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Preview of the State of the Union Address

Aired January 22, 2007 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, with his job approval rating in the tank and opposition to his Iraq War mounting, President Bush prepares for a make or break State of the Union Address.
What should he say? What will he say? And what do Americans want to hear?

Plus, Hillary Clinton's in to win. So is Bill Richardson and Barack Obama.

But are voters ready for the presidential history they want to make?

The best political team on TV lays out the political landscape. We'll take your calls and questions next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Thanks for joining us.

It's the eve of President Bush's sixth State of the Union Address and we thought it would be interesting to hear what ordinary Americans had to say about it. So earlier today, at my usual breakfast hangout, I asked around. It was a very unscientific sampling and being in Los Angeles, the people tended to be pretty liberal.



KING: Another beautiful, if nippy, day in southern California.

And we're heading into Nate'n Al's, a very famous deli in Beverly Hills, to get the thoughts of people about the state of the union.

Let's see what they're thinking.

Tomorrow night is the State of the Union.

What do you expect?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I expect to hear a lot about Iraq. That's what I expect to hear, or I hope to hear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I expect that he's going to talk about what he's going to do in Iraq. And I know that that's, you know, a negative for some people. But I have to admire someone that's willing to go against public opinion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you guys like a refill on coffee?

KING: What do you want to hear from the president in the State of the Union address?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to hear that the security situation in Iraq is going to get better. That's about what I'd like to hear.

KING: Do you think it's going to happen?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll tell you what I'd like to hear.

KING: All right, what would you like to hear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to hear something dealing with the economy. We've got a huge deficit and it just seems to be swelling with the war.

What will the president be doing and what will Congress be doing to address the deficit and Social Security?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really trust him. I know he's not the quote, unquote, popular president. But he's someone who has really put everything out there. He really cares about how this country is going to become a safer, better place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we need to be infused right now with hope as a nation. I think everyone is feeling very down about what's going on with this.

KING: Do you think he'll give that message?


KING: And, by the way, a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows only 34 percent approve of how the president is handling his job. Sixty-three percent oppose.

What can he say tomorrow night to change that, if anything?

Our panel, the best political team on television.

In Washington, Wolf Blitzer, the anchor of CNN's "THE SITUATION ROOM" and "LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER."

In New York is Lou Dobbs, anchor and managing editor of CNN's "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" and the "New York Times" best-selling author of "War On the Middle Class."

Candy Crowley is CNN's senior political correspondent.

J.C. Watts, the former Republican congressman and all-American from Oklahoma.

And here in Los Angeles, James Carville, the Democratic strategist, CNN political contributor.

What do you expect tomorrow night -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN'S, "THE SITUATION ROOM: I think it's going to be a lot on Iraq, but not exclusively on Iraq. He's going to go up, make some new proposals, trying to expand health care opportunities for those who don't have health insurance right now. There's going to be some talk about the environment and global warming, things you don't necessarily often hear from the president.

This is the first time, Larry, the president will be addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress in which the Democrats are the majority in both the House and the Senate.

So there's a new challenge. One thing, you might not see him interrupted as many times with applause this time as over the past several States of the Union.

KING: Lou Dobbs, do you expect mass interest, high ratings in this speech?

LOU DOBBS, ANCHOR, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": I don't, Larry. And part of the reason that Wolf suggest -- and as Wolf does suggest, I don't think you're going to see -- this should be a relatively brief speech because it won't be interrupted.

This president is trying to take a bit of a turn here, I think, because it is a Democratically controlled Congress, talking about health care. Whether you agree with the approach that he's taking, at least he's talking about it. He's talking about issues that are important to middle class Americans.

But the most difficult issue, of course, Iraq. He'll obviously be trying to sell his proposal for reinforcements and, I suspect, in a convincing way.

But I don't expect -- perhaps my expectations are modest, but I don't expect much new.

KING: Candy Crowley, anything dramatic?

CANDY CROWLEY, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think so, Larry. This is not a dramatic time. I mean, the president is in the twilight of his presidential era. You see the '08 people coming up. So this is a time that the president, if he's going to get anything done in these next two years, really does have to reach out to these Democrats. And they're not going to -- I don't think you're going to see big huge, let's reform Social Security. He may say it, but the chances that it's going to happen are pretty slim to none.

I think he is going to look for some commonality, perhaps on immigration, perhaps on energy policy, on some of the things, as Lou said, that do matter to the middle class.

But I don't expect big blockbuster items. Number one, there's not the budget for it. And number two, there's really not the mix in Washington for it.

KING: J.C. Watts, is there kind of a -- a down mood? How would you describe the mood going into this?

J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the mood is pretty good, Larry. The president has been pretty consistent on, you know, the war in Iraq, what he wants to get accomplished there.

But I think two things to note. One, as Wolf said, the president woke up on November 8, 2006 with a totally different world in Congress, having the majority -- having lost the majority in the House and the Senate. And whatever he does, I don't think he can be really bold because he's going to have a legislative window of probably about 12 months.

And so, you know, the presidential elections are underway for '08. There's a lot going on in Washington. There's a lot that the president can't control. So I don't think he can be real bold.

But I think he's going to use tomorrow night, I hope, to try and educate and further walk the American people further through his strategy in Iraq, but not to hone in totally on Iraq, because the economic numbers are good out there. He needs to take some time to talk about that.

There's a lot of things he can talk about. But, again, he's going to have a very short legislative window over the next 10, 14 months, to get accomplished whatever that is.

KING: By the way, our panel will be with us throughout the show. There will be other guests dropping in, but the panel will remain throughout. And tomorrow night we'll be on at midnight Eastern, 9:00 Pacific, following all the doings.

The president's speech begins at 9:00 Eastern.

James, has he already lost the public?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean it's going to be -- I can't remember the last time that this president has gotten any kind of bump or help out of a speech and I agree with Lou Dobbs that it's going to be a low rating.

However, I think his big problem is, is the Republican Party. He's not going to be able to convince very many Democrats tomorrow night. He knows that. The White House knows that.

There's deteriorating support within the Republican Party. Senator Warner just came out today and basically causing some real problems in Iraq. Congressman Boehner. And he has enjoyed a unified Republican Party on most -- on most every issue since he's been president.

It is not just for him the big changes to the Democratic Congress. He's got a very, very uneasy Republican Party that he's going to be speaking to tomorrow night. And that's a big problem for him.

KING: Make sense, Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes. He's got a lot of nervous Republicans out there. All those Republicans who are up for reelection, a third of the U.S. Senate, they're very nervous right now, at least most of them. And all the members of the House of Representatives, they're looking ahead. They just saw what happened last November and they're crossing their fingers, hoping he knows what he's doing as far as this surge, this increase in U.S. troop levels in Iraq, is concerned.

But they see what's happening on a daily basis. Take a look at today, Larry, what happened in Iraq.

KING: Yes.

BLITZER: The insurgents, the terrorists, they're really improving their capabilities. They're honing their skills. They're getting better equipment. Their purpose is to kill a lot of Americans and they're doing, from their perspective, a pretty good job at that.

KING: We'll take a break.

When we come back, our panel remains.

We'll be joined by Howard Wolfson, the senior adviser to Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, whose hat, or bonnet, is in the ring.

We'll be right back.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I'm in. I'm in to win and that's what I intend to do.

Thank you all very much.




KING: And who would you like to see be the Republican and Democratic tickets? What, to you, would be the ideal ticket?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you know it's really interesting that you asked that, because I really like Joe Lieberman and I like John McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't come to a decision yet until I listen to what they have to say. If I'm going to hear the same rhetoric, I'll have to make a definite change.


KING: We'll get back to our panel momentarily.

Let's kick in with Howard Wolfson, the senior adviser to Hillary Clinton.

He's joining us from New York. He's been with the senator for a long, long time.

We understand, Howard, that Senator Clinton is going to Iowa this weekend and she's currently fourth in the polls there.

Is that why she's going?

HOWARD WOLFSON, SENIOR ADVISER TO HILLARY CLINTON: Well, anyone who hopes to compete for the nomination of either party for president has to go to Iowa, New Hampshire, all around the country, especially to the early primary and caucus states. She has not been in Iowa since 2003. Many of the other Democratic aspirants have been there much more recently and much more frequently.

But she's looking forward to the trip very much. She is going to campaign the old-fashioned way. She's going to earn it. She's going to go into the living rooms and the coffee shops across Iowa and make her case for himself, which we think is a very good case, that she is uniquely qualified, uniquely experienced to lead this country going forward.

KING: James Carville told me before we began that this may be the most talented group of Democrats ever to seek their nomination in a primary.

Do you see it that way?

WOLFSON: I think it is an exceptionally talented group of people. I think James is absolutely right. You know, Senator Clinton serves with many of the folks who are running in the Senate. She knows them well. They're her colleagues and her friends. It's a very, very good group of people.

Obviously, I think Senator Clinton would make the best nominee, but I think Democrats have a lot to feel good about. We control both houses of Congress and we've got a great group of folks running to succeed George Bush and put our country in a different direction.

KING: Frankly, Howard, has Senator Obama snuck up on you?

WOLFSON: You know, Senator Obama is very impressive and I think he will make a great candidate. We think we've got a great story to tell about Senator Clinton. She's got a great story to tell about himself. We wanted to announce right before the State of the Union because we think this is a time where Americans focus on the office of the presidency, the president, the big challenges confronting our country.

And when people think about who is best able to lead our country going forward with all of the big challenges we face in Iraq, with global warming, with the dependence on foreign oil, we think they're going to take a look at Hillary Clinton and like what they see.

KING: Will Bill Clinton be very involved? That is, will he campaign heavily?

WOLFSON: Well, President Clinton campaigned for then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2000 in New York. He campaigned for her reelection in 2006. Everywhere he went, he was an asset for us. We view him as a huge asset. And he's going to do whatever he can to help his wife get elected.

So I expect people will be seeing him out on the campaign trail.

KING: And one other thing, Howard.

What's her biggest concern?

WOLFSON: You know, I'm not sure that she has any particular concern. Obviously, she knows she's going to work as hard as she possibly can to win. You know, I saw her the night before we launched the campaign and she was as excited and as happy and as raring to go as I've ever seen her.

She's very comfortable with this decision. She really believes that America is at a crossroads and she thinks she's got something very special to add to the conversation.

KING: Thanks, Howard.

We'll be seeing a lot of you.

WOLFSON: Thank you.

KING: Howard Wolfson, senior adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Back to the panel.

Lou Dobbs, do you expect the president to discuss at all, or anything at length, about illegal immigration tomorrow night?

DOBBS: Probably not, as illegal immigration, my guess is that he will address the idea of comprehensive immigration reform again, the amnesty program and guest worker program that he's put forward before. And he has a more like-hearted audience, certainly, among the Senate Democrats. So he might touch upon it, but I don't expect anything substantive to emerge, any more substantive than has emerged in the previous six years.

KING: In a little while, we'll get into the political realm, as we just discussed with Howard.

But staying with the State of the Union, Candy, will there be a lot domestically?

CROWLEY: I think there will be more than we've heard before and here's why. At this point, Iraq really is out of the president's hands. This is about what's going on on the ground. This is about whether or not the increase in troops will help. He's done what he can on that score.

I think there will be -- we will hear on Iraq, once again, the president's belief that this is tied to safety at home, that this war does have a direct repercussion to the home front.

But I think he'll move into domestic issues because one of the things we learned from the election and the exit polls was that people are concerned about the economy. They are concerned about health care. Minimum wage, which has come up in the House and is about to come up in the Senate, if it hasn't already, those are issues that people really care about, college loans.

I expect the president will spend some time on all of those issues.

KING: We'll take a break and be back, and get J.C. Watts and James Carville back into things.

And John King will join us.

Don't go away.


KING: What do you expect from the State of the Union?


KING: Not much?


KING: No hope?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think there's any hope. Once we went into that war, the whole...

KING: No hope? Hope is gone?

Hope is gone.

What do you expect to hear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I expect to hear a positive thought process from the president, to try to encourage Americans that what he's doing is correct.

KING: What do you expect from the State of the Union?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Truthfully, nothing. More lies.



KING: We're back with our panel.

We're joined, as well, by John King, our CNN chief national correspondent, who's in New Bern, North Carolina.

John, before we get to you, we have an e-mail from Dolly in Mason City, Iowa: "I'd like to hear the president admit he was wrong about Iraq and be honest with the people of the United States. There are way too many deaths from this fiasco."

You're near or at Camp Lejeune, John.

That's a place -- that community has generally supported the war.

Do they still do it?

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's quite interesting, Larry.

This is my third time here in the almost four years of the Iraq War. And back at the very beginning, it was a very gung-ho community, not only the mms and the Army soldiers going over to Iraq, but the community that supports them and their families.

Two years ago, during the presidential campaign, there was still support for the president. But there, of course, were rising doubts about the war. And more and more people here were saying we need to hear a plan. This isn't going like we thought it would go. The president needs to be more forthright and admit some mistakes and maybe do something different.

Now, Larry, more and more you are hearing what is going on? why is it taking so long?

Divorce rates are up. Domestic violence. There's strain on the military families because of a third, in some cases, a fourth deployment. So much more open now in a place that takes so much pride in its deep military tradition and its respect for the commander-in- chief, much more open in their questions and much more open in their sharp criticisms of President Bush.

KING: J.C. Watts, does that frustration surprise you?

WATTS: No, Larry, because wars are tough. And I suspect some of those things would have happened in any war that America has been in.

I think it is, it is incumbent upon the president to talk about this new strategy and talk about how he's, you know, this request for more troops, you know, how he is -- how he intends to use that and make that work for the benefit of the mission over in Iraq.

And so he's got a challenge tomorrow night. But I think this is a different strategy that the president has talked about in the last couple of weeks with the surge in troops, you know, getting more boots on the ground. President -- I mean, Prime Minister Al-Maliki, you know, saying hey, everybody's fair game. If they're a bad guy, we're not going to allow political -- politics to come in play based on who we can or can't go after. If they're bad guys we've got to go after them.

I think that, in itself, is a major difference in what has happened over the last eight or nine months.

KING: Can...

WATTS: So, no, none of it -- none of it surprises me, as to what's going on in our military community.

KING: Can he sell this, James Carville, the surge?

CARVILLE: No. They're not going to say no to that. I mean he...

KING: Not going to change your vote tomorrow night?


KING: Are you going to say...

CARVILLE: And I don't -- I'm not -- I'm trying to be fair about this, but he gave the speech on the surge and if you look at the CNN poll, if you look at the ABC/"Washington Post" poll, actually his numbers are down somewhat.

And I think he can put him -- try to put himself in a little better position if this works a little bit to take some credit for it or show that there's a real change.

But people are really looking for something different in Iraq policy. This has the real stench to people of being more of the same. Maybe he can help himself a little bit by saying that -- that this represents a departure from what we've been doing.

But I -- I mean I would be very, very skeptical. And I'm looking for something nice to say here, but I can't -- I don't think it's going to help him.

KING: In the next half hour, we'll focus on politics.

And, by the way, Wolf, what do you make of since the announcement increased deaths in Iraq?

BLITZER: It's very worrisome to see what's going on. I've had some briefings over the last several days and weeks, Larry, with U.S. military personnel and other experts. And even as the U.S. is fine tuning, trying to reshape its strategy in Iraq right now, Larry, the other side, the insurgents, the terrorists, the enemies of the United States, they're dramatically improving their skills, as well.

And since so much of the security for the United States military personnel right now depends on Iraqis, on Iraqis themselves, we've seen two very disturbing elements over the last few days. One, it looks -- it looks like the Iraqi military were penetrated in a major way when these convoys of what looked like U.S. military vehicles actually went through three Iraqi checkpoints, got into a base and went in dressed as American soldiers and started killing American troops.

And then they -- they escaped, all of them. And there's a lot of fear that there -- that was an inside job, if you will.

And this other development, Larry, of these shoulder-fired missiles apparently bringing down a Black Hawk Army helicopter with 12 soldiers on board. I flew in one of those helicopters about a year- and-a-half or so ago, when I was in Iraq. And so much of the travel depends on these Black Hawk helicopters. If they've got some new Stinger missiles, some new shoulder-fired missiles, that are capable of bringing down these helicopters, it's going to change a lot of what the U.S. can do there.

KING: John King, do you think the president can turn it around at all tomorrow night?

KING: It's very interesting, Larry. Remember, this is a unique community, because it is a military community. And make no mistake about it, they support the troops. It's just their support for the war is down and down.

And here's one of the great disappointments about the president you find in these communities. They understand the public opposition is on the rise, the public support for the war has declined so dramatically. They understand that to a degree, but they say it's the president's job to try to bring the country along.

And I was meeting with a retired Marine colonel today, Jim Van Riper, a great guy, served in Vietnam, served in Desert Shield, Desert Storm. He says think about what FDR did when times were tough. He got all the Americans to huddle around the radio.

He and others think the president has failed that test, to tell the country, look, the economy is doing OK at home, you're all going about your business, but there's 150,000 of your sons and daughters in Iraq fighting a war and whether you agree with me or disagree with me, you need to rally. You need to stick with them.

That is one test that many of the people in these communities that are so close to the military think the president has failed. They would like to hear more of that from the president, saying even if you're against me, help out. We're one country. We need to support these young men and women.

KING: We'll take a break. And when we come back, we'll meet the newly announced candidate for the Democratic nomination, Governor Bill Richardson.

He'll come to us from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

And then our panel will rejoin us. But as we go to break, we're going to enlist James Carville's services. We're going to send him out to Hollywood Boulevard and Highland -- it's about five-and-a-half minutes from here -- and have James talk to every folk. He doesn't mingle much with everyday folk so we'll see how he takes to this.

James, you're on.

CARVILLE: Ah, OK, Larry. I'm dispatching out of here.

KING: Go get 'em, Mr. Carville.

CARVILLE: All right. Thank you, sir.

KING: Good luck in the wilds of Hollywood.

CARVILLE: That's it.

I've got on -- see I've worn blue tonight because that's -- this will probably be the bluest place in America I'm going.

KING: There he goes.

Wish him luck.

CARVILLE: All right.

KING: Mr. Carville on the road.

CARVILLE: I'll get to Hollywood Boulevard.


KING: We're asking about the State of the Union Address.

What do you expect to hear? Are you excited about this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I guess, I mean, as an American, I guess you could say I'm excited. But I hope what to expect, like Bush will say some new stuff, like his new attempt in Iraq, I guess. So hopefully it will be something good to hear.

KING: What do you expect?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing too much, to tell you the truth.

KING: You're not excited about this speech?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't believe anything he's going to say will endear me to him at all.


KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE Governor Bill Richardson, Democrat of New Mexico, who has jut set up an exploratory committee for the 2008 presidential bid. Former United States ambassador to the U.N. and former energy secretary. He's in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He's governor, of course, of New Mexico.

Bill, Governor, some pundits said today that you're running for vice president, and you will handle this adroitly through all of this, and what you will bring to the ticket is the four Southwestern states.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Larry, I'm running for president. And I want to be president, because I think this country needs to be unified. There's too much division. I have got the experience, the foreign policy, energy experience. I have created jobs, health care in New Mexico.

I'm not running for vice president. In fact, I love this job as governor. If I don't make it -- and I know I'm an underdog now. I guess I'm up to 2 percent, which is fine, because it's very early -- I will just come back and be governor of New Mexico, which is a great job, which allows me to set agendas and help kids and do something about better schools and the environment, renewable energy.

So I'm not running for vice president.

KING: OK. You mentioned 2 percent. How then do you come up? How do you win this?

RICHARDSON: Well, first, I'm a governor. I think the country traditionally likes governors as presidents because we are budget- balancers. We deal with daily problems, while in Congress, in Washington, they are just flapping around and nothing gets done.

Secondly, I'm from, as you mentioned, Western states that are burgeoning population, a section of the country that's very dynamic, moving towards the Democratic Party.

Third, my record. I think I have got a good record. I brought nations together. I've negotiated with bad guys, with good guys.

I believe that if you're going to resolve a problem, you've got to be bipartisan, you have to have some civility. You have to bring people together, Republicans and Democrats.

I've solved problems, fixed problems.

And then lastly, Larry, I believe that in the end, the American people are not going to look at who has the most name identification, who has the most money. They are going to look at the record and the passion and the commitment.

I love this country. I want to be able to change things in the right way and in the right direction.

We need to take our country back, and I do believe that when my message gets out there -- and I will outwork everybody by far -- that we can win this.

KING: OK. You're president. What do you do about Iraq?

RICHARDSON: I say that within the year that I'm elected, 2008, that we will withdraw the troops in an orderly way. We redeploy those troops into Afghanistan and the surrounding Persian Gulf to deal with terrorist threats. We convene at the same time, using as leverage the withdrawal, a reconciliation conference to have a date and kind of agreement of power sharing and political administration of the three ethnic groups.

But you can't have a military solution. I would diplomatically force a political solution that gets the Maliki government, if they are still there -- and I don't think that much of them, I think that this prime minister is not just -- not helping us in terms of turning the security over to his country and national reconciliation talks.

I would simply bring the three ethnic groups together. I would bring a donor conference of Muslim countries, Arab countries, European countries, and basically stabilize the Persian Gulf. At the same time, I would talk to Iran and Syria for a broader agreement to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

You do that, Larry, through diplomacy, through talking, through dialogue, not through military solutions.

KING: The Clinton campaign has indicated they are not going to take matching funds. What about you?

RICHARDSON: I have not decided, Larry. I'm going to be a candidate that is an underdog, that is going to be looking for funds. I'm going to look for small contributions.

But I'm mainly campaigning. My advisers are going to let me know what they think. Of course, I've only had a campaign going two days. So I don't know what I'm going to do. But I am not going to be in that category where I can afford to make decisions like that with a lot of thought.

KING: Is being Hispanic a plus or minus, frankly?

RICHARDSON: Well, it's a plus, because there are a lot of states with a growing Hispanic population, not just in the Southwest but around the country. I think the American people are ready to elect either Hispanic or an African-American or a woman.

But I suspect some will accuse me of being too soft on immigration or that I'm not strong enough with border security, which I am. So I think overall, it's a plus. It's a growing dynamic community. It's about 12 percent of the vote. We just got to get those Hispanics to register and be part of the political process. And for that, Larry, I think I'm very honored to be an American candidate, American governor with a proud Hispanic heritage, although you know, my last name does not help. But I can pull out a little Spanish if you want me to.

KING: Say good night in Spanish.

RICHARDSON: Buenos noches (ph). Larry, gracias for (SPEAKING SPANISH).

KING: Asta luago (ph), is that good?

RICHARDSON: Asta luago (ph). That's great. Thank you.

KING: We will be seeing a lot of you, Governor. And good luck. Governor Bill Richardson, Democrat of New Mexico, he is in the hunt.

And when we come back, our panel resumes as we get into politics 2007. Don't go away.


KING: We are back with our panel. Shifting now to politics. Lou Dobbs, what do you make of how Hillary Clinton has kicked things off?

DOBBS: Well, she's kicked it off perhaps a little sooner than a lot of people thought. The entry, obviously, not unexpected, Bill Richardson, not unexpected. And perhaps that's the story in terms of the campaign for 2008, is nothing is unexpected at this point, other than perhaps Barack Obama, whose showing has been nothing short of spectacular. And perhaps just as short lived as spectacular.

In terms of the State of the Union tomorrow, Larry, I think we are seeing something pretty clearly here. With this entry of so many candidates for the 2008 nomination, we are also seeing a validation that this is a lame-duck president. And in sort of a twisted irony, his principal relevance derives from the war in Iraq, and at the same time, it is the principal frustration with George W. Bush, that is his conduct of the very same war. So that is going to play principally in everything that happens in domestic politics and international politic through 2008.

KING: Very well stated. Candy Crowley, do you agree with Lou?

CROWLEY: I do. I think what is also interesting as the Republicans begin to walk away from the president, as they look at their 2008 prospects, it may be that the president's greatest hope is with the Democrats.

They got elected to do something. So they have a political interest in getting some stuff done. He has, perhaps, a legacy interest in getting some stuff done. So it may be that his best allies are going to turn out to be Democrats in doing something.

Again, nothing I think that's going to be big and too bold, but getting some things passed, I think the Democrats are going to be his best hope.

KING: J.C. Watts, is the Republican parade, Giuliani and McCain and the rest?

WATTS: Well, not so fast, Larry. I do think it was interesting today the CNN poll I saw this evening had Newt Gingrich at nine percent, had Mitt Romney dropping down to about seven. I thought that was an interesting move. I think there are a couple of other people you should keep your eye on. People will think I'm crazy, but I think Mike Huckabee could be a very interesting candidate for that conservative space out there. Duncan Hunter could be very interesting.

But I do think that John McCain is the person to beat. Rudy Giuliani, it remains to be seen if he can sustain the momentum that he has right now. I think John McCain has a sustainable momentum. He can raise the resources, put the resources together.

And as you see more and more every day, he's getting a pretty darn god good team around him. So I think that's going to be interesting, how that all plays out.

KING: John King, with all of these candidates, no incumbent. First time in a long time we don't have any incumbent president or vice president. Are you expecting a lot of excitement?

J. KING: Sure, Larry, that's why we're covering it so early and that's why the candidates are getting in so early. Obviously the front runners trying to get out as far ahead as they can to discourage others from getting in. But someone will emerge as the principal challenger to John McCain and someone will emerge as the principal challenger to Mrs. Clinton.

I found it fascinating to watch her get into the race over the weekend. I started to get these gray hairs back covering the Clintons with that Carville guy in 1992 in New Hampshire. And back then, remember Larry, they were saying buy one, get one free: Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Well she can't run that campaign. She needs to prove all the assets and political strengths her husband might bring to the campaign, he also brings baggage. She needs to prove she's independent of him, that she can run in her own right. And I found it very striking, her thing, "I'm in to win." It sounds like a cute little bumper sticker slogan, but it is aimed directly at her biggest problem with democratic primary voters.

Ideologically, she's perfect for the Democratic primary. She can raise all of the money in the world. But the big question about her is does she have the political skills to get through this and can she win? So in that cute little slogan, "I'm in to win," she was trying to answer the No. 1 concern among party activists.

KING: Very well stated. We are with the best political team on TV and they are showing it tonight. One of them is out on the streets. He's at Hollywood and Highland, Jim Carville has made the scene. Jim, who's with you?

CARVILLE: I'm sitting out here on top of top of William Friedkin's star, who is the director of "The Exorcist." I don't know if there's a message here or not, Larry, but I've got Omar from Orlando, the swing state of Florida. I've got Brian from Iowa, another key state.

Let's go to you, Brian. What do you and people from Iowa want to hear from the president tomorrow night? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we want to hear how we're going to get out of Iraq, how development is going to work, about the economy.

CARVILLE: You've got a lot on your agenda. Omar, what are the Floridians in central Florida -- what do they want to hear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god, we want to hear the president stop moon dancing around Iraqi policy and for Christ's sakes, somebody send out a unifying theme. We showed the people in Iraq and the rest of the world that we are divided, they are never going to take us seriously.

CARVILLE: All right, here's -- we've got some new ones. Let me bring some more folks here. We've got people all over here. We're in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. How are you doing, beautiful?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good, how are you doing?

CARVILLE: And where are you from?


CARVILLE: Are you excited about the Colts?


CARVILLE: Where in Indiana are you from?


CARVILLE: And what do people in Indianapolis, are they going to be paying attention to the State of the Union, are they just too fired up about the Super Bowl?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I don't know. I haven't been there in a few days, but my guess would be they're kind of riding high on the Super Bowl.

CARVILLE: What do you think the president needs to say tomorrow night?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I'd like to hear is that gas prices are going to continue to go down.

CARVILLE: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And hopefully that the state of the economy is going to improve. I'll be entering the job market in about six months.

CARVILLE: Oh, you'll do fine. How are you doing? Come here. How does it feel to be out there with all of these stars?


CARVILLE: Now tell us, where are you from, and tell us your name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Indianapolis, Indiana.

CARVILLE: And what would you like to hear the president say tomorrow night?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would have like to hear him say he was bringing people back from Iraq, but that's probably not going to happen, so.

CARVILLE: All right. Give me a predicted score of the Super Bowl.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Colts are going to win.

CARVILLE: Colts are going to win. All right, Larry, back to you. We have all of the wisdom here on Hollywood Boulevard.

KING: That's James Carville, as smart as anyone.

We will be back with our panel as well. But first, let's check in with Anderson Cooper. He'll host "A.C. 360" at the top of the hour. It's a hodgepodge tonight, Anderson. what's up with you?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, a lot to cover. A new video warning from al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden's No. 2 dares the U.S. to send in more troops to Iraq and promises more strikes on America, the likes of which he claims we have never seen.

We're going to analyze the video with our al Qaeda expert Peter Bergen. Also tonight, accused kidnapper Michael Devlin speaks out for the first time. Find out what he said from his jail cell about the charges against him and why he's worried about what his parents might think of him, pretty strange stuff.

All that and crooked congressmen, still receiving fat pensions, pensions that you're paying for. When will somebody stop the madness? Find out at the top of the hour, Larry.

KING: We will be back with very interesting e-mail and we'll turn it over to Wolf to respond when we do all of that, right after this.


KING: We are back. We have another e-mail. This from Tammy IN Topeka, Kansas. "I'd like to hear him promise not to veto, for the second time, the bill for federal funding for embryonic stem cell research when it reaches his desk. Polls show 70 percent of Americans want this very promising research and not to allow it is shameful and irresponsible."

Wolf, do you think he will mention it tomorrow?

BLITZER: I don't know if he will mention that per se, but I do suspect Larry, if this legislation that calls for increased funding for embryonic stem cell research does reach the desk -- it passed the House last week, it's expected to go to the Senate fairly soon. If it does reach his desk, I suspect he will do exactly what he did the last time -- he will veto it.

KING: Do you see any surprise, Lou, coming politically from this list of candidates, anyone who you might see rising closer to the top?

DOBBS: Well, I think it's definitely way too early to start calling a front runner, even though obviously McCain and Clinton are leading their respective packs. I think that would be -- that's beyond my analytical and predictive skills to suggest that.

KING: Candy, do you see anybody, Candy Crowley?

CROWLEY: Well I see anybody at this point. I mean, Lou is right. There are so many people in this race at this point. At this point in a number of cycles, nobody ever heard of Jimmy Carter. Nobody had ever heard of Bill Clinton, nobody had ever heard of Howard Dean. They all in one way or another made a splash.

Some of them even became president. Howard Dean didn't, but he also shows you that one slip-up and a front runner falls. So I honestly at this point, I think they all look like they could and they all look like they couldn't. It's a pretty even playing field, despite the polls, which really are name recognition at this point.

KING: Mr. Watts, do you see anybody that we haven't talked about emerging?

WATTS: Well, I think Barack Obama, Larry, is the interesting candidate in this race because I think at this point, I think he presents to the American people, many Americans, what they think they want in a candidate.

Now, once people start to peel that onion, he'll have to defend probably a lot of different things that you have to defend when you run for president. But I think he has made this entire field of Republican and Democratic candidates, you know, in many respects, he's that 50-ton gorilla in the room.

KING: Yes.

WATTS: So he's going to make it very interesting. On the Republican side, I still think John McCain is probably going to be the guy to beat. I think John does kind of challenge the American people to give some thought to what we want to be as a nation when we grow up. But nevertheless, it will be interesting. I want to sell popcorn and coke over the next 12 months during this time.

KING: We'll take a break. When we come back, Mr. Carville on the street, another word from John King, a wrap-up from the panel. All after this.


KING: Before we go back on the street to Jim, let's get another word in with John King. John, Wolf is going to moderate a presidential debate, two consecutive nights for Republicans and Democrats, in April in New Hampshire. What do you make of that?

J. KING: I think Wolf just wants to get to New Hampshire and he's hoping it's snowing when he gets there.

What do we make of that? It's an accelerated campaign. And so they're starting as early as possible, and if you're one of the lesser-known candidates, you want to welcome these debates and have as many as possible to try to distinguish yourself.

You were asking me before who to watch in this race, those debates are proof of what can happen in politics. Remember back in 1996, Bob Dole was going to get the Republican nomination, but Phil Gramm was the early challenger.

At this point in that race, everyone was saying if anyone is going to get Bob Dole, it's going to be Phil Gramm. And along came this guy, Pat Buchanan, everyone said he's just a loud guy who's on cable television. He can't do anything in this race.

Well he didn't beat Bob Dole, but he knocked Phil Gramm out of the race. Candidates with a strong message can have an impact on a race even if they don't knock win the nomination. So watch the Tom Tancredos and the Duncan Hunters, even the Dennis Kuciniches on the Democratic side. Unlikely to be the nomination, but with so many debates including ours, the first one in New Hampshire, Democrats and Republicans, those candidates with a strong message can influence how these races turn out.

KING: And I'll ask Wolf in a moment what he makes of it, but first let's check back on the street at Hollywood and Highland with James Carville. James, who we got?

CARVILLE: Well, you know Larry, if you don't think this is a great country, I found a bunch of beauticians that are out here. And these are experts in public opinion. And they're giving me some really good on what I need to do with my hair. Now you're from Pittsburgh, what's your name, darling?


CARVILLE: Not tell us, what you hear when people come into your shop. What are they saying about Washington or what's going around the world? What are you hearing a lot of?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Their main concern is the war, the length, the safety of troops and whether our gas prices are going to start coming down so we can afford to do things we want to do.

CARVILLE: So you have a war on gas prices. Now, in honor of Wolf Blitzer, why don't you tell us your hometown?



CARVILLE: And Dawn, what are you hearing from your customers, anything different from what we hear?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pretty much the same.

CARVILLE: What do they think of Washington?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are sad right now. They are ready for a change.

CARVILLE: They are ready for a change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want to bring our soldiers home.

CARVILLE: So you hear a lot of, it's time to bring the solders home?


CARVILLE: OK. So we got some real expert public opinion here from all around the country. What are you hearing in your shop, anything different?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About the same. We want the war to end. We want tour troops to come home.

CARVILLE: All right. And everybody agrees pretty much with the assessment that we see here?


CARVILLE: OK, this is from Hollywood, Grauman's Chinese Theatre, James Carville with the experts of public opinion, thank you all.

KING: Thanks, James, outstanding job. Wolf Blitzer, is that too soon, that debate?

BLITZER: No. There is going to be a whole bunch in South Carolina and Iowa. This is an accelerated process and this is a wide open field right now and someone's going to try to emerge. I think it's going to be exciting, April 4th, April 5th. We're doing it together with WMUR-TV and the "New Hampshire Union Leader." These are institutions in New Hampshire and I think all of the Democratic candidates and all of the Democratic candidates and all the Republican candidates are going to be eager to show up.

KING: So you have no doubt they all will show up?

BLITZER: I don't know if they will all show up, but I assume if they want to be viable candidates in New Hampshire, they're going to have a self interest in showing up.

KING: Does this tell us, Lou, we're going to have a long summer of more of the same? DOBBS: Well, we are definitely going to have more of the same and more of the same. And my guess is despite the debates that are being put on, the number of early entries, the basic message here is that this president tomorrow night in the State of the Union is going to be called on the carpet by the American people, those who choose to watch and to listen.

This is a lame duck president. This Congress has limited power and we are in for a very tough two years of governance and a very long two years of political campaigning.

KING: Now Wolf, you and Paula will kick things off at 7:00 Eastern, right?

BLITZER: Right. We'll have an expanded two-hour "SITUATION ROOM," the president's scheduled to speak at 9:00. That could go 40, 45 minutes if he's interrupted with applause a little bit longer. Then there will be a Democratic response from the freshman senator from Virginia, Jim Webb. And then Anderson Cooper will kick off our coverage after that and will you pick it up at midnight, Larry.

KING: Thanks. Big night. We will do you it superbly as we always do with America's best political team on television. Candy Crowley, where are you tomorrow night?

CROWLEY: Tomorrow night I'm right here watching and listening with everybody else. And we'll take a look. Lou's brought up the lame duck issue. And we took a look at that and we will have a little something on whether or not he's a lame duck.

KING: J.C. Watts, we only have 30 seconds. What is it like to sit in the audience at one of these?

WATTS: Boy, it's been a long time, Larry. I don't know. It's special. Regardless of what your political stripes are, it's pretty special to have sat there and listened to the president given his vision for the country.

I'm not so willing, Larry, to boot this president yet. I still think he has a short legislative window, but I do think there are some opportunities. But the Democrats are going to be resist on many different fronts. It's going to make it challenging for him.

KING: Thank you all very much. It all starts tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern, all of them will be aboard. Before we go, some great news. Warrior One, the Hummer CNN used to cover the Iraq war was auctioned off this weekend. The winning bid, a cool million dollars.

The man who made it, Re/Max real estate cofounder and Vietnam veteran Dave Lininger. What's more, another bidder, Dave Ressler, kicked in an extra $250,000. The $1.25 million goes to the Fisher House Foundation. We recently did a show about that group. They do a terrific job giving temporary homes to the families of hospitalized U.S. troops. Thanks to the two Dave's for their generosity for the Fisher House Foundation, continued great work, a great, great cause. We'll see you tomorrow at midnight eastern, nine pacific following all the doings of the State of the Union. Here's Anderson Cooper with "A.C. 360." Anderson?


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