have said again is look, I think if she was offered it, she would take it, but it has to be Barack Obama's decision. I think you saw him recently in the interview that we did trying to take control of that process and say, listen, everyone, settle down. I've got a process. We're going to move through this. She's on the short list. She'd be on anybody's short list. So they are moving forward and yet trying to tamp down this sort of surge for Hillary Clinton to be on the ballot. A lot of people don't necessarily think she would be that big a help. Can she bring all of those voters who voted for her on to the ticket? They don't think necessarily that is so. There is a division certainly in the Obama camp, and I can tell you some in the Clinton camp who don't think it's a particularly good idea. I think that is a TBA, a to be analyzed, because I think Barack Obama if we take him at his word is going to take some time to analyze this and hoping that in the meantime some of this will die down. John?

KING: One of the fascinating questions facing Senator Clinton, Senator Obama and the Democratic Party. Thank you Candy. And Wolf, as go back to you in the studio, it is on that point maybe worth noting that we are here today to watch Senator Clinton say farewell. Remember it was only months ago when she was billed as the inevitable democratic nominee, she had all the support, all the infrastructure, she was believed to be financially competitive with Barack Obama. And yet on this day she will step aside almost a David beats Goliath moment, if you will. Barack Obama is the winner in this contest out as you noted playing a round of golf today while his rival Hillary Clinton suspends her campaign and offers him, the man who will be the democratic nominee, her endorsement. Much more as we go on throughout the day here, Wolf. Now back to you.

BLITZER: All right John, thanks very much. Also here for our special coverage, our CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger and our CNN contributor and democratic strategist Donna Brazile. Gloria, it's going to also be interesting to see who's with her up on that stage today, her husband, her daughter, which family friends. There are going to be a lot of supporters and they are passionately supporting her and some of them have said at least in our exit polls they don't want to vote for Barack Obama, they may even go and vote for John McCain?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLTICAL ANALYST: Well, that's Hillary Clinton's challenge today. She really has to convince those stalwart supporters out there, Wolf, that she means it when she says I want you to support Barack Obama. That Obama and I have had our differences during this long campaign, but now we all need to just focus on John McCain. I bet she will do that today. And for Hillary Clinton, this is kind of the end of this campaign but this is also the start of something new for her, because the fact that she has garnered somewhere between 17 million and 18 million democratic votes in this country means that she is a very, very powerful voice. And the Obama campaign has to figure out the best way to use that and so does Hillary Clinton, and she's starting to think about her future right now.

BLITZER: A week ago today, Donna you were in that rules and bylaws committee meeting of the Democratic National Committee which effectively ended for all practical purposes her hopes to win this democratic presidential nomination, the compromised decisions you made with your colleagues on Michigan and Florida.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, we had an extraordinary task to bring the party together, to include two states that did not play by the rules to make them part of the roll call in November. I think we met all of our goals to ensure that Floridians and those from Michigan will come to Denver, I hope during the next two months that the credentials committee will restore their full vote and, of course, now that party will come together that might happen.

BLITZER: I want everybody to stand by. Our coverage is only just beginning. On the left you see her home here in Washington, D.C. Senator Clinton's home. We expect she'll be emerging from that door fairly soon getting into the car, the motorcade. We'll take her to what you see on the right. The National Building Museum near in Washington where hundreds of her supporters have now gathered indoors. It's an indoor event. Very hot and humid, as John King was just telling us, outside in Washington. For this historic speech where Hillary Clinton will technically suspend her bid to become the democratic presidential nominee. Remember, you can always go to and continue to follow what's going on in the political world. is watching this as well. We're standing by to here from Hillary Clinton on this historic day. We'll take a quick break, much more right after this.


BLITZER: All right. You're looking at these live pictures coming in from Hillary Clinton's home here in Washington, D.C. on the left of your screen. On the right of your screen, the National Building Museum here in Washington where she will be going to deliver a major address suspending her bid for the democratic presidential nomination. John King is over there at the National Building Museum. John, do we know who's going to be appearing on the stage with her? Are there going to be introductions? Will we hear from Chelsea Clinton, for example? What about Bill Clinton? Do we know any of those questions -- the answers to any of those questions?

KING: I have not seen the program as yet, Wolf, as we watch the crowd pull in here at the National Building Museum. You mentioned both Chelsea and Bill Clinton both played very prominent roles of course in Hillary Clinton's campaign. Bill Clinton's role sometimes polarizing and controversial as the campaign played on. But today of course the big event is the Democratic Party will make history. The question at the beginning of the campaign was which history would it make? Nominating its first African-American candidate for president or its first woman candidate for president? We know of course today that Senator Hillary Clinton will suspend her campaign and enthusiastically endorse Barack Obama. It comes after months and months of a very hard-fought and a very expensive campaign and a campaign even as you see Hillary Clinton supporters fill this room for what they view as one final celebration of her candidacy, a campaign that did underscore and create sharp division within the Democratic Party. I want to bring back our contributor Donna Brazile, who is of course also a veteran democratic strategist, she managed Al Gore's campaign for the presidency and she is a longtime member of the Democratic National Committee. Donna you know better than most the divisions the wounds in the Democratic Party. And I want to ask you if you're looking for one or two things in terms of the substance and the tone from Senator Clinton today to begin the healing process. As you answer the question, how deep are those wounds and how worried are you?

BRAZILE: First of all, there are some cracks in our foundation but with hope and inspiration that Senator Clinton will give us today I think we can begin to feel those cracks and then people can begin the healing process. We're democrats. We fight hard, we fight for equality under the law, equal justice under the law. Senator Clinton has been a champion for both civil rights and women's rights. She has said over and over during the entire campaign season that she's a product of the women's movement but she's also someone who's laid the foundation and the long struggle for civil rights. I think you will hear Senator Clinton today talk about the extraordinary movement that has made this day possible for Senator Barack Obama to become the democratic nominee, but more importantly, the fact that the women's movement stood behind her. They have supported her, they have ushered her on. The leaders, the icons of the women's movement are in that room today and they're not just white women. They're Hispanic women, like Deloris Hurta and they are black women, like Mary Frances Barrett. They will be there to support Senator Clinton as well. KING: We're talking a lot about what Senator Clinton needs to do today to try to begin the healing process because of some lingering hard feelings among her supporters and just the fact that they were so much behind her candidacy. It's hard as you know Donna to let go after you invest so much time, energy and money in a campaign like this. What about Barack Obama? What is the responsibility on his side of the equation to reach out to Clinton supporters? He did go out into rural Virginia yesterday, one of the place where he lost in the state of Virginia to court white, rural working class voters. What is his responsibility not only to go directly to those voters but to the constituency groups and some of the major players in the Clinton campaign and say we might disagree on some things but my door is open to you?

BRAZILE: There's no question that Senator Obama made it known this week in talking to many of us that one of his first obligations, of course, is to help with Senator Clinton to not just heal the party but also to reach out to those members of her team that clearly are part of the democratic family. He understands that they will play an important role in making sure that this transition inside the Democratic Party goes smoothly. Senator Obama understands that you know, the party cannot win without organized labor behind us. Without the women's community. Without ordinary Americans, the gay and lesbian community, of course, and many others that make up this total democratic family and fabric. It's an extraordinary party. As someone who's been involved for so many years I've seen us come together with duct tape and a little chewing gum. But now we come together under two extraordinary leaders who ran exceptional campaigns and this is going to be a day like no other in the Democratic Party.

KING: A day like no other as Donna Brazile puts it. And Donna will be back with us as our coverage continues. A day like no other because Senator Hillary Clinton is stepping aside, suspending her campaign for the presidency today and endorsing the man who will be the democratic nominee, Barack Obama. We're here at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Senator Clinton is at her house nearby in northwest Washington, D.C. You see it there on the left of your screen. We're waiting for Senator Clinton to make her way here and make what is a remarkable day an exit from the democratic campaign for president. Our special coverage will continue after a short break.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage. The Clinton exit, an historic day here in Washington, D.C. On the left of your screen you see her home in Northwest Washington. She'll be leaving there shortly we assume with her family to drive over to the National Building Museum. Down the street, Massachusetts Avenue, also in northwest Washington. The National Building Museum, not far from Capitol Hill where hundreds of supporters have now gathered to hear her final speech of the democratic presidential candidate. She's going to be suspending her nomination, suspending being a technical term. She'll be able to continue to raise money to pay off her huge debt that she accumulated as a result of this campaign. Welcome back to our continuing coverage. Let's go over to the National Building Museum. Our Candy Crowley is on the scene for us. Candy, have you had a chance to look at the program, to update viewers on what we could expect?

CROWLEY: Well, no there isn't a program, per se, Wolf, but I have talked to some sources who tell me Bill Clinton will be here. Chelsea Clinton will be here. They will accompany her in. She will -- there will not be, as of the last time we checked, any introductory speeches. They'll be what we call the voice of God speaker voice coming out introducing her. It was open-ended whether Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton would be on the stage with her. But the best guess is not. You notice that ever since, in fact, the Iowa, the night of the Iowa caucuses, Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton have stepped off the stage while she made her remarks and come up after that. So this is to be a solo performance. She is the center of attention here, and really the only one that can speak to the millions that voted for her, and speak to the party, in fact. So a very sort of trimmed down event, if you will. Hillary Clinton being introduced over the speaker and she, of course, the voice everyone wants to hear today.

BLITZER: That crowd will be enthusiastic to put it mildly. Although at the same time, disappointed that she's suspending her bid for the presidency at least for now. All right, Candy, stand by. Carl Bernstein is the biographer of Hillary Clinton. He's also a contributor here at CNN. He's joining us now live. What, she's about 60 years old, Carl, I'm sure six months ago, a year ago, there was no doubt in her mind, no doubt in a lot of our minds, that she was going to win this democratic presidential nomination. Walk us through what's going through her mind right now, because you spent years studying this woman.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think I can be in her mind. I think what I do know is something about her life and her tenacity and how smart she is. But I think that today that both she and Barack Obama recognize they need each other. I suspect it's going to be a great day for the Democratic Party. But it's also a day to reflect on her remarkable accomplishment, because we talked at the beginning of the campaign about Barack Obama's amazing movement that he put together. Well, she has put together a movement that she did not envision at the beginning of this campaign. Particularly among women as a political force. The force of feminism, the force of women who believe their time has come, and we've heard from them in this campaign, and the achievement is Hillary Clinton's by bringing them to her candidacy and she is going to now try to deliver them to Barack Obama's candidacy. You know, there have been four great movements in this century, social movements. The union movement, the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement and the women's movement and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama represent this tradition in the Democratic Party, and it's now going to start to come together and she needs him, because she needs some rehabilitation as does her husband particularly given how this campaign ended the other night on a sour note. And my guess is that all of this is going to start to work itself out in a way that a few days ago we were talking about great cracks in the democratic wall. I think this might work itself out in a way that the cracks are repaired and the party might even end up being somewhat stronger for it and a lot of it will depend on what she says and does today, and she know what's she has to do. She is a woman of remarkable resources. She comes through when she has to. We'll see it today is my guess.

BLITZER: Do you think, Carl that he will ask her to be on his ticket?

BERNSTEIN: I think that it's way too early to tell. He is going to pick as his vice president the person who can do him the most in terms of winning the election. But to win this election he needs Hillary Clinton. He needs her participation in any number of ways. To deliver this constituency that she developed, also to reach out to white working class voters who came to her side. You know, she found a voice in this campaign that I suspect she never thought she had. Her relationship to feminism has always been very interesting. She's called herself a transitional figure. Meaning, between her mother's generation and the first wave feminists of the '60s, she's sort of in between the two. She gave up her own career, really, to follow Bill Clinton to Arkansas. She had failed her own bar exam in Washington, and never took it again. Took the Arkansas bar instead, and really hitched her star to Bill Clinton's to an extent that many of her friends were appalled by at the time, because it was during the most militant period of feminism in the late '60s, and she chose a more traditional route, that of her mother's generation and her friends harshly criticized herself for it, criticized her for it. But today we see that women all over America, I'm sure to Hillary Clinton's surprise, to some extent, have said, wait a minute. It's our time. We have certain values. You guys need to hear them. And Hillary has been our means of expressing them. It's been fascinating.

BLITZER: And it's going to be even fascinating over the next couple of hours to hear and see what she says, the reaction. Carl, stand by. We have more to talk about. There's movement now. You see on left part of your screen, the motorcade, the secret service. They're getting ready for Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton to drive over to the National Building Museum, which is on the right side of your screen where she will be speaking to her supporters, ending for all practical purposes her bid, at least for now, to be president of the United States. has a lot of useful information for those of you who love politics, and I know a lot of you do. We'll take another quick break. The best political team on television will continue with our coverage right after this.


BLITZER: She's been on the campaign trail what, for 16, 17 months if not longer and now it's over for Hillary Rodham Clinton. She's getting ready to address her supporters at the National Building Museum here in Washington, which is really a majestic site, it's been rebuilt and it's indoors fortunately on this day, because it's very hot and humid in the nation's capital.

We want to welcome back our viewers in the United States and around the world. Our special coverage is continuing. On the left of your screen you see the home, not far away in northwest Washington, of the Clintons down Massachusetts Avenue, near the embassies on diplomatic row. That's where they've lived since at least part of the time since leaving the White House back in 2001, January 20th, 2001 specifically. John King is over there at the National Building Museum watching all of this unfold. I don't know how big of a crowd there could be. I know there could be hundreds of people, but that's a huge, huge room where you are, John. Maybe 1,000 or 2,000 can fit in there? What are they saying?

KING: They can easily fit that many in. We're trying to ask, but we just put the question to the Clinton campaign asking the final number of tickets issued, we're waiting for a response. I can tell you they e-mailed out to key donors, they e-mailed out key staffers, key activists, anyone who worked in the campaign were invited to e- mail back and get a ticket. You can hear them now trying to encourage the crowd, it's not just down here Wolf, where you see behind me, there are levels of levels, two levels up and balconies around where the people are around. A huge crowd building and many of the Clinton supporters who say they have spoken to her in the past several days who are here, are telling us to expect a very positive address from Senator Clinton and they're also saying don't just look for her to endorse Barack Obama but look for her to enthusiastically make the case of why it is so important that her supporters get behind Barack Obama. And, Wolf, we're told that we will hear the name John McCain quite a bit. Senator Clinton will make the case of why it is so important for democrats now to come together and take the campaign against John McCain into the fall.

BLITZER: I'm sure we're going to be hearing a lot about that. John, stand by. Gloria is here as well. Gloria, when you listen to this speech, and we expect it to start around the top of the hour. Not very far from now. What are you going to be listening for specifically? Because our viewers are going to be wanting to appreciate every little nuance.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm really going to be listening to how Hillary Clinton speaks to her supporters. We all know she's going to warmly embrace Barack Obama. She's going to embrace his candidacy, but the interesting thing about this campaign to me, is how it has evolved. What a strong finish Hillary Clinton's campaign had. Most people you talk to will say, it's because of women. And she's going to speak to these voters, because in a way this has evolved into an historic campaign. Hillary Clinton didn't start running as a champion of women. She started running as a presidential candidate who happened to be a woman. What has happened throughout this campaign is that the support that women have given her, particularly towards the end, has really made her more historic than I think even she anticipated at the outset of this. So she's going to talk to those women, and I'm going to want to hear what she talks about, the significance of what it is that she's accomplished to women.

BLITZER: As you remember Donna in New Hampshire she said, she found her voice at that time, and she seemed to gain strength for a little bit, but then it went down. The irony is that at the end of this campaign she was doing really well in a lot of these contests. Beating him in Pennsylvania and in Ohio and West Virginia, in Kentucky. Crushing him in Puerto Rico. Not even a week ago, but it was too little, too late. DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: By the time her campaign pulled up in Ohio I think Senator Clinton found her second wind. She was able to roll up her sleeves, go out there, fight for the blue collar workers. She said that you're invisible. No one cares about you in Washington, D.C. but I will fight for you. Give me your votes, don't let them take me out of this race. And I thought in the end, she had an extraordinary message. She was able to talk to voters that quite frankly no democratic presidential candidate perhaps since Bill Clinton has talked to and she talked to them with compassion. She talked to them, inspiring them and I think what I've seen over the last couple of weeks of democrats from all walks of life saying she is my champion, she is my fighter, and today I hope that she says Barack Obama will also champion your issues and will fight for you.

BLITZER: Is there any personal rancor or bitterness between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that you've heard about? And do they like each other, Gloria?

BORGER: I don't think they've been around each other enough lately. You hear that this meeting they had the other night at Senator Dianne Feinstein's house was very cordial according to Senator Feinstein who went upstairs and didn't sit there while they were having it. Of course, there's got to be some bitterness, because these two folks fought to the last round, and so they had to get it sort of out in the open between the two of them, before she could go out here and talk to her supporters. So it will be interesting if some day we're going to find exactly what they said to each other.

BLITZER: Donna I would suspect there's a lot less bitterness between the two of them than there is between their respective staffs?

BRAZILE: Let me just say as someone who's been on the opposing side and had to make nice with the nominee, you know, it's a remarkable transition. I was involved in the Jackson campaign in '84 and I had to get on board the Mondale Ferraro campaign, the Gephardt campaign '88, had to get on board of course Dukakis Benson campaign. Wolf, we're democrats, we believe in the same issues, the policy goals. And I think what you'll see over the coming days and weeks, as people rest up. I mean remember, they're tired, this has been a marathon. Once they rest up, have an opportunity, we're all friends, we know each other. We've worked on the Clinton/Gore campaigns for example. We worked together for Gore/Lieberman and many of us were with John Kerry and John Edwards. So the party will come together.

BLITZER: I'm going to ask you in a little while, Donna, because I want you to start thinking about this, what role should Barack Obama ask Bill Clinton to play in the weeks and months ahead? Don't answer that question now. But we're going to discuss. That's coming up. You see the National Building Museum. It's really a majestic historic site here in the nation's capital on the right part of your screen. It was actually built back in 1882, between 1882 and 1887 to house the U.S. pension bureau at that time. But now it is a real museum with completely being redone. If it looks familiar to some of you, it's because that's where our sister network TNT has its annual Christmas in Washington pageant which is televised every year from the nation's capital as well. Been going on for years. That's the National Building Museum on the right. On the left is the home, the door of Hillary Clinton's house. Not that far away, about two miles away up Massachusetts Avenue in northwest Washington, we expect that they'll be getting in their cars fairly soon and making the short drive over to the National Building Museum., watch this on your laptop as well because you can get a lot more useful information even as we tell you what's going on. That's a good companion to have as you're watching CNN. We want to take another quick break. We're getting ready to hear from Hillary Clinton on this important day as she suspends her bid to become president of the United States.


KING: I'm John King in Washington, welcome back to our special coverage of this dramatic day in the democratic presidential campaign and in the race for the White House, campaign 2008. In this room here at the National Building Museum in the next hour Senator Hillary Clinton will officially suspend her campaign for the democratic nomination and endorse her rival, Barack Obama, who will be the first African-American candidate for president and the Democratic Party's nominee. The Clinton campaign tells us some 6,000 people signed up online for the tickets to come to this farewell event by Senator Clinton here. As we watch the crowd fill into this magnificent building and await Senator Clinton's arrival I want to bring in my colleague, our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. Candy you have covered this roller coaster campaign including the Obama Clinton slugfest from the very beginning. While everyone here today is trying to put their best face on this, and call it a celebration of all she achieved, this was not what they expected. Senator Clinton started as the inevitable and on today she will pass from the campaign and endorse her rival, quite an extraordinary day.

CROWLEY: Yes, absolutely. I mean, you know, first of all, she had just a history-making campaign, as he did. As they look back on it, there are a couple of things that make this especially bitter and that is as one person said to me, you know, it's a lot easier to lose big. They lost small. It is also a lot easier to lose if no one ever expected you to win. So the margin of loss was small and the expectations were so high, and it just combines to make it a very, very tough time. Nonetheless, everyone I've talked to that knows Hillary Clinton said, look back at her history. How many times she has stepped up to the plate, whether it was a personal crisis or a professional one. She has been the one that has stepped up to the plate and delivered. They are keenly aware of three things, John, in the Clinton campaign, and they say this is what she is aware of. First of all, the history and the women that did follow her all to this point. Second, also, obviously, the party. She does not want to be seen when this election is over at the end of November. She doesn't want to be looked at as the skunk in the party. They are, in fact, looking at their best landscape in decades. So she will, we are told, give an enthusiastic endorsement of Barack Obama. She does want a democrat in the White House come November. So those are the kind of things she's looking at as well as her place in the party. Where does she go from here?

(INAUDIBLE) to think about, you know, any future office, just trying to get day by day, this is a little bit like this 12 stages of grief. You've got to go through denial. You have to go through sorrow. You get into acceptance and then you move on. So somewhere in there, this campaign and this candidate are wrestling with what's happened and you're right, it's very, very hard when you started out looking like you were going to take this and you end up the almost winner. But in fact the loser. John?

KING: Almost. Fantastic way to put it, Candy. Let's talk a bit more about that. We have been reporting on it for the past several weeks. It's been clear that Senator Obama would be the democratic nominee. People as they flow into this hall are talking about it today trying to ask that one question, what went wrong? Many people say it goes back to the very beginning, when she was talking quite the presumptive nominee. When I'm president, when I am the democratic nominee. Using the word "I" early on in this campaign. I recently sat down with the veteran democratic strategist Peter Hart who says, yes, Barack Obama is an extraordinary candidate but he says, we'll listen to him here, that this is a race Senator Clinton could have and should have won.


PETER HART, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Barack Obama was an amazing phenomenon, but it's simply, simply put when you have a year that was as set up for her with everything that was there, she just didn't understand the year. And simply put, she didn't understand it in terms of organization. She didn't understand it in terms of votes. She didn't understand it in terms of her persona and most important, she didn't understand it in terms of money. You put all of that together, she went from being a prohibitive favorite to an underdog very, very quickly.


KING: So Candy, you hear Peter Hart assessing the race there saying that very early on Senator Clinton simply didn't get what was happening in the country, made it too much about her not about the mood for change in the country but Obama stepped in. He of course went out and competed in those small caucus states. The Clinton campaign stopped and said those states won't matter in the nomination, won't matter in November. As you traveled this roller coaster is there one thing the Clinton campaign looks back on and said if we had done this differently, whether it's a state, whether it's a staff shakeup, is there one thing or do they attribute this to a number of errors?

CROWLEY: They think there were a number of things. I mean, obviously, you know their chief strategist Mark Penn has taken a lot of heat for that early strategy that was, she's the incumbent. Basically she'll win. She's inevitable. And totally underestimated what really was a subterranean poll that didn't show up in the polls. These are the people who have never voted before, the people who are on the registration rolls but have given up. Those were the people that came to Barack Obama. And I think it wasn't just the Clinton campaign. I think early on no one really felt that subterranean pull and that need, of course, some kind of hope. I'll tell you when you went early on when you went to their various campaign events in Iowa or New Hampshire, if you walked out of a Barack Obama event and you talked to his supporters, they would say, he gives me hope. He gives me some idea that we can actually be a different country if we do it together. That he will work with us. You would come out of a Hillary Clinton campaign and ask people and they say, she is so smart. She knows so much stuff.

It was a totally different reaction, and in the end, honestly, that hope and change and it was, he used to make fun of himself and say, oh, everybody thinks that I'm all about hope. That I'm a hope monger. That kind of thing, but it really touched a nerve, and a nerve that a lot of us didn't see coming, at least in those early months. Least of all their strategists. To tell you, though, that in talking to some people, they also believe that that Iraq war vote made in 2002 by Hillary Clinton, widely seen at the time as a sign that she was going to run for president. As you know, John, democrats have had trouble proving to people that they can be tough on national security. So her vote for the Iraq war on that resolution, they thought, set the stage for that kind of tough commander in chief that a woman needed to prove she could be. Then we saw what was happening inside the activists for the Democratic Party who quickly turned against this war, and they're what fueled this campaign. This primary season early on. And her vote had people looking at him. He got a foothold there. So they could go back fairly far and look, but you know, as I said recently. Campaigns aren't lost on one thing. They're lost on everything. John?

KING: Not lost on one thing, lost on everything. Well put by Candy Crowley, our senior political correspondent. Also smartly noting the Iraq war perhaps changing the Democratic Party, the mood of the party under the feet of Hillary Clinton. We'll be back with more of our special coverage just ahead. As you're watching the screen here you see on your bottom right, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. among the VIPs taking his seat just moments ago, Vernon Jordan, the veteran civil rights leader and Clinton family insider. He is here for today's farewell speech by Senator Clinton and at the top right of your screen there you see a suburban backing up in front of her house in northwest Washington, D.C. Some movement there as we await the candidate along with her husband, the former president of the United States, to make her way here to the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. where today she will step aside in the democratic race for president and endorse the man who will be the democratic nominee, Barack Obama. You see the suburban backing in up here. The crowd building in excitement in Washington, D.C. We'll be back with our special coverage in just a moment.


BLITZER: We're only minutes away from Hillary Rodham Clinton leaving her home in northwest Washington. There you see one of the vehicles, that dark suburban, to be taking the family down the street, down Massachusetts Avenue to the National Building Museum where she'll be speaking to several thousands of her supporters who have gathered inside a huge, huge building not far away from Capitol Hill here in Washington, D.C. She'll be in a light colored suburban. That's the one she's usually in together with her family. We'll see when she actually leaves. Shouldn't take more than 10 minutes or so to make the drive from her home in Washington to the National Building Museum where we'll be able to hear what she has to say on this important day where she suspends her presidential bid. Our coverage continues right after this.


BLITZER: Ambitious.

CLINTON: I'm offering you a lifetime of experience. We need a president who is ready on day one.

BLITZER: Audacious.

CLINTON: Meet me in Ohio. Let's have a debate.

BLITZER: And attempting to make history.

CLINTON: I'm going to keep making our case until we have a nominee, whoever she may be.

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton went further than any American woman has ever gone in pursuit of the White House.

CLINTON: You've come out strong, you've defied the skeptics. More people across the country have voted for our campaign. More people have voted for us than for any candidate in the history of presidential primaries.

BLITZER: Now her record run is over.

CLINTON: I want the nearly 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected, to be heard and no longer be invisible.

BLITZER: But what's next for the New York senator?

We're getting ready to hear the answer to that question.