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Obama Goes After McCain on Economy; What Clinton Accomplished

Aired June 9, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Barack Obama goes after John McCain on the economy, and he apparently can't say President Bush's name enough. This hour, the presidential candidates go full steam ahead into the general election campaign.

Plus, McCain's strategy for beating Obama -- an aide says the Republicans face one of the worst political climates in history. Can McCain win anyway?

And Bill Clinton's uncertain future. Did his wife's failed presidential bid hurt him more than her? All that coming up -- plus, the best political team on television.

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

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Barack Obama is diving into the first full week of this general election campaign with his sights firmly set on John McCain and on President Bush. The Democrat is ratcheting up his efforts to saddle McCain with Mr. Bush's baggage.

Let's begin our coverage this hour with CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's zeroing in on what we like to call issue number one, which is a huge campaign issue out there right now -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Barack Obama's campaign really believes they can hit a home run on the economy. And, today, the candidate is linking McCain to President Bush's policies.


YELLIN (voice-over): Barack Obama on the economy:

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is time to try something new. It is time for a change.

YELLIN: In his first policy speech of the general election, the presumptive Democratic nominee repeatedly tied his opponent to George Bush, whom he mentioned 15 times.

OBAMA: Senator McCain wants to turn Bush's policy of too little too late into a policy of even less even later. The centerpiece of John McCain's economic plan amounts to a full-throated endorsement of George Bush's policies.

YELLIN: He charged McCain with flip-flopping, once opposing, now supporting Bush's tax cuts. And he accused McCain of supporting policy that would give the oil conglomerate ExxonMobil $1.2 billion in tax breaks.

OBAMA: That isn't just irresponsible. It's outrageous.

YELLIN: The McCain campaign fired back, insisting Obama "doesn't understand the economy," has repeatedly voted to raise taxes, and is making claims that cannot be verified because -- quote -- "There are not enough specifics."

OBAMA: A week from today I will be talking about this long-term agenda in more detail.

YELLIN: He did outline a number of short-term proposals, including a $50 billion economic stimulus package in part to extend unemployment benefits and create a $10 billion fund to help folks facing foe closure; a mostly voluntary health care program that would lower premiums to $2,500 for the average family; a middle-class tax cut to about 95 percent of Americans; a windfall profits tax on oil companies; and a $4,000 a year college tuition credit for students who volunteer after graduation.

Obama is taking this pitch to battleground states over the next two weeks.


YELLIN: And, Wolf, Obama is proposing an immediate $20 billion tax rebate that would ideally help Americans, he says, with high gas costs and the general squeeze they're feeling. Expect him to pitch it all in states, including Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. Those are battleground states he's fighting to win and will visit in the next two weeks.

BLITZER: All right. I know you will be traveling along as well. Thanks, Jessica.

Let's take a closer look at the states in play in this presidential race.

CNN is now introducing its new electoral map. You are going to see it updated as we get changes in this health care campaign.

We will bring in our chief national correspondent, John King. He's here. He's watching the map.

And show us what we know right now, because, come November 4, the Electoral College is king. You need 270 Electoral College votes to be president of the United States, and that's what matters.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Two-hundred and seventy is the magic number. The fundamentals in the race favor the Democrats, meaning Senator Obama.

But if you look at the electoral map now, at the beginning of the general election, it is remarkably competitive, Wolf. And let's start with the Democratic foundation. Barack Obama, we can show you up on the map here -- we will actually fill in the blue states -- they're solid Democrat -- 10 states, plus the District of Columbia, that's a solid Democratic foundation. It gets you 153 of those 270 electoral votes.

Then we would lean Democrat four additional states, a lighter blue shade, you will seem them on the map. That would give Barack Obama 37 more electoral votes, so about 190 -- 190 electoral votes is the...


BLITZER: Which is a very good start.

KING: It's a good start. That's the Democratic foundation.

So, you say, a good start. Well, let's look from the McCain perspective. We would say right now about 16 states -- that's 125 electoral votes -- those are solid Republican states. You see them now. They will fill in the map in red for you. Those are reliably red Republican states, although we will keep watching them.

Then another eight states, 69 more electoral votes, they're lean Republican states. So, guess what? John McCain has 194 electoral votes in his foundation, Barack Obama 190. That's...


BLITZER: It doesn't get a lot closer than that.

KING: That is about as close as you can get.

So, at this juncture, we would say, what is left? Well, a dozen states. And let's fill them in. We will call those yellow states right now. These are your tossup states right now. And they're fascinating states. Florida, always a key battleground in presidential politics. Missouri, always a key battleground.

From a Democratic perspective, you're very worried right now to see Pennsylvania and Michigan as tossup states. They have been reliably Democratic. But those are the places we're going to find out, does Barack Obama's problems with those blue-collar, working, potentially Reagan Democrats in November, does that continue from the primary season as we go into the general election?

And if you're John McCain and you look at this map, why is Virginia yellow? Well, that has been a reliably red state, but Barack Obama wants to take it away. Also, out in Colorado, has been a Republican state, Barack Obama wants to take it away.

So, you have two interesting candidates. John McCain wants to make New Hampshire Republican. That state has been trending Democratic. You have two candidates who have the potential, Wolf, to change the traditional electoral map that we have seen in the last two presidential elections.

It's early on. It's very competitive at this juncture. And we are going to keep looking at the polling in all of these states, talk to the campaigns every day, talk to key politicians in those states every day. You can go to our Web site,, and watch our map unfold. And we will change it as we get any data that would suggest, say, if Pennsylvania goes back to the Democrat, well, we will turn it blue. But it's a tossup today. And this is where they start. It's highly competitive.

BLITZER: And, so, it sets the stage for a very, very close election. And some of these tossup states will make the difference.

BLITZER: Absolutely. And it could be a very small state. It could be the state of Iowa. It could be the state of New Mexico, could be the state of New Mexico, could be Nevada. If you start at 190, 194, that shows you how competitive they are to start with. You could down to an end like a Bush/Clinton. Even the Kerry/Bush race, which was a little more of a Republican win. That was one state could have swung that.



KING: Ohio could swing it. Ohio could swing this state, flip it for the Democrats. If the Republicans can pick up Pennsylvania or Michigan, that would lean the map heavily in their favor. So, we will watch them from today on out.

BLITZER: And they will be spending a lot of time in those yellow states for sure. We will be watching.


BLITZER: All right, John, thanks very much.

Remember, is where you can see this map change on a daily, sometimes weekly, maybe even a daily basis, because we're constantly going to be updating the information that's coming into

In the meantime, let's go back to Jack because he's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.


Now is not the time for President Bush to negotiate a long-term security agreement with Iraq. That's the message from lawmakers in both Iraq and here in the U.S. More than 30 Iraqi lawmakers who represent parties that make up a majority of the Iraqi parliament sent a letter to our Congress last week.

They said they will reject any agreement that -- quote -- "is not linked to clear mechanisms that would obligate U.S. troops to leave with a declared timetable and without leaving behind any military bases, soldiers or hired fighters" -- unquote.

AP reports that Iraqi officials familiar with the negotiations are warning that a deal is unlikely to be reached before President Bush leaves office, unless the administration lets up on some of its demands that Iraqis see as giving U.S. troops too much leeway and freedom and stepping on Iraq's sovereignty.

Here at home, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers are accusing President Bush of trying to tie the hands of the next president when it comes to Iraq. The four senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter, saying this administration has not consulted with them on this agreement and that the need for legislative approval remains an open question.

For its part, the administration insists that this agreement is not a treaty, and so it doesn't have to be approved by the Senate. It's kind of more of the same from George Bush. Do whatever you think, whether the people think it's a good idea or not, whether the people have a right to vote on it or not, whether Congress approves it or not.

Officials say the deal won't commit U.S. troops to staying in Iraq, will not create any permanent bases, and won't pledge to protect Iraq if she's invaded. Here's the problem. The U.N. mandate that authorizes U.S. presence in Iraq expires this coming December.

Here's the question, then: Should President Bush be negotiating a long-term security agreement with Iraq? Go to You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks for that. We will check back with you shortly.

Hillary Clinton says she was able to put 18 million cracks in the highest glass ceiling in U.S. politics. So, how do some women feel about that?


GLORIA STEINEM, FEMINIST: Let's face it, you know? We have this kind of frontier, macho thing and we have still got it. But, therefore, we're choosing our leadership talent from a tiny pool.


BLITZER: How many other women agree with the feminist Gloria Steinem? I will talk to Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries. Stay with us for that.

Plus, Barack Obama's vice presidential search team is now on the hunt searching for the best person to join him. And it's looking for something very important today on Capitol Hill. We have got new information for you.

And inside Obama's campaign. We're going to show you the behind- the-scenes look at what happened at his headquarters.

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


BLITZER: Her campaign is over, but Hillary Clinton certainly leaves behind millions of supporters, many of them women, and a real sense of achievement.

Let's turn to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's covered this campaign for us.

So, what did Senator Clinton really accomplish, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in fact, one of the things that Hillary Clinton wanted to do in her concession speech was to address exactly that question. And the answer is, she feels they did make history.


CROWLEY (voice-over): History crystallizes in moments, but it's formed by the decades.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And to all those women in their 80s and their 90s...


CLINTON: ... born before women could vote, who cast their votes for our campaign.

CROWLEY: Those around her say it was important to Hillary Clinton that she write the final graph of a campaign invested in by almost 18 million voters, many of them women.

CLINTON: You can be so proud that, from now on, it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories...


CLINTON: ... unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the president of the United States. And that is truly remarkable, my friends.


CROWLEY: There were questionable columns and over-the-top punditry. And no male candidate was asked whether he had the wherewithal to take on Osama bin Laden.

CLINTON: And in the gentleman's words, we face a lot of evil men, you know? People like Osama bin Laden comes to mind. And what in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men?

(LAUGHTER) CROWLEY: She never came out and said sexism was at play, but she was nearly there as she closed the doors on her campaign.

CLINTON: Like millions of women, I know there are still barriers and biases out there.

CROWLEY: History did not crystallize for Hillary Clinton, but she believes she and her supporters have a place in the decades that have shaped what surely will come.

CLINTON: Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it.


CROWLEY: History is usually written by the victors. Sometimes, there are exceptions.


CROWLEY: Now, the key for Barack Obama is to somehow try to figure out how to grab those women voters without actually breaking that tie they have with Clinton, which many people believe is unbreakable at this point, which is why, Wolf, she is absolutely key to Barack Obama's chances of wooing these women.

BLITZER: Good point, Candy. Thanks very much.

Let's discuss this a little bit more, what Clinton's campaign accomplished for women and for American politics.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida supported Senator Clinton in the primary. She's joining us now live from Capitol Hill.

Congresswoman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Thanks, Wolf. Glad to be here.

BLITZER: You know as well as anyone, especially down in Florida, where you live, a lot of these women love Hillary Clinton a lot. They are bitterly disappointed right now. They're angry at Obama supporters, at the Obama campaign, the news media for treating her badly, Hillary Clinton. That's the allegations that they're making. And they're saying they're never going to vote for Barack Obama; they would rather sit home or even vote for John McCain.

You have heard this, I'm sure, from a lot of your supporters.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I have. I have heard it across my district, across the state and across the country.

And it's because their hearts are broken, Wolf. This was a very personal loss for millions of women and millions of Hillary Clinton supporters, regardless of their gender, across this country. And I think what needs to happen now is that we need to channel our heartbreak and our emotion and our passion for Senator Clinton into the issues that she championed, because, at the end of the day, that's why she ran.

She ran to advance an agenda. And that is an agenda that Barack Obama shares and that we need to make sure that we channel that energy and emotion into electing him the next president of the United States, because the alternative would be a nightmare when it comes to the issues that Hillary Clinton supporters care about the most.

BLITZER: Was she a victim of sexism in this campaign?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, I think she was.

I think you certainly can't attribute her loss to sexism, but I think, you know, like most women, she was -- who are in positions of power and who rise through the ranks, she was asked questions and faced scrutiny, particularly by the media, that no male candidate would have faced and none of her opponents faced.

I faced it as a candidate for Congress. We get asked questions all the time. I have gotten questions about how I can be a good mom and a good member of Congress. And no male candidate for Congress gets asked questions like that. Balancing work and family, and dealing with being a credible professional and a woman at the same time is a constant challenge for women, and it's something that Hillary faced as well.

BLITZER: I have heard several of these Hillary Clinton, passionate supporters out there, especially women, say, you know what, the only way I am going to vote for Barack Obama is if he puts Hillary Clinton on the ticket.

Would you like to see that? Is that the single best way he can unite this party, or do you think it's not a good idea?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, it is certainly Senator Obama's decision to make. He is going through a careful vetting process. He's put a good team together to go through that vetting process.

I personally believe that Hillary Clinton would make a wonderful vice president and think that would be a good decision on his part. But, you know, there's a lot of time between now and when he reaches that conclusion, the conclusion of who will be his vice president.

His supporters are going to matter in this race, and her supporters are going to be crucial. And it is clear that her addition to the ticket would help go a long way towards bringing her supporters to support -- go behind him 100 percent.

BLITZER: We're out of time, but if he passed over Hillary Clinton and in effect snubbed her, I suppose that would further alienate a lot of her supporters out there.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, look, it doesn't have to be perceived as a snub.

He's going to go through a careful vetting process. I know he's going to make a responsible decision. And at the end of the day, he is going to take the steps necessary to bring Hillary's supporters behind him, because he's right on all the issues that we care about. And the alternative, like I said, would be a nightmare.

When it comes to women's reproductive freedom, when it comes to the economic issues, like the cost of food, the cost of energy, the cost of housing, the fact that we don't have universal health care, McCain is wrong on all of those things, and Barack Obama is right. And Hillary supporters know that. And we're going to work hard to elect him.

BLITZER: You have got a tough job ahead of you, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It's OK. We're up to the challenge.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thanks. It's good to see you, Wolf.

And John McCain previews the strategy he will be using against Barack Obama, but why is his campaign manager saying this election represents -- and I'm quoting now -- "the worst in modern history for Republicans"?

And with gas prices topping $4 a gallon, one idea to save you some money is coming up. And so is the criticism of that idea. Would you really save under this proposal?

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


BLITZER: John McCain's campaign is acknowledging today that the Republican presidential nominee in waiting certainly has his work cut out for him. A top aide says this is one of the worst political climates for the GOP in modern history. He's probably right.

Let's bring in Dana Bash. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM covering the McCain campaign.

What's at the heart of McCain's strategy right now?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really interesting, Wolf.

On some of the fundamental issues, like the economy, he's actually going to run a pretty classic Republican campaign: Barack Obama will raise your taxes. I won't.

But what will be very different in this campaign for McCain, as opposed to other Republicans, is that he is going to be targeting different voters. He has to in order to win. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): A quick stop at this Richmond, Virginia, coffee shop to get his mug on camera was John McCain's only public appearance before heading to three private fund-raisers for much- needed cash.

But on his Web site, McCain's campaign manager posted their strategy against Barack Obama, starting with this ominous reality.

DAVIS, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I want to talk a little bit about today's political environment. It's among the worst in modern history for Republicans.

BASH: McCain advisers say their best shot at beating Obama is with independent voters on issues from taxes to the environment.

MCCAIN: Senator Obama has no record of being involved in this issue that I know of. I will stick by my record and my commitment of many years to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

BASH: The latest CNN poll shows a McCain/Obama dead heat among independents. McCain advisers also say he must win a number of so- called disaffected Democrats, Hillary Clinton voters in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, who told pollsters they would not vote for Obama. But strategists in both parties say, luring them will be tough.

PETER HART, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: He's a Republican. He happens to believe we stay in Iraq as long as we can. And he's voted with George Bush 89 percent of the time.

BASH: For months, Republican operatives have been privately expressing concern to CNN about how the McCain campaign is executing its strategy.

MCCAIN: And that's not change we can believe in.


BASH: GOP fears that spilled into the open about flat visuals and a negative message in last week's prime-time speech, just before Obama's.

Republican strategist Bill Kristol wrote in "The New York Times," "Almost every Republican I have talked to is alarmed that McCain campaign doesn't seem up to the task of electing John McCain."


BASH: McCain advisers are well aware that there are plenty of Republicans worried about how prepared they really are for a fight against Obama. But a spokesman responded by saying, reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated in the past, just like they are now. Still, Wolf, one senior adviser I talked to said you can be sure you're not going to find that now infamous green screen behind him ever again.

BLITZER: Yes, did not look good.


BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dana, for that.

BASH: Thank you.

BLITZER: As gas prices keep soaring and the economy keeps suffering, the presidential candidates are pointing fingers.


OBAMA: We did not arrive at the doorstep of our current economic situation by some accident of history.


BLITZER: So, how will issue number one cut in the Obama/McCain contest?

Plus, Bill Clinton had hoped to be the first spouse and number- one presidential adviser. Now that his wife has lost, what will he do next? We're watching this story.

And a surprising welcome for Laura Bush overseas -- a delicate dance. Let's put it this way, a very delicate dance.

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


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

Happening now: Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, they're some of the swing states Barack Obama certainly needs to win in November. We are going to talk about the challenges he's facing right now, and what he's doing to try to overcome them, with the best political team on television.

Also, he was a controversial presence in his wife's campaign, so what role will former President Bill Clinton now take when it comes to getting Barack Obama elected?

Plus, we're standing by for details of new high-level meetings involving Obama's search for a vice presidential running mate.

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

Bill Clinton was a controversial presence as he campaigned for his wife. Now that she's out of the race, the question is, what role, if any, will the former president take on to help Barack Obama win in November?

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. He's checking with a lot of insiders. Brian, what are you hearing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Democratic Party is full of talk about unity these days. But Bill Clinton's role is still an uncertain one, thanks to the bumps and brews of the primary season.


TODD (voice-over): Just two days after his wife gave up the bid he campaigned so hard for, Bill Clinton is at the United Nations for a meeting on stopping the spread of AIDS.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Secretary- General, it's good to be back at the U.N..

TODD: But will there be a role for him in the rest of the presidential campaign?

For months, he spoke to thousands of Democrats, campaigning vigorously for his wife.

B. CLINTON: You will never have a chance to vote for someone who cares more, who has done more and who will do more as president.

TODD: And sometimes bruising feelings of Barack Obama supporters along the way, like when he said Obama's early opposition to the war was being exaggerated.

B. CLINTON: Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: He will need to say some things along the way that show that he appreciates that in his ardor and enthusiasm for his wife, he may -- he may have gone over the line a few times, and he regrets that. You know, that's going to help a lot.

TODD: His admirers say he is a skilled campaigner, a foreign policy heavyweight and a reminder of good economic times. But he can also veer off message.

JOE KLEIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE COLUMNIST: There may be places he can help Obama, like Arkansas, for example. But I would expect that given his tendency to pop off, Clinton now is not a very safe bet.

TODD: Al Gore kept him at arm's length during the 2000 race. But so far, kind words from Barack Obama.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE: I think Bill Clinton is an enormous talent and I would welcome him campaigning for me.


TODD: Now, one key indication to look for here might come closer to the Democratic convention. We'll see whether Bill Clinton is awarded a prime speaking spot when the Democrats gather in Denver starting on August 25th -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I suspect he will, indeed.

All right, Brian.

Thanks very much.

Let's discuss this and more with our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, our own Jack Cafferty, and our senior political analyst, Jeff Toobin. They're all part of the best political team on television.

You know, a lot of experts have gone back to that 2000 race.

If Al Gore would have just let Bill Clinton campaign for him in Arkansas, as Brian Todd just mentioned, you know, Al Gore would have been elected president of the United States, if he would have just carried Arkansas.

So the question to you, Jack, is strategically, should Barack Obama use Bill Clinton where he can really help him?

CAFFERTY: Well, you could flip that around and say if Hillary Clinton had not let him campaign for her, she might have won, too, this time. I mean he did make some mistakes, as Brian pointed out.

I think short-term, a lot of this has to do with what Hillary Clinton's ultimate role in Barack Obama's campaign is going to be. Obviously, if she's on the ticket, then I would guess he would have a bigger role than if she's not.

Longer-term, if Barack Obama wins this thing, I think Bill Clinton's days as the dominant figure in the Democratic Party are over. Obviously, if Barack Obama loses, then that's a different ball game. That opens the door for Hillary to run again in 2012.

So I guess we'll have to -- you know, it will be -- to be continued, as they say. We'll see.

BLITZER: A lot to digest -- Candy, what do you think?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Bill Clinton was very helpful to his wife in those small rural communities where they are hugely affectionate toward him. I'm not sure she would have won as big in Pennsylvania and Ohio were it not for his efforts.

We saw all the kind of blowups and, you know, both the minor and major kerfumples (ph). So, you know, obviously, he did hurt at times. He hurt particularly in the black community and down South.

But the truth of the matter is this is still a popular man, particularly in the rural areas.

If he can go out there and actually mean it, he could be of helpful -- of help to Barack Obama.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The more Bill Clinton, the better for Barack Obama. He is all about a message of inclusiveness. And that includes in the Democratic Party. It would be, I think, a very successful symbol for him to say, look, we had this tough battle with Hillary Clinton, but here I have Hillary Clinton, I have Bill Clinton out campaigning for me. I think it is a very good thing for him and what he said in the plane the other day, that he'd welcome his support. And I would -- I think it would be a very positive thing for his campaign to have Bill Clinton campaigning for him a lot.

BLITZER: You know, Jack...

CROWLEY: Yes, I don't think the...


CROWLEY: ...problem is Barack Obama asking Bill Clinton. I think the problem is whether Bill Clinton would do it.

BLITZER: I suspect he will. He's a good Democrat and he'll do what he's asked to do. I have no doubt about that.

But the question, Jack, is this. I mean Bill Clinton has an enormous amount of affection, as Candy points out, with certain elements of the population there. And he's arguably probably the best campaigner out there -- at least we've seen in a long time, maybe until Barack Obama came along. So he could -- if he's used properly, he could really help.

CAFFERTY: Well, the other place he could be used would be as a surrogate for Hillary in urging the 18 million people who supported her to swing over and support Barack Obama. He is very persuasive. You get him in a room full of people and he could sell snow to an Eskimo.

And if he would go to her supporters and urge their backing of him, that could be effective, as well.

BLITZER: Are you surprised, Jeff...

TOOBIN: And Bill...

BLITZER: Are you surprised, as I am, a little bit, that we did hear from Hillary Clinton on Saturday?

She went out there and made her big speech dropping out, but also enthusiastically endorsing Barack Obama. We haven't heard that yet from Bill Clinton.

TOOBIN: We haven't. But I think we will. That was really Hillary Clinton's day. She gave a beautiful speech in front of a wonderfully supportive audience. But don't forget the third Clinton, Chelsea Clinton. I think she could be a tremendous asset to Barack Obama -- bridging the generations, bridging the gender divide that came up so often. I think, if I were Barack Obama, I would be on the phone to Chelsea saying, please help me, go out on the campaign trail. I think she'd be a tremendous asset.

BLITZER: She was terrific out there, Candy, wasn't she?

CROWLEY: She absolutely was. But again, I think her father actually is the biggest asset and, obviously, her mother even bigger than that, because Barack Obama doesn't have a problem with younger people or younger women, for that matter. From voters 18 to 29, he totally blew out Hillary Clinton. He was even with her up to about 45.

So I still think Bill Clinton would be the big catch here. And let's not forget, Bill Clinton can raise money and that's pretty valuable.

BLITZER: We know that for sure.

All right guys, stand by, because we have more to discuss.

As John McCain and Barack Obama set their sights solidly on November, what states are going to be in play?

We're going to have more analysis of the 2008 swing states. That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Plus, a new video gives us a behind-the-scenes view of Barack Obama's headquarters when he clinched the nomination. Abbi Tatton standing by with that. You'll want to see it, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.



OBAMA: When it comes to the economy, John McCain and I have a fundamentally different vision of where to take the country. Because for all of his talk about independence, the centerpiece of John McCain's economic plan amounts to a full-throated endorsement of George Bush's policies.


BLITZER: Let's get back to the best political team on television.

Jeff Toobin, this is clearly issue number one, as we like to say. And it's going to dominate a lot of this debate.

TOOBIN: And the thing that Barack Obama is betting is that the economy is so bad now, that he's willing to take the heat on raising taxes for wealthy people. That's been poison for Democrats electorally. Now, he's promising tax cuts for lower income people. But the prospect of higher taxes for anybody is something that Republicans have just beaten Democrats over the head with for many years. And let's see if it works for Obama.

BLITZER: What do you think, Candy?

CROWLEY: Well, I think Jeff's right. And I think, also, the capital gains increase -- capital gains tax increase that Barack Obama has been talking about would also be -- has also been a problem in the past. And we'll see.

Listen, this is an argument Barack Obama has to have and, really, when the economy is bad, the default party is the Democratic Party, because they're seen as better at handling the economy.

But the last time we saw a poll, John McCain was in about 7 points from Barack Obama about who could best handle the economy. So there is work cut out for Obama. He is, as yet, an unknown quantity. And that's a pretty small gap between Republican and Democrat, given the year we have and the subject matter, the economy.

BLITZER: You know, Jack, in our new poll, our CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, we asked the people out there's, is the economy good or bad? Twenty-two percent actually thought the economy was good. I'd like to meet those 22 percent right now. Seventy-eight percent thought the economy was poor.

But you know what, looking ahead down the road, they're pretty upbeat. A year from now, 52 percent say they think the economy will be back to being good, 46 percent poor.

What do those numbers say to you politically?

CAFFERTY: Well, I hope they're right. Politically, the election will be over long before a year from now. And the election this November is not going to turn on what somebody guesses the economy might be a year from now.

Economic conditions are rough right now. Look at energy costs, look at the job situation, look at the value of our dollar, our trade deficits with China, the $9 trillion in debt that we owe courtesy of the most rampant run-up in our national debt in the history of a single presidency. And the Republicans, quite frankly, are going to have a very difficult time running on that.

John McCain voted in line with the Bush administration 89 percent of the time in the last seven years. That includes the issues that relate to the economy. So talking about which one has his work cut out for him, my suggestion might be that it was John McCain.

BLITZER: And, you know, it's interesting, Jeff, that this election is going to be decided in the Electoral College. And four states right now could be decisive. There's no doubt about it -- Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Florida. Pennsylvania and Ohio, Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama decisively in those two states. There weren't really, you know, adequate elections in Florida and Michigan, as we know.

But looking at these swing states, it shows this contest, as John King pointed out earlier, it's going to be very competitive.

TOOBIN: Well, at this point, it looks that way. You know, Barack Obama -- we sometimes talked about him as having a white, working class voter problem. I don't think that's exactly right. It's an Appalachian problem. I mean the voters he has problems with are in that corridor through the Appalachian Mountains, and in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. That's going to be his real challenge, is to turn those culturally conservative voters around, even though it would seem that their economic interests are certainly not aligned with the Republicans. But they certainly have not bought the Obama message yet.

CROWLEY: Yes, well...

BLITZER: Candy, go ahead.

CROWLEY: I was just going to say, Barack Obama's real problem right now, if you look at those polls, is seniors. Democrats cannot win without seniors. And he is severely lagging behind there. And I think that encompasses some of the working class voters that Jeff is talking about and others.

But it is really seniors, at this point, where Barack Obama has to go and really woo that particular demographic.

TOOBIN: Maybe...

BLITZER: And those seniors vote in disproportionately large numbers, as we all know.

CROWLEY: They do.

BLITZER: We'll see if the young people actually show up and vote. If they show up and vote, he's got a very strong chance of being the next president of the United States. And getting a lot of those unregistered voters to start registering, then that will help him a great deal.

Guys, thanks very much.

Jack's got The Cafferty File. That's going to be coming up in a few moments.

But I want to check in with Lou to see what's coming up at the top of the hour.

What are you working on -- Lou?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you very much.

Up at 7:00 Eastern here on CNN, the Bush administration taking action, finally, to stop government contractors from hiring illegal aliens and illegal workers.

What about the employers of those illegal aliens who don't work for the federal government? And the United States and Mexico announcing new measures to stop gun runners from trafficking weapons across our wide open southern border. It may be too little too late to stop the violent drug cartels from winning their war against the Mexican government. We'll have a special report.

And a new salmonella outbreak in this country. Once again, the federal government doing absolutely nothing to stop it, has no idea how it began or where the origin is. We'll have a special report on another example of our utterly broken food safety system.

And we'll take an independent look tonight at the worsening economic crisis and whether Senators Obama and McCain have any clue about how to help working men and women and their families.

Join us for all of that at 7:00 Eastern, all the day's news -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Lou.

Thank you.

There are new developments underway right now in Barack Obama's search for a vice presidential running mate. We're going to have details of some high level closed door meetings. Stand by for that.

Plus, some new video showing what was going on behind-the-scenes as Barack Obama clinched the nomination. You're going to see it here right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack once again for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, should President Bush be negotiating a long-term security agreement with Iraq?

The U.N. mandate that provides for our presence in that country runs out the end of this calendar year.

Jerry in Tulsa, Oklahoma: "President Bush will try to an end run around Congress and make a long-term deal with Iraq. But his 32 percent approval rating will tackle him for a loss."

Jeff in Galena, Missouri: "He can negotiate anything he wants to. Whatever it is, it ought to be mandatory that it passes Congress."

Bob in Virginia writes: "I think Bush should start negotiating his way out of impeachment trials."

Loren writes: "No. He has single-handedly done enough damage in the Middle East and to the long-term interests of our country. Early in his administration, Bush should have adopted the Hippocratic Oath -- "First, do no harm." It is far too late for that now." Marie writes: "It would just be a parting gift to allow McCain an excuse not to correct America's involvement in Iraq. Hopefully, Obama will be wise enough to dissolve any such agreements despite the howling from Republican chicken hawks. I think the other 80 percent of the U.S. would support him."

Pete writes: "The only thing Bush should be doing is asking for forgiveness from the American people and the rest of the world. The best we can hope for is that he will do nothing for the rest of his term."

And Joseph writes: "Absolutely not, as there is no reason to tie the hands of the next administration in this obvious attempt to dictate future policy. Oh, wait. Maybe that's the idea."

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

BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack.

Thanks very much.

On our Political Ticker today, Barack Obama's vice presidential search team is moving forward today, holding talks with top Democrats up on Capitol Hill. Congressional sources say two members of the team, James Johnson and Eric Holder, met with the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, for about 30 minutes. Talks also were planned with other Senate and House leaders, including the speaker, Nancy Pelosi. One aide described the sessions as an opportunity for the Obama camp to show respect for party leaders and to ask their advice about potential running mates.

And it's worth noting that the McCain campaign today went after Johnson, of the search committee, for business dealings he had with mortgage lender Countrywide. We're watching this story for you, as well.

What was the reaction to Barack Obama's victory at his campaign headquarters in Chicago?

There's a new video that's posted to YouTube that gives us a behind-the-scenes view.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, who's watching this story for us.

So what did he tell the staff -- Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the campaign posted this video to their YouTube page, showing the now presumptive nominee returning to the Chicago headquarters to cheers and to high fives. A spokesman said it was recorded so people who worked for the campaign but weren't there could also hear the remarks.

It shows staffers crowded around to hear Barack Obama talk, some of them sitting on the floor; others perched on desks recording what Barack Obama was saying on their cell phones, as he thanked them for their work.


OBAMA: Everybody thought that, at some point, this thing was all going to be a flash in the pan. And, collectively, you -- all of you, most of whom are -- I'm not even sure, of drinking age...


OBAMA:'ve created the best political organization in America and probably the best political organization that we've seen in the last 30 or 40 years.


TATTON: Young staffers not unusual on a campaign, but these built the organizational and fundraising structure that helped propel Barack Obama to the nomination.

No time to rest, though, as Obama makes clear in this video. They should get ready for an onslaught. He tells the staffers to take a couple of days rest if you can. But when you come back, you're going to have to work twice as hard -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And five months or so to go until November 4th.

TATTON: Right.

BLITZER: All right, Abbi, thank you.

So was it too warm a welcome for Laura Bush as she made a surprise visit to Afghanistan?

The first lady gets a taste of some Moost Unusual customs usually reserved for heads of state like her husband. I think you're going to want to see what happened, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of this hour's Hot Shots.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, a 3-year-old escapes the heat in a water jet.

In Greece, a man stands in front of his flattened home after it was hit by a 6.5 magnitude earthquake yesterday.

In India, passengers scramble to get railway tickets during a transportation strike.

And in Switzerland, two St. Bernards -- look at this -- play in the snow.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures often worth a how words.

A warm welcome that could leave some hot and bothered -- but not the president's wife.

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Why doesn't the Secret Service stop this half naked guy in short shorts from charging at Laura Bush?


MOOS: Hey, this is about as close as a first lady gets to her own personal lap dance...


MOOS: Afghanistan, of all places.


MOOS: All that slapping and thrusting...


MOOS: Actually, they're just welcoming her. The first lady was getting the royal treatment usually served up to the president.


MOOS: You know, like the time he was surrounded by Masai warriors.

The president is always being celebrated in such a way that it would be almost impolite not to join in, whether it be in Ghana or New Orleans or on the White House lawn...


MOOS: ...or swaying with a sword.

Well, now it was the first lady's turn.


MOOS: Think Chippendales with spears.


MOOS: Actually, this was a contingent of soldiers from New Zealand doing a welcoming haka.


MOOS (on camera): Now the haka may be thought of as a war dance, but look who's doing it these days. (voice-over): Most famously, and all over YouTube, New Zealand's rugby team, the All Blacks.


MOOS: And even gingerbread men in a bakery commercial.


MOOS: The haka can include some vigorous tongue waggling.


MOOS: Even the gingerbread man did it. At least they didn't subject the first lady to that.


MOOS: Laura Bush displayed no fear, though she later admitted some to the guy in short shorts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm very glad.


MOOS (on camera): You know, there's something about the haka that reminds me of something. There's something about the footwork.

(voice-over): Something about all that prancing and preening.


MOOS: Oh, yes, it's the mating dance of the emus.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Let's leave it to Jeanne Moos to come up with that.

Thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.