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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

The First Democratic Presidential Debate

Aired April 26, 2007 - 21:00   ET

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


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, it's on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: If this president does not get us out of Iraq, when I'm president, I will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The earliest presidential debate ever. Eight Democrats go at it in South Carolina, where they've just wrapped up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: When I listen to mothers and fathers all across the country, they are telling me it's time for us to come home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The biggest winners, the biggest losers, the biggest moments. And you'll hear from some of the candidates themselves, fresh off the debate stage, all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

The first debate of Campaign 2008 is history.

We'll go right at it in our first segment and they'll be with us throughout the program.

James Carville, the CNN political analyst, Democratic strategist. He's not working for any of the candidates, but he's on record as supporting Hillary Clinton.

Amy Holmes, the Republican strategist and Arianna Huffington, the founder and editor of thehuffingtonpost.com.

We'll be meeting candidates, representatives of candidates, other pundits along the way -- James, what's your total assessment of the performance today?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean we had a debate and I don't think much happened. I don't think much changed. I think it's going to be very, very difficult to continue this format with this many candidates and this many topics for much longer. They're either going to have to come together and figure a way to either limit the number of candidates or limit the number of topics. I thought Brian Williams made a gallant effort, but there wasn't much he could do. I don't see anybody -- I think Joe Biden had probably the best moment of the debate. I don't think it really changed a lot.

KING: Amy?

AMY HOLMES REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I'd agree. I would agree with that. But I don't think anyone hurt themselves, which was very good news for each of the candidates and...

KING: Is that better news, not to get hurt?

HOLMES: Yes, I think so.

KING: It's like exhibition baseball, don't get hurt.

HOLMES: Exactly. I think so. And, you know, I hate to say it, but I think Hillary did herself a lot of good. She was strong. She was confident. She was able to both talk about being a new Democrat, about capitalism, entrepreneurship, but also talking about corporate responsibility. I thought she finessed that well.

KING: Arianna?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, EDITOR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: There was no clear winner, but the Democratic Party came across as a winner. What a difference three years make. Here you had all the candidates with clear positions about getting out of Iraq. That is such a huge difference from where we were in 2004 with all the equivocations and all the reluctance to say something straight.

So I would say I agree with James and Amy, no clear winner, but the good that it did to the Democratic Party was significant.

KING: What, James, was the Biden moment?

CARVILLE: When he asked him could you assure people that you won't be verbose and talk too much and he said yes. And then he just stand there and then he let it sink in and it was a kind of a cute moment. It was a debate that was fairly devoid of humor. But it was also, as Amy correctly points out, nobody said anything stupid or there wasn't a gaffe or anything like that.

I just go back to my original point and now that it has been done in South Carolina, what's going to happen in Iowa and what's going to happen in New Hampshire and California?

It's going to be a big...

KING: We were talking around in agreement. I mean a lot of people were saying, boy, if Dennis Kucinich were 6'2."

HOLMES: I thought he was surprisingly articulate, thoughtful. He was able to articulate the anti-war, you know, wing of the Democratic Party very well. I mean Senator Gravel, though, I think helped him in that and he made Dennis Kucinich look like a centrist. I think the net roots have found their candidate in this election.

But Kucinich did well.

HUFFINGTON: When we first saw them, just purely visually, I must say as a woman, it was great to see a real contender for the presidency was a woman. I have many disagreements with Hillary Clinton, but just visually, before she opened her mouth, I thought it was great.

Once she started talking, we had, again, the on the one hand and on the other on just about every question -- on gun control, you know, let's just make sure we don't say anything against the Second Amendment.

On Wal-Mart, I think that was probably her weakest point, when she would not directly take on Wal-Mart despite Wal-Mart's record on employment practices, on health care, on harassment suits. She immediately (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that offer to the administration and corporate elites, not directly taking on the target. She did not defend her -- Senator Reid on his statement about the war being lost.

Again and again, the same tendency to want to have it both ways.

KING: She...

HOLMES: Well, all the candidates dodged the Reid -- Reid quote.

KING: Let me -- as we, before we go to break -- and we have lots of others to bring in -- let's check in with Howard Wolfson, our old friend.

Mr. Wolfson is the senior adviser to Senator Hillary Clinton. He comes to us in South Carolina.

I don't imagine -- I thought -- I would guess, Howard, that you thought she did well.

HOWARD WOLFSON, SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON'S CHIEF ADVISER: I thought she did great, Larry.

You know, we didn't come in with any tricks up our sleeve. We wanted to make the case that America was ready for change. Hillary was ready to lead. I think tonight she showed that she's got the strength, the experience, the smarts to step in on day one.

KING: Is this, Howard, a difficult format, with all these candidates?

WOLFSON: Well, I think it's difficult for any of the candidates to really shine in this format. I think Hillary did exceptionally well given that.

We've got a good field of Democrats. They all made their cases tonight, 90 minutes. Nobody's going to get to talk that much.

KING: Arianna just pointed out that she thought Hillary was weak on the Wal-Mart question.

WOLFSON: Well, I think Arianna and Hillary might disagree on that issue. I think Hillary made it clear that Wal-Mart has -- offers good things and bad things. I think you'll find that's what most people in America think about Wal-Mart.

KING: Amy, anything you want to ask of Howard?

HOLMES: Well, I think that Hillary was able to address centrist voters, but how do you think she did with the left-wing of your party, that wants to hear a much stronger statement on the war?

WOLFSON: Well, I think she was very clear on the war. She made it clear that the war was going in the wrong direction, that we had -- the Senate had voted today to send President bill -- President Bush a bill to begin to end the war. She was very strong on that, very clear, I thought.

KING: Arianna, quickly.

HUFFINGTON: Just very quickly, you know, she said at one point that for years she has been calling for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq when you know perfectly well that she has not been calling for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq for years.

So this was a clear mistake, one of her positions in the past.

WOLFSON: Well, actually...

KING: All right, Howard...

WOLFSON: ... actually, that is incorrect. She has been calling for a phased withdrawal...

HUFFINGTON: For how long?

WOLFSON: ... for two years. For two years.

KING: OK.

Thanks, Howard.

We'll be seeing...

WOLFSON: Feel free to look it up.

KING: We'll be seeing you along the trail.

WOLFSON: Thank you.

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

We now bring in David Axelrod.

He's also in South Carolina. And he's the spokesman for Senator Barack Obama.

How did your guy do?

DAVID AXELROD, SENATOR BARACK OBAMA'S CHIEF STRATEGIST: I think great, Larry.

We had a -- you know, this was -- he's the -- he's the new guy on the block here. He's not one of the -- the old Washington hands. And I think he did very well. I think he showed not just command, but a kind of thoughtfulness that people have come to expect from him, people who know I mean.

And I think he does represent change. And I just, in a way that others don't.

I just want to point out one thing. I agree with Arianna that we've come a long way since 2004. And, in fact, in 2002, Senator Obama stood very much alone in his opposition to this war. And, at the time, it was very hard to do.

So it's heartening, albeit late, to see so many people coming together now. And hopefully the president can get dragged along here to -- to help bring our troops home.

KING: David Axelrod, a question from James Carville.

CARVILLE: David, do you think that we're going to continue with the same formats and the same number of candidates as these debates go on and on? Or do you think that we're going to have to figure -- you guys are going to have to figure a way to either limit the number of candidates participating or at least limit the subject matter?

Because it seemed to me it was very hard for anybody to really shine or, just as important, to really make -- to really make any gaffes tonight. It just wasn't -- it's kind of unruly and not to anybody's fault.

AXELROD: Yes. No, I think it's difficult, James. I think you're right. I mean we are -- we're -- look, we were invited, we came. But it's really hard. It's hard for a variety of reasons. One is the answers are so short, it's hard to have a real substantive dialogue.

Secondly, there are so many candidates that you can't even -- many of them -- there are many questions that you don't get that you want to address and that people should hear every candidate address.

KING: Yes.

AXELROD: So I do think there have been changes. But that's up to you in the news media.

KING: A lot of smorgasbord about it.

Thanks very much, Mr. Axelrod. We'll be seeing lots of you on the trail, as they say.

Let's bring in our own John King, CNN's chief national correspondent in Washington.

What's your read on all of this?

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, I think just to the point James and David were just talking about, when you have so many candidates in the field, it helps those who don't get much attention. So if you're Senator Biden, Governor Richardson, Senator Dodd, especially, this is a good night for you, just because you finally get a chance to be noticed, assuming that there are Democratic primary voters out there watching, not just the pundits and the news media.

If I had to pick a winner tonight, just because of that reason, I would pick Senator Biden. Not because he did anything that distanced him by any great means from any of the other candidates, just simply because he talked about being a muscular Democrat. He got the anti- war guys a little bit mad at him during the debate and he got to speak.

Just Governor Richardson and Senator Dodd in the same light. They don't get much of attention because of all of the attention on Mrs. Clinton, on Barack Obama and on Senator Edwards.

So those guys will certainly like the multi-candidate debates. And the frontrunners, even though they say, gee, we'd like a better format, they like them, too, Larry, just for the point James was making -- they can't get all beat up on at once and they don't have enough time to make gaffes.

KING: John, by the way, will be with us the rest of the way, too.

Amy, did anyone do badly?

HOLMES: Well, I have to say I was disappointed with Barack Obama. I thought he got off to a very slow start. He was giving sort of superficial answers to the Iraq question. He talked about a woman crying because a family member of hers was over in Iraq.

And I don't think he really heated up until the very end, when he then became a strong national security Democrat in his exchange with Dennis Kucinich.

HUFFINGTON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

KING: This was his first time on a stage, though, you have to say.

HOLMES: Yes.

HUFFINGTON: But I think, actually, that they -- they showed the different ways that they tend to debate. Obama brought in stories from the beginning. I think Amy is right, she brought -- he brought in the story of the woman in New Hampshire. I actually really liked that, because we need to bring home the pain that the war in Iraq is causing.

Hillary Clinton's intention, clearly, is to keep focusing on her experience. Every answer started with I was senator during September 2001. I went with Bill Clinton to Columbine. Everything was focusing I was there, you know, I know what it's like. I have the experience. It became a little canned.

KING: Our panel will be with us all the way.

We'll take a break.

And when we come back, we'll meet the governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: And I am proud that I opposed this war from the start because I thought that it would lead to the -- some disastrous conditions that we've seen on the ground in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton and anyone else who voted for this war has to search themselves and decide whether they believe they voted the right way. If so, they can support their vote. If they believe they didn't, I think it's important to be straightforward and honest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I take responsibility for my vote. Obviously, I did as good a job I could at the time. It was a sincere vote based on the information available to me. And I've said many times, if I knew then what I know now, I would not have voted that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MODERATOR: Governor Richardson, you were one of the last people on this stage to call for the resignation of the attorney general, Attorney General Gonzales. When asked by a journalist why you were taking long to make up your mind about this, you replied: "It's because he's Hispanic. I'm honest."

Is that the right way to make personnel decisions?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Did it affect that he was Hispanic in what I said?

Yes, it did, and I said so. I think the American people want candor. They don't want blow dried candidates with perfection. That was the reason I held back. I did call for his resignation. Maybe I was last, but I wanted to give him a chance to explain his position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Joining us now from Orangeburg is Governor Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico.

How do you assess your own performance tonight?

RICHARDSON: Well, I felt good, Larry. I think I was very strong on foreign policy, on issues relating to Russia and Iraq and Cuba. I've got the most foreign policy experience than all the candidates. I've got the most energy experience. I was secretary of energy.

I've been with the North Koreans. I've been a governor. I've balanced a budget.

So what I need in debates like this is many, many more because I don't have the rock star status of Senators Clinton and Obama. I don't have their resources to get my message on paid media.

So I rely on these debates. I feel I was strong. I feel -- I wish I'd had a little more time, but I felt very good.

KING: Were you nervous?

RICHARDSON: No. At the beginning, the lights were very intense and it was uncertain about the format. It seemed, at the beginning, that the top tier candidates, at least in the polls, were getting most of the questions. And I was a little frustrated because I wanted to answer so many, because I've been a governor. I've done all the things that they've questioned and I think that differentiates me from the other candidates.

But, no, sure, you get a little nervous when -- when it starts. But all the candidates know each other. But we know the stakes are really high. So you've got to be clear. And on that Gonzales question, you know, I'm honest. Yes, he's a Hispanic poor guy, Gonzales. He came up very humble. He hasn't done a good job, but did I take a couple of extra days because he's a Hispanic?

Yes, and I admitted it. I think the American people want honesty and I'm saying it.

KING: Thanks, governor.

We'll be seeing a lot of you.

Governor Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, who, during the break, James Carville called the best qualified candidate ever.

CARVILLE: I think that I don't think anybody -- not incumbents ever run for president (ph). He was secretary of energy. He was the U.N. ambassador. He was a congressman for a long time. He was the governor, a very popular governor of the state. I mean the breadth of his experience is -- not to use a cliche -- he's got the...

KING: He's got the resume.

HUFFINGTON: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Yes, he really does.

HUFFINGTON: It was interesting when he was asked the question about Cuba. He felt that he had to go back and re-answer the question about if America was attacked, what would he do, to make it clear that he would have been prepared to use full military force.

But the problem is that if we were attacked by al Qaeda, we wouldn't know exactly where to strike back. That's the whole problem with terrorism, is you don't have a particular country to attack, unless it's the wrong country, as in the case of Iraq.

KING: Do you like Bill Richardson?

HUFFINGTON: Yes, I do like Bill Richardson.

HOLMES: I -- I was interested to see him, you know, tout his Second Amendment credentials and also that he even referenced, without being asked, that he cut taxes. And I wonder, though, how that's going to play to the more liberal wing of his party.

KING: We'll take a break.

And when we come back, Senator Joe Biden, Democrat of Delaware, another presidential candidate, will be with us. And then the comments of our panel will be with us all the way.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I don't have enough time to tell you all the mistakes I've made in the last many years. Certainly the mistakes I made around health care were deeply troubling to me and interfered with our ability to get our message out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Professionally, the biggest mistake that I made was when I first arrived in the Senate. There was a debate about Terry Schiavo. And a lot of us, including me, left the Senate with a bill that allowed Congress to intrude where it shouldn't have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was wrong to vote for this war. Unfortunately, I will have to live with that forever. And the lesson I learned from it is to put more faith in my own judgment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Senator Biden, words have, in the past, gotten you in trouble, words that were borrowed and words that some found hateful.

Can you reassure voters in this country that you would have the discipline you would need on the world stage, senator?

BIDEN: Yes.

WILLIAMS: Thank you, Senator Biden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: One of the great definitive moments in debate history.

Yes.

In a little while, John King will chime in with his thoughts on this.

But Senator Biden, did you think about maybe doing a longer answer?

BIDEN: No, Larry. Look, I mean this is all about the people are going to make up their mind. The media is not going to determine for them whether I talk too much or I'm too candid. They'll make that judgment.

And -- and I'm satisfied with the judgment they'll make. I'm confident.

KING: All right, how do you -- how do you win this thing? What's the strategy? What does Joe Biden do?

BIDEN: Joe Biden demonstrates that he's the only person that has a coherent plan to deal with the single biggest issue facing this country. Iraq is like a big boulder in the road, Larry. Unless we deal with it and settle it without mortgaging our future in that part of the world for a generation, we're not going to have the flexibility to deal with our domestic problems or the credibility to deal with our foreign problems. And I predict to you, everyone is going to come around to my position. You have to separate the parties, let them have their own regions inside a clearly defined government, a clearly defined country with a limited central government. Never in history has it worked any other way. And we are just draining our resources and our blood while we continue to adhere to -- like a number of my colleagues in the stage do tonight -- to this notion that if we leave, somehow the Iraqis are going to get together and they're going to have a strong central government. That is simply not going to happen.

KING: How much money do you have to raise?

BIDEN: Oh, I don't think I have to raise nearly as much money as the frontrunners do. You need to have enough money to compete in the first four contests, Larry. I'm confident we'll be able to do that. And whoever comes out of South Carolina a winner, I think, is going to be the Democratic nominee.

You remember what happened with Kerry. He was in debt. He won New Hampshire, $50 million came over the transom in about 13 days.

This is not going to be a problem of money. It's going to be who of us can connect with the voters of Iowa and Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

KING: Thanks, Joe.

Senator Joe Biden, Democrat of Delaware. BIDEN: Thank you.

KING: John King in Washington, what did you make of his performance tonight?

J. KING: I thought he had a very strong performance, Larry, and I think he's a very interesting candidate in this regard, that he does have this plan, essentially to have a weaker federal government and have the -- split Iraq in three provinces that answer to a federal government but essentially have autonomy, the three provinces. And if Iraq continues to go south, that plan may get more and more eyes turned to it, if you will, as people say what are we going to do now that the Bush plan is clearly not working?

I spent the day the other day with Jim Baker, the former secretary of state from the first Bush administration. He thinks that plan, the Biden plan, would be a disaster. He thinks Turkey would come in because of the Kurds, Iran would come with the Shiites and there would be some kind of a regional war.

But it will be more and more debated unless the situation in Iraq gets better in the near future.

So Senator Biden may be on the fringe of the leading candidates right now, but because he has a plan in Iraq -- a controversial plan -- and because he is so strong-spoken about it, he could have a role, a bigger role, as this campaign plays out.

KING: Amy Holmes?

HOLMES: I think that's true about Senator Biden. In listening to him, he had the most detailed vision. But I think the best question that was asked in the debate tonight is what are America's three biggest enemies?

And Biden said North Korea, Iran and Putin and he revealed this huge blank spot among the Democratic candidates. He didn't say al Qaeda. He did not say Islamic Jihadism, Islamic terrorism against the United States.

HUFFINGTON: But the question was what country.

HOLMES: And I saw that as a huge...

(CROSSTALK)

HUFFINGTON: Al Qaeda is not a country.

HOLMES: But, no, he said the three biggest enemies.

HUFFINGTON: No.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Three biggest enemies. And I thought that that revealed a big blind spot.

HUFFINGTON: He was clear.

CARVILLE: Yes. I...

KING: James?

CARVILLE: I don't think -- I don't think that's -- I think they were asked countries and he cited countries. Al Qaeda is not a country.

HOLMES: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) countries...

CARVILLE: But having said that...

HOLMES: ... and he said E.U. and NATO.

CARVILLE: OK.

I think -- I think that Senator Biden does, I think John King makes a very good point. I don't know if his plan is a good plan or a bad plan. Secretary Baker thinks it's a bad one.

But at least when they talk about Iraq, he can come out of the thing and he says look, I have -- I have a plan.

And everybody says well, I'm for a timetable. I'm going to withdraw here. I mean he has something that -- that he can go to and I think it -- to some extent, it helps him. I mean obviously he's got a lot of breaking through to do here.

KING: He has a definitive plan, though.

CARVILLE: Yes.

KING: At least you can say he's right, he has one.

HUFFINGTON: Yes. But the fact that he has a plan doesn't mean it's the right plan. I think right now the emphasis in the debate tonight was on troop withdrawal. And it was interesting that it came right after the Democratic vote. So that was a very important historic moment, when the Democratic Party is united on the need for a timetable for troop withdrawal.

And the battle now is -- moves to the White House.

KING: Our panel remains.

Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of candidate John Edwards, will join us up next. John has been criticized for being a cut above the other candidates. It came up again tonight. More about that, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards, who do you consider to be your moral leader?

EDWARDS: My wife, who I think is the finest human being I've ever known, is a source of great conscience for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We'll meet Elizabeth after I remind you of our panel. They are James Carville, the CNN political analyst; Amy Holmes, the Republican strategist; Arianna Huffington, the founder and editor of TheHuffingtonPost.com; and in Washington, John King, CNN's chief national correspondent.

Joining us now from Orangeburg, South Carolina is Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of the presidential candidate. Were you surprised when he said that?

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, of course, I was thrilled. The lead-in doesn't exactly show I got -- that I did take second place. I did follow second to the Lord, so I'm not his number one moral compass. I was perfectly satisfied in my position as number two.

KING: Were you nervous for him tonight?

EDWARDS: No, I really wasn't. I mean he was so clearly at ease and that answer was a great example. People got to see who he was. He was thoughtful. He didn't just come out with an answer immediately, but he thought about it so he would be honest with the American people. And then gave a clear and compelling answer. I expected it all the time. I don't want to argue with him ever. I know that he's a clear thinker and I was never worried for a moment.

KING: How do you assess his battle against Obama and Clinton?

EDWARDS: You know I honestly think that you have to run this race with blinders on and not think about any of the other candidates. And that's aloud him -- if he were thinking about the other candidates, maybe he wouldn't have a health care plan because they don't have a universal health care plan, or maybe he wouldn't have a real plan for global warming and energy because they don't have it. If he were just paying attention to what the other guys were doing, then he wouldn't be developing these real plans and answers.

I was very pleased tonight because he was able to express, albeit in those little, short one-minute answers, his ideas on health care, on the energy crisis, on global warming, on the war in Iraq.

I mean I think that one of the things you talked about in the previous segment was Joe Biden had real ideas on the war of Iraq and how to solve that that problem. So does John and he was able to express them, albeit briefly, but he also expressed his opinion on a wide range of issues that came up and able to do that because he's not looking to what the other guys are doing. He's looking out at the American people and the answers that they deserve.

KING: On a lighter note, how do you respond to the $400 haircut question?

EDWARDS: We're pretty distressed that that bill didn't come to our house instead of the campaign. So we didn't find out about it until -- you may have found out before we found out about it actually. The haircut is -- you know, John travels all over the place and has to have haircuts done in the middle of the night and the fellow charged for his time, which is not an illegitimate thing but the bill was pretty high. But the worst thing is that people who give money to the campaign ought to know that it's going for things associated with the campaign. We try actually to be enormously frugal. And so this was an embarrassment to think that the donors would think that any of their money might have gone for this.

KING: How is your health?

EDWARDS: It's great, actually. I went to the doctors this week. I had my second infusion so I'm doing very well, my bone strengthening infusion. I'm doing well. I feel terrific, a little hot in this spin room but otherwise, great.

KING: Go get a break. Thanks, Elizabeth.

How did he do, Arianna? How did Senator Edwards do tonight?

HUFFINGTON: Well, I thought he did particularly well when he talked about his vote and on the war in Iraq, and he's very sincere apology about it. I thought it was a great contrast to Hillary Clinton's ongoing refusal to apologize about her vote. I thought that was definitely the high point for me.

KING: How did he do?

HOLMES: I actually thought that he lacked energy, that he lacked the, you know, John Edwards charisma that we saw in 2004 and that he was particularly weak on America's standing in the world in terms of our national security. And he talked about how we need to make other countries like us through supporting 100 million schoolchildren across the globe and clean water. It took Governor Richardson to come forward and say we need to look at strategic interests in dealing with countries like Russia. And it was Chris Dodd who said you know we have genuine envy about there.

KING: John King, how did Edwards do?

J. KING: I agree with Arianna, that he didn't seem as at ease as in the past. But to Amy's point right there, you know, Senator Edwards talked about money for health care, money for literacy, money for sanitation. That'll all sound great in the Democratic primary, Larry, if he is the nominee, the question that's going to come in the general election, which wasn't talked much tonight.

They won't be running against George W. Bush a year from now, they'll be running against a Republican that is going to say how are you going to pay for it? You already said you would raise taxes through your health care plan. These things are all great. They're all noble. We're still in Iraq. It's costing billions and billions of dollars. How are you going to pay for it?

KING: James, how did he do?

CARVILLE: I think he did fine. He was kind of in the pack.

There was one, Arianna, Larry asked you a question that you don't attack Hillary on? Was that some kind of question like...

(CROSSTALK)

HUFFINGTON: They debated about contracts. There were debating.

CARVILLE: I just wondered if it was possible.

HUFFINGTON: When he apologizes and she doesn't, it draws the contrast and that's why he did it because usually he wouldn't apologize.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I just wanted to point out that every question you use to get...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: You're not an avid supporter. HUFFINGTON: I'm delighted to have a very competent woman running for president. I don't think she should be the nominee; the same way that James thinks she should be the nominee.

KING: Let's go to Washington and we'll check in with Abbi Tatton, CNN's Internet reporter.

What are people saying on the blogs?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Larry, we're looking at some of the left leaning blogs here. Make no mistake about it, this is an anti-war crowd. They poll their blog readers frequently, do straw polls to see who they like. And Senator Edwards is frequently out front. Senator Obama right behind and Hillary Clinton trails.

And if we're looking around tonight, it's not much different really. There are positive responses to the way Senator Edwards did during this. More mixed responses to Senator Obama. In terms of Hillary Clinton, we're looking around on this New Hampshire left leaning blog and some of the comments there. Some people saying well, I've seen her speak twice and really tonight she didn't say too much different.

And looking around at some of the leading blogs on the left, the headline is, well, we didn't really learn much. There's a little bit of criticism of the format. There were a lot of people, not easy to get too much information there.

There was one standout. There was a lot of talk about Gravel and him coming out fighting on Iraq. A lot of people starting off by saying, Mike Gravel, who's that? And then later on, there were tongue- in-cheek posts, Gravel '08.

And we should also point out that the campaigns were really responding to this online audience, putting things on their Web sites during the debate as they were happening on Hillary Clinton's Web site. They were doing a rapid response. And on the Web site of Senator Chris Dodd, there was an online stream where people could go into a war room and ask questions of the researchers there -- Larry.

KING: Thanks, Abbi.

More from Abbi Tatton later. Now, before we go to break, a quick reminder, you're your calendars, Sunday, June 3, that's the next Democratic presidential debate hosted by CNN, Sunday June 3 in New Hampshire. CNN will also host another debate live from New Hampshire the following Tuesday.

Back with more and Senator Chris Dodd right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE GRAVEL (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I got to tell you, after standing up with them, some of these people frighten me. They frighten me.

WILLIAMS: Who on the stage exactly tonight worries you so much?

GRAVEL: Well, I would say the top tier ones. The top tier ones. They made statements. Joe, I'll include you too. You have a certain arrogance. You want to tell the Iraqis how to run their country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Terrorism is a multinational problem. It's a tactic. It requires a multinational response. This administration has walked away from that. The very institutions we need to build to effectively engage and fight back against terrorism; this administration seems to take the other track and move in a different direction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The democrat from Connecticut, Senator Chris Dodd now joins us from Orangeburg, South Carolina.

How do you assess yourself tonight?

DODD: Well, I'm probably not the best judge, Larry, since you're in the middle of it, but I thought things went fine. It was a different format, an awful lot of people on the stage. And you know some subject matters that people care a lot about didn't get raised, education being one. I think people would have liked to have heard more about it.

I would have liked to have talked about my corporate carbon tax that Tom Friedman has urged us to adopt. And Brian Williams said no one on this stage has embraced it. I have weeks ago embraced that and given three speeches about it. So we hope to make more of a case about how important that is and the fuel mileage standard.

So other than that it was a chance to be on the stage. This is probably one of many over the next 10 months.

KING: How do you deal with your own -- the fact of your own uphill fight?

DODD: Well, Larry, I know you had Bill Clinton on the other night. I was listening to him not long ago talk about in October of '91, it was at 2 percent in the polls. John Kerry was at 4 percent in the polls in late December of 2003. And he's reminded me that this polling data, 10 months before the first ballot is cast, really don't have a lot of relevancy here.

People in these states want to see you; they want to talk to you. We have a well run operation, a lot of people on the ground doing a good job and we're talking about things people care about and talking about experience and how you bring people together. And most of the problems tonight, Larry, we talked about are not going to be solved by one party. People realize you're going to have to be able to sit down and work with others to get something done. I know how to do that. It's what I've done for a quarter of a century.

KING: Do you think you've got a shot?

DODD: I do, absolutely. Again, I don't think -- in fact I can tell you categorically in places like New Hampshire and South Carolina and Iowa and Nevada, they don't want to be told by the national media this race is over with. In fact, they're angry about that in some quarters. They'll make the decision and they've got to have it, Larry, as you know better than most of just sort of proving the pundits wrong and taking a candidate that no one has given much credit to to begin with and turned around and chosen them. We have example, example after that over the last number of years. I'm quite confident I can make that case.

KING: Thanks, Chris, Senator Chris Dodd.

DODD: Thank you, Larry, very much.

KING: We've seen a lot of you.

We have pundits here right now. And does he have a chance?

CARVILLE: You know it's difficult, but you know the guy gets up every morning, puts his shoes on. And he's got best issue, best record in the Senate on children. He probably knows more about Latin America than any five senators combined. And if he can get a little more concision -- and who knows. Heck, you get out there and do your best and you try. But I would say his chances are not great.

HUFFINGTON: And he's a co-sponsor of the campaign, that high rate and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) proposal on Iraq. And he is a co-sponsor, so his position on Iraq is ahead of the others. And that's very significant. Not everybody...

KING: Does he have a shot?

HUFFINGTON: Who knows? You know it's like who knows who is going to stumble? Who knows among the front-runners will stay and finish...

KING: Amy?

HOLMES: It would take a number of candidates to stumble for him to get into that top tier. But I think we saw he was articulate, he was strong. But we saw one of his weakness as a candidate, that he sounded like a senator and he sounded like someone on the Senate floor, explaining his positions and legislation, et cetera.

KING: Who's the last candidate?

CARVILLE: And Amy makes a very good point. His dad served in the United States Senate. He served in the Senate. I mean the truth of the matter is he's heard a lot of Senate talk in his life.

HOLMES: Right, right.

KING: John King, what did you make of Chris Dodd?

J. KING: Again, I think that Jim Carville has been right dead on and the fact that there are some other candidates in the race like Governor Richardson, like Senator Biden, like Senator Dodd who have great resumes. They certainly have every right to be in this field.

I think his challenge will be that he's an older member of this field. His dad was in the Senate. When you have Barack Obama out there saying this should be about a new generation, a next generation; when you have Senator Clinton out there being the first viable female candidate for president; when all these people talking about change and the Republican primary which we haven't talked about, Rudy Giuliani trying to rewrite the rule, to see if a pro-choice candidate can win the nomination; and there's so much talk about change, change, change, it's hard for a guy from the old guard left of the democratic party, I think, to break through.

Does he have the right resume to be in the field? He certainly deserves that, but he doesn't have the money and probably not the right dynamics, if you will, this year. But...

KING: Well put.

J. KING: ...we'll see.

KING: We'll take a break now. And when we come back, Candy Crowley, CNN's senior political correspondent will join us. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back. Our entire panel remains, but we want to get input from Candy Crowley, CNN's senior political correspondent and absolutely one of the best reporters in the business. She's been talking to a lot of other political reporters tonight.

What do we hear?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, more interestingly, I've been talking to a lot of the surrogate as we call them, people who come into this spin room and say well; here is how my person did. All of them are left a little unsatisfied. I think the format, limiting everybody to a minute really frustrated a lot of these people. The surrogates all said, look, you know we think our guy or in Hillary Clinton's case, our gal did just fine. But they rued that they didn't get into the details because it's in the details that some of these Democrats differ. So they've been in this room all night long, sort of discussing the ins and outs of the various debate techniques. And I can tell you to a person they wish they had a little bit more time to explain the details of various proposals.

KING: Candy, as someone who has often moderated debates from governor contests to Senate contests down in Florida and the rest, when you have this many candidates, you're in an almost impossible situation?

CROWLEY: Absolutely and they know that. And it's -- you know particularly the top tier candidates don't want to say, listen there is too many people on the stage because, frankly, you know, you have some power players on this stage who are still considered second tier. Dodd and Biden and Kucinich and Richardson have lengthy resumes here. So let's face it, they are serious presidential contenders. So it is very difficult to say, OK, let's just take the top four.

So you know MSNBC and NBC in a jam here as are the candidates. They just have to deal with this as the field begins to winnow out. But it's not going to winnow out until late fall if not early winter.

KING: Thanks, Candy. Candy Crowley, CNN senior political correspondent.

Abbi Tatton, our floating CNN Internet reporter, has this been a busy night? Has there been a lot of reaction to this or what?

TATTON: There's been some reaction, Larry. There has been very little from what we've seen looking at some of the conservative blogs. The liberals are talking about it. But again, as I was saying earlier, the headline is, well, there wasn't so much of a headline. We heard this before. The format, there wasn't a lot that we could glean from this.

Daily Kos is one of the leading blogs on the left is actually polling their readers right now, saying who do you think won. The votes coming are in. This is not scientific. It's just a straw poll of the readers and it keeps being updated right now: Edwards out front, Obama behind and Clinton behind Obama. But again, that's not surprising. We know from this Web site that the readers really like Edwards and that he got a positive review.

We should point out that the sites of the candidates themselves are already being updated post debate. Barack Obama's site echoing a line that we heard during the debate from Barack Obama, "one signature could end this war." We've also already seen Hillary Clinton's site as being updated as well and her blog as well saying that, you know, she's done a good job.

KING: We'll wrap it up with everyone when we come back on LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: OK, we have about three minutes remaining. John King, is this format with these amounts of people kind of impossible?

J. KING: It is impossible, Larry, but one piece of advice if you're a mainstream candidate, be ware of the fringe. Some will say that Dennis Kucinich, to a lesser extent, Mike Gravel, these guys are way out there on the anti-war left. Carville can tell you. The guys who don't have a chance can still influence a race. Pat Buchanan knocked out Phil Graham in the republican primaries in '96. And Jerry Brown, who everyone thought was a far out left in 1992 gave then Governor Bill Clinton a fit for quite a long time before he could knock him out.

KING: Arianna, is it -- you're up against it in this, aren't you?

HUFFINGTON: Well, one of the problems with the format is that it shuts down the campaign and dozens of people move to South Carolina prep. That's why the HuffingtonPost together with Yahoo! and Slate are going to be putting on the first Internet debate. The technology is revolutionary. Every candidate can stay wherever they are. They don't have to travel to a special location. Charlie Rose will be the moderator. The questions will come from the public over the three months previously. There's going to be engagement online constantly before...

KING: But how do you control it if this guy is typing in something over here and he's over there?

HUFFINGTON: Well, everything is going to be filtered through Charlie Rose. We pick the questions. But the debate has to continue after the debate. I mean that's really -- that's going to have happen after Labor Day. The interesting thing is that it can't just be during this 90 minutes. It's what happens before and after.

KING: Amy, this format what do you think?

HOLMES: Well, I think what we saw was really not debate. What we saw was Q&A, Brian Williams asking a question and the candidates giving an answer. And you didn't really see it mix up until the end.

But I do think something interesting came out of this is, which is that Barack Obama had sort of been scaring the Hillary campaign with his rhetorical skills and his charisma. And we saw tonight that, you know, there's still a little green and Hillary did very well, and that that skill of his still needs some practice.

KING: James, if there were faults here, how would you correct it?

CARVILLE: Well, I don't know that they are correctable. I think that one of the things I'd like to see is the campaigns get together and figure a way. You either have to condense the number of people in the debate or at least condense the subject matter. So if you had this many people, and you said, we're going talk about health care tonight or we're going to talk about Iraq or we're going to talk about foreign policy with -- but not Iraq or something like that, but comes too freewheeling, you're right, it doesn't help Obama.

If Abraham Lincoln was in this debate, you wouldn't know if he was a good debater or how he did against Stephen Douglas. You would just know that he had a...

KING: So it was in a sense not a debate? CARVILLE: No, it's not but now it's open because they've been in South Carolina. So you know what's going to happen, people in Iowa and in New Hampshire and California, are going to do that. And maybe let's try to this Yahoo and HuffingtonPost. Maybe it makes sense to try something like this. But people are interested and they want to hear from these candidates. I just hope -- and they all did fine tonight. Don't get me wrong. It was fine.

KING: Thank you all very much. Thanks to our guests our candidates, thanks to James Carville, Amy Holmes, Arianna Huffington and John King for being with us from the get-go.

And tomorrow night, a major program, the cast of "Heroes," the NBC hit show tomorrow night.

A sad note tonight from Washington where a well known Hollywood personality has passed away and he wasn't an actor. For 38 years, Jack Valenti, the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, he retired just three years ago. And even if you didn't know his face, you know his work; it's the movie rating system. Since the late '60s, the Valenti System has guided the movie going public with ratings from G to what's now known as NC-17. He was not a movie star, but he's in one of the most famous photos ever taken: this one taken aboard Air Force One, just after JFK was pronounced dead in Dallas. That's Jack, next to the window, as his friend and future employer, Lyndon Johnson, took the oath of office.

Valenti had a stroke last month and died at his Washington home this afternoon. He was a great guy and good friend.

And in a statement tonight, President George W. Bush called Valenti a "great American, a great Texan." Jack was 85 years old.

Finally, a quick reminder that next week I mark 50 years in broadcasting. You can catch some pretty special shows with very special guests, including Oprah Winfrey. But if you'd rather look at past shows than future ones, here's something you might enjoy: a 3- disc set of DVDs featuring my favorite interviews from my first 21 years on CNN. You can find it in most video stores. You can purchase it online from sites like Amazon.com. It was decades in the making and I promise you, it won't take that long to get through them.

"Anderson Cooper 360" is in New York. Anderson is next -- AC.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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