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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Can Kerry Be Stopped?; On the Hunt for Osama bin Laden

Aired February 17, 2004 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Daryn Kagan, in for Paula Zahn.
The world, the news, the names, the faces, and where we go from here Tuesday, February 17, 2004.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN (voice-over): "In Focus" tonight, the Wisconsin primary. as Democrats fight it out in the heartland, the big questions: Can John Kerry be stopped? Can John Edwards make this a two-man race? And is this the end of the line for Howard Dean?

And on the hunt for public enemy No. 1. An American general in Afghanistan says the sand in the hourglass is running out for Osama bin Laden.

LT. GEN. DAVID BARNO, U.S. COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN: We take our mission to bring him to justice very seriously.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: All that ahead tonight.

But we're putting the Wisconsin primary "In Focus." It is only the 16th state to hold a primary or a caucus so far, but the next hour could mean a primary surprise or a wakeup and smell-the-coffee moment for some of the candidates.

Team coverage for you right off the top, Candy Crowley with the Dean campaign, Dan Lothian with John Edwards.

And we'll begin with Kelly Wallace at Kerry headquarters -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, asked on CNN an hour ago if he were feeling confident, John Kerry said he is cautiously hopeful and optimistic.

He also said he's taking nothing for granted, but he and his aides certainly looking at some of the exit polling throughout the day, showing this could possibly be a tighter race than anyone expected. That is part of the reason why he did a round of last- minute local television interviews and also went out to a polling place to try and get out the vote.

The senator saying a win is a win no matter what. A couple of messages we're getting from the Kerry team. No. 1, if John Kerry wins, but John Edwards pulls off a very strong second-place showing, well, Kerry's advisers say, in order to win the nomination, you need to win states. You can't keep coming in second, also, the senator himself saying he is the only one running a national campaign, not, in his words, cherry-picking states.

Now a focus on Howard Dean. For that, we turn to my colleague Candy Crowley in Madison, Wisconsin -- good evening, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kelly.

Here in Madison, obviously, the Dean campaign looking anxiously at these poll numbers, but this is a group of realists. They understand that tonight may not be pretty for Howard Dean, but it also may not be the end. We are hearing that, while Howard Dean is headed home to Burlington tonight, as he had planned to do, we will hear nothing tomorrow as he talks with his advisers and perhaps his family about what he will do next.

There are many options still open to him. He could continue on with the campaign, although even Dean has said he cannot hold a conventional campaign if, in fact, he loses here tonight in Wisconsin. Certainly, the picture is getting pretty grim. The SEIU, one of the unions to endorse Howard Dean, is having a meeting tomorrow to discuss whether or not they should unendorse. Other unions also looking at that. Howard Dean may be on there on his own fairly soon.

Now to my colleague Dan Lothian at the Edwards campaign.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: Thank you very much, Candy.

Well, the Edwards campaign has indeed been watching those polling numbers as well, and an aide telling me a few minutes ago that they are cautiously optimistic that they can do well here in Wisconsin. Senator Edwards has said all along that he would welcome a two-person race. He believes that he can do well against Senator Kerry.

Now, a couple of things. Looking forward, the campaign believes that they can do even better leading into Super Tuesday. They said this is the first time that they'll have so much time to really wage their battle. Ever since Iowa, it's been a week between the contests. Now they'll have a couple of weeks. Also, the campaign saying that it appears that the voters are listening to his message, that his message is resonating, that message of creating more jobs and the economy.

That's resonating with the voters, and they believe that, as more and more people hear that message, they will tune into it and they'll accept it.

That's the very latest from here -- now back to you.

KAGAN: Dan Lothian, Candy Crowley, and Kelly Wallace, thanks to all of you.

So, is this the end of the line for John Kerry's challengers? "CROSSFIRE" co-host James Carville joining us now to talk about that.

James, good evening.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Thank you. Thank you.

KAGAN: Is this the night this becomes a two-man race?

CARVILLE: Perhaps.

But I think everybody wants to stick around this thing. What you'll probably see is three people claiming they won. That's the great thing about this politics. Usually, you have an election year and you've got a winner and a loser. But everybody wins in these Democratic primaries.

KAGAN: It's called spin, I believe.

CARVILLE: I think so.

KAGAN: I think so.

CARVILLE: I've been guilty of it myself

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... from time to time.

KAGAN: So I've heard.

How about Howard Dean, though? Is he just going to get so much pressure from within the party to get out?

CARVILLE: You know, I guess, but I don't think he really cares about the pressure too much anymore. If you think, he's lost his campaign manager and he's lost his chief supporter in the labor movement. So I think he's kind of oblivious to that.

And I think he's making a point. And I think he feels like he's got something to say. So my guess is, is he's indicated that he will and he'll sputter around for a couple more weeks out there.

KAGAN: All right, so he's off doing his thing. Let's focus on John Kerry, the front-runner.

As you see it today, how strong of a candidate is he across the country for a national election?

CARVILLE: Well, he's won 14 out of 16 primaries. And he's leading President Bush in all of the polls. But John Edwards

(CROSSTALK)

KAGAN: Well, that goes back and forth, not all of them. Some days, Bush is

(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: OK. Very few that he doesn't lead, OK?

KAGAN: OK.

CARVILLE: And any instance, any challenger that's in this kind of shape right now, it portends pretty good for the fall.

So -- but the truth of that matter is, I guess, if Edwards came up and won a couple of primaries, he does quite well against Bush also. I don't think it takes very much to beat President Bush right now.

KAGAN: Really? Well, you're very -- you're optimistic about that.

Now, as if you don't have enough going on, we're going to kind of hire you hypothetically for the Kerry campaign. What would you do? What kind of advice would you give him to make him even a stronger national candidate?

CARVILLE: Well, I think, A, he's got to keep -- he can't take these primaries for granted, because Democrats, we're just sort of like that. The nature, we don't like to be taken for granted.

But I think that he has to start -- part of his campaign has to start focusing on the coming election in the fall, and it has to be a two-prong thing. We know that George W. Bush is one of the most vicious, negative politicians ever in American politics. And they're going to have an assault after them. And they have to prepare to deal with that assault.

But they also have to talk about the kind of change that they want to bring to America in more specific detail. We know that America really wants change. They know that they're looking for a different direction than high deficits and arrogant foreign policy. It's going to be up to the Kerry campaign, John Kerry, if he's the nominee, to show how he's going to bring that about.

KAGAN: Republicans will point out, Democrats, oh, Democrats are great at whining, great at talking about what's wrong, but they're not good at putting out a vision for what they see

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I have no idea what they're talking about. Under Bill Clinton, we had peace and prosperity. I don't know which one of the two so offended them. And we had a $5.6 trillion budget surplus when he left office.

And John Kerry has put together detailed programs on health care cost and access. He's talked about any number of issues that and I suspect, as we go forward, that they're going to talk about even more. I haven't got the foggiest idea of what this administration's program is to deal with the highest budget deficits that we're going to have. They have absolutely no idea how in God's name they're going to ever get out of this quagmire in Iraq that they got themselves in to. They never talk about what they're going to do to change the arrogant foreign policy that we have.

They have offered us nothing on what to do to control rising health care costs. So they're a whole bunch of areas out there that Democrats can offer not just a different alternative and vision, but just talking about it would be more than this administration is doing.

KAGAN: Well, and we'll see how they do. And we gave you the free ride there because it is a Democratic primary tonight.

James Carville, thank you.

CARVILLE: You bet.

KAGAN: We decided a free ride wasn't the best idea. We wanted to get a Republican view of tonight's primary.

For that, we bring on Rick Graber. He is chairman of the Republican Party in Wisconsin. He speaks tonight for the Bush-Cheney campaign. And he joins us from Milwaukee.

Mr. Graber, good evening.

RICK GRABER, WISCONSIN GOP CHAIRMAN: Good evening. Nice to be with you.

KAGAN: I'm sure you were able to hear James Carville there talk about -- become, he doesn't care which Democrat. He thinks any Democrat could beat George Bush in 2004. I imagine you see it differently, sir.

GRABER: Oh, we absolutely do.

James obviously hasn't spent a whole lot of time in the state of Wisconsin lately. We have a very, very united party that believes very strongly in what this president is doing to make this a safer world, what he's doing to improve the economy. He inherited a very difficult economy from the Clinton administration, and we're seeing slowly but surely jobs are coming back. The economy is improving. People are getting back to work. We feel very, very good about our chances this fall.

KAGAN: Well, and let me ask you specifically about Wisconsin. It's so interesting, went back and looked it up. In 2000, if your state had been any closer, it would have been Florida, two-tenths of one percentage point going, though, to Al Gore, not to George Bush. In that time, your state has lost a number of jobs. Do you think, in 2004, are you confident it will tilt the other way for the Bush-Cheney ticket?

GRABER: We lost by 5,000 votes.

This is the classic swing state. And every race will be close here. We believe that we're going to have the strongest grassroots effort ever seen by the Republican Party this year. And we look forward to the opportunity to compare the president's record with John Kerry's record, which -- he is the presumptive nominee. It's a record that's very confusing to us.

You look at where he was on the war against Iraq, where he was on the Patriot Act, where he was on the No Child Left Behind legislation, and now see what he's talking about on the campaign trail, and it's two different worlds. People in Wisconsin like straight shooters.

(CROSSTALK)

KAGAN: Very interesting that you're bringing up John Kerry as if he is the presumptive nominee. What do you think would be better for the Republicans at this point, for the Democrats to wrap it up, so that John Kerry is the true nominee, then you can zero in, target him, and make it a one-on-one race, or would it be better to have this go on and on, let the Democrats spend some of their cash, and deplete those resources?

GRABER: Well, that's something that's completely out of our control. We're just going to take whatever comes with time here. It certainly looks like Senator Kerry is going to be the nominee. We expect that he'll win here this evening, and we look forward to the debate on his record.

KAGAN: Very good. Well, Mr. Graber, thank you very much for joining us.

Oh, we have time for more questions.

GRABER: Thanks so much.

KAGAN: Well, we do have time for one more question. So I want to just ask you this.

GRABER: Sure.

KAGAN: Since you're the local, since you are the Wisconsin local, give us a clue. What are you going to look for with the results for tonight? It is different in that it's an open primary. Anybody can step up and vote. So what kind of results will give you the kind of information you're looking for?

GRABER: Oh, you can switch over. I don't think you're going to see extreme amounts of Republican switch over. Again, the people feel passionately about the president.

I expect Republicans went to the polls today and voted for George Bush, even though he was the only candidate on the ballot for Republicans today. Beyond that, we're going to be looking at local elections. We'll certainly be looking at what the margin of victory is for Senator Kerry, if, in fact, that's how it turns out. But we're really getting ready for the fall. That's what our focus is right now.

KAGAN: All right, a busy few months ahead, Rick Graber.

GRABER: Yes, it will be. Thanks so much.

KAGAN: Thank you. Appreciate you joining us tonight.

And we'll have more primary coverage to come tonight, but here are some of the things you need to know right now.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is trying to clamp down talk of U.S. troops being sent to Haiti. The situation there is deteriorating as President Jean-Bertrand Aristide struggles to deal with a rebel uprising that has killed dozens.

Joining us now on videophone from Port-au-Prince tonight is our own Lucia Newman -- Lucia.

LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Daryn.

Well, indeed, 12 days after the armed rebellion against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide began, there are at least 57 people dead, and the unrest in spiralling. Last night, in the city of Hinche, a key city here, which is about 70 miles northeast of the capital, heavily armed rebels took over. They torched a police station and killed three officers.

These rebels were led none other than by a former exiled paramilitary leader, the leader of one of Haiti's most notorious death squads before President Aristide was returned to power. He's back now and in fact he has formed an alliance with the rebels in Gonaives, which is Haiti's fourth largest city and which is in control of those rebels as well.

So there's increasing concern here. Today, the prime minister called on the international community to help Haiti, although he stopped short of calling for a peace-keeping force. The United States has made clear, as you mentioned, that it's not interested in sending troops, but France has said that it might consider sending a peacekeeping force to its former colony only if certain conditions were met. In the meantime, the armed rebels are vowing to take their rebellion to as close as to the capital itself, Daryn.

KAGAN: Lucia Newman, you and our crew be safe there in Haiti. Thank you for the coverage. Appreciate it.

To Phoenix now. Former Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien was found guilty today for leaving the scene of a deadly hit-and-run. Last June, O'Brien struck and killed a pedestrian and then drove the car home to his garage. The 68-year-old bishop could be sentenced to three years in prison.

We have much more primary coverage for you ahead tonight, including a live interview with former Democratic Chairman Ed Rendell. You see a picture of him right there.

Also, a look at why, eight years after the crash of TWA Flight 800, the government is only now taking steps to prevent another crash like that one.

And the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Why is a top general saying that time is running out for the terrorist leader? All that is still ahead.

But, first, some candid pictures from the campaign trail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: So is it time for the trailing Democrats to unite behind John Kerry for the major battle to come?

Regular contributor and "TIME" magazine columnist Joe Klein joins us for the talk, as we welcome in former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who joins us from Harrisburg.

Gentlemen, good evening, gentlemen. Thanks for being with us.

(CROSSTALK)

KAGAN: Joe, first question to you.

Just say, for the sake of conversation, it's a tighter race than expected in Wisconsin tonight. That has to encourage John Edwards to stick in there.

JOE KLEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. And it has to discourage Howard Dean.

And we may see what a lot of Democrats really want to see. A lot of people are saying, God, this has gotten over so quickly. We want to see a little bit more of John Kerry. We want to see him tested a little bit. Also, the other thing is that I'm just back from Wisconsin. Big issue there was the economy, jobs, and trade. And John Edwards' position, opposing the free trade agreement with Mexico, was pretty popular, and I think that a lot of the late movement toward him might have been a consequence of that.

KAGAN: All right, Governor, let's go ahead and bring you in here.

Let's just throw the concept of unity at you. Is this actually the best idea for the Democrats right now, to pull together or should the race go on?

(CROSSTALK)

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Yes, I think we've got to think about pulling together.

You know, assuming Senator Kerry wins today, he'll have won 15 of the 17 contests. Senator Edwards, who is running a sort of selective battle, will have won one out of 17 contests. When Senator Kerry won in Tennessee and Virginia, and won impressively, I think that sort of made a statement that this is a national candidate. And I think Democrats, at least the Democratic voters, want to unify, want to get on with fighting George Bush.

That's what the message I hear from Democrats all over the country. So, whether this goes on another two weeks or not, I hope it's a positive tone. And I hope that Senator Edwards and Governor Dean -- they both have done well. I think Howard Dean changed the face of American politics. He should be very proud of that.

(CROSSTALK)

RENDELL: And Senator Edwards has made a great, impressive showing. But I think it's time to think about rallying around the flag and fighting George Bush and not spending any more money.

KAGAN: The governor sounds like he's ready to wrap it up. He's writing the speeches for him, Joe.

What would you ask him?

(CROSSTALK)

RENDELL: And I haven't endorsed anybody.

KAGAN: Amazing.

KLEIN: Well, you came pretty close there right now.

We're at least going to have one more debate, you know, in this before Super Tuesday. And, by coincidence, it's going to be a CNN/"L.A. Times" debate.

KAGAN: Good plug, Joe.

KLEIN: Do you think that the two other candidates, Al Sharpton, Dennis Kucinich, should be taken off the stage at this point? Should we just let the two big guys go at each other?

RENDELL: Well, there's great advantage to it, but I think you can't sort of change the rules in midstream.

If the debates had set up ground rules that you had to get 5 percent of the vote in the overall primaries, I think then it would have been OK, if candidates fail to meet that threshold. But nobody did that. I think they should have done it. We do it in Pennsylvania. When I ran for governor, there were two independent candidates. And the major stations had a rule that they had to be at 10 percent in the polls to participate. So they knew what the ground rules were.

But nobody set those ground rules. And, you know, I think Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich have something to add. But it would be nice to see, if it does evolve into a two-person race -- and I'm not sure that it will. But if it does, it would be nice to see them face off head to head. But this is all grist for the Republicans' mill if this gets nasty in a two-person race. It can't help us at all.

KLEIN: But this has been a remarkably un-nasty campaign. This has been the least nasty campaign. People would get kicked out of Philadelphia for running a campaign like this, Governor.

RENDELL: No question about that.

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN: Why do you think they've been so nice to each other this year?

RENDELL: Because I think Democrats sent an incredibly powerful message in Iowa that they didn't want Democrats beating up on Democrats, and they were going to punish anybody who did it, and the candidates listened.

Democrats all over have one thing on their mind. And these high turnouts in last November's elections and in the primaries, these high turnouts indicate that Democrats have one thing on their mind, and that's beating George Bush. And I think, as a party, we should get about that business.

KAGAN: Well, and as a former party chairman, Governor, I'm hoping that you can give us a look behind the scenes for those of us that aren't as dialed in as you are. What's really taking place? You're very honest with your opinion about should happen here. But what are the kind of conversations that are happening with the campaigns, especially with Howard Dean, perhaps with John Edwards? Encouraging them, to use a nice word from this year's theme, encouraging them to move on?

RENDELL: Well, I think you're going to hear that from a lot of elected officials and a lot of labor leaders.

But the key, if John Edwards doesn't win tonight, but finishes a respectable second, the key will be the message that he gets from his fund-raising base. Are they willing to go out and raise the money that's necessary to contend on Super Tuesday? I'm not sure that Senator Edwards can do that. Again, he's run an impressive race, but he's won one out of 17 primaries.

I'm not sure he can go back to the well and compete in New York, California, Georgia, and all those other states. Really, it's the fund raisers, more than the politicians and the labor leaders, that will indicate to Senator Edwards whether there's the will to go on.

KAGAN: So the money will do the talking.

Governor, thank you so much, Governor Rendell joining us on this primary night.

RENDELL: Thanks, Daryn.

KAGAN: Joe, you're not quite excused from the table. We're going to have you back in just a minute later in the program.

As a top general tells reporters the sand in the hourglass is running out for Osama bin Laden, we'll look at what's being done and what kind of progress is being made in the hunt for the terrorist leader. And more coverage of the Wisconsin primary, as Democrats wait to see whether tonight's contest will make John Kerry a sure thing for the nomination.

First, though, more candid views from the campaign trail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: Today, the top American commander in Afghanistan said there are no certainties that Osama bin Laden will be caught, but that U.S.-led forces are turning to new tactics to catch him, recruiting Pakistanis' forces to help flush out extremists on its border with Afghanistan. And Lieutenant General David Barno said that the sand in the hourglass is running out for Osama bin Laden.

Joining us from Washington, Peter Bergen, CNN terrorism analyst.

Peter, good evening.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Good evening, Daryn.

KAGAN: What do you think of Barno's comments? Do you think time is indeed running out for Osama bin Laden?

BERGEN: The sand may be running out in the hourglass, but the hourglass might be rather large.

After all, bin Laden was first secretly indicted back in '97. In '99, there was a $5 million reward put on his head. After 9/11, a $25 million reward. We've had two wars since 9/11 under the rubric of the war on terrorism, and we still haven't found him.

Moreover, he's not doing the sorts of things that get people caught. He's not yakking on his satellite phone or cell phone. We don't have a mole within al Qaeda giving real-time information where he is. Cash rewards haven't worked, as they have worked for some other terrorists. People in his immediate circle don't seem to be motivated by dropping a dime to pick up the big reward on his head.

So the general may well be right, that time is running out for bin Laden. But the question is, will that happen tomorrow or will that happen several years from now? The answer is, I don't think anybody can tell. The last time that we really knew where he was, was in the battle of Tora Bora in late 2001, when he was in an area of a couple of dozen, perhaps several dozen square miles in Afghanistan. Now we really don't know where he is.

We know that he's somewhere in the Northwest Frontier Province of Afghanistan. That's a bit like saying we know that someone is in Virginia, an area of 40,000 square miles, a huge area. We may have slightly better intelligence than we have had in the past in terms of his location. There's some indication that he might be in an area called Waziristan.

But Waziristan is an area where the Pakistan army has been very reluctant or has never really go into in the past. (CROSSTALK)

KAGAN: Well, Peter, let me just ask you this in terms of the Pakistani Army, because this is one of the new tactics or the newer tactics that the general was talking about, about turning up the heat on the Pakistani army, turning up the heat on these al Qaeda members and flushing them out of Pakistan, out of Pakistan, into Afghanistan, where the U.S. military could get their hands on them. Do you think that will be effective?

BERGEN: Well, I think it could well be.

President Musharraf has just recently survived two very serious assassination attempts, almost certainly directed at him by members of al Qaeda. Amman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al Qaeda, has called for attacks on President Musharraf. So I think he's very keen to get the Pakistani Army looking for al Qaeda in these regions. There's no doubt about it.

But there's a problem that al Qaeda certainly has sympathizers within the ranks, not necessarily not very large members within the Pakistani army. But we know, for instance, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the military commander of al Qaeda, had a army major who was working with him to some degree in the Pakistani army. So it's possible that they could get tipped off.

However, I do think that the situation is moving in a way that's positive. And, certainly, this hammer-and-anvil idea of flushing people out of Afghanistan, the American Army getting them inside Afghanistan as a result, has some promise.

KAGAN: Peter Bergen, thanks for stopping by tonight.

BERGEN: Thank you.

KAGAN: The government takes steps to prevent the kind of problem that caused the crash of TWA Flight 800 eight years ago. Why did the changes take so long?

And our coverage of tonight's Wisconsin primary continues. We'll look at what the White House is already doing to fight off John Kerry, even before the nomination is sealed.

And tomorrow, John Kerry's inner circle. We'll show you just who he relies on and how he makes his decisions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: With about a half hour to go before the Wisconsin primary results start rolling in, we want to bring in Wolf Blitzer in Washington with the latest. Wolf, good evening.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Daryn. There is, what, about 29 minutes, 28 minutes until the polls close in Wisconsin, 8:00 PM Central time, 9:00 PM Eastern. Throughout the day, though, we've been engaging voters as they have emerged from the precincts, to ask them a series of questions.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. You've been talking a look at these early exit polls. What's on the minds of these voters? Any interesting nuances we're picking up already?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, in the primaries until now, Democrats have not played up their issue differences. Instead, they've competed with each other to claim the title of Mr. Electable. That may be changing today in Wisconsin.

We asked voters, "Which is more important to you, supporting a candidate who can beat President Bush or finding a candidate who agrees with you on the issues?" Kerry voters -- you see here -- they were divided. They tended to give priority to electability. We've seen that before -- every week, in fact. But John Edwards voters were different. More than two thirds of them said issues mattered more than electability.

What's happening? What's happening is Edwards has opened up an issues front, on the jobs issue, an issue Wisconsin voters care about because their state has lost some 75,000 jobs in the last three years. Edwards has a populist economic message. He's challenging Howard Dean and John Kerry for supporting NAFTA, the trade agreement that Wisconsin voters overwhelmingly believe is causing a loss of American jobs. And that populist economic message is bringing a surge of support for Edwards from voters who want to send a message, not just defeat President Bush.

BLITZER: You and I were in Iowa, when Edwards did remarkably well, coming in a pretty decent second place. He got a big bounce at the end from that endorsement from "The Des Moines Register." He got a big endorsement the other day from the largest newspaper in Milwaukee, as well.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. "The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel" endorsed him. And what we're finding in the exit poll is three quarters of Edwards supporters say they decided to vote for him just in the last three days. That's bound to have something to do with that big newspaper endorsement.

BLITZER: All right, Bill. You and I will be here all night. Thanks. We'll be watching, together with all of our viewers.

Daryn, it could be a fun night. Could be interesting. We'll get to see -- at least, the polls will close at the top of the hour, see what we can report at that time.

KAGAN: Wolf, you and Bill live for this stuff. We will be watching. Thank you so much.

Well, if tonight's race is closer than expected for John Kerry, will a good showing by John Edwards change the course of the campaign trail? Joining us now, two of our regulars. "Time" magazine columnist Joe Klein -- he is back -- we didn't let him stray too far -- and from Washington, former Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke. Good evening once again to both of you.

VICTORIA CLARKE, FORMER PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: Hi, Daryn.

JOE KLEIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Hi.

KAGAN: Torie, I want to go ahead and start with you. What will -- I tried to get this out of Mr. Graber earlier tonight. He didn't really have the greatest answer, so I'm going to try you with this one.

CLARKE: Uh-oh!

KAGAN: What are Republicans looking for and what can they get out of tonight's primary, since it is an open primary?

CLARKE: Well, it's not just what Republicans can get out of it. I think people in Wisconsin are sending a very strong message they're not about coronations. I think that's true in the country. It's interesting about Edwards. The longer he goes on, the more people think they like him. So however this turns out this evening, even if Kerry wins it, I think it's going to give Edwards the encouragement he needs to keep going on to March 2 and possibly beyond. And so I think that's something everybody's taking away from it, not just Republicans.

KAGAN: Joe, as you were telling us earlier, you're just back from Wisconsin. What about the open primary in that state? What are you going to be looking for?

KLEIN: Well, I think that there's a weird inversion going on here that's very, very interesting. In previous exit polls from previous primaries, John Edwards has been getting very moderate voters, Southern conservative types. The issue that he's scoring on tonight, or seems to be, is a liberal issue. He's running to the left of Kerry on trade. The other half of the inversion is this. Kerry has supported free trade in the past. He supported NAFTA. And yet he is getting the endorsements from all the trade unions who hate NAFTA. So Torie, that's what Democrats are like. Go figure.

(LAUGHTER)

KAGAN: You do kind of need a scorecard to figure out who's covered what and who's going where. You also kind of need a scorecard to remind us sometimes that John Kerry does not have the nomination, especially when you look at some of the ads that are already out there. Torie, are you surprised with how early, how soon these attack ads are coming out and how ugly this is turning so early on?

CLARKE: You know, part of me says yes, but then you go back two years or four years. Every election cycle I think we say the same thing. We can't believe it got started so fast and engaged so quickly, and we can't believe how mean and nasty everybody's been. And it's been going on for decades. So I guess we're -- we -- we could expect this. I know, going forward, it's going to be a tough race. Whoever the nominee is for the Democrats, it's going to be a tough, tough race. And I think everyone is prepared for that. KAGAN: One person's tough is another person's mud, Joe. If this is what we're seeing now in February, I can't even imagine...

KLEIN: Well, you know, I got to say...

KAGAN: ... late summer.

KLEIN: ... part of the reason why we're seeing the ads coming from the Republicans aimed at John Kerry at this point is that there haven't been similar ads from the Democrats at John -- this has been the most polite tea-party of a race that we've seen.

KAGAN: Not Democrat to Democrat, though we had...

KLEIN: Well, but that's why...

KAGAN: ... the whole National Guard issue raised at President Bush.

KLEIN: Yes. That's right. And...

CLARKE: And many of the Democrats' commercials in the primary season have been directed against President Bush. So it's not quite accurate to say there haven't been any ads directed at President Bush.

KLEIN: No, but what I'm saying is this, that the Democrats haven't attacked John Kerry. You know, Howard Dean was attacked. Dick Gephardt was attacked. Kerry has escaped pretty much scot-free, and I think that there's a feeling on the part of the Bush campaign that maybe it's time -- If the Democrats aren't going to do it, maybe we should do it. And you know, the striking thing about John Edwards's attack on Kerry is how mild it is. It's just on one issue.

KAGAN: And we'll get to that in a second. I do -- we just have one minute left, and Torie, I want to get your take on this. The trend voter to go for this year, the NASCAR dad. We saw President Bush show up at the Daytona 500. He didn't stay for the whole race, for the benefit of the race fans out there. He would love to get that demographic, and yet that also is a demographic that is going to very much care about jobs, Torie.

CLARKE: They are, but I think it's a demographic that is going to be with him because it is about long-term efforts. And all the numbers, no matter -- whatever negatives the Democrats can throw out, every credible person out there says the good, important, solid economic numbers are on the uptick. That's not going to be true for every single person in this country, but most of the people in this country see the economy improving. Most of the people in this country, including those NASCAR dads, feel more optimistic about the future and about job prospects. So I think a lot of those people who were at Daytona will be with him at the end.

KAGAN: And at the finish line, as they like to say down there.

CLARKE: Right.

KAGAN: Thank you so much. Torie Clarke, Joe Klein, thanks for double duty. Appreciate it.

If John Kerry wins tonight's Wisconsin primary, how close will he be to locking up the nomination? We're going to be looking at the numbers. And safety in the skies, the new rules that airlines face to prevent catastrophic fuel tank explosions like the one that brought down TWA flight 800.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: It has been nearly eight years since TWA flight 800 blew up, killing all 230 people aboard. The government says it was caused by an explosion in the plane's center fuel tank. Well, today the Federal Aviation Administration announced new steps to make sure it doesn't happen again, requiring airlines to retrofit 3,800 planes with on-board systems designed to prevent fuel tank explosions. That is our topic for "High Five" tonight, five quick questions, five rapid answers.

Joining us from Washington is former National Transportation Safety Board chairman Jim Hall. Jim, good evening.

JIM HALL, FORMER CHAIRMAN, NTSB: Good evening, Daryn.

KAGAN: First of all, quickly, why did it take so long?

HALL: Well, let me commend the FAA for moving on this important step in safety that not only is important to safety, but honors the 230 individuals that lost their lives on TWA 800. This took so long because of money and the cost and a failed philosophy, in terms of the design of these aircraft, that goes back almost 40 years.

KAGAN: And so that's getting this far. Why is it going to take so long to get in place?

HALL: Well, you're going to have to retrofit the existing fleet that's out there. That will take time. I hope that the FAA will be as persistent in moving this forward on the time schedule as they have in helping to seek a solution and we will see a shorter timeframe.

KAGAN: As I get ready to get on the plane first thing tomorrow morning, I'm thinking to myself, Is it safe to fly today?

HALL: Well, these -- aviation accidents are rare events, and this -- there have been almost 40 aviation Airworthiness Directives that the FAA has implemented since 1996 that was based on NTSB recommendations to prevent an event like this from recurring. But certainly, this step is going to eliminate this as a possibility.

KAGAN: So you feel comfortable that the solution, as you've seen it or heard about it, will solve the problem with these central fuel tanks?

HALL: What has been described to me I think will reduce the oxygen level and the possibility of explosive vapors and prevent another TWA 800 from occurring again. And again, I applaud the FAA on their persistence in moving forward on this. KAGAN: And then, just finally, this was talking about retrofitting the old tanks. What about the new tanks that are being built? What about possible design flaws in those?

HALL: Well, this will put the industry on notice that they need to design these tanks in the future so that there will not be explosive vapors and we cannot have an event like this recur. So this is good news, a good news day for the American traveling public. And again, after eight long years, it honors those who lost their lives on TWA 800, as well.

KAGAN: As you said, let's not forget those 230 people. Jim Hall, thank you for joining us tonight.

HALL: Thank you.

KAGAN: As the voting winds down in Wisconsin, we're going to check out the numbers and how close John Kerry could be to the nomination if he wins tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: If John Kerry wins tonight's primary in Wisconsin, he will add to his sizable delegate lead over the rest of the candidates. But when is his best chance to clinch the race, if that's going to happen?

Joining us from Los Angeles is CNN's political analyst, Jeff Greenfield. Jeff, good evening. * JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Hi, there.

KAGAN: You are just looking even more forward -- you're looking at Super Tuesday. Is Super Tuesday the day that John Kerry will clinch, do you think?

GREENFIELD: Well, that one's easy to answer mathematically: He can't. If you take a look at Super Tuesday on March 2, two weeks from tonight, you're talking about 10 states scattered all across the country with a total of 1,151 delegates -- New England, New York, Ohio -- key state in the Midwest -- Georgia -- big state in the South -- Minnesota and California, the biggest prize of all with 370 delegates.

But even if John Kerry were to win all 10 of those primaries, the way the Democratic Party rules are, you get a proportion of what you win. There are no such things as winner-take-all primaries, as there are in the Republican Party. So even if he got another -- I don't know, you do the math -- you know, 600, 700 added to what he already has, he's well short of the nomination mathematically.

However, should he run a sweep in two weeks on Super Tuesday, it's just almost unimaginable that anybody, let's say John Edwards, has an argument to make that he should continue in the race.

KAGAN: OK, but...

GREENFIELD: So while...

KAGAN: No, go ahead.

GREENFIELD: Go ahead.

KAGAN: All right. I was going to say -- well, just to pick up where your thought left off there, let's make the argument for John Edwards. If you look at that same map, how can he sneak in here and steal the nomination from John Kerry?

GREENFIELD: John Edwards's basic argument is, I can win all the votes John Kerry can, but I can win where he can't. And if you look at that map on Super Tuesday, I think his argument will be something like this. Look, any Democrat's going to win New York and California unless it's a blowout. Where we have to win this thing is in states like, say, Ohio. Al Gore -- you can hear the argument from some Democrats -- lost the White House because he pulled out of Ohio in 2000, wound up losing by four points. Minnesota -- Gore only carried that by a couple of percentage points. Georgia -- John Edwards will say, I can be competitive there.

So even though Edwards, let's say, goes on and loses most of Super Tuesday, if he were somehow to prevail in Ohio, in Georgia, if he were to pick up delegates in rural parts of, say, New York state, you could at least understand the argument. But Daryn, the problem is that's an argument of electability that you'd make to party leaders, who a generation ago would say, yes, we're going with you. There are no party leaders anymore. It's all primary voters who pick delegates. And John Edwards has to make that argument, and fast, to the primary voters on Super Tuesday and should he do well enough to stay in beyond. Very tough call for Edwards. And as far as Dean goes, if he does very poorly tonight, it's -- having staked everything on Wisconsin, I don't see how he goes on.

KAGAN: All right, well, let's talk about beyond, and beyond Super Tuesday. That would be March 9, and other key states like Florida. How does that play into what you're looking at?

GREENFIELD: OK, if you want to play this game, and I'm willing...

KAGAN: I do.

GREENFIELD: If John Edwards survives Super Tuesday, the following week, Florida and Texas show up with about, I don't know, 300-something delegates. That should be places where Edwards would do well. And then you have a series of states where there's only one key state at a time. You go to Illinois. Then you go to Pennsylvania. And if Dean doesn't survive, then John Edwards's campaign has said from the beginning, Look, we want one on one with John Kerry, and he would at least have, theoretically, a chance to prove that he was more electable.

The problem for him, of course, is that John Kerry keeps winning primaries. And you know, where I come in, in my old-fashioned notion, when you win almost every primary you're in, you are the guy who's going to be very hard to stop. I mean, that's so elementary. But you know, we play this expectation game. And I still think that unless John Edwards very soon -- and that means Super Tuesday -- shows that he can beat John Kerry in key states, this is still ultimately going to be John Kerry's nomination.

KAGAN: As we heard from Ed Rendell earlier, the money does the speaking in terms of how much money he'll be able to raise to stay in the race. Jeff, thank you so much. Jeff Greenfield.

GREENFIELD: OK, Daryn.

KAGAN: Will it be Dean's last stand? Our Wisconsin primary coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: In just a couple of minutes, the polls will close in Wisconsin, a primary that has the potential to shake up the race or shake down the number of candidates. Let's get a quick update with our Wolf Blitzer as America votes 2004.

Wolf, good evening again.

BLITZER: Thanks, Daryn. Actually, to be precise, about four- and-a-half minutes from now, the polls will close in Wisconsin throughout the state. At that point, we'll be in some sort of position to give an evaluation of what we're getting -- what kind of information we're getting from exit polls throughout the state. But there's no doubt there's a lot of excitement building over the next few minutes. We'll see what happens.

The fact of the matter is, it's an important race, a critically important race, especially for Howard Dean. He had hoped to do rather well in Wisconsin. If he does poorly, that will severely damage his chances, obviously, of getting the Democratic presidential nomination. He's going to have to make a major decision in the next day or two or three. Does he pursue that quest for the presidency, or does he move on and try something else?

John Edwards is making it abundantly clear over these past several days that no matter what happens in Wisconsin, he will be there on March 2, Super Tuesday, two weeks from today, when there are 10 contests, including very big states like New York, California, Ohio. So John Edwards will definitely stay in. And of course, the frontrunner, John Kerry -- he's not going anywhere, either.

KAGAN: As you said, the polls are going to close in a couple of minutes. Of course, there'll be two things that -- well, many things that you and our team are looking at, but not just the numbers, but the expectations and how those numbers match up against the expectations, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, there have been expectations that John Kerry would do very, very well. If you take a look at all the tracking polls, all of the other polls that have come out in Wisconsin over the past week or two weeks, they all consistently showed that he would do well, he would win decisively. There was a battle supposedly going on for second place between John Kerry (SIC) and Howard Dean. We'll see how that stands up. But there's no doubt that if the race turns out to be closer than a lot of people expected, that could prolong this contest for at least another couple weeks, March 2 being a critically important date in the race for the White House.

KAGAN: And for those who haven't covered and haven't been following the primaries and caucuses as closely as some of the others of us, when you look at Wisconsin, very interesting because it's an open primary. What could that tell us tonight, Wolf?

BLITZER: Well, it means that independents and even some Republicans, if they want to go and vote in this Democratic primary -- they can show up and express their opinions, as well. You don't necessarily just have to be a Democrat to vote. So you get that independent block that will come out, and even some Republicans will come out and want to weigh in on who the Democratic nominee should be.

And Wisconsin has always historically been a state that is not all that predictable. There have been some big surprises in Wisconsin over the years, including John F. Kennedy in 1960, who managed to emerge from Wisconsin with a much better showing, a decisive win that really catapulted him and gave him the Democratic presidential nomination. So there's a history of sort of strange politics in Wisconsin, and we'll be watching to see what happens tonight.

KAGAN: And just real quickly, finally, as I said to the Republican state chairman earlier tonight, it was so close in 2000 between Al Gore and George Bush, any closer, it would have been Florida. Two tenths of one percentage point is what decided it for Al Gore back in 2000.

BLITZER: And there's no doubt that Wisconsin will be close this time around, as well, going between here and November. It's a battleground state. As so many of those battleground states are, it was only a few thousand votes, sometimes a few hundred votes that could make the difference. So the fighting will be intense in states like Wisconsin.

KAGAN: Wolf Blitzer in Washington D.C., thank you for all that. We'll be back to you in just a moment with the projected winner of tonight's primary.

And thanks for being with us tonight. Paula Zahn is back tomorrow night with a look at John Kerry's inner circle. I'm Daryn Kagan.

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