Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
First Hour of Post-Debate Analysis
Aired June 3, 2007 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You're going to want to see that debate, as well. Thanks very much once again to St. Anselm College here in Manchester. To our partners, WMUR and the "New Hampshire Union Leader." Coverage on CNN continues now with my colleague, Anderson Cooper.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thanks very much. A traditional debate, Wolf Blitzer asking the questions. You see on the stage now, the candidates being joined by their spouses.
Senator John Edwards joined by his wife, Elizabeth. Senator Dodd joined by his wife, Jackie Clegg Dodd. Elizabeth Kucinich on the stage as well. Whitney Stewart Gravel, Michelle Obama is not present, nor is former President Bill Clinton.
Bill Richardson's wife, Barbara Richardson is also on the stage. Soon candidates will be making their way to talk to some of the New Hampshire residents in the audience tonight.
A crowd of Democratic voters, also Independents. Independents forming a very important role here in New Hampshire. Polls here show Independents leaning toward the Democratic Party this time around, so a lot of candidates trying to appeal to Independents. Tonight, I'm going to be joined by Larry King in a moment.
Right now, let's check in with our political correspondents, Candy Crowley and John King. John King, any surprises tonight?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I think the biggest surprise is these candidates will continue to go at each other over the Iraq war, it is the driving energy of the energy of the left of the Democratic Party right now.
So differences between the candidates about who could get the troops out faster. Who has been playing politics in their votes in the Senate. Clearly, all of the candidates realize that is where the energy in the party is. Differences with President Bush on so many of the domestic and other issues. But when it comes to the war, these candidates still have some debating to do amongst themselves.
J. KING: Candy Crowley, your first impression?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: My first impression was exactly that, that when it came to the war, these candidates have some real differences on how we got into the war, who voted for, who voted against it or said they were against it. Now, how we should get out and how quickly and what that would actually mean to Iraq. On the rest of the issues, you saw quite an amount of similarity between them. So it seems to me, just like the 2006 elections, 2008 is clearly being dominated by the war in Iraq and the differences among all these candidates.
COOPER: And yet John King, Senator Clinton, trying to really at one point saying there are very few differences between the candidates on Iraq.
She said the differences us are minor. John Edwards then jumping in and saying look, there are very real important differences and taking a swipe at Senator Clinton.
J. KING: And there you saw, Anderson, two different challenges for two different candidates.
Hillary Clinton is the front-runner right now. She would like to say, we all Democrats agree, we need to get the troops out of Iraq as soon as possible. We may differ on exactly how, but let's put this aside and focus on George W. Bush and the agenda of the Republican Party.
If you're John Edwards and you're trying to knock down the front- runner, you want to say no, I've admitted my vote for the war was a mistake, it was wrong and now I say, don't give the president the money for the war. I said that early on.
He's trying to get Hillary Clinton into a box, if you will, because she does not say that vote was a mistake. Tonight, he was very aggressive in trying to say look, she voted against the funding in the last go around, but she and Senator Obama, according to Senator Edwards perspective, essentially snuck down to the floor at the last minute and cast their vote. Senator Edwards trying to say that is not presidential leadership. They should have given a speech to the American people and said this is why I'm going to cast this vote on this critical issue. So Hillary Clinton wants this issue to go away, Senator Edwards does not.
COOPER: John King, stand by. Larry King is on the stage with Senator Edwards wife, Elizabeth Edwards. Larry, let's go to you.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Anderson. First, forget anything else, how are you feeling?
ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: I'm feeling great actually.
L. KING: You look great.
E. EDWARDS: Thanks. I've been doing campaign stuff and family stuff and staying busy, which I also think is the best medicine.
L. KING: Is that hard to do both? Live a life and getting better?
E. EDWARDS: Well, juggling family and campaigning, like juggling family and work is really hard.
L. KING: He was aggressive tonight, was he not?
E. EDWARDS: He was forthright. We have got a lot of candidates. The American people deserve to see the differences between them. And so he respects these people. But he wants to be forthright and honest about where they stand. You saw them being honest in a way that might have seemed critical and in a way that was also complimentary.
L. KING: Was that the plan? When you had dinner last might, did he say, I'm going to take it to them?
E. EDWARDS: I didn't get to have dinner with him last night, Larry.
L. KING: Was he was going to take it to them?
E. EDWARDS: I don't think he made a decision to take it to them. What he was doing was answering the questions honestly, which is what the American people deserve. Boy, they sure deserve it after all of these years of - my grandmother used to say the intention to deceive is the same as a lie. We've had a little bit of that. They deserved some honesty.
L. KING: Did you like the format?
E. EDWARDS: I liked the give-and-take. I thought Wolf did a great job and I thought it was really important. In fact, that's been the thing that's really been missing is for there to be give-and-take among the candidates. And so I thought that was really great.
L. KING: Did you like using members of the community?
E. EDWARDS: Always because these are issues Americans really care about. No offense to journalists, of course, you ask great questions, but the questions that really need to be answered are the questions that the American people have.
L. KING: Do you build up -- when you get really involved in a campaign and you had it four years ago, where you get to dislike the other side?
E. EDWARDS: No. As a matter of fact, I was sitting next to Chris Dodd's wife, Jackie, whom I admire immensely. When somebody gave an answer we didn't think was entirely accurate, we would lean forward or back and say what was wrong with it.
It's because we're friends. I saw Barbara Richardson earlier. I met her on the campaign trail and like her. It's kind of like anything, where you sometimes work with somebody and sometimes work against them, you've got to always have an open relationship with them.
L. KING: One other thing. How does New Hampshire look for your husband? E. EDWARDS: It looks great for john. It's a state in which he has enormous respect. I think he's talking about the issues that they care about. And New Hampshire, like Iowa, early states that are used to being early are very conscious of the issues. They want to know where you stand on things and John's been forth right. I think that's the key to winning their support.
L. KING: And you've absolutely taken over our hotel. Edwards dominates it.
E. EDWARDS: I hope our staff is well behaved.
L. KING: Thanks, Elizabeth. We'll be back with lots more. Now, back to Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: I'm here with a spokesman for Senator Hillary Clinton, Representative Jim McGovern from Massachusetts. Thanks very much for being with us. You must be happy with how your candidate did tonight?
REP. JAMES MCGOVERN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I thought she did terrific. I thought she won, I thought she was well-informed, thoughtful, strong, decisive on all the major issues, but especially on the issue of ending the war in Iraq and bettering our statue of our country around the world. And I appreciated the fact that she stayed above the fray and didn't get into a squabble on Iraq like some of the other candidates did.
COOPER: She did come under criticism though both in the press and on the stage tonight for not reading the National Intelligence Estimate, this 90-page report. She said it was the most important vote of her life when she authorized the president to go to war. If it was so important, why wouldn't she have read that report?
MCGOVERN: What she focused on tonight was the fact that the fact that we need not just the Democratic Party in bringing this war to Iraq to a close, but she also is trying to unify the country. This war is a tragedy fought in the United States Congress. And I'm with Hillary Clinton, if this war is not ended by the time she becomes president, then when she is president, she'll end this war.
COOPER: I just want to play for our viewers, one moment from this debate involving Senator Clinton. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRSEIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton and Senator Obama did not say anything about how they were going to vote until they appeared on the floor of the Senate, voted, they were among the last people to vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was Senator Edwards criticizing Senator Clinton for not saying how she was going to vote in this last roundabout, whether or not she was going to fund the troops or not. Why did she wait until the last minute? MCGOVERN: Senator Clinton voted the right way. She voted to hold George Bush accountable. She voted to protect our troops by voting to hold the president accountable and bringing our troops home.
COOPER: Her critics say the fact she waited until the last minute and played this game of chicken with Obama is a sign she's not a leader, she's a follower.
MCGOVERN: I think that's crazy. But let me go back to - let me use Senator Clinton's example. What she did tonight was she tried to unite everybody on stage around the fact that we all want this war in Iraq to come to an end.
That's what all Democrats should do because one of those eight Democrats up there is going to become the next president of the United States hopefully and it's important that we stay together and not get into these little petty battles.
I'm with Senator Clinton because I believe she's going to end the war in Iraq. There's no way in hell I'd be with her if I thought otherwise and I think she's the strongest person with the most experience to be able to do that and that's what I think most of the American people think, too.
COOPER: Is there a danger for her in being so far out front this early. Clearly, John Edwards was focusing on her, some of the second tier candidates as well. Do you have concerns that she basically has a target on her back now?
MCGOVERN: It's always a hazardous position to be the front- runner. Having said that, what I have seen in her campaign is her incredible support building and building.
The more people get to interact with her, the more people get to meet her, whether it's in New Hampshire, Iowa, people gravitate toward her candidacy, not just because of her personality, but because they are listening to her and they're responding in a positive way to her message.
This is a woman who can not only be a good president, but a great president of the United States and she can help rebuild American stature around the world which George Bush has totally trashed.
COOPER: Congressman McGovern, thanks very much, appreciate your time. Let's go back to Larry.
L. KING: It's the Anderson and Larry show. Larry back on stage, Anderson over there.
And with me now is David Axelrod, one of Senator Barack Obama's chief political advisors. The senator is standing right here, looks in good form. How did he do? Wait a minute. How did he do? You're going to say he did poorly, right?
DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA MEDIA STRATEGIST: No Larry, I'm thrilled with how he did. I think people saw the Barack Obama that so many across America are responding to.
He made a strong case on Iraq, why we have to end that war, a war he opposed from the beginning because it's making us less safe and destroying our alliances around the world.
He talked about the need to reduce healthcare costs for people, which is an enormous problem and his plan to do it. I think he showed a kind of civility that we need in our politics when he confronted the issue of immigration, and that we need to solve some of these big problems without tearing each other apart as a country and I think people are hungry for that.
L. KING: Did you like the format?
AXELROD: I thought it was fine, I thought it was great. Obviously I think it was a more conversational debate than the last one that the candidates participated in. I think that's helpful. I think it's good to get some interchange going in. So, I think that was very positive.
L. KING: Do you like the sitting down and having residents participate?
AXELROD: I think it's always good to have people actually participating in the process as part of these debates. So all in all, I think it was great evening.
L. KING: How's he going to do here in New Hampshire?
AXELROD: Great. I think he's going to do really well. I mean, we're drawing tremendous crowds here and more than that, people are volunteering. We made tens and tens of thousands of calls, 9,000 doors knocked on at a recent canvas. I mean, there is a sense of investment in this candidacy as a real vehicle for change and I think people sense that here in New Hampshire.
L. KING: Thanks, David.
AXELROD: OK, Larry, good to see you.
L. KING: David Axelrod, one of the chief political advisers to Barack Obama. We'll be back in a couple of minutes with Senator Joe Biden of Delaware - Anderson?
COOPER: Larry, thanks very much. We'll also be talking to Governor Richardson as well.
But right now, let's go to Wolf. Wolf, from your perspective, unique vantage point, how did it seem?
BLITZER: I thought they were all prepared. Clearly, they did their homework.
You know they're all sort of - you could tell, because I was very close to them, they're all sort of frustrated that the don't get enough time to really make their points. They all want more time. Even though we give them two hours without commercial interruption, as you know, Anderson, it goes very, very quickly.
Some of these candidates are bound to feel that they're not going to get an opportunity to make their points as robustly as they would like. On the whole, I thought it went well.
My goal was to make sure that viewers out there, the potential voters have a little better sense of who these eight individuals are. And I think they do. I think they learned something about all eight of them and if they did, then I think we accomplished our goal.
COOPER: Wolf, there were certainly some fireworks early on, Senator Edwards critical both of Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, saying that they didn't exhibit leadership in terms of voting for the funding bill for the troops. Senator Obama firing back saying it was four and a half years ago that you didn't exhibit leadership. Were you surprised that it got that sort of testy that early on?
BLITZER: No, because as this campaign is going on, they all have to fight for their respective positions. I knew that if we just focused in on what their thoughts were about the Bush administration or Republicans, then they would all basically agree.
What I tried to do was find those areas where I suspected they would disagree amongst themselves and let them get into a little discussion on that hoping that some of the undecided voters out there would have a better sense, a better opportunity to differentiate between these candidates.
I was a little surprised at the beginning, you're right, Anderson, they came out as feisty, shall we say, as they did. I suspect the next debate, it's even going to get more intense.
COOPER: Certainly some of the harshest criticism came from former Senator Mike Gravel as well as Congressman Dennis Kucinich basically at one point blaming the Democrats, as well as the Bush administration for this war.
BLITZER: Right, and I suspected they would. They have been outspoken, both Congressman Kucinich, former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska.
And they're basically trying to distinguish themselves as unique among all of these eight Democratic candidates. And they minced no words at all, while some of the other candidates are trying to be diplomatic, trying to be polite. They have no such inhibitions. And they're going to go right for the jugular. They've done it earlier and they're going to continue doing it down the road and they certainly did it tonight.
COOPER: Over the next two hours, we're going to have continuing conversations with many of the candidates you saw on the stage tonight as well as the best political team in the business.
We have Paul Begala, James Carville, J.C. Watts, a whole host. John King of course, Larry king, Candy Crowley, Arianna Huffington is standing by. Former presidential advisor, David Gergen, Republican strategist Mike Murphy -- a whole host of people to talk to. We'll take a short break and we'll be right back live from New Hampshire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
J. EDWARDS: I think one difference we do have is I think I was wrong. I should never have voted for this war. And this goes to the issue Senator Obama raised a few minutes ago. He deserves credit for being against this war from the beginning. He was right, I was wrong.
And I think it was important for anybody who seeks to be the next president of the United States, given the dishonesty that we've been faced with over the last several years, to be honest to the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And we are back, joined live now here in New Hampshire with Governor Bill Richardson from New Mexico. How do you think you did?
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: I did well. I was a little concerned that I didn't get the main difference between me and the other candidates.
That is, I take all the troops out by the end of this calendar year, leaving no residual forces. I was hoping to get that in.
But on the whole, I believe all the issues that were touched on: immigration, healthcare, foreign policy, Darfur, that I have the most experience. I have the record on all of these issues.
COOPER: For a man who's concerned about genocide in Darfur, how can you take all the troops out of Iraq? Are you concerned about what would happen if that happened?
RICHARDSON: Well, there is a civil war in Iraq now. There is enormous turmoil.
What I believe should happen is we cannot rebuild Iraq, we cannot start the tough diplomacy to rebuild Iraq and America's interests until all our troops get out. Seven more died today. They are today targets, our troops.
I believe what we need to do is withdraw our forces, use the leverage of that withdrawal to get a diplomatic solution, a compromise of the three religious groups, an all Muslim peacekeeping force, donor conference to rebuild Iraq, but staying there and leaving our troops vulnerable, targets on their back isn't going to work.
COOPER: Isn't that a change in your position? In your book, you spoke about the importance of staying there.
RICHARDSON: Well, my point is that it's critically important that we work hard diplomatically.
When I was involved early on, I was a governor in New Mexico. I wish I had pushed for more diplomacy. But now because of the incompetence of the administration, there are no weapons of mass destruction, it's a sectarian conflict.
We have got 3,300 Americans dead and thousands of Iraqis dying, the policy's not working.
So what we need to do is refocus -- our Iraqi obsession has cost us in not paying more attention to international terrorism, nuclear proliferators, global climate change, the Darfurs of the world. It's best for us to withdraw as quickly as we can with a plan.
COOPER: You also said on the stage tonight that it is possible to improve healthcare, to get universal coverage without raising taxes. How is that possible?
RICHARDSON: Well, it's very possible. First of all, we spent $2.2 trillion on our healthcare system, 31 percent of it goes to inefficiencies.
The first thing you do is shift that to direct care. The war in Iraq, $100 billion we would save to make that happen.
Under my plan, everybody shares in healthcare costs. Costs would go down, the worker, the employee, the federal government, the state government.
You don't need a new tax to finance a system that right now is $2.2 trillion with no prevention policies, and with a lack of computerized records.
I believe we can do it. We shouldn't have every solution with a new tax.
COOPER: Governor Richardson, I appreciate your time, thank you.
RICHARDSON: Thank you.
COOPER: Larry King is with Senator Biden -- Larry.
L. KING: Thanks, Anderson. We're with Senator Joe Biden, the candidate for the 2008 -- did you like this debate tonight?
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Well actually, I did. It was better than before. But I wish we would have one like 90 minute debate on Iraq and 90 minute debate on health care and 90 minute debate on each of these things so you get beyond sort of the sound byes. Now we get did get beyond this time. I thought Wolf did a real good job.
L. KING: He sure did.
BIDEN: And so I thought this was better in the sense that people could get a fuller picture of us in this debate than the last. I hope we get to the point where we have real serious 90-minute debates like we had two hours here on a single subject.
L. KING: Do you like the fact that we're going to have a whole bunch of primaries in a bunch?
BIDEN: Well, you know, I think that's going to ironically make the early primaries even more important.
I think you're going to -- inadvertently, it's going to increase the value of winning in New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, because no one is going to enough money - even all this talk about money, to campaign in 21 states to have 100 million people total.
You know, $20 million left over won't do that. So I think it's going to really put a higher premium on the free media. You're going to have whoever of us wins New Hampshire on your show, it's going to be every show, and it's going to generate a lot of contributions.
So I think it would be a shame if we took the retail politics out of becoming president. Then it's all just money. And Larry, you've been covering this a long time. The money in this campaign is obscene. I mean, it's just obscene.
L. KING: How much have you raised?
BIDEN: We will have raised, counting everything, probably $12, $13 million. But that counts over the period since I've ran last time. We raised last time about $4 million. I think we'll do well this time. Nothing compared to 25, $30 million a quarter.
L. KING: Always good seeing you, Joe.
BIDEN: Good seeing you, Larry, thanks for having me, I hope I'm back.
L. KING: Senator Joe Biden in New Hampshire. Back to Anderson.
COOPER: Chris Dodd from the great state of Connecticut. Good to see you. How you feel about tonight? Do you feel you're able to separate yourself from the other candidates?
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: The fact I had three minutes in the first hour makes it a little difficult to make all the points you'd like on the critical issues. But, it's good do this. And obviously I appreciate the people in the audience, the questions that were asked. Sorry we can't get more in education, it's a big issue. You can't do everything, I realize that. There's a lot of attention on the Iraq war, obviously.
COOPER: At this point in the race, how do you try to start to break out?
DODD: Events like this, you get a chance to. You get at least as much time to express yourself on these issues.
And so we'll keep at it. We're doing well and we'll keep meeting with the people here in New Hampshire and Iowa. I'm on the road all the time, having these town hall meetings or house parties as they call them. You keep doing it. It's seven or eight months today from the first caucus of the first primary. An awful lot of time between the first ballots we cast and people in these states don't like to be told by outsiders who's going to win them. They get to make that choice themselves.
COOPER: Senator Clinton on the stage tonight tried to repeatedly say there is not that much difference between the candidates on the stage on the issue of Iraq. Is there a great difference between you and the others?
DODD: We'll see as time unfolds here. Obviously there was a while ago, we talked about being against the supplemental.
I hear them putting a time certain upon our redeployment, which I'm a great advocate of. We'll be offering that again in a couple of weeks on the defense authorization bill.
My hope is the people who were supportive a few weeks ago in the supplemental continue to be supportive.
That's the only way this is really going to change in my view, to change that mission here and Iraqis assuming responsibility and taking over control.
I was just, Anderson, at the Walter Reed Hospital with some kids from Connecticut who were injured and I asked them questions about it. They said, look we go in, we clean out an area, we take a month and half to do it and to use their words, an hour and a half after we're done and leave, it's right back to where it was.
People know where the ammo dumps are, they know where the IEDs are and they won't even tell us. When 50 percent of the Iraqi people think it's OK to kill Americans and 75 percent think we're the source of their chaos and we're consuming $2 billion a week, $8 billion a month, a chance of mission is necessary. There are many casualties in this war, not the least of which is our moral standing in the world and our ability to influence other events because of our preoccupation in staying out there, so we need to change this.
COOPER: Senator Clinton apparently did not read the National Intelligence Estimate before voting to authorize the war, nor did Senator Edwards. Did you have an opportunity to?
DODD: Yes I did and I didn't, and again, I've said so early on - like them, I was confronted with an awful lot of briefings on the Foreign Relations Committee, met with a lot of people. I've since looked at it.
Would my vote have changed? Probably not. I have expressed regret over the vote, would love to have it back. You can't, it's not the first mistake I've ever made. It won't be the last.
I think the senator point - someone made the point earlier that it's a very legitimate question and we have a responsibility to answer it. I think it's also probably more so the question, what do you do from here on out to bring this to closure? So I accept the question, I accept the responsibility for the vote. I've called it a mistake.
Two things people in public life never like to say. One, I made a mistake and two, I don't know. And a little more frequency of those words might increase some of the credibility of those of us seeking public office.
COOPER: That would be rare. Senator Dodd, appreciate it, thank you for your time.
When we come back, we're going to take you to the spin room, pretty aptly named unfortunately. We'll also talk to our panel of experts, Arianna Huffington from the "Huffington Post." We'll also talk to Mike Murphy, Republican strategist, David Gergen, former advisor to both Republican and Democratic presidents, as well as Candy Crowley, John King, and others. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's important, particularly, to point out, this is George Bush's war. He is responsible for this war. He started the war, he mismanaged the war, he escalated the war, and he refuses to end the war.
And what we are trying to do, whether it is by speaking out from the outside or working and casting votes that actually make a difference from the inside, we are trying to end the war. And each of us has made that very clear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, HOST: We're back for the next hour-and-a-half. Anderson and I will be moderating rating two different panels in our post election debate coverage from here in Manchester, New Hampshire.
And my panel consists of Wolf Blitzer, who moderated the debates tonight. He is also the anchor of "LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER" and host of "THE SITUATION ROOM" daily. And upstairs they will be coming down to join us shortly because we have got logistics there, is James Carville, our Democratic strategist; and CNN political contributor J.C. Watts, a Republican strategist, former U.S. congressman, former great football star and CNN -- we never that out; and CNN political contributor, Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist, CNN political contributor. She was campaign manager for Gore- Lieberman in 2000.
I don't think I need this hand-held mike anymore because I do have a microphone on the tie.
Wolf, well, first, I must compliment you, you did a great job tonight and the candidates we talked to all said so.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, thank you very much.
KING: Did you like the format?
BLITZER: I liked the format because it was a little flexible. We didn't have those 60-second lights, the 30-second lights, the red, the yellow. We tried to have a little flexibility to let the candidates go a little bit longer, if necessary, even though we gave them good ground rules going in, you know, 60 seconds for an initial questions, 30 seconds for a response, but, you know, we wanted to be flexible and let the viewers out there, the potential voters have a chance to differentiate between these various candidates.
KING: James Carville, what if anything surprised you tonight?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't think I was surprised by anything. I predicted that Senator Edwards would be the most aggressive. I think he clearly was. I think Senator Clinton, if anything, got a little better than the first debate.
I think Senator Obama's game was up. I think he did better than he did in the first debate. Probably Governor Richardson didn't do as well as I've seen him do in the past, and Senator Biden had another good night.
KING: J.C. Watts, what did you -- what, if anything, surprised you?
J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think there was any surprises. I thought -- we talked earlier in the evening about those who would be trying to break out. I don't think there was anyone that broke out, with the possible exception of Joe Biden.
I thought Joe had a very good command of the issues. I thought he made a very good point in terms of supporting the supplemental appropriation for the troops. I thought he gave a very good explanation, a sound, truthful explanation. But we'll see what happens and see if he gets a bump out of that.
But Senator Clinton went in as a frontrunner, coming out as a frontrunner, did nothing to hurt herself. I thought she might have even made some points tonight.
KING: And Donna Brazile, what do you think?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, we finally got around talking about issues that a great deal of Americans care about. We talked about immigration, we talked about education and health care reform.
I think the Democrats came across tonight as smart, intelligent on these issues. They offered real solutions about problems that face this country. Of course, I thought that Joe Biden was on fire.
He came in tonight knowing that he had to move a little bit of -- move a little but up front on the second tier and I think he did himself very well. Senator Obama also understood that this was his moment tonight and he came ready and prepared to engage the other opponents. And he did a great job.
But Senator Edwards, I also believe, came out looking very smart. He was bold. He talked about his distinctions, the differences with the other candidates. Overall, I thought all of the top tier candidates did well and Joe Biden in the second tier.
KING: Wolf, did Senator Edwards' aggressiveness surprise you?
BLITZER: It did at the beginning. He came out pretty feisty right away, he wanted to distinguish himself -- differentiate himself from Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. And he made it clear that he's in this to fight and he is not going to go after Republicans and President Bush. When necessary, he is going to go after his Democratic rivals.
KING: Was it hard to balance fair time for everybody?
BLITZER: Yes. Yes, it was very hard, because everybody thinks they want to get -- they deserve more time and you try to give everybody -- weave them all in. And some of them were complaining to me that they weren't getting enough time.
But you do the best you can. And the good thing about this kind of stuff, there will be more debates down the road and everybody sort of hopefully will equal out over time.
KING: James Carville, is New Hampshire, with the whole realm of things, still important?
CARVILLE: Well, it's important for the simple reason that all these candidates come here. And that's what makes it important. If it wasn't important, you wouldn't see every candidate come here again and again and again. And they are going to continue to do that. So that is going to continue to make it important.
And I think this debate was by far the best of any of the debates that has been on so far. And let's remember that WMUR, our partner, put this on. So this debate is going to have some real importance in the state of New Hampshire.
And it is going to be interesting to see its impact. It's impact in New Hampshire will probably be larger than its national impact.
KING: J.C., you agree?
WATTS: Yes, I agree. New Hampshire is -- every vote is important, Larry. And I think -- Wolf, by the way, I think you did a great job with eight candidates, eight egos and personalities on the stage, trying to keep that thing going in a pretty good direction. I thought you did a pretty good job there.
But, yes, every state is important, every vote is important. It's early, everybody is trying to position themselves. I thought all the candidates -- it was interesting, Larry, I thought all the candidates were kind of appealing to the anti-war constituency, but with their own little nuances. I thought Senator Clinton definitely took responsibility for her vote, but in a nuanced way, when she said that, you know, President Bush misused his authority. So -- but yes, every vote -- every state is important.
KING: Thanks, J.C. And now, J.C. Watts and Donna Brazile and James Carville will come down from their upper perch to the stage perch and join Wolf and I for more still to come.
Also still to come, Anderson Cooper and the spin room, lots more to go on our RAW POLITICS, post debate coverage from New Hampshire. I'm Larry King. Anderson Cooper is coming back. We are all here for another hour and 24 minutes. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ladies and gentlemen, you're going to end this war when you elect a Democratic president. You need 67 votes to end this war. I love these guys who tell you they're going to stop the war. Let me tell you straight up the truth. The truth off the matter is the only one that has emboldened the enemy has been George Bush by his policies, not us funding the war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That was Senator Joe Biden a few moments ago, giving his fellow lawmakers a civics lesson. Right now the spinners are spinning. We'll try to cut through the noise. Helping us tonight, Arianna Huffington, founder of the huffingtonpost.com; GOP strategist Mike Murphy; former presidential adviser David Gergen; and CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
David, clearly, Iraq the topic of the evening, a very heated exchange early on between Edwards, Clinton and Obama.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, they were all trying to -- the people who were not the frontrunners were trying to differentiate themselves in order to break out with a liberal pack. I mean, this hall tonight was surrounded by the base of the Democratic Party. Lots and lots of activists out there with signs against the war.
And they're trying to appeal to them about where they go. But I thought the most striking thing was how Hillary Clinton did not want to differentiate herself from other Democrats. What she wanted to do was be the uniter within the party and say, our real differences are not with each other but are with George W. Bush and the Republicans, who are going to be here on Tuesday night on another CNN debate.
I must say, at the end of the day, I thought that while all the candidates were pretty interesting, it was Hillary Clinton's night. I thought she won this debate. COOPER: Arianna Huffington, Hillary Clinton repeatedly saying that there were not that many differences between the candidates on the stage, Senator Edwards taking issue with that. Let's listen in to what Senator Clinton had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: We have had an administration that doesn't believe in diplomacy. They have every so often Condi Rice go around the world and show up somewhere and make a speech and occasionally, they even send Dick Cheney. That's hardly diplomatic, in my view.
CLINTON: So from what I would say...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Clearly trying to get a laugh there, but trying to also stay above...
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: It did.
COOPER: ... the fray earlier on. Did she do that and did Edwards score any points by trying to show differences?
HUFFINGTON: I also thought it was Hillary Clinton's night. She came clearly determined not let her position on Iraq and the objections of the others get in the way. She presented herself as a uniter within the party. She had a sense of humor. She was charming.
She got a great laugh with her Goldwater line about shooting straight. And I thought it was her best performance. And if the others, if Obama and Edwards want to really take her on on Iraq, they have to be much more aggressive about it and much more clear and armed with the facts.
So when she says, well, I didn't read the NIE report and I didn't actually believe that we were going to go to war, thought this was a vote to continue the diplomacy, they could have pointed out that she did not vote for the Levin amendment that actually made it clear that the president had to continue diplomatic efforts before he went to war.
But short of doing that, they actually allowed her the floor and she was very successful in what she set out to do.
COOPER: Mike Murphy, Republican strategist, do you agree with that?
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I agree with part of it. I think Hillary clearly had the strategy of taking the war away as a wedge issue within the Democratic primary, between sort of a right wing on the war and a left wing, blur all that, everybody is anti-war, change the channel, take the threat away.
She tried it rhetorically. There's a whole lot of campaign yet to happen. And we'll see if that strategy is a success. I thought when she was talking, she was doing pretty well. Her problem is all her non-verbal communication.
You watch her with the sound turned off, all the reaction shots, all the time she was looking at somebody else, it was bad. And I think she has got to learn to control that to be more effective on television.
So I don't really give anybody the win. I thought she had a few highlights and a few problems. I thought Obama was strong and polished like he always is, a little better than last time. And I thought in the second half particularly, when he got off the attack and got a little wonkier, I thought John Edwards did a good job tonight.
So I think the big three all did well. Biden, you can see a glimpse of what made him such a star 20 years ago when he was the fresh new face in the Democratic Party before he got in some trouble. He showed a little of that tonight in the second tier. He probably had the best night. But still the second tier.
COOPER: Jeff, were you surprised at how contentious the candidates were relatively early on, on the issue of Iraq, John Edwards clearly saying that Senator Clinton and Senator Obama did not show leadership in waiting until the last minute to say how they were going to vote on funding the continuation of the war?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN ANALYST: I think Edwards understood, he's behind in this race. He has got to attack the frontrunner. And he went after Hillary Clinton and to a certain extent, Barack Obama.
But I thought Hillary really demolished him in this debate. I mean, I thought this was Hillary Clinton's best night as a public figure. On issue after issue, she was dominant. And Barack Obama I think had a weak night.
I think he did not recognize, as John Edwards did, that he's behind. And he made no effort to engage Hillary Clinton on the issues, so she was successful in saying, look, we're all in this together. And as the frontrunner, that's a win for her.
COOPER: The only real jab that Barack Obama had was against John Edwards when he said to John Edwards, you're about four-and-a-half years late on leadership, because he voted to authorize the president to go to war.
GERGEN: Well, that is right. And I thought it was the best line that Obama had tonight. And it was very -- he showed how sharp he is on his feet. But what surprised me about Barack Obama tonight was how hesitant he is about policy.
You know, he -- he stumbles a little bit. It's not as if he has a smooth, fluid argument about policy. Where he shines is when he shows his empathy, his understanding what life is like for a lot of hard-pressed Americans. On that, he is terrific.
But on policy, she is a much better debater right now than he is on the policy issues. I think Jeff was right. On issue after issue, she really captured -- and there was a moment there when Wolf put those hypotheticals to her, sort of about 45 minutes in, and put them to all of the different (INAUDIBLE), she took charge of the debate, all the rest of the candidates watched her, she just took charge.
TOOBIN: She was sitting in the middle and she was basically telling Wolf, we will answer these questions, we won't answer those questions, and she looked presidential
COOPER: Let's play one of those exchanges, where first Wolf Blitzer asked Dennis Kucinich about Osama bin Laden, that if he had 20 minutes' notice and he knew where bin Laden was, would he fire a hellfire missile if there would be civilian casualties, Kucinich said, no, Wolf.
Asked for a show of hands, let's show what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Declared war on us, killed 3,000 people. And under existing law, including international law, when you have got a military target like bin Laden, you take him out. And if you have 20 minutes, you do it swiftly and surely. And it's unfortunate that I think during the initial push into Afghanistan, that we let him slip away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that was Obama's response. Later, when asked for a show of hands, there was a lot of quibbling, which seemed to play into Republican hands, Republicans defining the Democrats as kind of wishy-washy on terror.
TOOBIN: Well, certainly Obama saw that opening. He saw Kucinich said, I wouldn't kill Osama bin Laden. That was batting practice.
COOPER: Well, I think everybody wanted to answer that question.
TOOBIN: They all want to kill Osama bin Laden. I don't think there is any...
COOPER: But when they had the opportunity to raise their hands and just say, would they launch the missiles, there was a lot of sort of kibitzing about it.
TOOBIN: Joe Biden sounded like a real adult all night. And he said, look, you know what, it depends on the number of civilian casualties, if it's two, that's one thing. If it's 10,000 civilian casualties, maybe that's something else. So I think the fighting over -- the quibbling was probably defensible.
GERGEN: I agree with that. But what impressed me was that she then stepped forward in the midst of the quibbling to say, look, Wolf, we're just not going to answer these kind of hypotheticals. We're just not going to do it. She did that twice. And all the rest of these guys on the stage sort of looked to her for leadership.
COOPER: Mike Murphy, Republican strategist, from a Republican's perspective, did you see that sort of kibitzing over whether or not they would fire a Hellfire missile at Osama bin Laden?
MURPHY: No. I thought it was a real bad night. And looking beyond the Democratic primary, which is kind of a bash Bush contest, get us out of the war, peace at any price world, and into the general election where the Democrats have the problem, they have got to carry a state that John Kerry or Al Gore didn't. They have got to grow their pie.
And when I saw the -- kind of the neurotic moment, where they are all worried about -- is that on un-PC to be able to -- it was a very, very defining moment. I think hurt them, just generally. I think Obama was the one guy who kind of took that moment to score there.
The other moment was the English first thing, when they all raised their hands. That's a cutting issue in the real world and they are going to hear more about that one as the nominee.
HUFFINGTON: Actually, I don't really...
TOOBIN: ... Republican opening in this debate was the number...
COOPER: Sorry, go ahead, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: ... was the willingness to talk about raising taxes. Hillary Clinton talked about raising tax, John Edwards talked about it. That's something the Republicans are certainly going to...
COOPER: Although, Arianna, Governor Richardson says you can have universal health care and not raise taxes.
HUFFINGTON: Yes, well, Governor Richardson -- actually, Mike and I were doing the streaming online part of the debate. And we kept kind of counting how many times Governor Richardson would remind us that he's a governor and actually walk us through his resume. That, at the end, became a weakness.
You know, he had to actually be able to stand up for what he's doing right now on the stage rather than constantly presenting us with his resume. Also, in terms of Biden, I really felt that he was alternating between process -- you know, senatorial process, quibbling, and then this testosterone explosion about Sudan, which was effective up to a point.
So with both him and with Richardson, there is the subtext that there was a second tier trying to break into the first tier. And I don't think that happened tonight. MURPHY: Yes, it was a bad night for Richardson. Ever since his "Meet the Press" thing, he has been in a non-stop train wreck and tonight didn't help him.
COOPER: But Joe Biden, David Gergen, certainly wanting to appear strong tonight.
GERGEN: He did. And I thought by and large, Biden had a very, very good night. There was one moment when he really became very heated over Darfur when I thought he would just be beyond where he wanted to be.
I did think, Anderson, if you look to the crowd overall, I think Mike Murphy has a point. There are some things here Republicans can pick up on, one is the "don't ask don't tell" and where they all are on that.
But I thought the bigger weakness, frankly, for the Democrats was they made it sound as if they can do all these wonderful things for the country and the only people who are going to have to pay any more taxes are people over $200,000 or $250,000 a year. And that simply -- the numbers just don't add up.
You can't do all of these programs on health care and on energy and on the environment and simply -- and say, we're only going to ask for a sacrifice from people -- I thought -- Jeffrey, I did not think they were very candid about...
COOPER: Although they talked about being candid a lot.
GERGEN: They talked about being candid...
TOOBIN: They were very talkative about being candid.
GERGEN: It's one thing to talk about being candid, another thing to actually put the numbers out there.
TOOBIN: Well, it's shocking to see presidential candidates making promises that they can't keep.
COOPER: I know.
TOOBIN: That may have never happened.
COOPER: We'll be back, Jeffrey Toobin, David Gergen, Arianna Huffington, Mike Murphy. Up next, Larry King and "AMERICAN MORNING" anchor John Roberts, who has been talking to audience members about tonight's debate and whether it has changed the way they plan to vote in this primary. I'll be right back from New Hampshire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is a fundamental difference between my position and the position of my good friends here. I believe that it's a civil war. I believe that there is sectarian conflict already. There is enormous turmoil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
King: we'll be back with our panel sometime shortly after the top of the hour. But right now, let's go out to the campus quad, John Roberts, the co-host of CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" visiting with some interesting folk -- John.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Larry, it's all about the voters here in New Hampshire, and so we have gathered here tonight three audience members who were at the debate. One of them was a participant in the debate, asked one of the questions.
Carol Kilminster is an independent and she hasn't decided yet whether to vote Republican or Democrat in this primary. An interesting thing about New Hampshire is independents are allowed to vote in either primary. They just have to declare for whichever one they are going to vote in.
And on the way back out, they become independent again and can vote for whoever they like in the general election.
Mo Qamarudeen is an independent. He has decided to vote Democratic, but he hasn't quite yet decided who to vote for. We'll find out if tonight's debate changed his mind.
And Frank Cocchiarella is a Democrat who is still shopping around. And we'll find out what he learned tonight.
But first of all, Moe, let's start with you. Did anybody close the deal with you tonight?
MO QAMARUDEEN, VOTER: I think so, John.
ROBERTS: And who would that be?
QAMARUDEEN: Well, I've seen Hillary Clinton around town. And I got to attend one of the forums that Hillary was in -- Mrs. Clinton was in.
ROBERTS: So what was it tonight that closed the deal?
QAMARUDEEN: I think when you get Hillary, you get Bill as well. Two for one deal. And I think that closed the deal for me.
ROBERTS: All right. Frank, anybody sway you over tonight or are you still looking?
FRANK COCCHIARELLA, VOTER: Well, I was a Barack fan and actually all top three candidates I was fairly interested in. But I was pretty impressed with Governor Richardson.
COCCHIARELLA: Yes, surprisingly so.
ROBERTS: He's starting to make a move here. Some polls have him at 9 percent, which is well back and forth, but still higher than people like Joe Biden and Chris Dodd.
COCCHIARELLA: What was interesting to, and probably why governors often do well, he seemed to be a problem-solver, practical ideas, just a good decision-maker, so it was pretty interesting.
ROBERTS: And what about you, Carol? You have voted Republican in past elections, you thought you were going to go Republican debate on Tuesday, but you ended up at the debate tonight. Have you decided whether or not you are going to cast your lot with the Republicans or the Democrats this year? Did anything that you saw tonight help sway you to one side or the other?
CAROL KILMINSTER, VOTER: No, not yet. I still haven't made up my mind which party I would vote for in the general election. And being in New Hampshire, I plan to go to more of these kinds of events.
ROBERTS: Right. Who else have you seen you like, either Democrat or Republican?
KILMINSTER: I like John McCain, all the way back to 2000 I've liked him.
ROBERTS: He won here in 2000.
KILMINSTER: Yes, yes. And I, too, liked Bill Richardson tonight. I thought, again, he was very practical-minded and doesn't have the jargon of the Washington responses.
ROBERTS: Right we saw a lot of back and forth, Frank. But did you get enough substance tonight or is it still for some of these candidates all about style.
COCCHIARELLA: I enjoyed being here and I thought it was more substance than I expected in having them have to intermingle little bit. But I'm definitely -- what I like about New Hampshire is we are going to see a lot more of a lot of them over the next nine months. And so we don't have to decide and there are going to be a lot more interesting things going on.
ROBERTS: You know, retail politics has always been important in New Hampshire, but the fact that you have got rock stars out there like Hillary Clinton, who always has Secret Service protection because of -- she was a former first lady; Barack Obama now has it, and they are drawing huge crowds, is it the same as it used to be here in this state?
QAMARUDEEN: I've only lived in this state about 10 years. And I can just tell you what I've seen. And I think retail politics is the way of the future. And that's what I think going forward, you will probably see a lot more of that. I was surprised more than Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the others didn't get Secret Service protection.
I thought that wasn't quite fair but I guess the one that takes priority is the one that gets the protection. Well, people here in New Hampshire like to meet their candidates up close and personal. Thanks very much for being with us, folks.
We have got one sale here. We have got Mo Qamarudeen now saying Hillary Clinton for sure is his. The other two still out, still shopping, as they always do here in New Hampshire -- Larry.
KING: Thank you, John. We'll look for you tomorrow morning on "AMERICAN MORNING."
We have got a full hour to go on RAW POLITICS. Anderson Cooper will be back with his panel and I'll be back with my panel. We'll also be talking with some folks here in the audience here in New Hampshire. That's a full hour to go of RAW POLITICS.
And don't forget, Tuesday night, the Republicans debate, there will be 10 of them. Wolf Blitzer will be anchoring that. And we'll be following that as well with another edition of RAW POLITICS as well.
One personal program note, Jack Kevorkian is my special guest tomorrow night on "LARRY KING LIVE."
Back with one hour to go of RAW POLITICS on this post election debate night here in New Hampshire. Don't go away.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com