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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Presidential Contenders Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee; Interview With Senator Arlen Specter

Aired February 3, 2008 - 11:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's 11:00 a.m. here in New York, 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, and 7:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition."
Republican voters in 21 states head to the polls, this Tuesday, in a contest that could seal the deal for the party's presidential front-runner, potentially, John McCain.

But his chief rival, Mitt Romney, is hoping for some key wins to slow down McCain's momentum. Just a short while ago, I spoke with Mitt Romney from the campaign trail in Minnesota.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Governor Romney, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "Late Edition."

ROMNEY: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Let's look ahead to Tuesday, the contest -- Super Tuesday, as you know, and a lot of people focusing in directly on you and John McCain.

He really blames you for the nastiness, at least some of the nastiness, that has come out of this debate. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: A lot of it's your own money. You're free to do with it what you want to. You can spend it all, but the fact is...

(LAUGHTER)

... that your negative ads, my friend, have set the tone, unfortunately, in this campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. You want to respond to that specific point?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, I think there's nothing wrong whatsoever, in a democracy, to have a great debate upon issues. And the ads that I've run talk about issues and differences between Senator McCain and myself. He, on the other hand, has made some very aggressive personal attacks, a number of them in Florida, which were frankly off the mark.

But you know, I'm not going to worry about the rough and tumble of politics. I think Senator McCain has been around a long time. He can give as good as he gets, and he gave a lot of tough stuff.

But you know, the differences between us on issues are really what people are focusing on. I know he doesn't want to talk about that, but, you know, he did vote against the Bush tax cuts. He did vote against drilling in ANWR. He did vote in favor of amnesty for illegals. And he is for this new 50 cent per gallon charge for gasoline in this country.

So he wants to talk about anything besides the differences on issues.

BLITZER: Does that make him, what, a liberal?

ROMNEY: Well, on those particular issues, he's not in the mainstream of the Republican Party. And in some respects, I think, this is a battle for the heart and soul of our party, and, of course, the direction of our nation as well.

You know, I think his lack of understanding of the economy -- and he points it out; it's not the strong suit, he says, of his experience -- frankly, at a time like this, when we're losing jobs for the first time in a long time in this country, you need to have somebody who's actually had a job in the private sector, if we're going to get this economy back on track.

BLITZER: He says he's the real conservative in this contest. And he makes this point -- I'll play this little clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I'm proud of my conservative record. It's one of reaching across the aisle to get things done for Americans, obviously, whether it be McCain-Lieberman, that established the 9/11 Commission and then the legislation that implemented that, or whether it be working across the aisle in the Armed Services Committee, to provide the men and women with what they need to defend this nation. And I'm proud of that record.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Governor, what do you say to him?

ROMNEY: Well, a couple of things. First of all, it's interesting to see how Washington politicians think about action. For them, it's reaching across aisles and committee meetings and bills.

Action, where I come from, means getting the job done, actually making things better for Americans. That means getting health care for citizens. It means balancing the budget. It means cutting out wasteful spending. It means creating jobs. That's what I've spent my life doing.

You know, I don't disagree with Senator McCain on every issue. Of course not. Particularly on Iraq, for instance, we're on the same page on that. But there are a number of places where he took a very sharp left turn.

McCain-Feingold was one. It hurt the first amendment and it hurt our party.

Then McCain-Kennedy, which gave amnesty to all illegal aliens in this country, other than criminals -- that's certainly not conservative.

The new McCain-Lieberman, which puts this 50 cent per gallon charge on gasoline -- that's not conservative.

Voting against the Bush tax cuts -- that's not conservative.

So, Senator McCain is a fine man, and I understand why, right now, he's going to dress himself in conservative garb. But his track record and the bills he fights for are a long way from conservative.

BLITZER: He came out of the Florida primary with some significant political momentum. What are you going to do to try to stop that from escalating, if you will, on Tuesday?

ROMNEY: Well, you are right. He got a big boost out of Florida. We were very close there, by just a few points apart. But you know, there's nothing like winning. And so, as I go into Super Tuesday, what I have to do is continue to see what's been happening the last few days. Specifically, that is conservatives across the country are saying, whoa, we have to get behind Mitt Romney.

It's effectively a two-person race, with all due respect to Mike Huckabee. He's a great guy and he'll probably do well in some states. But nationwide, it's a two-person race.

And you've got people like Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham and, well, the list goes on and on and on -- Hugh Hewitt, Lars Larson -- conservative voices, both from radio and from publications, are saying, you know what, we've got to get behind Mitt Romney; we really can't afford John McCain as the nominee of our party.

And that kind of groundswell, I think, is what led me to win in Maine yesterday. We had Olympia Snowe and Senator Collins both fighting for John McCain, and I won 53 percent of the vote there. John McCain got 20 percent. And that was because conservatives, who normally would have stayed home, turned out in record numbers and gave me the win.

BLITZER: There's still voting, though, in the caucuses in Maine, right?

ROMNEY: I believe there's some voting, but overwhelmingly, the majority has spoken. BLITZER: All right. Mike Huckabee says, you know -- you know, he's really going after you right now. He says he's the real conservative. I want you to listen to what he told me earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUCKABEE: I think it's time for Mitt Romney to step aside. You know, I'm leading in the states that are going to be real critical on Super Tuesday, throughout the South, substantially ahead of Mitt Romney in these states. And I think it's ludicrous for him to suggest that, with only 8 percent of the delegates counted and us being very close to the same delegate count, that somehow that makes me irrelevant.

If he wants to call it a two-man race, fine. But that makes it John McCain and me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. What do you want to say to Governor Huckabee?

ROMNEY: Well, obviously, he's smarting.

(LAUGHTER)

I don't want to see him get squirrely like that, but the truth of the matter is, he's a good man. Everybody has every right to stay in this race to the very end.

You know, we all battled in Florida, and Senator McCain and I came in number one and number two, very close, and he came in a distant fourth. And I think, by virtue of that, I think most people around the country have said, OK, it's been narrowed to a two-person race.

But you know, he'll win Arkansas, and he may win some other states. That's great. I wish him the very best. He's a good guy. But frankly, you know, I think you're going to see this narrow down a little bit more.

BLITZER: As long as he's in the race, do you think he takes more votes away from you or more votes away from McCain?

ROMNEY: Oh, surely more from me. We split the more conservative side of the party. Senator McCain is able to combine the more liberal side of our party.

But, you know, everybody has a right to stay in this race as long as they want to stay in. That's the nature of our system, and I would never suggest to Mike Huckabee that he get out. That's for him to decide, and for me to decide on my behalf and John McCain on his behalf.

But we'll stay in. We'll battle away. And I think you're going to see Republicans say, wait a second. What does our party stand for? Can we really have a nominee who is indistinguishable from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on immigration, on taxing fuel for global warming, on -- excuse me, on McCain-Feingold, on the Bush tax cuts? I mean, can we possibly have somebody who is so indistinguishable on those key issues?

BLITZER: But a lot of the polls show, in the hypothetical match- ups between John McCain and Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, he could beat them, whereas those same hypothetical polls show that you're behind.

ROMNEY: You know, we've watched these polls during this last year, and I'm sure you'll attest to this fact.

ROMNEY: They have been all over the place. I have never seen anything so fluid. You see people swinging from one side to the other.

What finally happens, of course, is that when you get close to an election and people really concentrate on it and they hear debates and they see where candidates stand, they make up their mind. And it may be very different than the polls show.

I remember a few months ago, Senator McCain was counted by almost everybody as completely out. They said, there's no way. Why is he even going on? People couldn't believe he stayed in.

I happened to say, you know what, don't count him out. He's a guy who can come back, and he's a fighter. And he did just that. So, I'm not placing a lot of stock in the finality of polls, but I am saying that I'm going to coalesce the strength of the Republican Party and our base, our conservative voters, around my campaign.

BLITZER: The two remaining Democratic presidential candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, they were at the debate at the Kodak Theatre the other night, and both of them took a swipe at you. I want to play these two excerpts back to back. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Mitt Romney hasn't gotten a very good return on his investment during this presidential campaign. So I'm happy to take a look at my management style during the course of this last year and his. I think they compare fairly well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: With all due respect, we have a president who basically ran as the CEO/MBA president. Look what we got. I am not too happy about the results.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. They were noting the fact that you have an MBA and that you've been a CEO, among other things. You spent a lot of your own money in this campaign. What do you want to say to these two Democratic candidates? ROMNEY: Well, first, I'm still standing, just like they are, and I got a lot of people supporting me, that's number one.

And number two, does anyone really think that at a time when our economy is struggling, that the right course for America is to choose somebody who's never had a job in the real economy? Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- and Senator McCain for that matter -- have spoken about all the things they do, but they've lived their lives in Washington.

And if people really think that a lifelong Washington politician can guide our country to build our economy to make sure it remains the most powerful economy in the world, without having ever worked in the economy, then they've got a different perspective on how the world works than I do.

You see, I think right now, it's more important to know how America works than to know how Washington works. I think we have enough of the politicians, and it's time to have somebody from outside Washington -- like Ronald Reagan was outside Washington -- go there, shake it up, get it back on the right track.

BLITZER: Governor Romney, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck on Tuesday.

ROMNEY: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And coming up later, we'll hear from Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Super Tuesday also holds a delegate bonanza for the Democratic presidential candidates, but will it end the race? Coming up, we'll hear from a top supporter of the Clinton campaign, Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey.

And get ready for the Super Tuesday marathon, live from the CNN Election Center right here in New York, the best political team on television covers every race all day and all night. CNN's coverage starts Super Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. Eastern.

You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from the CNN Election Center here in New York. Coming up in our next hour, by the way, my conversation with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on whether Tuesday is make or break for his campaign. He has some sharp words, especially for Mitt Romney. That's coming up in the next hour.

First, though, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had hoped Super Tuesday would deliver her party's nomination for her, but national polls right now show her rival closing in. Joining us right now at the CNN Election Center is the New Jersey senator Robert Menendez. He's a top adviser for Senator Clinton's campaign. Senator Menendez, welcome to "Late Edition."

MENENDEZ: Good to be with you, wolf.

BLITZER: What do you think? Is she going to nail it down on Tuesday, on will this go on beyond Tuesday?

MENENDEZ: Well, this is a competitive race. Hillary's going to do exceptionally well on Tuesday across the landscape of America. I don't think it will clearly end the nominating process, and she has always said this is a national election, that she intends to go the distance.

BLITZER: So it will go beyond Tuesday, both of them will be in the race after Tuesday, neither will have achieved all the delegates they need to get the nomination in Denver.

MENENDEZ: They won't have achieved all the delegates. I think Hillary will be significantly ahead, but at the end of the day it will still go on and other states will continue to play a role.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit about some of the issues out there. Here's what Senator Obama -- a basic point he made in the debate the other night, as well as he makes along the campaign trail, why he's more worthy of this Democratic nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It is time for new leadership that understands that the way to win a debate with John McCain or any Republican who's nominated is not by having the Democrats nominate someone who agreed with them on voting for the war in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. That someone would be Hillary Clinton who voted for authorize the war in Iraq. You voted against that when you were in the house of representatives.

MENENDEZ: I did. And as someone who voted against the war from the beginning and has voted a transition out of Iraq, I am convinced that there is only one candidate on the Democratic side who can guarantee us to bring our people home. And that's Hillary Clinton.

You know, the reality is that Senator Obama talks about his opposition. He wasn't in the United States Senate to cast a vote. And after he came to the Senate in 2004, he said, I don't know how I would have necessarily voted on that resolution, and secondly he said there's not that much difference between me and George Bush in the war, and he's basically been in lockstep on the votes with Hillary on the votes up until recently, so...

BLITZER: But what does that say about her judgment? That's the point he's making, that she didn't have the right judgment back in 2002? You had the judgment to vote against President Bush on the authorization for the war. What does it say about her judgment that she voted in favor? MENENDEZ: I think the bottom line is that she has made very clear why she voted for the authorization that time, and she has made it also very clear how we're going to get out. I think that Americans are looking for a commander in chief who are going to be able to bring our troops home.

And having just come back from Iraq two weeks ago, I am convinced that Hillary has that experience from the armed services, from her travels abroad, from her ability to transition out of Iraq and bring our people home with honor.

BLITZER: Here's what the L.A. Times wrote in its editorial that endorsed Barack Obama: "Clinton faced a test and failed, joining the stampede as Congress voted to authorize war. At last week's debate and in previous sessions, Clinton blamed Bush for abusing the authority she helped to give him, and she has made much of the fact that Obama was not yet in the Senate and didn't face the same test."

BLITZER: But Obama was in public saw the danger of the invasion and the consequences of occupation, and he said so. He was right."

MENENDEZ: Well, then we have to ask, when he had the power, as a member of the United States Senate, what was his judgment then?

And his judgment then, since he arrived in the Senate, was lockstep, exactly the same way that Hillary voted. And ultimately, he didn't choose to use his power to transition out until much later.

And so I would simply say the reality is, I think Americans are fixed on who can get us out of Iraq, so that we can stop the shed of American blood and the $500 billion we've spent and the $1 trillion we'll spend if we can't get a commander in chief who will transition us out.

And, by the way, Wolf, in 2004, the presidential election was won by Bush on women who were concerned about security and Latinos, who he got 40 percent of.

These are two major groups that support Hillary Clinton, and that can beat John McCain, who seems to be the obvious candidate.

BLITZER: He says -- both of them say, if they're elected president, they'll start withdrawing combat troops right away. He's made a commitment that all combat troops would be out within 16 months.

Senator Clinton has refused to go that far. She's leaving it open-ended and vague, how long it will take. Is that a problem for her?

MENENDEZ: Well, she's made it very clear that her intention is to bring our people home.

BLITZER: As quickly as possible, she says.

MENENDEZ: As quickly as possible. BLITZER: But she doesn't give a deadline, like he does.

MENENDEZ: Well, the bottom line is, I think, being commander in chief is making sure that you make judgments that both ensure the safety of our people, as you transition out, and guarantee that that transition can actually take place.

BLITZER: So is he being reckless by promising, within 16 months, a hard and fast deadline? Is that irresponsible?

MENENDEZ: No, I'm not say he's being reckless. I just think that it shows the maturity that she has, the experience she has, to say, I will bring our people home, but, at the same time, do it in a way that both guarantees their safety, ensures that our return is honorable, and does so in a way that still pursues our vital national interests.

BLITZER: He's also bringing a lot of inspiration out there. A lot of young people are flocking to his campaign.

I want to play this little clip of what he said on Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: In terms of electability, you know, I believe that I am attracting new voters and independent voters into the process in a way that Senator Clinton cannot do. I'm confident I will get her votes if I'm the nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And then he goes on to say it's not clear that she would get the votes I got if she were the nominee. What do you think?

MENENDEZ: I think that there's such a desire for making sure America heads in a different direction that Hillary will attract all of those votes.

I think one of the things that Senator Obama has not faced is the Republican attack machine. Hillary has well gone through that process. She is tried and proven. And the reality is that, when the Republican attack machine would go against Senator Obama, should he be the candidate, I think that he'll see a diminution of those people who he thinks will support him.

Look, the bottom line is, again, in 2004, who flocked to Republicans?

Women who were concerned about security and Latinos who gave 40 percent of their vote to Hillary. Hillary has an enormous support among the Latino community because of a lifetime of work with us. And that same category of women are overwhelmingly supporting her.

So the bottom line -- tried and tested; the experience necessary to make the change we want; and attracting that universe of voters that gave Republicans the last presidential election. I think that's a good case, especially against John McCain, should he be their candidate.

BLITZER: And finally, if she gets the nomination, should she pick him, Obama, as her running mate?

MENENDEZ: Well, you know, it's too early to talk about running mates, but, of course, Senator Obama is a great United States senator, a great American figure. I'm sure that he will be seriously in the running.

BLITZER: Would you like that?

MENENDEZ: You know, I would love to believe that that would be a dream team for America.

BLITZER: Yes, I think a lot of people -- a lot of Democrats, at least based on the response to that question I asked the other night in the debate, believe that as well.

Senator Menendez, thanks very much for coming in.

MENENDEZ: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And in our next hour, we'll speak with an adviser to the Obama campaign, the Arizona governor Janet Napolitano. That's coming up. But up next, we'll check in with our own Bill Schneider. He's out in California. It's a delegate-rich state for the candidates.

Bill Schneider's standing by on the CNN Election Express.

And later, is Ralph Nader gearing up for another White House run?

We're going to ask him, what is he up to right now? Stay with us. You're watching "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Super Tuesday will be a huge day for both the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, with nearly a dozen states in play for both parties. The biggest prize right now? California.

That's where our senior analyst Bill Schneider is standing by. He's aboard the CNN Election Express in Los Angeles.

California polls, lately, on both contests -- what are they showing, Bill?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. ANALYST: They're showing a race that's tightening up, Wolf. We have two new California polls. The Field poll shows Clinton ahead of Obama by just two points, with the race tied among white Anglo voters; absolutely dead even between Clinton and Obama; Obama leading among African-Americans here in California, but Clinton's small lead, due to her strong support among Latino voters. Similarly, a Mason-Dixon poll shows Clinton ahead by a little big bigger margin, nine points. And both polls, on the Republican side, show John McCain ahead, but by not a huge margin, around ten points.

BLITZER: What about California? Obviously, it's the biggest state, the most at stake for both of these presidential contests, on the Democratic and the Republican side.

Give our viewers a little perspective of California on Tuesday.

SCHNEIDER: California's having, really, 53 separate contests. It's 53 primaries. That's the number of congressional districts in this state. Because that's how most of the delegates are apportioned.

In the Republican primary, whoever wins a congressional district gets three delegates. It doesn't matter if there are a small number of Republican voters or a huge number of Republican voters. The prize is three delegates.

And that's why Huckabee and Mitt Romney and John McCain are all targeting different pockets of strength in California where they expect to do well.

On the Democratic side, the same thing; it's a separate contest in each district; the delegates are divided. And it looks very much as if the California delegate trove, that huge number of delegates to be apportioned here, could be split just about evenly between the two leading Democrats.

BLITZER: So it really doesn't make any difference, for practical purposes, who gets the popular vote on the Republican or the Democratic side. It's all about delegates right now. Is that right?

SCHNEIDER; It is all about delegates. And in fact, we've seen polls in eight different states come out. And what they suggest is that, on the Democratic side, at least, Clinton and Obama could split that delegate load, on Super Tuesday, over 1,600 delegates. They could split them just about evenly.

And what does that mean? It means this race, the Democratic race, could go on and on. I should mention that most of the polls do show Clinton ahead. In the eight states, she's ahead in five of them by single digits, except in her own New York. And Obama is leading in three, Alabama, Georgia, and his own state of Illinois.

All of the states show John McCain leading Mitt Romney, with Huckabee coming in third in all but one of the states.

SCHNEIDER: And it appears that Mitt Romney -- sorry, John McCain's lead is growing, whereas Hillary Clinton's lead seems to be narrowing.

BLITZER: All right. We'll watch California and all of these states, more than 20, almost two dozen, on Tuesday. Thanks very much, Bill Schneider, for that. A lot more coming up with the best political team on television. But coming up next, Ralph Nader has some tough words for both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Is he planning to jump into the race? You're going to hear what he has to say. Ralph Nader here on "Late Edition" when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." We're reporting from New York City, home of the CNN Election Center. Ralph Nader launched independent bids for the White House in both 2000 and 2004. And he's now making it clear he isn't necessarily very happy with this year's Democratic and presidential candidates. Ralph Nader is joining us now from Washington. Thanks very much for coming in.

NADER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: On the day that I think -- correct me if I'm wrong, that John Edwards announced he was dropping out of this contest, you announced you're creating the presidential exploratory committee to see if there's enough money, enough interest in your running as an independent candidate. Give us the correlation between Edwards dropping out -- I know you had praised him on and off as having a, quote, "glimmer of hope" -- and your new ambition, if it is an ambition, to run for the White House once again.

NADER: Well, the voters lost a critic of corporate control in the form of John Edwards, also in the departure of Dennis Kucinich. And corporate control is a major issue in any political campaign, especially when giant corporations have such influence over elections, over government, over the lack of enforcement against the corporate crime wave, the burgeoning wasteful military budget, the hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate welfare.

So we've opened a Web site, naderexplore08.org, to test the waters, as the phrase goes, to see the range of volunteers, of staff, of donations, in order to determine in a few weeks whether to pursue a presidential candidacy. BLITZER: I know you don't like the Republican candidates, and you've told me on several occasions that you consider Hillary Clinton a panderer. That's the word you've used. But what about Barack Obama? What don't you like about him?

NADER: He's too abstract and too general. He comes on as a constitutional law specialist, but he offers nothing to hold this outlaw presidency of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney accountable. There are so many impeachable offenses that have been documented by people such as the head of the American Bar Association a couple years ago, Michael Greco and many other legal scholars and practitioners.

And he's not speaking out. He's backing away from any kind of accountability for a presidency that has made a mockery of the constitution, made a mockery of federal law and international treaties, whether it's systemic torture and illegal war in Iraq, spying on Americans without judicial approval or undermining the authority of Congress, which he's a part of.

The other thing, he says he wants to reduce health-care expenses, but again he avoids issues where the corporations are ripping into the health-care dollar, over $200 billion of computerized billing fraud and abuse, according to the GAO. You have over $300 billion that can be saved by a full Medicare system in administrative expenses.

You have too many operations. You have over-medication. These are the things that corporations are profiting from, and he's not focusing enough. In addition to medical malpractice and infectious hospital-induced infections. So, he's got to have more fortitude. He is censoring himself. And that's the tragedy.

BLITZER: So, basically what I hear you saying, one of the these two individuals, whether Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, they're going to be the Democratic presidential nominee. And what I hear you saying, correct me if I'm wrong, is you don't like either one of them, and you really don't see much of a difference between the two of them.

NADER: It's what John Edwards said indirectly, replacing corporate Republicans with corporate Democrats doesn't solve a thing. We have to have public funding of campaigns, we have to open up the judiciary for people who have been wrongfully injured or ripped off. The fraud in the marketplace has been documented by mainstream press.

By the way, Wolf, everything I've spoken about has been documented CNN, in Businessweek, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, AP, and yet it doesn't move these injustices, deprivations. These great solutions do not move into the electoral, political and governmental arenas.

That's the problem of two indentured parties to corporate control, and indeed, a Businessweek poll in the year 2000 said 72 percent of the American people believe that corporations have too much control over their lives. And that was before the massive corporate crime wave from Enron to Wall Street.

BLITZER: Let me read to you what The Nation magazine put out on the Web site on Thursday after it became clear you were once again seriously thinking of running for the White House: "Nader's 2000 run for the presidency as the Green Party nominee won 2,883,105 votes, 2.74 percent of the popular total, and the enmity of Democrats who claimed the support of the left-leaning candidate attracted in Florida and New Hampshire cost Al Gore those states and the presidency. Nader campaigned again for the presidency again in 2004 as an independent, winning 463,653 votes." That would be 0.38 percent.

The numbers went down from 2000 to 2004. What makes you think you would do any better this time?

NADER: The Democrats filed 23 lawsuits in 12 weeks to get us off the ballot in state after state like Pennsylvania and Ohio. They did it, in their own words, to distract us and to drain our resources. They're not going to get away with that this time.

We're ready for them. We're developing a pro bono network of lawyers. We've already sued the Democratic National Committee for what they did in abuse of legal process in 2004. We are now being flooded with volunteers. Donations are coming in in the testing of the water, period.

And I always believed, Wolf, that the forces of injustice work 24 hours a day. The forces for justice and redirection in this country that's desired by so many Americans who are dissatisfied with the two parties, the forces for justice must also work 24 hours a day.

BLITZER: Well, what will you say -- and this argument will be made if it hasn't yet -- that in a potential contest between Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama on the Democratic site let's say against John McCain or Mitt Romney for that matter, Ralph Nader jumping in at this point attracting left-wing liberal votes out there, that you would take potential votes away from Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in key states like Florida or Ohio or Pennsylvania, and that you could tip the scales in favor of the Republican?

What do you say in response to that argument that you will hear?

NADER: What I say is, we all have equal right to run for election. Either none of us are spoilers or all of us are spoilers trying to take the vote from one another. I look forward to you, Wolf, asking Hillary Clinton or John McCain or Barack Obama how they feel about taking votes from one another.

You see the discrimination against small parties as if they're second-class citizens. We've got to get over that. The voters want more choices, more voices, and we've got to give it to them.

BLITZER: Well, does it make any difference to you if a Democrat or Republican is in the White House?

NADER: Of course it does, but the question is, do both flunk? Do both undermine the future potential of our country, the many solutions in energy and housing and public transit and tax reform, and curtailing that bloated military budget and cracking down on corporate crime fraud and abuse. These two parties have been converging, unfortunately, on too many issues to avoid addressing these issues.

And they've been converging because they've been dialing for the same corporate dollars. That's why we've set up this Web site to test the waters. OK, Americans, you want more choice? It's naderexplore08.org.

And that basically is not just candidates' rights, Wolf. It's looking at voters who want more choice. And we should not deny them more choice by these horrendous ballot access obstructions that the major parties can invoke in order to create this two-party control over our country.

BLITZER: When I interviewed you back in November, this is what you said about the possibility of a third-party run by the New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NADER: I would like the idea of a no-nonsense mayor, who doesn't have to dial for dollars and who can go right in and turn it into a multiparty or multicandidate race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. What do you think about a potential Bloomberg run? Would that stop you from running? NADER: No, because he will address certain issues the other two parties will not address in different kinds of languages, you know, clear languages, like he does as mayor. He doesn't address the civil liberties issues. He's not good on civil liberties. He's not good on stopping taxpayer subsidies to corporate welfare recipients, big corporations on the dole.

So, I don't know we are rationing candidate choice in this country. We certainly don't ration entertainment. we don't ration sports. We shouldn't ration candidate choice, we shouldn't ration debates, we shouldn't ration the full, vibrant, robust process of democracy so that taboo issues are untaboo, and they're put right to the table for the American people to address.

BLITZER: Ralph Nader joining us from Washington. Thanks very much for coming in.

NADER: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, new details about Israel's bombing of a suspected Syrian nuclear site last year. We're going to get the inside story from The New Yorker magazine's investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh. He's standing by live. "Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: With the presidential primary season in full swing, remember that CNN is your home for politics. This week, get ready for the Super Tuesday marathon. We'll be live from the CNN Election Center here in New York. The best political team on television covers every race all day and all night. CNN's Super-Duper Tuesday coverage begins Tuesday morning, 6 a.m. Eastern.

And if you missed even a second of the Republican debate, you can watch it as the candidates duke it out. Then you can stick around for another chance to be part of the most-watched primary debate in cable history, the California Democratic presidential debate. It all starts today at 5 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

What was the real reason Israel bombed a suspected nuclear site in Syria? It may have had something to do with Iran. The New Yorker magazine's investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, he's standing by live. He's done a lot of reporting on this story. He's got some new information. We're going to be speaking with him right after this. Stay with us. You're watching "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York. And we'll get back to presidential politics shortly, but first, new details emerging about last year's Israeli bombing of some sort of target in Syria, a target some reports claimed was actually a nuclear site. Very little has been said about the September 6th incident by either the Israeli government, the Syrian government or the U.S. government, for that matter.

But the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has been following the story closely now, ever since then.

BLITZER: He has a brand new article that's coming out in the new issue of The New Yorker magazine, the article entitled "A Strike in the Dark: What did Israel bomb in Syria?"

Sy Hersh is joining us, right now, on "Late Edition." Sy, thanks for coming in.

HERSH: Glad to be here.

BLITZER: All right, what's the answer? What did Israel bomb in Syria?

HERSH: Well, the only thing I can say is that we don't know. This is a wonderful, sort of, a complicated story, as you can gather, simply because neither -- as you said, neither the United States -- here Israel bombs another country, basically an act of war. There was no previous history between the two, no violence, and it wasn't a counter-attack.

They bomb another country. They don't say anything publicly about it. The Israeli great ally, the United States, says nothing. Syria doesn't say much about it. They complain but they're very muted, too.

And so you have a situation where one foreign country bombs another one, an act of war, in the Middle East, and nobody talks about it. And that's what struck me as an amazing story.

BLITZER: It really is an amazing story. I've been covering that part of the world, like you, for a long time. And it's very bizarre.

Let me read, a little bit, from what you write in the article in The New Yorker. "Whatever was under construction, with North Korean help, it apparently had little to do with agriculture -- or with nuclear reactors -- but must to do with Syria's defense posture, and its military relationship with North Korea. And that, perhaps, was enough to silence the Syrian government after the September 6 bombing."

There were all sorts of contradictory statements coming from the Damascus regime, but they didn't really say a whole lot. There were North Koreans working at that site. And that clearly raised a lot of alarm bells.

HERSH: Well, certainly. One of the things we do know -- first of all, what makes this, sort of, fascinating on a number of levels -- on one level, this is, sort of, a boy reporter story. You know, I'm trying to figure out what's going on. Here's an act of war that nobody's paying much attention to.

There was tremendous sotto voce stuff. In other words, the Israeli government and the American government were leaking, or telling newspaper people, particularly in America but also in Europe, all sorts of wonderful grandiose details about what happened, commando raids, et cetera.

But the reality is, when you began to look at each part of what the Israelis and the Americans said, and the material that was quoted in the various newspapers, they, sort of, fall apart.

There was a story about a ship that arrived from North Korea three days before the event, full of illicit materials. It turns out that ship hadn't been in North Korea -- or been through the Suez Canal for 10 years. It could not possibly have been delivering anything hot.

So every single fact, when you looked at it, disappeared. The bottom line is Israel may indeed have some evidence that's overwhelming. And if this story forces them to give it out, make it public, that's great; I'm all for it.

But without that sort of evidence, what they have done is they've simply bombed another country. i could find no evidence from anywhere, from nobody inside the United States or the intelligence community, nobody inside Syria, that there was anything nuclear there.

BLITZER: Well, you can't say it was nuclear or you can't say it wasn't nuclear, either. But you do write this, in the story, and I'll read from the article, "A Strike in the Dark."

"In Syria, I was able to get some confirmation that North Koreans were at the target. A senior officer in Damascus with firsthand knowledge said that the targeted building, when completed, would most likely have been used as a chemical warfare facility."

Would it have been justified for the Israelis to attack this site if, in fact, it were a chemical warfare facility, as opposed to some sort of nuclear facility?

HERSH: Well, you would have to answer that question yourself. Because there's chemical warfare facilities all over the world.

Because somebody has a chemical weapon, does that mean it passes some sort of, you know, green or red line for the Israelis? I don't think so.

I think the world would be very upset if one country thought it could do whatever it wanted, particularly in this day and age.

But you know, I can tell you right now that the Israelis also are very adamant that there was something nuclear there.

You know, let me tell you the Syrian position on this, in a way. One of the questions is, why didn't Syria do more? Sure, they had North Koreans there and they were building something there.

But the Syrian position, it seems to me, is look what happened, in the summer of 2006, Hezbollah, the "party of God" and the Shiites, in Lebanon, captured two Israeli soldiers. And the response was 34 days of American bombing -- of Israeli bombing with the United States, Bush, looking off in the distance.

Here is Syria gets bombed and nobody says anything, nobody in the world, not much in the Arab world. There is a double standard there. And I think the Syrians are acutely aware of it.

And so the fact that they had something there; they were building something -- my best guess, it wasn't even chemical. My best guess would be they were building a missile plant. And they hadn't built it. It was just being constructed, and...

BLITZER: I want to just interrupt, because Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency -- he was on "Late Edition" months ago. And he didn't see any evidence that there was a nuclear facility there, and if there were, he wished the Israelis would have come to the IAEA with that evidence.

He's also quoted, in your article, as saying this. "Our experts who have carefully analyzed the Ashcroft imagery say it is unlikely that this building was a nuclear facility."

Some of those commercial spy satellite photographs were released. We'll put them on the screen and show our viewers what they look like. It's hard to discern. We see a rectangular box there, down in the middle of this screen. And I guess experts can try to determine what it is, what it isn't.

So, based on all of your reporting -- and there you see the picture afterward, without that box there -- based on all of your reporting, Sy, you went to Damascus; you went to Tel Aviv. You spent a lot of time working on this story.

What's your best guess right now? What were the Syrians up to at that location?

HERSH: They were certainly building a military facility. And North Koreans were there. They were intercepted.

I think the Israeli position was -- and to get back to what you said in the introduction -- let's go hit; let's not wait and see what happens; this is not only useful in terms of putting the government of Syria in its place; it's also good for domestic politics in Israel -- wow, look what we can still do; we still have a deterrent.

And also, it's a message for the Iranians, that we're a-comin'. Don't think, because of the NIE, the new intelligence estimate, which was pretty weak in terms of the Israeli point of view, don't think it makes -- you don't have a ticket to ride. It was a message, too.

But the bottom line point is that the world really responded very shockingly little to this. There was -- I quote Morton Abramowitz, a former ambassador and head of intelligence in the administration of George Bush's father, as saying, "Where is the world outcry? Somebody bombed somebody else and nobody says anything?"

That's the issue I'm really looking at, to put more light on what happened and see if we can do something about it. And in the future, we can't have this happen.

BLITZER: Sy Hersh's article is in the new issue of The New Yorker magazine. Thanks, Sy, very much for coming in.

HERSH: Glad to be here.

BLITZER: And there's much more coming up on "Late Edition," including my interview with the Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Can his struggling campaign survive Super Tuesday?

We'll continue right at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

Hoping for another win.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUCKABEE: I think it's time for Mitt Romney to step aside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: With Super Tuesday just two days away, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee discusses his plan to bounce back. Racing against the clock.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Are we going to look forward? Are we going to look ahead at what is possible?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I am ready to lead, and let's make history together!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama locked in a battle for votes. We will hear from Obama supporter Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. Plus, a Super Tuesday preview. And what's at stake for the candidates? Insight from three of the best political team on television.

And on this Super Bowl Sunday, questions about whether the undefeated New England Patriots cheated. Will Congress get involved? Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter weighs in. This second hour of "Late Edition" begins right now.

And welcome back to the second hour of "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from the CNN Election Center right here in New York.

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's last win was exactly one month ago in Iowa. With Super Tuesday looming in his campaign right now, there's clearly a critical juncture under way for him. He joined me from the campaign trail in Atlanta just a short while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Governor Huckabee, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "Late Edition."

HUCKABEE: Thanks, Wolf. Great to be back.

BLITZER: All right. This is the big weekend right before Super Tuesday. I'm going to play a little sound bite from Mitt Romney speaking about you. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: You've got two people, really, at this point that have narrowed down the race. I don't want to be disrespectful of Governor Huckabee and Ron Paul. They're both good men, but at the current stage as you look at the national standings and the delegates that we've each lined and the votes we've each received, it's come down to basically a two-person race. And we are different, Senator McCain and I.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. So basically he is saying, you know what, Governor Huckabee, drop out and let McCain and Romney go at it. What do you say?

HUCKABEE: Well, I've got a different take on that. I think it's time for Mitt Romney to step aside. You know, I'm leading in the states that are going to be real critical on Super Tuesday throughout the South, substantially ahead of Mitt Romney in these states. And I think it's ludicrous for him to suggest that with only 8 percent of the delegates counted and us being very close to the same delegate count, that somehow that makes me irrelevant?

The fact is, he spent $100 million to have the same market share that I have for $7 million. Now, anybody with a Harvard MBA ought to know that the business model on that is, it's time to pull the plug on a business that is just not selling that well.

And the real challenge is to -- if he wants to call it a two-man race, fine, but that makes it John McCain and me.

BLITZER: All right. Because the other side of it is that some of the pundits are suggesting that you're really running right now not for president, but for vice president. You want to be on John McCain's ticket.

First of all, do you think his nomination looks like it's a done deal?

HUCKABEE: No, not at all. I mean, let's keep in mind that until somebody has 1,191 delegates, they're not the nominee. They may be a front-runner, but front-runner can become the back burner real quick in this race, as we've seen over and over. Rudy was the absolute de facto nominee. He's gone. Fred Thompson, he was going to suck all of the oxygen out of the room. He's gone. A number of others -- seven or eight other candidates, they're gone. I'm still here.

And I think people need to remember that the people are going to make this choice, not the national pundits. And Mitt Romney is not going to make the choice, either. That's why we're in it for the long haul.

Come Tuesday, we feel like we're going to pick up quite a few delegates and do very well. And we're going to keep going. And until somebody has 1,191 delegates, I'm still on the stage.

You know, you're not going to force me out. I've worked to hard to be here. And the fact is, you know, I'm not a quitter. I didn't get in my life where I am by just giving up and quitting because things got tough.

I've had a tough going all the way through, and it just makes me tougher and more determined.

BLITZER: The argument I guess they make is that you're willing to go after Mitt Romney, but you really stop short of criticizing John McCain. And that suggests, at least they are saying, that this is why you might be interesting in staying in this race to potentially run as his running mate.

You've heard that argument. I wonder what you say about it?

HUCKABEE: Well, I've heard the argument. John McCain hasn't gone after me either. Does that mean he's wanting to be my running mate? I think the point is, that we've had a respectful relationship because we both believe politics needs to be more civil.

And that's why we haven't attacked each other. But we both, McCain and me, we have been on the receiving end of millions of dollars of Mitt Romney's negative attack ads. So we understand that Mitt's tried to become the nominee by destroying the people around him.

And John McCain and I both have taken a different approach to the nomination and a path to it. We've tried to talk about what we are for, not what the other candidates are wrong about.

Now they are differences between John McCain and me. I support the human life amendment. We have different views on immigration. But they're still respectful views. And I do go around calling John McCain a liberal just because he has a different shade of views on some things.

And I think that's one of the reasons that we've kept it very civil.

BLITZER: In 2001, when John McCain voted against President Bush's tax cuts, he was one of two Republican senators to do so, including Lincoln Chafee, the former Republican senator from Rhode Island.

In justifying his nay vote on the Senate floor, he said these two things. On May 21st, 2001, McCain said: "The principle that guides my judgment of a tax reconciliation bill is tax relief for those who need it the most, lower- and middle-income working families."

And then on May 26th, he said: "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who most need tax relief."

Now a lot of people suggest that that is almost like the class warfare argument that the Democrats make, that the rich people don't need tax cuts, the middle class, the poor people need tax cuts.

What do say about those arguments that he made then in justifying his vote against President Bush's tax cut?

HUCKABEE: Well, I supported the president's tax cuts then. I support them now. I think anytime you can cut taxes, it is a good thing. And I don't believe that those tax cuts only affected those at the top.

But certainly, good tax policy ought to even things out for everybody. It's the reason I support the fair tax, which is a whole lot better than just cutting a few taxes here and there and making winners and losers.

It's the reason that a completely new tax approach is really preferable because it empowers everyone in the economy, those from the top to the bottom. But the people at the bottom actually end up getting the best deal out of the fair tax. So I hope more people will start looking at it and realizing that's the direction we really need to go.

BLITZER: Because the argument has been made, especially by Mitt Romney and other critics of John McCain that he's flip-flopped. Now he supports making the Bush tax cuts of 2001, 2003 permanent, even though he voted against them originally and he argued that it was no time to go ahead and give tax breaks to the wealthy, and in 2003, no time to give tax breaks really to anybody in a time of war.

Do you see an inconsistency there on the part of John McCain?

HUCKABEE: I would rather let Senator McCain explain his position on that. Mine's been consistent. I was for them then. I'm for them now. But again, I think they need to go further. I think we need to get rid of the IRS completely and stop the penalties on productivity. That is the problem with our tax code. It's not just a piece of it, it's the whole thing that is flawed because it's based on the idea that you punish people for doing well. You punish people for working, for saving, for investing, for making money. That's crazy.

What you ought to do is reward them for working hard, whether they're working hard at the bottom or working hard in the middle or at the top. Work ought to be something that we honor and cherish.

BLITZER: So just explain to our viewers why you're willing, more than anxious to go after Mitt Romney and criticize him when you think he is inconsistent, but you are reluctant to do so, clearly, as we have just seen, as far as John McCain is concerned.

HUCKABEE: Well, it is not that I'm reluctant. I have pointed out differences with Senator McCain and myself on immigration, human life amendment, embryonic stem cell research, McCain-Feingold. Those are areas where we're different.

But I don't feel like I've got to take a ball peen hammer to the kneecaps of John McCain to become president. I do feel like that when Mitt Romney tries to present himself as a consistent conservative, it just flies in the face of every fact out there because he's not been consistent, and he's a recent convert to many of the positions that I have held and some that John McCain has held.

But he's tried to paint both of us as liberal. And I think that's what we resent is when we were out there supporting Ronald Reagan, he was running away from him. And now he wants to try to claim that he's the true conservative.

I think that's what rankles many of us is that, you know, he's a recent convert and now he is shouting hallelujah louder than the rest of us who have been in church a long time.

BLITZER: He's also going after you, saying your proposal for economic stimulus, basically to strengthen the infrastructure of the country, build new highways from Bangor to Miami, as you said to me the other day, is really unrealistic.

BLITZER: Here's what Romney said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: An economic stimulus plan has to put money in the hands of consumers and businesses and homeowners now. Building a road project, you have to get designs, eminent domain; you get the engineers to approve it. It takes years and years and years to get a road project. So it's a wonderful idea, but it's not related to short-term economic stimulus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead, Governor, and respond.

HUCKABEE: Well, I was so anxious to get a chance to answer that the other night and I didn't get to. So I'm glad you're letting me do it now. I'm amazed at Mitt Romney, who, as a governor, didn't understand.

Maybe his highway department didn't do what the other highway departments across America do, and that is, they have these projects already ready. The engineering is done. The eminent domain is already done.

The only thing that we lack in Arkansas and in most states -- you ask any governor -- is funding. If we had the funding, we've got projects we're ready to pull the trigger on tomorrow. If we could get the bulldozers and the movers in, we could start pushing dirt aside and building stuff right now.

We've got the engineering studies. We've got the plats laid. Everything is in place. What we don't have is the money to pay for it. Many infrastructure projects, whether it is airports, roads, and bridges, have long been on the books. They are already ready.

Environmental impact studies have been done. But it doesn't have any funding. If we fund those projects, you put Americans to work; 47,500 Americans go to work every time we spend a billion dollars for infrastructure.

And when we do that, you are using American labor, you are using American concrete and steel. That's economic stimulus, and it's solving a real problem, and that is the problem of a choked infrastructure, where people are sitting in traffic for 38 hours a year, a full work week just sitting there, banging on their steering wheel because they can't get home.

BLITZER: Governor Huckabee, we've got to leave it there, but good luck Tuesday and beyond. I -- we don't know what is going to happen on Tuesday, but you're in it for the long haul, is that right?

HUCKABEE: I'll still be around next week and the week after that, until somebody gets all of those delegates. And I'm hoping it's me. We're in this thing -- this is a marathon, not a sprint, and I've said it all along. We're going to go to the finish line.

BLITZER: And I know you have run marathons, so you know what you're talking about. Hey, Governor, thanks very much.

HUCKABEE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, national polls show him closing the gap with rival Hillary Clinton, but how does Barack Obama plan to cash in big on Super Tuesday?

We'll talk with a top supporter of the senator's campaign, Janet Napolitano, the governor of Arizona. She's standing by live.

And don't forget our Super Tuesday marathon. Live from the CNN Election Center, the best political team on television covers every race, all day and night. CNN's coverage starts Super Tuesday morning, 6 a.m. Eastern. You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." A big challenge for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. He's hoping to move ahead of his rival, Hillary Clinton, on Super Tuesday, in two days.

In the last hour, we spoke with Clinton supporter Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey. Joining us now from Phoenix, the Obama campaign supporter, the Arizona governor, Janet Napolitano.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

NAPOLITANO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Especially on this day. I know you've got a big game coming up...

NAPOLITANO: Yes, the Super Bowl this afternoon.

BLITZER: ... just in a little while. We'll get to that at the end.

Let's talk, a little bit, about what we just heard from Senator Menendez. He supports Hillary Clinton. He says she does -- Senator Clinton does really well with women, with Latinos. That's a problem area for Barack Obama. In other words, he says Hillary Clinton is more electable in November than Obama is. What say you? NAPOLITANO: Well, you know, in the end, we are going to come together and fight for whoever is the nominee of our party. But Barack does very well with women. We saw that in Iowa. He does very well with Latinos. In fact, he's leading with Latinos in Arizona right now and has a lot of prominent Latino support.

And he does very well with independent voters. And they don't participate in this primary process so much. We've got an awful lot of closed primaries, closed caucuses, where they don't really vote. But they will be voting this fall.

And in states like Arizona, they'll represent 30 percent, 35 percent of the overall vote. And there Senator Obama does extraordinarily well.

BLITZER: What about the notion that the experience issue keeps coming up. I'm going to play a little clip of what Senator Clinton said in the debate Thursday night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: The next president will walk into the Oval Office and, waiting there, will be a stack of problems. It is imperative that we have a president, starting on day one, who can begin to solve our problems, tackle these challenges, and seize the opportunities that I think await.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right, it seems to be, at least, an indirect swipe at Obama, who she's suggesting, and certainly her supporters are suggesting may not necessarily be ready on day one.

NAPOLITANO: Oh, you know, in my view, he is ready. And what he is ready to do is to lead and to bring us together. And what he's ready to do is clean out that culture of Washington, D.C., which, over the last eight years or so, has become so poisonous and so partisan, and really bring out the best in this.

And when you go to an event with Barack Obama, you see a different chemistry. When come out by the thousands, they're coming out there because they see in him somebody that brings out the sense of unity and purpose and hope that is the best of the United States. And it's something we haven't seen in our politics for an awfully long time.

BLITZER: And you don't think she does that?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I think that he does it in a unique way. And that's why he is really gathering this movement all over the country. And I've been to many political events in my lifetime, and his are -- I use this word very cautiously, but practically -- his are inspiring.

They are inspiring in a different way. And they bring people together. And the more I deal with Washington, D.C., as a two-term governor now, the more I realize that city is broken and it's not doing what it needs to do for the rest of our country.

And it's leaving the states to fend for themselves. It's not coping with issues like energy and health care and immigration that we need to be able to solve, moving forward. And I think Senator Obama is the leader who can get us there.

BLITZER: On the issue of health care, Hillary Clinton says there's a major difference between her position and Senator Obama's position. Here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: My opponent will not commit to universal health care. I do not believe -- I do not believe we should nominate any Democrat who will not proudly stand here today, tomorrow, and the next day, and say "Universal health care is the goal."

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. His proposal stops short of universal health care, would cover, what, 80 percent of the American public? That is a significant difference.

NAPOLITANO: Well, it's a difference.

NAPOLITANO: Both candidates have health care at the center of the domestic policy platform. And that's as it should be. The lack of leadership on health care in this country over the past years has really been disgraceful.

The difference is the issue of mandates. Do you mandate the purchase of health care, of health insurance? And there where the Clinton campaign is lacking and telling us how you would actually enforce a mandate. Do you fine people who don't buy it? Do you punish them somehow?

The other thing is, realistically, and we have this in our states as we try health-care reform done at the state level, bringing everybody` together to pass a health-care package that has mandates in it is virtually impossible. And if you stick yourself on that, you're probably sticking yourself in paralysis. And we want to move that issue forward and get reform moving. And that's why I think Obama's plan is actually a, more realistic and b, ultimately more fair.

BLITZER: Another issue that came up in the debate where they disagree involved the issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. Here's what Obama said. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: From my perspective, I agree with Bill Richardson that there is a public safety concern here, and that we're better off because I don't want a bunch of hit-and-run drivers because they're worried about being deported, and so they don't report an accident. That is a judgment call.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He supports letting illegal immigrants get driver's licenses. She says, after some hesitation early on, she opposes now driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. I interviewed you a few months ago. You opposed driver's licenses for illegal immigrants as well. Is this a serious problem that you have with Barack Obama?

NAPOLITANO: Well, you know, I don't agree with Senator Obama on that point. But I'll tell you what. The driver's license issue is not the core of the immigration issue. I'm the governor who deals with illegal immigration more than any governor in the country.

And what Senator Obama's real immigration platform is one that recognizes the necessity for comprehensive immigration reform. And you can't have immigration reform unless you a, secure the border and b, enforce the immigration law with employers who consistently and intentionally hire illegal labor. That's creating this huge demand for what's going on in our country.

And you have to have an immigration plan that deals with that and sustains it over time. Not just a surge mentality during an election year but one that is a real immigration system, working from the border inward into the interior of the country. And I believe that Senator Obama's plan is very realistic and very positive in that regard.

BLITZER: Would you welcome what some call the dream ticket, Obama-Clinton, Clinton-Obama?

NAPOLITANO: Oh, I think they're both very talented individuals. But I don't speculate on tickets. I'm here today to say I think that Senator Obama's a great individual, great candidate, and will be a great leader for our country.

BLITZER: Janet Napolitano, good luck at the game today. I know you're going to be at the Super Bowl, right in Phoenix. We're going to be watching.

NAPOLITANO: That's great. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. And coming up, a Super Tuesday preview. Insight on the candidates and the key contests for the Republicans and the Democrats with three of the best political team on television. "Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's been a huge week in the presidential campaign, so let's get right to it with our analysts: CNN analysts Jeff Toobin, Gloria Borger and Fareed Zakaria. They're all part of the best political team on television. And I say that, Fareed, because I really believe it. It has the added advantage of actually being true.

ZAKARIA: I just wait for you to hear it. It's almost like religion.

BLITZER: Totally, totally consistent on that.

ZAKARIA: If it's Sunday morning, you've got to hear that.

BORGER: He likes us.

BLITZER: Let's look ahead to Tuesday. This is going to be a big race. Let's take a look at the Democratic side first of all, and I just want to put some numbers up on the screen. The delegates. Popular votes are important, but the delegates now all important.

On Tuesday, 1,681 delegates on the Democratic side will be at stake. You need 2,025 to be the Democratic presidential nominee in Denver at the convention. And for the Republicans, 1,020 delegates are up for grabs on Tuesday. You need 1,191 to be the Republican nominee at their convention in St. Paul.

Are we going to know on the Democratic side who the nominee will be on Tuesday, or will Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have to continue fighting after Tuesday?

ZAKARIA: I think there's actually a good chance they will continue fighting because the polls now have them nationally within the margin of error. Hillary is still leading, but as you know, that doesn't translate exactly into delegates, because some of them are winner, some of them are not.

So you could end up with a situation where Hillary has a lead, but the lead is not so commanding that a couple more states wouldn't switch the balance the other way. Obama takes the lead, but still Hillary could catch up. They're both nationally viable Democratic candidates. First time it has ever happened since the introduction of the primaries.

BLITZER: And you agree that this could go on after Tuesday...

BORGER: I agree.

BLITZER: ... on the Democratic side.

BORGER: I agree because remind our viewers that these are not winner take all on the Democratic side. It's proportional. And when you look at delegate counts that a lot of people have done who study these things closely, you see that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could each wind up with somewhere over 800. And that means they would live to fight another day.

TOOBIN: You see, I disagree a little. I think even though the delegates are going to wind up being fairly evenly divided, if one candidate wins 20 out of 22 or 19 out of 22, comes in first in that many states, it's going to be very hard for the other one to continue, even though the delegates will be fairly even.

So, yes, we're saying the delegates matter a lot. But if Hillary Clinton, who's ahead, wins 20 of 22 primaries, I don't think Barack Obama (inaudible).

ZAKARIA: I agree with you, Jeff, if there's a consistent pattern. In other words, if one person wins 20 of 22.

TOOBIN: That's what I mean, yeah.

ZAKARIA: But what if they win ten each?

TOOBIN: Well, then it's by no means over. But I mean, if one does, then it's over.

BORGER: But I also think -- I guess I disagree because I also think that one thing we've learned in this race is that people haven't been getting bounces out of their victories the way we are used to seeing it. And I think that you could be right. But I could be right. We just don't know, because... TOOBIN: No, only I can be right. You can't be right.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: But if we're putting up on the screen, she gets 80 delegates and he gets 85 delegates somewhere, that's the race that people are really going to be paying attention to because everybody's counting.

BLITZER: It is sort of like, you know, and correct me if I am wrong, come a general election, the popular vote is important. But you know what's really important is the Electoral College, the vote for 270 in the Electoral College. George W. Bush in 2000 had more -- half a million more votes, popular votes, than Al Gore did. But guess who became president.

TOOBIN: No, no, the other way around.

BLITZER: Excuse me. Right. George W. Bush had half a million...

TOOBIN: The phones will be lighting up with Gore supporters.

BLITZER: Right. Gore had a half million -- I'll correct the record.

BLITZER: Gore had a half a million more votes than Bush did, but Bush became president because of the Electoral College. Same thing here. We could see a situation where Hillary Clinton potentially could get more popular votes on Tuesday, but Barack Obama could pick up more delegates.

ZAKARIA: I think Jeff's point is true, which is that the momentum and the public mood would be that the person who, if one of them overwhelmingly won 20 states, the fact that there was, you know, it was close and that the other one had many delegates, probably would not count.

BLITZER: Well, we'll see how we look at it. I want to play a little clip of what Barack Obama said at the debate the other night. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I also want to note that I was friends with Hillary Clinton before we started this campaign. I will be friends with Hillary Clinton after this campaign over. We're running a competitive race. But it's because we both love this country. And we believe deeply in the issues that are at stake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Gloria, there was a lot of love there expressed...

BORGER: A lot of love.

BLITZER: ... at that debate the other night. And then I asked at the end about the so-called dream ticket. And I've gotten a ton of mail on that, as you can imagine. What is the possibility that if she gets the nomination, she would go to Barack Obama and say, I want you on my ticket?

BORGER: I think Hillary Clinton, if she gets the nomination, will do whatever she thinks she has to do to win. And maybe Barack Obama could help her.

I don't think that if it were reversed and if Barack Obama were to get the nomination, that he would go anywhere near Hillary Clinton. Because I don't believe that in their calculation, she would really help him to win, particularly on a ticket that's about change. TOOBIN: I think that's right. Although I think I would say it's more likely than you would say that Hillary would ask Barack to be vice president. I think the political appeal of that is great, and also it would say...

BORGER: Well, it might help her win. It might help her win.

TOOBIN: That's right. But I think the old rules are out the window about, you know, senators picking governors, geographical balance. Al Gore and Bill Clinton were from the same part of the country. George Bush did not pick Dick Cheney because he needed to carry Wyoming.

But I just think the old rules are over. And they would be a very good ticket together.

BORGER: But it's about winning. That's what vice presidents are about.

ZAKARIA: Yes. And he brings energy. He brings independence. He brings the sense of change and the possibility.

I think the important thing to also recognize is the Democratic Party is more united than it probably has been in, I don't know, 25 years. If you go back, the Democratic Party was riven with geographic differences, class differences, ideological differences. This is a party remarkably unified in terms of basic policy. I mean, they have to struggle to find areas where they're different.

BLITZER: I'll tell you, when we were preparing for the debate the other night among the Democratic presidential candidates, we were struggling to find out precisely how different their positions were on a lot of the most sensitive issues. Differences on style, differences on their history, experience and all that. But when it came to actual policy, you know, we found differences, but you know, the differences...

BORGER: Health care.

TOOBIN: That health-care difference is being exaggerated. And you know, which way they get to universal health care. Hillary does it with a mandate. Barack does it with incentives.

But I mean, you would think it's some enormous difference. Whereas, in fact, they differ with the Republicans entirely. I mean, this is a time when the Republicans and the Democrats look at scores of issues very, very differently.

BORGER: And this is a time when the Republican Party is splintered over their potential nominee.

BLITZER: That explains why, I think, at this point in the history of the Democratic Party, none of us should rule out the possibility of that, quote, "dream ticket" emerging. We'll see, though. We will wait and see the nomination first. The presidential candidates were all over the other Sunday morning talk shows today. We're going to bring you some of the highlights from our very popular "in case you missed it" segment, and then we'll continue our conversation with the best political team on television. "Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. On CBS, Senator Barack Obama explained why he thinks his style of politics makes him the stronger candidate to take on the Republican nominee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The tone that I take, the ability to disagree without being disagreeable, the willingness to listen to Republicans about some of their ideas even though I may not agree with all of them, I think that creates a different climate. And I think we can attract independents and Republicans in a way that Senator Clinton cannot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On ABC, Senator Hillary Clinton maintained that she will emerge as the Democratic nominee for president. And it appears she has an opinion on who her Republican opponent will be.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I can draw a very stark contrast with Senator McCain. I think I can go up against Senator McCain. I think the contrast between me and Senator McCain could not be stronger. It would be a tremendous contest between Senator McCain and myself. I think I can draw the contrast and stand on that stage with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator McCain appeared on Fox, where he addressed concerns that conservatives within his own party are unhappy with the prospect he might be the Republican nominee for the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: The job is, when the primaries are over, is to unite the entire party, and I'm confident that I can do that. I have a strong conservative record, and I'm proud of that record. And I also believe on the national security side, it's going to be a clear difference between me and Senator Clinton or Senator Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

Up next, we'll get back to our political panel and get their take on the high stakes for the presidential candidates, take a closer look at John McCain. "Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're back with Jeff Toobin, Gloria Borger, and Fareed Zakaria. They're all part of the best political team on television.

John McCain -- a lot of the pundits suggesting he's looking like he's going to be the Republican presidential nominee. We don't know what's going to happen on Tuesday, though. We'll wait and see.

But one of the conservative radio talk show host, not only one but several of them, including Rush Limbaugh -- they're pretty upset about this. They don't like John McCain, Limbaugh saying, on January 15, "If either of these two guys" -- referring to McCain and Mike Huckabee -- "get the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party. It's going to change it forever, be the end of it."

How much does a problem does McCain have with these radio talk show hosts?

TOOBIN: I think it is a problem, but it's certainly not going to stop him from getting the nomination. I think it's going to hurt him in two ways, potentially.

One is money. For all that he's made an enormous amount of progress, financially, he's still way behind Obama and Clinton. And I expect that will continue, because he doesn't have the mobilized Republican base.

The other issue is turnout. Certainly most Republicans will vote for John McCain. But, you know, these elections historically have been very close. And, you know, in 2004, you had a very mobilized Republican electorate. They had all the gay rights initiatives that they wanted to vote down across the -- those folks may just stay home.

BORGER: You know, if John McCain were to get the nomination, what he would do is call a pow-wow and personally meet with all of these conservatives to reassure them that he would appoint the kind of judges they want, that he's got an 80 percent voting record with the -- with conservatives, that he is actually a conservative.

He's never going to be great friends with them. But you can be sure he'll just reach out to them.

And on the other hand, every time the conservatives say they don't like John McCain, it helps him in the general election. Because it gives independent voters a sense that he's independent.

So he can, kind of, play this both ways if he's very smart. And I bet he'll try and do that.

BLITZER: What do you think, Fareed?

ZAKARIA: I think that, in a general election, he will do just fine. Because I think he has enormous crossover appeal. The key issue is turnout and energy.

I think we've learned two things from this primary contest so far; one, that the polls can vary enormously, but that the core issue for the Republicans, of immigration, turned out to be a very small issue for a small number of people -- deep, intense feelings, but once you get to the big states -- you know, otherwise it was impossible for McCain to have done as well as he's done.

But you wonder about those people who regard him as "Amnesty John." What are they going to do on the night of the general election?

TOOBIN: Well, the other thing we've learned about turnout is that Republican turnout has not been very good.

BORGER: Right, so...

TOOBIN: And John McCain hasn't even got 40 percent of the vote in any primary he's contested in, whereas Democratic turnout has been stratospheric.

So I think the burden on McCain is quite considerable. I mean, he...

BLITZER: There's no doubt, Gloria, that the Democrats are much more energized, right now...

BORGER: Oh, Absolutely...

BLITZER: ... with their two remaining candidates, as opposed to the Republicans.

BORGER: Well, they're breaking records, as Jeff was saying, in every single primary we've seen. And the Republicans have to find a way to turn out their voters. And of course, the evangelicals, the conservatives are the most fervent part of the Republican base.

But can I say something? If Hillary Clinton is the nominee, nothing will energize the Republican base more than seeing the possibility of Hillary Clinton in the White House.

BLITZER: And then all these hypothetical polls that come up, a hypothetical match-up between John McCain versus Hillary Clinton or John McCain versus Barack Obama, it's extremely tight.

ZAKARIA: It's very tight. But what do we know about the polls so far? BORGER: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

McCain was counted out. He was running fifth in the national polls only a month ago. I think, if McCain is the nominee, what we do know is that the debate will probably center around two things, Iraq and health care.

Because those are the two issues on which McCain is very different from the Democrats, is solidly conservative. And I think Iraq will occupy a large space because McCain will drive that discussion.

And in a way, it's very good for the country. Because if it's McCain versus Obama, you have two very distinct positions on Iraq. And it's a debate the United States needs to have, because we need to figure out...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Do you think that the distinction between McCain and Hillary Clinton would be distinctive?

ZAKARIA: I think most people regard Hillary Clinton's position on Iraq as much more determined by political constraints and opportunities.

BORGER: But she doesn't want more troops in Iraq, the way McCain...

ZAKARIA: No. But the core decision, Gloria, is, are we going to be in Iraq for the next three years or the next 30?

BORGER: Or 100, as McCain says.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

ZAKARIA: Obama's position seems to be clear. Maybe he's exaggerating whether we can get out tomorrow, but he wants it sooner rather than later.

And McCain's view is, this is South Korea; this is Germany; we'll stay as long as we want.

Americans need to make that decision.

TOOBIN: I think the other issue that will be big is the economy. I mean, we have the economy heading into a recession, perhaps. And I think, regardless of McCain's responsibility, he will be the one, as a Republican, having to defend the current state of the economy and Bush's economic program. That, I think, is going to also be a big factor. BLITZER: All right. Guys, we've got to leave it right there. But we're going to be working hard over the next few days. We've got a big day on Tuesday, especially. Thanks for coming in.

And up next, it's Super Bowl Sunday. But the undefeated New England Patriots are caught up in a new controversy that's being called Spy-gate. We'll speak with one U.S. senator who is calling for a federal investigation right now, Arlen Specter of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He's standing by live, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In just a few hours, Super Bowl XLII kicks off in Glendale, Arizona. The New England Patriots will complete a perfect season, 19 straight wins, if -- and it is still a huge if -- if they defeat the New York Giants tonight.

But there are questions about whether the Patriots previously cheated by videotaping their opponents on the sidelines before and during games. Those tapes have since been destroyed by the NFL. And the Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, wants to know why.

Senator Specter is joining us now from Philadelphia. Thanks for coming in.

SPECTER: Well, Wolf, I became interested in this when I found out about the taping of the Jets game early, and I wondered if the Patriots/Eagles Super Bowl game had been taped. And I wrote to the commissioner and never got an answer.

And then when I read about the destruction of tapes, I was really perplexed.

And the NFL has a very special place in our society. They have an antitrust exemption. They have a duty to be sure that there is integrity.

Now, bear this in mind, Wolf. I have just written a couple of letters and had a couple of interviews. We are not ignoring the Iraq situation or the stimulus package or confirmation of judges, but there may be a couple of federal statutes involved here.

It is a federal offense to steal trade or business secrets. And football is a big business, and these are secrets.

And there is also an issue -- federal prohibition on destroying records, which may become pertinent. So...

BLITZER: Here's what the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Friday. Roger Goodell: "The action that we took was decisive and unprecedented. It sent a loud message to not only the Patriots, but every NFL team that you should follow the rules. There are very good explanations for the reason why I destroyed the tapes or had them destroyed by our staff. They were totally consistent with what the team told me. There was no purpose for them." All right, so what do you say to the commissioner?

SPECTER: Well, I say to the commissioner that the reason he gives for destroying the tapes, that they might be used later, doesn't make any sense. I say to the commissioner that the New York Times had interviewed a series of experts, published today, who said the investigation was totally incomplete. They didn't talk to a man named Matt Wolf -- Matt Walsh, who was the Patriots videotaper. They haven't talked to Curt Warner, who was the quarterback for the Rams in a game now that's being disclosed that there was an issue about the taping of that game. And Mike Martz, the coach of the Rams, said that he was amazed. The Patriots are said to have taped a walk-through...

BLITZER: So what I hear you saying, Senator, is that you don't trust the NFL to investigate itself. You think outside investigators should come in and take a close look at what's being done because of the special treatment the NFL gets from the federal government?

SPECTER: Well, I'm saying that there are a lot of suspicious circumstances. And I'm not prepared to make any accusations. I want to talk to Commissioner Goodell. He has agreed to come in to talk to me. But there are a lot of questions which need to be answered.

The integrity of football is very, very important, and it's especially important in the context of the special status which the NFL enjoys from their antitrust exemption. And the reasons given by the commissioner don't hold up.

Look here -- they say on one hand that they had looked into the 2002 Super Bowl. But when Commissioner Goodell had his news conference on Friday, he said that they only examined six tapes going back to 2006 and 2007. When he's asked about what is the reason for the destruction of the tapes, he does not come up with any valid reason.

BLITZER: Let me ask you on a related question involving the NFL. A story in the Washington Post today saying that at churches right now, including 200 members of the Emmanuel Bible Church outside of Washington, D.C., they are being told they can't show the Super Bowl in front of their congregants later tonight because they are using a six-foot screen, and this violates copyright infringement of the NFL. Yet, they can show the NFL Super Bowl at bars all over the country. I know you are upset about this. But what, if anything, are you doing about it?

SPECTER: Well, I'm going to introduce legislation tomorrow, which will grant an exempt for organizations that have as their primary purpose social events. When the churches are inviting people in, it's not for religious services; it's for a social event. And there's absolutely no reason why you ought to be able to have a big screen in a bar but not in a church, where a church is having a social event.

I think when the NFL has sent out letters to churches saying you can't have a social event, they have sort of lost touch with their duty of accountability to the American people. BLITZER: Arlen Specter, taking on the NFL on this Super Sunday. Senator Specter, thanks for coming in.

SPECTER: Always good to talk with you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: And coming up next, you're going to see what's on the cover of the major news magazines here in the United States. And, by the way, if you would like a recap of today's program, you can go get highlights on our "Late Edition" podcast. It's very popular. Simply go to CNN.com/podcast.

Coming up at the top of the hour, you can catch the candidates on the campaign trail unfiltered. That's coming up for our viewers in North America. "Ballot Bowl" starts right at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our viewers from states voting this super Tuesday weighed in on the prospect of electing the nation's first woman president.

Robert in California writes this -- "I am not opposed to a woman president. By herself, Hillary Clinton would make a fine president, but I cannot vote for her because of her association with Bill Clinton. The Clintons have had their time in the White House. Now it's time for new leadership. I cast my vote for Barack Obama."

Helen from Minnesota writes this -- "I am positive that since we have had all male presidents since George Washington, it is time for a woman. The men have gotten this country in such a mess that it will take a woman to straighten it out and do the right job."

We always welcome your comments. Our email address is at lateedition@cnn.com.

Let's take a look at what's on the cover of the major news magazines here in the United States. Newsweek profiles John McCain, "Inside the Mind and Heart of the Republican Presidential Candidate." Time looks at why young voters care again and why their votes matter. And U.S. News & World Report has tips on keeping your brain fit. We can use that.

That's your "Late Edition" for this Sunday, February 3rd. Please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. We are in "The Situation Room" Monday through Friday from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York. For our international viewers, stand by for world news. For those of you in North America, CNN special coverage of the presidential candidates, the "Ballot Bowl," begins right now.

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