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THE SITUATION ROOM

Bill Clinton on Obama: "Fairy Tale"; Interview With Mike Huckabee

Aired January 8, 2008 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, New Hampshire votes and Hillary Clinton fights for a comeback. Her husband is leading a new charge against what he calls Barack Obama's fairy tale -- his words.
We'll check the former president's facts.

Plus, the primary front-runners. Will Obama and John McCain come out winners tonight? And if they do, can they go the distance to Super Tuesday?

We'll get clues from the first wave of exit polls just being completed right now.

And Iowa winner Mike Huckabee keeps his eyes on the prize. I'll ask him about the Republican race down the road against rivals who perhaps have bigger names and bigger wallets.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

In New Hampshire right now you can see and feel the excitement of a presidential race for the record books. The governor is predicting unprecedented turnout in today's Democratic and Republican primaries. He expects a half a million voters to cast ballots before the final polls close some four hours from now.

The crowds are so big, they're running low on ballots in some of the polling places. This first primary of 2008 is widely seen as a showdown between Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney and between Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. But until all the votes are in, don't count anyone, anyone out.

Let's begin with the Clinton campaign right now. Bill Clinton, the former president, is stirring things up in New Hampshire in the contest in these closing hours with some harsh criticism of his wife's top rival, Barack Obama.

The former president is accusing the news media of not pressing Obama hard enough about his position on Iraq. Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, enumerating the years, and never got asked one time, not once, well, how could you say that when you said in 2004 you didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution, you said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war, and you took that speech you're now running on off your Web site in 2004, and there's no difference in your voting record and Hillary's ever since?

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So on this primary, Bill Clinton also suggesting the Obama camp has resorted to dirty tricks against him and Hillary Clinton's campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: What did you think about the Obama thing calling Hillary the senator from Punjab? Did you like that? Or what about the Obama handout that was covered up, the press never reported on, implying that I was a crook?

Scouring me -- scathing criticism over my financial reports. Ken Starr spent $70 million and indicted innocent people to find out that I wouldn't take a nickel to see the cow jump over the moon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

You covered Bill Clinton, as did I, for a long time. What do you make of this? This is quite extraordinary, for a former president to be going on the attack like this only hours before the voting is over with.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. It's fascinating for a number of reasons, Wolf.

You know Bill Clinton well. He used to be a campaign manager, and he's always loved to be the hands-on strategist. And so he is speaking out loud the frustration of many inside his wife's campaign.

Yes, they do think and they do complain frequently to us that she is somehow held to this different standard because she was a former first lady, because he's a newcomer. They say we treat him differently. But inside the Clinton campaign and across Democratic circles, what they're saying this afternoon is, whether you agree or disagree with that, it is not helpful to a campaign that is struggling on the eve of the New Hampshire primary for you and me to be standing here right now talking about Bill Clinton's complaints, not Hillary Clinton's message to voters as she tries to somehow come back in the state of New Hampshire.

So, he was frustrated. You've seen his temper before, his almost indignation at how Obama was -- has been treated and Obama saying he's running a dirty campaign against him, and his indignation at the media, it's not being fair, in his view. Whether he's right or wrong, they will tell you inside the Clinton campaign and again across the Democratic Party, they don't think it's helpful.

BLITZER: But my impression -- this was my sense when I heard him go like this against Barack Obama -- that's why they have Howard Wolfson, that's why they have Terry McAuliffe. They have senior campaign staffers who are supposed to rail like this, but not a former president of the United States, the husband of the Democratic candidate.

KING: Well, first and foremost, the candidate is Senator Clinton. And she has to lead her campaign message.

You are right traditionally that you have the attack dogs until you have a vice presidential nominee. The attack dogs come from your staff, not from somebody who's supposed to have the stature of a former president.

But Wolf, they're behind and the tide is against them. They're not only behind, the momentum is going in Senator Obama's way in New Hampshire.

They expect it to go that way in the national polls and these other state polls as well. So they are in a desperate bind in the state of New Hampshire, and you see Bill Clinton publicly airing the frustration. And it is truly remarkable, but it's remarkable because we are at a fascinating and very remarkable moment.

BLITZER: And we're going to talk a lot more about this over the next several hours, John.

Thanks very much. You're not going anywhere.

Barack Obama is responding to Bill Clinton's sharp words, suggesting the Clinton camp is simply showing its frustrations. But is there any truth to the former president's claims against Barack Obama?

CNN's Jessica Yellin is covering the Obama campaign, has been looking into Clinton's allegations.

Jessica, the former president claims Obama said there was no difference between himself and George Bush on the war. I know you're looking at this closely. What is the truth on this matter, that Obama said there was basically no difference between himself and Bush when it came to the war in Iraq?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Bill Clinton has effectively edited what Senator Obama actually said. Obama made it clear at the time that he made these comments that he was talking about what should be done with the troops while the war was already raging, not whether or not he initially supported the war. And he has previously said he did not support the war.

Obama has also made it clear that at the time he made these comments, well, it was during the Democratic National Convention. And he said he didn't want to go out on a branch and contradict the party's nominee at that time. It would not have been appropriate.

Also, I should note all of this has been extensively covered by the press in the past -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about what Bill Clinton said about Obama saying, suggesting that Hillary was the senator from Punjab? What was that all about?

YELLIN: Well, the Obama campaign did put out a memo effectively mocking Hillary Clinton for taking money from companies that have outsourced jobs to India. Now, this was also not lost by the press, it did not escape the media's attention.

And Senator Obama was forced to come out and apologize for it. He said at the time that he made it clear to his staff that memo was a mistake and "unnecessarily caustic."

Wolf.

BLITZER: And what about in general? What is the Obama campaign saying about Bill Clinton's charges were leveled in this dramatic video that we showed?

YELLIN: You know, I've talked to the Obama advisers for the last several days, even since the debate, and they have described Senator Clinton's and Bill Clinton's comments as distorting Obama's record. "This is what a campaign does when it's failing," one has said to me.

And this is what Senator Obama himself had to say today about Bill Clinton's comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I understand they're frustrated right now, and I suspect that they'll try to get back on track in terms of a strategy for them to do better than they feel they're doing right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: But still, Wolf, many in the Clinton campaign still feel that the press has essentially given Barack Obama sort of a free pass -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica, thanks very much.

Jessica Yellin and John King, as all of our viewers know, they are both part of the award winning, best political team on television.

And remember, all of us will be part of our complete coverage later tonight in the New Hampshire primary. The results start coming in at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. That's when our special coverage begins here at the CNN Election Center.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out our political ticker at cnnpolitics.com. Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's joining us right now.

I've got a -- my only little blog going on cnnpolitics.com, a little viewers' guide to what to look forward to tonight. You may want to check it out.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Does this compete with my blog?

BLITZER: No, your blog is a different blog. Mine's just a little Wolf commentary.

CAFFERTY: And where do we find that?

BLITZER: CNNPolitics.com.

CAFFERTY: Yes? I've got to do this, then I'll go down...

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: ... and take a look.

In a brief, unguarded moment yesterday, Hillary Clinton gave us a peek behind the curtain, and it was terrific. In breaking down and becoming emotional at a diner in New Hampshire, she may have done herself more than all of her handlers and consultants and campaign strategists could ever dream of doing for herself. She became one of us just for a minute.

In all the years that I've watched Hillary in the public eye -- and I first met her in 1992 when I was covering the New Hampshire primary during her husband's first presidential campaign -- I don't ever remember seeing her quite like we saw her yesterday. And maybe that's part of her problem.

Not that anybody asked me, but what if she threw away the script, and instead of lecturing and speechifying and hitting us over the head with her resume, what if she focused on the shared concern that the vast majority that people have about the future of their country? That's exactly what Barack Obama's tapped into, and it seems to be working pretty well for him.

See, the American people aren't as easily manipulated as some folks like to think. We really do get it. It just sometimes takes us a while to wake up.

I think we're awake now. And the candidate who recognizes that fact and realistically taps into our hunger for our leaders to level with us, well, that person will be the next president.

The problem for Hillary is it may already be too late. But at this point, what does she got to lose?

Here's the question. Should Hillary Clinton throw away the script?

You can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog. And only after you do that can you go visit my friend's blog here.

BLITZER: Thank you. Good plug.

CAFFERTY: Yes. You're welcome.

BLITZER: Good question, too. Thanks very much.

Jack's going to be back shortly.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In New Hampshire right now, you might think "Make or Break" was John McCain's middle name. Today's Republican primary is seen as crucial to the future of McCain's campaign.

The New Hampshire front-runner sounded upbeat about his prospects during an early campaign stop, but Mitt Romney is also running very hard against McCain, hoping to avoid a repeat of his disappointing second-place finish in Iowa. Faced with a traffic jam today, Romney jumped out of his car, walked half a mile to an appearance in Bedford.

We're going to have a full report on both the Romney and McCain campaigns. That's coming up.

A close encounter today between two leading Republicans considered less competitive in New Hampshire. Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani crossed paths at a New Hampshire polling place.

Republican Fred Thompson already is looking beyond New Hampshire. He's campaigning today in South Carolina, before the GOP primary there on January 19th.

Let's talk about all of this and more with the former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee. He's joining us from Manchester right now.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you a lot, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: All right, I want to get to politics shortly, but a couple of substantive issues on policies that is causing a little consternation out there right now. On the issue of birthright, citizenship for anyone born in the United States, are you now suggesting that children of illegal immigrants who are born in the United States should not be allowed to get U.S. citizenship?

HUCKABEE: No. I did not advocate that.

I said that the Supreme Court would have to make that decision. If they review that decision, we would follow what they have ruled. But so far, lower courts have ruled that the 14th Amendment still does apply. And so that's my position, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, because there was some confusion today that you were moving away from what is the 14th Amendment, anyone born in the United States automatically becomes a citizen. And what is your personal opinion? Do you feel, though, that that 14th Amendment should stay as it is, or the Supreme Court should reconsider or there should be a constitutional amendment forcing a change in that birthright privilege?

HUCKABEE: I think when the birth is -- when people are here, and the child is born, we're going to abide by the Constitution. I think it's pretty clear.

There's been a lot of question as to whether a person who comes illegally just for the purpose of giving birth, should there be reconsideration? Frankly, it's not something I've weighed in on a whole lot. Hadn't thought about it.

Someone had suggested to me that it needed to be reviewed. My understanding is lower courts have reviewed it, but it held, the 14th Amendment did apply. And in a conversation, I simply said, that's something the Supreme Court would have to rule on.

It's not something I would support a constitutional amendment to try to change, because the two constitutional amendments that I personally would like to see done would be to protect human life, as well as to affirm the traditional place of marriage. And those are the only two that would be on my agenda at all.

BLITZER: Because when I heard the report earlier today, I was a little surprised, given what you've told me and many other reporters in recent weeks that...

HUCKABEE: Right.

BLITZER: ... children should not be punished for the failures or mistakes or crimes of their parents. And I just wanted to clarify your position on this issue.

HUCKABEE: Yes, the report -- it was a report in the newspaper, and it was not attributed to me. It was attributed to a conversation that someone had had with me. And it was disappointing that the reporter who filed the report never bothered to contact our campaign before filing the story to find out was there validity to it.

BLITZER: There's another article on the editorial page of "The Wall Street Journal" today going after you on your Fair Tax proposal, saying it's ludicrous, it doesn't make any sense, it would just be a waste of time. It isn't going anywhere, because of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which authorizes an income tax, among other things.

The author of that article wrote, "The problem is that none of this would happen," what you want. "People would simply switch from cheating on income taxes to cheating on sales taxes."

You want to -- I don't know if you had a chance to read that article today, but I wonder if you want to respond to this notion that your Fair Tax would just be a disaster.

HUCKABEE: No, it's nonsense that it would be a disaster. What we have now is a disaster, Wolf.

The tax code we have now is disapproved by 80 percent of the American people. It's 66,000 pages of mishmash that no one, including the IRS, understands.

It penalizes productivity. It's chased $10 trillion of capital offshore.

The Fair Tax was not designed by me. It was designed by some of the smartest economists from Harvard, Yale, M.I.T., Boston University, Stanford University. It was designed by people who said if we could design as close to ideal a tax system as we could, what would it look like? That's what they came back with.

So, you know, "The Wall Street Journal" has hated this proposal. I don't know why, because, frankly, it would be good for everyone up and down the economic ladder. But it would especially be empowering to people at the bottom end of the economic ladder, the poor, because it untaxes them. And why that's such an anathema to some people, I don't know.

BLITZER: The author of the article of "The Wall Street Journal" said it would simply create an exmotion (ph) of smuggling and black marketing and all sorts of illegal activities, because it's one thing to pay a 6 percent sales tax if it's a state sales tax, it's another thing to spend, what, 30 percent or whatever on a sales tax.

HUCKABEE: It's not 30.

BLITZER: What would it be?

HUCKABEE: Well, it would be 23. But here's the other thing you've got to remember. There's two factors.

One is that if you get away from any corporate tax at all and payroll tax, all the taxes that are factored into the products you buy, corporations don't pay taxes. They pass it on into the cost of doing business, into the cost of the goods. So there's about a 22 percent embedded tax in everything we buy.

Secondly, when you went shopping, you would go shopping with your entire paycheck. Very few Americans have seen their entire paycheck in years because of all the deductions. Those deductions would no longer be taken out. They would be just left in.

You would actually earn what you earned and you would get to keep it. Then when you bought something at the retail level, you'd pay the tax.

I wish they'd do a little more homework on it. I think that if people study it more carefully, they'd find out why there is already 65 members of Congress who have signed on. And I hope more will.

BLITZER: What I think he was saying, 23 percent federal sales tax and then a 6 -- add on to some states that have a 6 percent state sales tax, it gets up to close to 30 percent. And that's what he was suggesting, it would promote smuggling and black markets and all hat kind of stuff. But we're not going to continue on this, because we've got a limited amount of time.

HUCKABEE: Yes. OK. All right.

BLITZER: And I do want to get your thoughts on tonight.

What would you be happy with? I assume you're looking for a third-place finish, is that right?

HUCKABEE: Well that would be huge for us. I think, you know, even fourth is still better than where we were just two or three weeks ago, when we were like in sixth place.

A lot of people had said there was no point in us even coming to New Hampshire. We thought there was, and we've had unbelievable, just literally overflow crowds everywhere we've been the last few days. Lots of energy.

I just wish we had a few more days, but we don't. The election is today. I think we're going to have a good day today.

We feel like the momentum has definitely been moving our way. And we're going to come out of here with wind to our back, head on to South Carolina, to Michigan. And we're leading in those states, as well as in Florida. So, look ahead for the next few weeks. We're not done.

BLITZER: We certainly will. We'll be in Michigan. We'll be in South Carolina. We're going to be everywhere you go, Governor.

HUCKABEE: OK.

BLITZER: Not only us, but all of us in the news media. We're going to be following you every step of the way.

Thanks very much for joining us.

HUCKABEE: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And good luck.

HUCKABEE: Thank you.

BLITZER: President Bush fires a verbal shot back at Iran after a confrontation with the U.S. Navy that almost led to a shootout. We're getting in some new video of the incident that started it all. We're going to share it with you.

Plus, John McCain hopes his history of winning New Hampshire will repeat itself tonight. We're going to take a closer look at his final pitch for votes and the hard road he's already traveling.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: A win would even the score, but a loss could send some Hillary Clinton supporters into panic mode. What might the Clinton campaign do if they do not win in New Hampshire tonight?

And some are praising Barack Obama as charismatic and something to feel good about, but that's not just coming from liberals. Coming also from some conservatives.

Why are they speaking fondly of a Democrat? We'll tell you.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, a man who once flirted with the idea of becoming the first African-American president, now talking about the man hoping to become precisely that. Colin Powell weighing in on Barack Obama's candidacy. You're going to want to hear Powell's comments.

Also, another former secretary of state weighing in. Madeleine Albright explaining why she's supporting Hillary Clinton. And I'll ask if she thinks Barack Obama is ready to be president.

And what do many women want in their presidential candidates? You're going to hear how some women are explaining why they like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

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

On the Republican side right now, John McCain predicts he'll have a landslide victory. He jokingly -- jokingly said that today. But few people will be laughing if he does win the primary given the rough road that he's had so far over these many months.

CNN's Dana Bash is standing by over at McCain's headquarters in Nashua.

Some are calling it, Dana, his land stand tonight. That if he wins, he obviously goes forward to Michigan, South Carolina, Florida, and beyond, but, if he loses this state tonight, even if he comes in second, it could be over.

What -- what are you hearing?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: All of that is absolutely true.

And, you know, John McCain is a very superstitious man. I'm not sure if you know this, Wolf. It was this very same ballroom he had his victory party here in 2000. He's actually staying in the same exact room in this hotel. He even wore the same sweater today that he wore eight years ago today. All of that is, of course, intended not to jinx his chances, his very real chances, of winning tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hey, guys.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BASH (voice-over): Off the bus one last time. He likes it here. And, apparently, New Hampshire likes him.

CROWD: Mac is back! Mac is back!

BASH: A win would reassert John McCain as a GOP force. Win or lose, he claims a special Granite State bond.

MCCAIN: And they may not agree with me on every issue, but they know they can trust me to do the right thing.

BASH: Just that he has that chance is remarkable. Last year, what he calls doing the right thing sent his poll numbers plummeting.

MCCAIN: This is the first step, but an important step, to moving forward with comprehensive, overall immigration reform.

BASH: Reviled by the GOP base for pushing an immigration bill giving undocumented workers a path to citizenship, chastised for demanding more troops in Iraq when the mood of the country was, bring them home.

MCCAIN: ... this troop surge be significant and sustained.

BASH: By summer, out of money, campaign staff turmoil, freefall, he renamed his bus No Surrender, kept campaigning, and taking tough questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I don't believe in amnesty. And how do you feel about that?

BASH: On immigration, a shift in emphasis.

MCCAIN: My lesson is, secure the borders first.

BASH: On Iraq, the surge is showing success, and "I told you so," the experience and judgment pitch.

MCCAIN: I'm the only one running for president that said the Rumsfeld strategy would fail. We have to adopt this Petraeus strategy.

BASH: Now, amid the crushing crowds, brief reflection.

(on camera): You were in a very dark place just this summer, and now you have all of this around you.

MCCAIN: Tell the truth.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: Tell the truth.

BASH: That's your lesson?

MCCAIN: Always tell the truth.

BASH (voice-over): Truth is, he needs a win here to carry on. But it's been quite a ride.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, there is definitely a nervous energy here in McCain headquarters, Wolf. There's no question about it. They are definitely a bit optimistic, they say simply because of the public polls. They say eight out of nine polls that have come out recently show him at least slightly ahead.

I should note that they don't have their own internal polling. Apparently, they can't afford it at this point. But I talked to one of McCain's advisers just a short while ago. And here's how crucial tonight is.

He said: "If we win, we could win the nomination. If we don't, all bets are off" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A blunt statement, very candid.

Thanks very much, Dana, for that.

Dana is staying with us throughout the night.

Rudy Giuliani sat out Iowa, isn't focusing on New Hampshire a lot either. But a new Web site from the Giuliani campaign gives us a behind-the-scenes look on the former New York's mayor emphasis with states on later primaries.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is standing by with more on that.

Abbi, what's on this new Web site?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is a behind-the- scenes look at what the Rudy Giuliani campaign is -- is planning online for further down the road.

While the other campaigns focused on Iowa, now New Hampshire, this Web site was quietly registered by the Giuliani campaign a couple of weeks ago -- its name, "Rudy Tested, Ready Now." That's a slogan that you see in Rudy Giuliani television ads, this one here which features pictures of the World Trade Center wreckage, of bin Laden, and that slogan there.

But the focus of this Web site that we found just last night is messages of support, supporters mostly in Florida. Voter after voter identify themselves as from Florida and supporting Rudy Giuliani. The Giuliani campaign -- Giuliani campaign setting its sights on the Florida primary January 29. There are other messages there as well. They're setting their sights on that primary as a gateway into February 5, and there are other messages of support here from voters and from members of Congress -- the Giuliani campaign not saying anything else about this site, which hasn't been announced anywhere that we can see as of yet.

But they are appealing on their Web site for people to tape their messages of support for Rudy Giuliani -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.

Right now, by the way, you can be part of the best political team on television. If you're in New Hampshire, we want to know what it's like. Send us your videos, your pictures, the final hours of what's going on to CNNPolitics.com. We will feature some of your I-Reports in our election coverage later tonight.

Our special coverage begins 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

The candidates only a few hours away from knowing how much their appeals to New Hampshire voters actually worked. Many people are anxious to see if Hillary Clinton will rebound from that stunning loss in Iowa and win the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is standing by live in Manchester.

Candy, depending on tonight's outcome, what can we expect in the immediate period ahead from the Clinton campaign?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if it's a win, she bounces back, and they go on as planned.

If it's a loss, the first thing you will probably hear is a tonal difference between how she's campaigning. You heard a bit of that from former President Clinton earlier in the show. And we also heard some of it from Hillary Clinton last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama used President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to criticize me, and, you know, basically compared himself to two of our graters heroes, saying, well, they gave great speeches.

President Kennedy was in the Congress for 14 years. He was a war hero. He was a man of great accomplishments and readiness to be president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: You will hear that, Obama's experience. You will also hear about his record much, much more than you heard about it in the past. Other issues? Staffing. All day long, we have been hearing that will be additions to the Clinton staff, although none of it confirmed by the Hillary Clinton campaign. They also have to figure, most important of all, Wolf, where does she go to get a win? And, more and more, this is looking like the Clinton campaign will bring on a February 5 strategy and go after some of those big states with all those delegates -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much for that -- Candy Crowley reporting on the Clinton campaign.

We're standing by, by the way, for the first wave of exit polling, early clues about what New Hampshire voters are thinking. We're going to tell you what to look for tonight when the results start coming in. We expect to get some of those results in the next hour.

Also, some are wondering if the Clinton campaign is set to shake up its staff. We will talk about that in our "Strategy Session."

And half-a-world away, they're watching very closely this U.S. election. They're watching in Kenya, as some there say their own recent presidential election was stolen. Zain Verjee is in Kenya right there. We will go there.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's the second big test of this presidential campaign. Today's New Hampshire primary could propel some candidates to new heights, leave others in the dust.

We're standing by for some early wave of exit polling, some clues about where the race is heading.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's watching all of this.

So, what are you looking for in these early exit polls?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we will find out what happened soon enough. We also want to know, why?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Some things we will be looking for tonight: Will young voters and independents turn out in record numbers again? In Iowa, they determined the outcome.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Young people are activated like they have not been activated before.

SCHNEIDER: Hillary Clinton lost her base with women in Iowa. Will she recover it in New Hampshire? Both John Edwards and Barack Obama are anti-establishment. Edwards talks about fighting the establishment.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need a change candidate who is willing to fight for the middle class and fight for jobs and takes that fight personally. And that candidate is me.

SCHNEIDER: Obama talks about bringing people together.

OBAMA: That's what can happen in this entire country in 2008. We can start...

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: ... bringing people together to get some things done in this country, after a long, long wait.

SCHNEIDER: We will see which message prevails.

In 2000, John McCain was the anti-establishment candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Anybody who wants the status quo does not want to vote for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: In 2008, he sounds more like a conventional conservative.

MCCAIN: I am a proud conservative. I believe America is right of center.

SCHNEIDER: Will McCain's vote look very different this time?

In New Hampshire, Mike Huckabee sounded less like a preacher, more like a governor.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We really do need some practical experience in government that functions.

SCHNEIDER: Can Huckabee expand his support beyond his evangelical base?

And, if the economy is a big concern, could that help former business executive Mitt Romney?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: The message from Iowa was change. Got it. Maybe New Hampshire can give us a little more information about what kind of change people are looking for -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Change, a big word in this campaign right now, very big.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Bill Schneider.

The exit polling, by the way, from New Hampshire, a very, very closely guarded secret. But, in our next hour, we are going to get some early indications of just who is voting today and the issues driving their choices.

Bill will be back in our next hour. As soon as that first wave of information is released, we will share it with you.

In our "Strategy Session": Barack Obama discounts Bill Clinton's complaints that the news media are giving Obama a free ride.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I remember, during the summer, when we were down 20 points, and I was getting knocked around pretty good. And I didn't hear the Clinton camp complaining about how terrible the press was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is Clinton's strategy of, when all else fails, blame the media good politics?

And on the Republican side, has John McCain become the Republican establishment candidate? And how could that play in a year when everyone is talking about change?

Donna Brazile and Bill Bennett, they're standing by -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Right now, many people are wondering if Hillary Clinton's campaign will soon see a shakeup.

Let's get to our "Strategy Session" right now.

Joining us, our political analyst and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and our CNN contributor Bill Bennett. He's a conservative commentator, also with the Claremont Institute.

All right, Donna, what are you hearing about a shakeup in the Clinton campaign, irrespective of what happens tonight?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What I'm hearing is that they are going to re-launch their campaign tonight, regardless of the result.

Senator Clinton will refocus her campaign on a message that resonates with Democratic primary voters. Perhaps she will say something like she's in it to win it for ordinary Americans, so that they can win the war on terror, they can win the war in terms of getting better jobs, better health care.

She's going to re-launch her campaign. She's going to come out. She's going to continue to fight and make the contrast with Barack Obama.

BLITZER: And our old friends, James Carville and Paul Begala, there was a report that they might be coming back in to take charge, but they are flatly denying that report, that they have any such intention. That's what you're hearing as well?

BRAZILE: I'm hearing that as well.

But, look, it's -- and everyone knows, in these campaigns, that, from time to time, you have to change your team, get a new team, a new -- a new group of people. She should thank the team that got her this far and bring on some new, fresh blood.

BLITZER: What do you think?

BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, too bad the best political team in television -- or part of it -- isn't going to help. I think Begala and Carville would help. But, apparently, that denial is absolutely straightforward.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: No, they're -- they're both saying it's -- it's not true.

BENNETT: But I imagine they might be able to help.

But I think it's tough. I think it's very tough. All the magic is with Obama. And you can see this. And the bitterness of the Clinton campaign, especially Bill Clinton, and that anger, and I think some of the unfair hits, now the hit on the media, you know, it's -- it's amazing to watch.

If you wait around long enough, history repeats itself. The Clintons come in like George McGovern and go out like Richard Nixon. I think they're going out, by the way.

BLITZER: Here's a clip. We -- we played a little bit of it earlier, I want to just play it for you, what the former president said in lashing out against the Obama campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You said, in 2004, you didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution. You said, in 2004, there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war. And you took that speech you're now running on off your Web site in 2004.

And there's no difference in your voting record and Hillary's ever since.

Give me a break.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

B. CLINTON: This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I have ever seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Were you surprised to hear the former president going at it like that?

BRAZILE: I can understand his frustration at this moment.

But, look, he shouldn't take out all his pain on Barack Obama. It's time that they regroup, figure out what Hillary needs to do to get her campaign back on track. It sounds like sour grapes coming from the former commander in chief, someone that many Democrats hold in high esteem.

For him to go after Obama, using fairy tale, calling him a kid, as he did last week, it's an insult. And I tell you, as an African- American, I find his words and his tone to be very depressing.

BLITZER: You know, as I said earlier, you have campaign staffers who are supposed to do that kind of talking, whether a Terry McAuliffe or any of the other top people in the campaign, but, for the former president to be doing that, it does underscore a certain frustration.

BENNETT: Well, you know what some of us have said about Bill Clinton for a long time. I think this is -- he is at his level now. This is the way he behaves.

They should pull the hook. They should get the hook, get him off stage. He's hurting her. She should tell him to get off. She should be in charge. It looks like he's running around here like a maverick and just hurting her.

And I -- I couldn't agree more with Donna. They have got to be very careful with Barack Obama. I mean, there's rumors about skipping South Carolina, about going after him, more criticism. And a very important part of the constituency, that party, is black Americans. Black Americans have been there for the Democratic Party. They attack Barack Obama, it will be a suicide mission.

BLITZER: But tell me why, as an African-American, Donna, you feel that the president's comments weren't appropriate.

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, if Bill Bennett had said some of the things Bill Clinton is saying about Barack Obama, I would have called Bill Bennett out of his name and said that Bill Bennett should shut his mouth, because he is -- is -- is not speaking in the right tone.

I think his tone. I think calling Barack Obama a kid. He is a United States senator. He's experienced. The people of Illinois elected him. And, regardless of what kind of items are on his resume, this is a man who has worked all his life. He's proven -- he's been a college professor.

I don't have to give Barack Obama a resume. I'm not for anyone at this point. But I think, for Bill Clinton to go out of his way to become a distraction to Hillary Clinton and to launch the kind of attacks on Obama, it's just out of character for Bill Clinton. I think it's time that he helps Hillary talk about her message and not go down this road.

BLITZER: And you know you're in trouble when you start lashing out at the news media for the problems. That's the first sign of serious, serious problems.

BENNETT: Yes. And I can't improve on what Donna said. I would just say, dittos.

It's -- it's sad to see, though. You know, you don't like to see this sort of thing. But he was the president of the United States. He should try to remember that, maintain a certain amount of dignity. But, if he won't, get him off the stage.

BLITZER: Guys, you're not leaving.

BENNETT: Yes.

BLITZER: You're going to be part of the best political team on television later tonight.

We have a lot more to talk about, including what's happening on the Republican side as well.

BENNETT: You bet.

BLITZER: John McCain, is he the new establishment GOP candidate?

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: We will talk about that and a lot more.

Donna, thanks very much.

Bill Bennett, thanks to you as well.

BENNETT: Thank you.

BLITZER: They are saying he's charismatic and classy, but why are conservative praising -- praising Barack Obama? We are going to take a closer look at what's behind their compliments.

Also, as voters leave the polls in New Hampshire, what are many of them thinking? We're standing by for the first wave of exit polling. We are going to tell you what to look for tonight when the results start coming in. Bill Schneider will be joining us soon.

And what do women like and not in a presidential candidate? You're going to hear if female voters are influenced by things like a female running for president and Oprah Winfrey.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On our Political Ticker today: When members of the other party start saying nice things about you, it's either a big compliment or it's a reason to worry.

That brings us to the Barack Obama campaign and Howard Kurtz of CNN's "Reliable Sources" -- Howie.

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, there's a phenomenon out there -- call it Obama mania -- that's sweeping the media. And it's winning some unlikely converts on the right.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ (voice-over): Barack Obama on the cover of "Newsweek," all over the front pages and the network newscasts. Since beating Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses, and taking the lead in the polls leading up to today's New Hampshire primary, the Illinois senator has been riding an incredible media wave.

The wave is so strong, in fact, that conservative commentators, who usually beat up on Democrats, are saying nice things about Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MSNBC)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: No doubt about it, it was the Obama speech last night that certainly caused the -- caught the attention of most political observers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR")

BILL O'REILLY, HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": The difference is, Obama has an unbelievable amount of energy. And he's very charismatic and an excellent speaker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "RELIABLE SOURCES")

AMANDA CARPENTER, TOWNHALL.COM: I'm a conservative, and I thought, wow, you know, this is something that really promotes unity. And it's something to feel good about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: It's the same thing in print. "The Weekly Standard" calls Obama the classiest candidate on the Democratic side.

David Brooks says in "The New York Times," "Americans are going to feel about the Obama victory, which is a story of youth, possibility and unity through diversity."

Obama is hardly the first presidential contender to wow the press. Many journalists swooned over John McCain back in 2000, dazzled by his round-the-clock availability on the Straight Talk Express. And there are signs that that romance is being rekindled.

National reporters don't have the same kind of personal relationship with Obama, but, like his hometown booster, Oprah Winfrey, they know a rock star when they see one.

Why the conservative kudos? Obama talks about including Republicans in a coalition that moves beyond the old red and blue divisions. Conservatives are drawn to an African-American who doesn't explicitly campaign on racial issues, the way that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton did. And they're thrilled that Obama may knock off the candidate that they have never been able to stand, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: A candidate who surges into front-runner status is usually subjected to fierce media scrutiny, but that hasn't happened with Obama, at least not yet. Instead, pundits on the left and right are joining in the applause -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Howard Kurtz, thanks very much.

Let's go to Jack once again for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Should Hillary Clinton throw away her script? And it's based on that unguarded moment we all saw yesterday in that diner in New Hampshire, when her emotions almost got the better of her.

I found that absolutely delightful. I don't know about you. Anyway, just a thought.

Dennis writes this: "Unscripted? Not a bad idea. But Hillary crying reminds me a bit too much of Dean screaming. Edwards said it. The campaign trail is a tough place for all of us. I believe presidential candidates need to maintain their composure, keep their cool, when the rest of us are angry, sad or upset. People riding emotions end up voting for stuff like the Patriot Act."

Janet in Andover, New Hampshire: "Hillary's phone volunteers here in New Hampshire seem to be winging it already. I got a call this afternoon asking if I was going to vote for Hillary. When I said no, I was asked, why not? When I said there were other candidates I liked better, the woman snarled, "It's not a popularity contest, you know." Nasty, nasty."

Bucko writes: "Hillary learned her politics at the elbow of one of the most charismatic, off-the-cuff, unscripted politicians of our time. She ought to use that experience to present herself exactly as she is, and not as a resume running for president. She has the skills and the experience to do the job better than any of the rest. She just needs to let it out."

Kevin writes: "Why is does it now seem as if Bill Clinton is running for president? Don't we have term limits in this county? I am 34, male, white, independent, informed, and voting for Barack Obama. I will vote Republican before voting for Hillary Clinton."

Bettina writes: "I have never liked Hillary Clinton one bit. I have, likewise, never been inspired to write into your wonderful television show. But this question, I had to answer. Something about Hillary moved me yesterday. She should definitely drop the script, because, yesterday, she wasn't an overt politician. She was a strong and real woman."

And Carroll writes: "This is a message to Bill and Hillary Clinton. When the party is over, it's polite to leave" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. See you in a few moments.

Happening now: decision day in New Hampshire. The Democratic front-runner, Barack Obama, tries to keep his edge, despite some edgy comments from Bill Clinton. It could be a make-or-break moment for John McCain in a tight Republican race.

We're going to give you a first look at some exit polling.

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