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Democrats Prepare For South Carolina Presidential Debate; Is Florida Must-Win For Rudy Giuliani?

Aired January 21, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And happening now: countdown to a showdown, two hours before our CNN presidential debate.
Bill Clinton is criticizing Barack Obama, and Obama says he's not going to take it.

Meanwhile, the highest ranking African-American in the U.S. Congress has a message for Bill Clinton: Back off those sharp anti- Obama attacks. I will Congressman James Clyburn exactly what he has problems with.

And, in Florida, things are not so sunny anymore for Rudy Giuliani. His rivals are moving in. Is Florida a state Giuliani must win? I will ask the best political team on television.

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

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to moderate a Democratic presidential debate that's sponsored by CNN and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute.

In less than two hours now, the top three Democratic candidates will engage each other in a substantive discussion of the important issues. But this last debate before South Carolina's primary this Saturday could get testy. The Obama and Clinton campaigns are trading harsh words and accusations.

Ironically, this comes on the day honoring a man who advanced peace.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is joining us now from Columbia, South Carolina.

Jessica, the candidates are honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and they're appealing to African-Americans, who make up a major constituency among Democrats here in South Carolina.

Give us the latest.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. They all joined together for a rally and march here at the capital of South Carolina, in Columbia, and again a fitting way to start their campaigns here because as you say, the African-American vote could make up to 60 percent of the electorate on Saturday. They're all doing what they can to appeal to this constituency.


YELLIN (voice-over): At a march and rally honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an unexpected gift from Senator Clinton. She was running so late for a time, she ceded center stage here to her competitors. Eventually all three spoke of the legacy of Dr. King.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: King inspired with words not of anger but of an urgency that still speaks to us today. He said, unity is the great need of the hour.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All three of us are on the journey with you, on the march to equality and justice and fairness in the United States of America.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The dream is nowhere fulfilled, and now we are called to rise up, speak up, and finally get it done.

YELLIN: Senator Clinton faces an uphill fight here. Polls taken prior to her Nevada win show she's lost ground among African-Americans and her husband is locked in a nasty spat with Barack Obama, drawing criticism from this African-American leader.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: As they would say in Gullah-Geechee country, he needs to chill a little bit.

YELLIN: John Edwards was born in South Carolina. After Nevada, where to quote the candidate himself, he got his butt kicked, a strong finish in his home state could recharge his campaign. But, arguably, the most pressure is on Barack Obama. He's aggressively shooting down rumors that he's Muslim, which could hurt him in his conservative Christian stronghold.

OBAMA: I have been at the same church, the same Christian church for almost 20 years.

YELLIN: Expectations are high for Obama to win this state and prove Iowa was no fluke and demonstrate he can rally African-Americans to his campaign while staying true to his message of unity. It's a theme he hits in a new ad.


OBAMA: We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes.


YELLIN: A message he hopes will carry him through Super Tuesday.


YELLIN: And, Wolf, this state holds the last Democratic primary before February 5. So, all the candidates are look for a win here to propel them forward to the delegate-rich Super Tuesday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin, thanks very much.

John McCain is campaigning in Florida today. He has also been the victim of an ugly smear campaign, one accusing him of actually selling out fellow Vietnam prisoners of war.

CNN's Jim Acosta talked to the man leveling the charges against McCain.

What evidence, if any, Jim, does this guy have to offer?


And score one for the McCain truth squad. The campaign learned the value of going on offense instead of playing defense against negative attacks.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Jerry Kiley launched the Web site Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain and mailed these flyers to some 80 South Carolina newspapers, but to no avail. McCain won.

But that won't stop Kiley, who told us just before the South Carolina primary he will hound McCain as long as he remains in the campaign.

(on camera): Is this a smear?

JERRY KILEY, VIETNAM VETERANS AGAINST JOHN MCCAIN: No, this is factual. You ask the family members and we're going to have family members that are going to talk about this. This is not over. This is the beginning, not the end.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Kiley leads a small group of Vietnam veterans and families of missing soldiers who allege McCain and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry covered up evidence of living POWs in Southeast Asia in order to normalize relations with the communist country. But there's no evidence this is true, and Kiley himself offers no proof of any cover-up.

KILEY: You have to question, what was his motive to bury the POW issue when he came home?

ACOSTA (on camera): Well, let me ask you that. Why would a former POW who was tortured in custody leave other POWs behind?

KILEY: Good question.

ACOSTA: Why would he do that.

KILEY: And it's baffling for people to try to comprehend that.

ORSON SWINDLE, FELLOW POW WITH MCCAIN: That's pretty despicable. These people need to go out and get a life. ACOSTA (voice-over): Orson Swindle, one of McCain's fellow POWs at the infamous prison camp known as the Hanoi Hilton, says Kiley is spreading conspiracy theories.

SWINDLE: It's a tragedy because these people in addition to giving themselves sort of a cottage industry for this emotional hue and cry, they raise the expectations and hopes of the families of those who are still missing to thinking that maybe something. And that to me is just immoral as hell.

ACOSTA: Swindle points out McCain, then the son of a U.S. admiral, actually turned down an early release from captivity because he would have left behind other American prisoners.

SWINDLE: He basically told them to shove it.

ACOSTA: Kiley's group is not alone in making the POW claim. Former presidential candidate Ross Perot told "Newsweek" McCain was adamant about shutting down anything to do with recovering POWs.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your rank in the Army?

MCCAIN: Lieutenant commander in the Navy.


ACOSTA: The McCain campaign is fighting back with this new video on its Web site touting the senator's war record.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it the courage to fight, to fight to survive?

ACOSTA: Kiley goes even further on his Web site, but, once again, he has no proof of his claim.

(on camera): One of the things it says on your site, John McCain, the Manchurian candidate.

KILEY: Right.

ACOSTA: What are you suggesting there?

KILEY: Well, there were techniques, we believe, used against McCain.

ACOSTA: So, are you saying that John McCain was brainwashed?

KILEY: We're saying that we don't know. We're saying that we know that John McCain...


ACOSTA: You're saying you don't know. Why are you saying it? KILEY: No, no, no. Well, now, you're twisting it. OK. So let's start over. We're saying Manchurian candidate. We're saying there is that possibility.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But, sometimes, even the most negative political attacks can be effective. Kiley's Web site continues to be the subject of news stories across the world. In 2004, the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth assault on Kerry touched off a media firestorm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He betrayed him in the past. How could we be loyal to him now?

ACOSTA: And rarely do the courts intervene, according to legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: The fierce and sometimes ugly give and take of campaigns always winds up affecting the ballot box. It almost never winds up in court.

ACOSTA: For the voters of South Carolina, it was judgment McCain.

MCCAIN: Thank you.


ACOSTA: The McCain campaign remains wary of these negative attacks as the veterans vote will be very important in the upcoming Florida primary -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jim Acosta. Solid reporting for us, as usual.

Jack Cafferty's got "The Cafferty File." He's joining us in New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: By his own admission, John Edwards says he got his butt kicked in the Nevada caucuses. Boy, did he ever. He got 4 percent of the vote.

This is increasingly evolving into a two-person race for the Democratic nomination and Edwards ain't one of them. Nevertheless, Edwards insists he's in the race for the long term and will continue to fight for the things he cares about.

In fact, he's now saying that he's the only Democrat who can take on John McCain. Right. The former North Carolina senator, Edwards, goes to South Carolina for the primary, where the polls show him trailing far behind Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. "The New York Times" reports even Edwards' closest advisers now acknowledge he no longer expects to come in higher than third place. Edwards was born in South Carolina. Could be embarrassing.

But whether Edwards stays in the race or gets out, he could affect the outcome. Some experts suggest, by staying in, he might influence the results come convention time. They say even without taking first place in the primaries, he could still wind up with a significant number of delegates and if the race is a tight one, those delegates would then play a big role at the convention.

Other strategists say Edwards has another good reason to stay in at least in South Carolina where he could end up sharing the white vote with Clinton, thus helping Obama to win. Roughly 50 percent of the electorate in South Carolina is black.

Here's the question. Who would benefit most if John Edwards drops out of the race, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton? Go to, where you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack, for that. Good question. Don't know the answer. Let's wait and see what our viewers think.

Meanwhile, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress is calling on former President Bill Clinton to tone it down when it comes to criticizing Barack Obama.


CLYBURN: I did say that he is causing a lot of anxiety among the base that exists in our party.


BLITZER: My interview with Congressman James Clyburn, that is coming up just ahead.

And Rudy Giuliani's very risky Florida strategy, will it actually pay off? We will discuss that and more with our experts, the best political team on television. They're standing by.

And embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, he is going to Europe to try to shore up some support. We will have an update.

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



BLITZER: Welcome back.

Many people say the tone of Bill Clinton's criticisms of Barack Obama are reaching new levels. Now the highest-ranking African- American in the U.S. Congress wants the former president to tone is down.

Congressman James Clyburn he understands Bill Clinton wants to help his wife, but Clyburn says the former president should dial back the way he's doing that.

Congressman Clyburn is joining us here in lovely Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, getting ready for a big debate later tonight.

Thanks very much for coming in.

CLYBURN: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: You told my colleague John Roberts this morning that he needs to chill. That would be the former president of the United States. Explain. Why does Bill Clinton, who's supporting his wife, wants his wife to be president, why does he need to chill?

CLYBURN: Well, I think we have a real unusual circumstance existing here. We have got for the first time in the history of this country a woman with the possibility of being president of the United States. And that woman just happens to be the wife of an ex- president.

That's very unusual. Now, it's not all that unusual for a spouse to want to defend the honor of one's spouse, but I think all of us have to take into account the circumstances that we are operating in here. And as a former president of the United States, the leader of the Democratic Party, I think the president should keep that in mind as he goes about his business of defending his wife.

BLITZER: What specifically didn't you like, where you think he may have crossed the line?

CLYBURN: Well, I never said that he crossed the line. I did say that he is causing a lot of anxiety among the base that exists in our party.

And I think most people know that the African-American vote has been a very reliable vote for Democrats. And let's keep that in mind as we go about discussing these issues to make sure that what we're doing is in fact focusing on the candidate himself and not causing a problem among African-American voters.

BLITZER: Because at some point there's going to be a Democratic presidential nominee. And the party is going to have to rally around that person, whoever it might be. And all the sort of angry back-and- forth that's going on right now, potentially some of that material could be used by the Republicans.

CLYBURN: That's exactly right. And a lot of it could be used to suppress, if not depress, African-American voters.

BLITZER: Suppress the voters from coming out, you mean?

CLYBURN: Yes, and make the voter a little bit depressed. We want to come out of this campaign uplifted. We want to come out of this campaign with the energy that is necessary to get us across the threshold come November. Nothing should get in the way of us doing that.

BLITZER: So you're afraid -- correct me if I'm wrong -- of a potential backlash in the African-American community?

CLYBURN: I'm always afraid of that. In my own campaigns, I'm very afraid sometimes that what I may have said may be interpreted the wrong way. All of us who are in political life must always keep that fear in the forefront of everything that we do.

BLITZER: You also said that what Barack Obama said, in effect, praising Ronald Reagan, made your cringe.


BLITZER: Explain why you changed when you heard Barack Obama say that Ronald Reagan was a transformational president, unlike Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton, for that matter. That's the comparison that Barack Obama made.

CLYBURN: I'm glad you offered me the opportunity to criticize both camps on this.

BLITZER: Because I know you're neutral on this.

CLYBURN: Absolutely.

The fact of the matter is, I understood what Senator Obama was saying. The fact is, though, Ronald Reagan's agenda for this country caused angst among African-American voters. And the extent to which you praise Ronald Reagan, just be very, very careful that you don't cross the line and not talk about his policies.

It's one thing to talk about his personality. He had a great personality. But if you start talking about his policies, those policies were not good for African-Americans.

BLITZER: Do you feel that he did cross the line, Barack Obama, in suggesting that Ronald Reagan was a this transformational type of leader?

CLYBURN: The problem is, he was transformational. But the problem is, is what direction.

It was not good for us. And so you can't allow your description to sound like a praise. Descriptively, Barack was right. But it sounded like to some people that he was praising him.

BLITZER: you have got to be really careful with the words that you utter.

CLYBURN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: All right. There have been accusations over the past few days from the Clinton and Obama camps of voter suppression. Today is Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, it's a national holiday. He fought for equal voting rights, as you know. That was one of his major goals in this country.

When you hear these Democrats fighting over accusations of voter suppression, what goes through your mind? Especially today?

CLYBURN: Well, I always say history is a great predictor of the future. And we have to always stay vigilant not to allow that history to repeat itself. Who was it, George Santayana, that told us... BLITZER: Yes.

CLYBURN: ... that you have to be careful about that? And so I think that we have to be very, very careful.

BLITZER: As a Democratic Party.

CLYBURN: As a Democratic Party, that you do not -- I remember what happened to Hubert Humphrey in his campaign for the presidency. I remember what happened to Jimmy Carter in his campaign for re- election.

A lot of the differences in those two campaigns came over the fact that African-American voters stayed away from the polls in droves. And they did it because they became disenchanted. They were depressed. And then that effectively hailed down the black vote.

BLITZER: This is going to be an exciting debate tonight. Hopefully we will learn more about these three Democratic presidential candidates. Are you confident we will?

CLYBURN: For sure. Absolutely. I feel real good about this debate tonight. And I feel really good about the primary contest on Saturday.

BLITZER: All right. we will be here in South Carolina with you.

CLYBURN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Congressman, thanks very much.

CLYBURN: Thanks for having me.


BLITZER: And please stay tuned for our Democratic presidential debate here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, sponsored by CNN and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute.

Please join me and Suzanne Malveaux and Joe Johns at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, about an hour and 40 minutes from now, right here on CNN.

Over a dozen, over a dozen homes and businesses have been destroyed. A raging fire ravages in areas of Massachusetts. Now officials say it all looks suspicious. We will have the latest.

And a presidential candidate tangles with a master of the martial arts. John McCain and Chuck Norris get into it, after Norris questions McCain's ability to be president over one key issue.

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

We're live here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We're getting ready for the presidential debate.


BLITZER: One Democratic strategist says the sniping between the Obama and Clinton campaigns is -- quote -- "off the charts." Obama is now suggesting Bill Clinton is being less than truthful.

Rudy Giuliani is feeling the heat in the Sunshine State. I will talk about his risky strategy with the best political team on television. That's coming up.

And Mitt Romney's son plays a prank on his dad. Did he fall for it when he heard Arnold Schwarzenegger's voice.

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


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

Happening now: The battle between the Clinton and Obama campaigns, especially attacks by Bill Clinton, that is raising anxiety among some Democrats. Now even longtime allies are saying the former president -- and I'm quoting now -- "needs to chill."

Also, the minority vote, where it went in Nevada and what it tells us about South Carolina. We are going to show you which candidates African-Americans and Latinos are backing, all of this, plus the best political team on television.

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

Some Democrats say Bill Clinton's criticisms of Barack Obama are simply too harsh and unbecoming of a former president. And they are urging him to tone it down.

Let's get some more now from CNN's Brian Todd. He's watching the story.

Brian, you have been looking into which Democrats want that. Update our viewers.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're told that there is concern at the highest levels of the party over this public spat which has just gotten rekindled.


TODD (voice-over): It might have been the shakiest and shortest- lived truce in political history. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are back to unloading on each other, the former president leveling this:

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He said President Reagan was the engine of innovation and did more -- had a more lasting impact on America than I did. And, then, the next day, he said, in the '90s, the good ideas came out from the Republicans, which will be costly maybe down the road for him, because it's factually not accurate.

TODD: An Obama campaign official tells us Bill Clinton misquoted him again, says Obama vociferously disagreed with much of what Ronald Reagan did and also spoke about Reagan's ability to get legislation done.

In an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America," Obama was visibly frustrated.


OBAMA: This has become a habit. And one of the things that I think we're going to have to do is to directly confront Bill Clinton when he's not making statements that are factually accurate.


TODD: One Democratic strategist tells us, the tension between the Clinton and Obama campaigns is now off the charts. And at least one Democratic leader has a stern message for the former president.

CLYBURN: And I think he -- he can afford to tone it down.

TODD: And there are accounts that other Democratic leaders have been more blunt with presidential candidate. "Newsweek" reports Senator Ted Kennedy and Congressman Rahm Emanuel both had heated conversations with Mr. Clinton recently, telling him to stop attacking Obama.

Contacted by CNN, aides to Kennedy and Emanuel wouldn't comment. Analysts say this about the party's concerns.

JIM VANDEHEI, POLITICO: They're just worried about having a very divisive primary that would damage whoever the nominee is. There's a lot of Democrats who think you could end up with some sort of Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket. And they don't want this to be a ferociously negative campaign.


TODD: A spokesman for Mr. Clinton tells CNN he will not back down, that he will continue to advocate for his wife and he says what Bill Clinton has done has at least gotten us all talking about Barack Obama's record. He also says there is no concern that the former president's legacy will be tarnished -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, what about Ted Kennedy and Rahm Emanuel?

I think they're both neutral right now in this campaign right now.

Is there indication they're about to change that?

TODD: No indication at the moment, Wolf. I think it's just too close to call right now in the race for them to lean either way. Aides to both reiterated today that they are both neutral right now. Emmanuel is a former aide to Mr. Clinton, but he's also from Obama's home state. We're told that he speaks to both of them very frequently. But, of course, with the race so close right now, they may be hedging until after Super Tuesday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that.

Brian Todd reporting.

Democrats obviously very anxious about all of this -- Bill Clinton's attacks on Obama and vice versa.

Let's get some analysis now of what this all means.

Joining us now, our chief national correspondent, John King. He's joining us from Orlando, Florida; our own Jack Cafferty, he's in New York; and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, she's in Washington. They are all part of the best political team on television.

What's your take on this, Jack?

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, I don't pretend to be able to psychoanalyze people. But if I was a betting man, I would say that Bill Clinton is probably a lot more concerned about any potential damage to his legacy than he's letting on. That sound bite we just had in Todd's piece, he was talking about what I did during my presidency. He wasn't talking about here's why you should vote for my wife. He was using the microphone and the spotlight and the attention to talk about himself, which is what Bill Clinton does. And he's not helping his wife doing it and he's not helping the party. And the Democrats -- if anybody ever had a golden opportunity to win this thing, the Democrats probably do this time around. But keep watching them and they'll figure out a way to mess it up.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, I think Bill Clinton is calculating that he's trying to drag Barack Obama into a fight that's not helpful to Obama. Obama did not want to talk about race. Obama did not want to continue to talk about Ronald Reagan. And what Bill Clinton is doing, he believes -- and I think he may be succeeding here, to some degree -- is drag Obama onto turf that he's not comfortable talking about.

And I think that this is all about winning for Bill Clinton. It is about his legacy, I agree with Jack. But this is about winning one for Hillary. And that's what he thinks he's doing. And he may well be doing it.

BLITZER: What about it, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've never seen anything like this before, Wolf. You've never had a former president so involved in a presidential campaign and a campaign for his spouse so soon after leaving office. It's very controversial within the Democratic Party. And I can tell you from being around the Republicans in recent days, they are watching the spat among the Democrats and saying keep it going... CAFFERTY: Yes.

KING: Do all you can to keep this fight going, because the odds are stacked against the Republicans in this presidential election, because you're after a two-term Republican president, you have an unpopular war, now you have an economy teetering on recession.

So the Republicans are saying keep at it, Mr. Clinton. They think it is the greatest sideshow in politics...

BORGER: Right.

KING: And they think that, in the end, it might hurt the Democrats a little bit.

BORGER: You know, Wolf, I've never seen anything like this.

BLITZER: And, you know...

BORGER: You know, Bill Clinton is part precinct leader. You saw him in Nevada saying oh my God, there's been voter suppression. And he's part vice presidential candidate here, acting like the hatchet man, taking on Barack Obama. It's quite a show.

BLITZER: Let me give you some numbers, Jack, just to -- to give some context to what's going on. Looking ahead to this Saturday's South Carolina Democratic primary, where about half of the Democrats who show up are expected to be African-Americans. In Nevada -- we just had the caucuses out there last Saturday -- among African-Americans who participated, Obama got 83 percent of the vote to Clinton's 14; Edwards, 1 percent. But look at this -- among Hispanic voters in Nevada, Clinton got 64 percent; Obama, 26; Edwards, 8 percent. That's a very interesting split in Nevada. I don't know what's going to happen here in South Carolina, but that African-American vote will certainly be critical.

CAFFERTY: Well, it will. And they're -- and the percentage of the electorate that's African-American in South Carolina is far greater than the percentage of Hispanics in South Carolina. Unlike in Nevada, where you have a lot of Hispanics who work in the casino hotels, particularly in places like Las Vegas, Reno and up at Lake Tahoe.

The African-American vote accounts for about 50 percent of the votes that will be cast in South Carolina. And if Barack Obama gets 84 percent of those in a three-way race, he's going to be looking pretty good.

BORGER: I think...

BLITZER: I think Jack makes a fair point, Gloria.


BLITZER: It would be over if he does that well among African- Americans. BORGER: Sure, it would. But I think if you step back and take a look at this race, it's very clear that Barack Obama has a problem with the Hispanic community. The Clintons are well known. They're considered friends to the Hispanic community. There have been tensions between the African-American community and the Hispanic community in this country. And I think Obama needs to introduce himself to Hispanic voters because they're very, very important in big states like California and Texas. And he's got a problem on that front.

BLITZER: John...

KING: ...two of the states coming up...


BLITZER: ...this thought.

KING: Illinois is Obama's state. New York is Senator Clinton's state. But in those states, Latino and African-American voters do have sizable percentages, also. As you move on to Super Tuesday and you go out to the Southwest -- Arizona, New Mexico, California -- Gloria noted.

So watching this is one of the fascinating subplots of the Democratic race. There's a clear income difference between voters -- upper scale Democrat Democrats voting for Obama, lower scale voters voting for Senator Clinton. And now we're watching a potential split between the African-American and the Latino community; also, among the divisions within the Democratic Party.

And if it plays out significantly and the race goes on and on and on, the question is, can you bring everybody together at the end of it?

BLITZER: An hour and 23 minutes to go before the Democratic presidential debate here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We're watching it. Stand by, guys. We have a lot more to talk about.

We'll take a quick break.

When we come back, we'll also talk about the fight for Florida.

Will the state's Republican primary, that is coming up in only eight days, make or break Rudy Giuliani's campaign?

We're going to show you how he's doing down there.

And rival Ron Paul drops another money bomb. You're going to find out how much he's raised in only one day on the Internet.

Stay with us.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina getting ready for tonight's Democratic presidential debate, only a little bit more than an hour from now. The three major Democratic candidates will be up on that stage.

Let's talk about the Republicans, though, for a moment.

Republican Rudy Giuliani risking everything right now on Florida.

Will it pay off?

We're back with the best political team on television.

Jack Cafferty, you've been a long time Rudy Giuliani watcher. In these recent two polls, the WNBC/Marist Poll, McCain in New York State -- New York State, among registered Republicans, McCain's at 34 percent to Giuliani, 23 percent. In the Siena College poll,, among registered Republicans, McCain also beats Giuliani in Giuliani's home state of New York, 36 to 24 percent.

What's going on with Rudy Giuliani?

CAFFERTY: Well, it isn't good. He also has dropped behind in Florida now, where he was leading the polls down there. He's fallen behind in all the national polls, and he was leading those for a good long while. His strategy was that he could hang out in Florida and mount a big charge from there, picking up the winner take all 57 delegates in Florida and getting momentum going into Super Tuesday.

The problem is he's been trashed in all the early primaries and caucuses. He hasn't even been respectable. He's getting single digit returns behind Ron

Paul and people are going Rudy who?

So I don't know, it's too soon to tell, but my guess is that this gamble he's taking may be backfiring.

BORGER: You know, I think Rudy Giuliani's real problem right now -- the chaos in the Republican field is good for him. But his real problem right now is that in order to succeed in a state like Florida, he has to run to his right. Giuliani is not known as a Republican conservative. That has not been his calling card. He's running on the war on terror and he's a moderate on social issues -- no matter what he says right now, but he is. And he's got to run to his right and that's not a comfortable place for him to be.

And I think the voters are going to look and say gee, who is this fellow?

We hardly know ye.

KING: And -- Wolf, the story line has changed so...

BLITZER: John you're there right now in Florida... KING: The story line has changed so significantly. When he was ahead in the national polls, it was largely because of his name identification and the belief among many Republicans back at that time that he could beat Hillary Clinton. Well, now Republicans aren't so sure it's going to be Senator Clinton. The story line is not so much the war on terrorism, it is much more the economy. And the Giuliani people also thought that by the time the race came to Florida, John McCain would be weakened -- if not pushed from the race -- and that Rudy Giuliani would be the tough on foreign policy Republican.

Well, John McCain was down in the Cuban-American community today. Both he and Giuliani are fighting heavily for that base of the Republican Party down in Miami. John McCain comes here fresh from a win in South Carolina.

John McCain still has a lot to prove. He still has to do better among Republicans. But there is a stronger Republican field coming in here and a stronger candidate in John McCain, who is much like Rudy Giuliani. They match up pretty much on the issues. They're viewed as moderate to conservative -- not on the far right end of the Republican Party.

So the race is not as Rudy Giuliani anticipated, as it comes here to Florida. And as Jack noted, he's losing conservative support nationally. He's now slightly behind McCain here in Florida. And the inevitability of Giuliani is not there.

And if he doesn't win here, what is his springboard into all of those states on Super Tuesday?

So he has to win here. He is campaigning very aggressively and he's being much more pointed in his criticism of McCain and Mitt Romney.

BLITZER: And at least two of those states, Jack, Michigan and New Hampshire, where there are a lot of moderate Republicans, I always thought Giuliani would have done a lot better. I thought both of those states were pretty much tailor-made for him. But he did dismally in both of them.

CAFFERTY: Well, you have to be there, you know?

BORGER: Right.

CAFFERTY: And what's that old line?

You've got to be in it to win it. He never showed up. And people -- particularly, I noticed in New Hampshire, it's like, hey, you don't want to come here and talk to us, to hell with you. We're not going to vote for you. And they didn't.

BORGER: Right.

CAFFERTY: And, to a degree, the same thing happened in Michigan. I mean you can't just ignore people in six states.

What is that message?

You know, Jack, it's the old Woody Allen line, 90 percent of life is showing up, right?

CAFFERTY: Exactly.

BORGER: Well, 90 percent of politics is actually going out and shaking people's hands and asking for their votes in those states.


BORGER: And he just didn't do it.

BLITZER: All right, guys, we've got to leave it right there, unfortunately. But we've got a lot more to talk about.

John, thanks very much.

Gloria, thank you.

Jack, stand by. We've got The Cafferty File coming up.

We also have this programming note for viewers. Remember, the CNN and Congressional Black Caucus Institute are co-sponsoring a Democratic presidential debate right here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina a little bit more than an hour from now. Please join me, along with Suzanne Malveaux and Joe Johns, for the Southern showdown, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. We're getting ready for the debate.

Who benefits most if John Edwards drops out of the race?

Would it be Barack Obama?

Would it be Hillary Clinton?

Jack Cafferty has your answers to this hour's question. The Cafferty File coming up.

And we'll also show you the prank call played on Mitt Romney by one of his own sons.

Plus, Barack Obama's opening act brings down the house with her rendition of the national anthem. Stay with us. You'll hear it right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.


BLITZER: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show that begins right at the top of the hour.

Lou's ready with a little preview for all of us.

What are you working on -- Lou? LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": That's right, Wolf.

Coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN, we'll have much more on the presidential campaign, rising tensions among Democratic candidates and the Republicans' battle for Florida and the truth.

Also, suspected Mexican drug smugglers have killed an American Border Patrol Agent in cold blood. We'll have that special report on the escalating violence along our Southern border.

And a rising number of governors are refusing to implement a federal law requiring Real I.D. We'll have that story and a great deal more.

Paperless electronic voting machines failing their first major test in this presidential campaign. And we'll have a special report on the threat to our democracy.

And as we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , three of the best political analysts join me to assess the impact of race and radical politics on this election.

Join us for all of that and more at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Lou, thanks very much.

In our Political Ticker today, Ron Paul's money bomb apparently keeps exploding. So far today, the campaign says supporters raised $1.3 million on the Internet. Mike Huckabee's celebrity supporter, Chuck Norris, took a swipe at Huckabee rival John McCain, saying the 72-year-old would be 84 by the end of his first term.

Here is how McCain responded.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm afraid that -- I'm afraid that I may have to send my 95-year-old mother over...


MCCAIN: ...and wash Chuck's mouth out with soap.


BLITZER: Mitt Romney's son decided to take a little stress off of dad with a practical joke featuring the voice of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, those pesky Romney boys. This from Matt Romney on the campaign blog, who decided to prank his dad with a fake call from the governor of California.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me ask you a bunch of questions and I want to have them answered immediately.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Go right ahead and shoot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bipartisanship always, my principles of leadership -- progress over politics.

ROMNEY: Well, I don't think anyone can disagree with that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is your daddy and what does he do?


TATTON: We asked the campaign if Mitt Romney was expecting an endorsement. A spokesman said it would be -- it's an endorsement he'd be happy to have -- so happy that the campaign staffer that handed him the phone probably got a milkshake dumped on his head for being part of the gag -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.

Let's go back to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: John Edwards is looking more and more like perhaps a short timer in this Democratic primary season. He's just not showing well at all of a sudden.

So the question is -- who would benefit most if John Edwards drops out of the race -- Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton?

Carolyn writes from Land 'O Lakes, Florida: "At my house, Obama will benefit. Former President Clinton's selfish Lewinsky escapade gave us eight years of Bush. Now it appears the Clinton's divisive me- first tricks are set to destroy Obama and the Democrats' chances for November."

Jamal writes: "I think Obama benefits if Edwards drops out because both Edwards and Obama represent change, while Clinton represents the status quo. If Edwards continues, the people who want the much-needed change are split between two worthy candidates and the status quo wins.

Jim in Prosperity, South Carolina -- there's a name for a town: "Neither, Jack. The Republicans will benefit if John Edwards drops out -- Republicans. Democrats will be left with two choices -- a woman and a black man, neither of whom is electable in November after the reality of their candidacy sets in."

Kerry writes: "There are two types of Democrats at the moment -- those who love Hillary, those who hate Hillary. The haters are left with two options -- Edwards and Obama. If Edwards drops out, I think clearly Obama benefits the most."

Patty in Kentucky writes: "The only people who will benefit if John Edwards drops out of the race are the lobbyists and entrenched interests in Washington, who have a stranglehold on the government. If we want to eliminate the two Americas, we need a fighter like John Edwards."

Judy writes: "Hillary, of course. Why anyone would vote for her over Obama is beyond me, but she definitely has a following and she would probably pick up Edwards' votes."

And Doreen writes: "I hope it's Obama. But the real beneficiary would be the moderators of the TV debates. They wouldn't have as many politicians who don't understand the meaning of the lights."

Wolf, do you have that problem?

They don't know how to respond to the lights.

I guess meaning the lights to tell them...

BLITZER: I haven't figured it out yet myself, Jack.


BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty.

I'll see you back here tomorrow.

Coming up, sing our national anthem isn't all that easy.


BLITZER: Jeanne Moos has a Moost Unusual look at some unsuccessful attempts an at singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and not really succeeding.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: "The Star-Spangled Banner" is known as a very difficult song to sing well. But it turns out that messing it up can actually be a plus.

Jeanne Moos has a look at some most unusual renditions of our national anthem.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She was just a little red speck climbing the steps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Little Miss. Ebony Christi (ph). MOOS: The opening act at a Barack Obama rally.

EBONY CHRISTI: O say can you see...

MOOS: Oh, say can she sing.

CHRISTI: The rockets red glare...


MOOS: The last time we enjoyed the national anthem this much was when Hillary got carried away not carrying a tune.


MOOS: That's the same line Roseanne Barr immortalized.

ROSEANNE BARR: The land of the free...

MOOS: Roseanne was camping it up on purpose. Hillary wasn't. But singing off key can strike a chord. Hillary's performance ended up in a self-deprecating Clinton campaign video.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Singing is hard.


MOOS: Not so easy are the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner". But 5-year-old Ebony got them mostly right -- except for the part about the perilous fight.

CHRISTI: Through the perilous flight.

MOOS: Hey, flights are perilous these days -- perilous to your schedule.

(on camera): We all know how politicians love to wrap themselves in red, white and blue. Actually, little Ebony's rendition was way better than some we've heard by adults.

(voice-over): Take the sing policeman on YouTube.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What so (INAUDIBLE) at the last gleaming (INAUDIBLE).

MOOS: At least when this French-Canadian singer at a hockey game forgot the words...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What so proudly -- oh, sorry...

MOOS: She ran to check them. When she came back, she ended up seeing a lot more stars than stripes. At least Ebony stayed on her feet, despite a momentary glitch when she got to the part that goes, "O say does that star-spangled banner"...

CHRISTI: ...banner yet waaaaave...


MOOS: This 5-year-old coughed up a performance that landed her in the...

CHRISTI: ...and the home of the brave.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: She did a very nice job.

Now you can take the best political team with you anytime, anywhere. This is what you do. You download the best political pod cast at That's where you can read my daily blog, as well,

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Please be sure to join us once again tonight and in one hour when CNN and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute sponsor a Democratic presidential debate right here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Please join me and Suzanne Malveaux and Joe Johns for this Southern showdown, right here on CNN.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.