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Interview With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Mitt Romney Withdraws From Presidential Race; Will Super-Delegates Have More Say Than Voters?

Aired February 7, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Mitt Romney's out. John McCain, though, still has a problem. Can he win over conservatives, some of whom actually booed him today? The best political team on television looks at the Republicans after Romney's exit.

Plus, the Democrats desperate for all the cash they can get. Can Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama afford to have their contest drag out?

And the power of those super-delegates. Will it be fair if the party leaders, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, choose the Democratic nominee? I will ask her in an exclusive interview.

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

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

Mitt Romney says he hates to lose, but he won't stand in John McCain's way any longer. Romney announced today he's suspending his presidential campaign for the sake of the Republican Party. But there's new evidence that the Republican right is not necessarily ready to hop on the McCain band wagon.

Dana Bash is standing by with more on this story, but there's also dramatic developments unfolding right now on the Democratic side of this contest, the contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Let's get the very latest. Suzanne Malveaux is standing by with that in Chicago -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the campaigns for both Senator Clinton and Barack Obama say that they are not focused on Mitt Romney, rather, the primaries and the caucuses in the days ahead.

But insiders who I talk to say they are quite worried about this dramatic development, that it could really drain Democrats of the resources, the money that they have, and ultimately could hurt the party.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX (voice-over): Mitt Romney got out of the game charging the Democrats would fail to protect the American people in the war on terror. Senator Barack Obama fired back.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's the kind of poorly-thought-through statement that led him to have to drop out.

MALVEAUX: Both candidates acknowledged their new reality.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It appears as though Senator McCain will be the Republican nominee.

MALVEAUX: But campaign insiders for Senators Clinton and Obama say Mitt Romney's exit is bad news for both. While the Republicans now coalesce around their front-runner, John McCain, the Democrat candidates dig in for a long fight.

OBAMA: The children of New Orleans are America's children.

MALVEAUX: Senator Barack Obama in New Orleans unveiled his recovery plan for the city still struggling two-and-a-half years later after Hurricane Katrina.

Obama We have to understand that Katrina may have battered the levees, but it also exposed silent storms that have ravaged parts of this city and our country for far too long.

MALVEAUX: He also shared a light moment over a bowl of gumbo.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're too frail, baby. We have got to fatten you a little bit.

MALVEAUX: Obama is hoping this state, including nearly half of its voter who are African-American, will deliver a good chunk of the 66 delegates up for grabs on Saturday's primary. Senator Clinton stumped in Arlington, Virginia, where she's confident she will capture some of the 83 delegates at stake there on Tuesday.

CLINTON: Hello, Arlington.

MALVEAUX: Both camps are competing for big cash to keep their campaigns going in the months ahead. After Clinton revealed she had to loan $5 million of her own money to her presidential campaign, aides announced after Super Tuesday, a fund-raising blitz over the Internet brought in at least $6.4 million. Her loan has already been paid off.

Obama's campaign says they have netted $7 million over the same period.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And Clinton's camp is putting more pressure on Obama for more debates -- the Clinton campaign manager sending a letter to her Obama counterpart challenging Obama to five more debates -- that's one each week -- leading up to the March 4th contest.

Now, Obama said that he would go ahead and accept two of those because he says he needs to spend more time getting to know the voters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And one of those debates would be in Ohio before those March -- the March 4th primary there, a very, very significant primary, March 4th in Ohio, and in Texas. So, we can anticipate that one of those debates will take place in Ohio. We're going to be hosting one of those debates in Ohio at the end of February.

MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, Ohio is very important, Ohio and Texas as well, because the Clinton campaign, they believe they have an advantage here. Look at the voters, they tend to be older. There are a lot of blue-collar voters. You look at Texas, its Latino community, they believe that she is going to perform well in that area for that contest. So, that debate is going to be very important in terms of who's watching.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Suzanne Malveaux in Chicago watching the Democratic race which is clearly heating up, very, very close.

Let's get back to the Republican contest right now. Mitt Romney says he still disagrees with John McCain on a number of issues, but he won't keep fighting the Republican front-runner. Romney made the surprise announcement today he's suspending his presidential campaign. He did it in front of a conference of conservatives right here in Washington, a group he had hoped would help him win the nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This isn't an easy decision. I hate to lose. My family, my friends, you, my supporters across the country, you have given a great deal to get me where I have a shot at becoming president. If this were only about me, I would go on. But it's never been only about me.

I entered this race -- I entered this race because I love America. And, because I love America, in this time of war, I feel I have to now stand aside for our party and for our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: A short time later, McCain spoke to the very same conservative audience about Romney's exit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had a phone conversation with Governor Romney. I congratulated him on running an energetic and dedicated campaign. We agreed to sit down together and we agreed on the importance to unite our party.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Let's bring in Dana Bash. She was over at that conference.

A lot of drama over there today, Dana, where you are. What's the story behind the story in Mitt Romney's decision?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you know, Mitt Romney is somebody who is a businessman. He prides himself on understanding data, understanding numbers.

So, when he was huddled yesterday with his top advisers looking at the data, he realized as the day went on that it is just impossible, frankly, for him to get enough delegates to really be the nominee of the party at this point. He also has his sort of future in mind, thinking about the fact that he doesn't want to be a spoiler. That's why he decided to come to this event, an event where he was supposed to talk to conservatives and tell them that he's really the man to rally them, to tell them that he's not a candidate anymore, which certainly surprised them.

But he made the point that he doesn't want to stand in the way of Republicans fighting the Democrats for November.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I want you to know, I have given this a lot of thought. I would forestall the launch of a national campaign, and, frankly, I would be making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win. Frankly, in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And, by doing that, obviously, what this means is huge in terms of the Republican race. It effectively clears the path for John McCain to be the presumptive nominee. Mike Huckabee is, of course, in the race. He says he's going to soldier on. But John McCain has the vast number of delegates right now going into the next contest states.

John McCain called Mitt Romney just before McCain took the stage just a few hours later and made clear to him that he wants to get together. He made the same point to the people in the audience there, the people who he was trying to sort of unite, John McCain, that is, behind his candidacy as he tries to move forward -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much.

Dana is watching this conference for us and this Republican race.

Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, this thing between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could get real ugly. Here's the scenario.

The race between them remains tight. They go to the convention in August, where the nomination could depend on the votes of 796 super-delegates. Who can, if they wish, ignore the decision of the voters in the primaries leading up to the convention.

Experts worry it would send a terrible message of an old-school corrupt system of smoke-filled rooms where the party bosses instead of voters make the decision. That's probably precisely what would happen.

But it won't happen if Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean has anything to say about it. Dean says he is hopeful that the Democrats will have their nominee either Clinton or Obama by the middle of March or April the latest. If they don't, though, Dean says they're then going to have to get the candidates together and make some kind of arrangement.

Gee, I wonder what that might consist of. Dean says he doesn't think the party can afford to have a big fight at the convention and then turn around and go on to win the general election against the Republicans just eight weeks later, not to mention the fact that the Republicans now have their guy, John McCain. He's got it all but sealed up.

A brokered convention has not happened in U.S. presidential politics in decades. And that's good. They tend not to be pretty.

Here's the question. What should the Democrats plan to do if neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama can win enough delegates to capture the nomination?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, where you can post a comment on my new blog.

People's confidence in their elected officials is so low at this time, Wolf, that if this thing wound up being decided by the super- delegates, I don't know if they -- I don't know how many years it would take for the aroma to go away or the stench to go away. People just wouldn't buy it, I don't think.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thanks very much.

Jack is going to be back with the best political team on television shortly, as well.

The speaker of the House responds to a question about a dream.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A lot of Democrats would like that so-called dream ticket to emerge, Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton. Would you?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Do you think that that's possible?

BLITZER: It's possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So what is Nancy Pelosi so excited about? Is she excited about that prospect? I asked her in an exclusive interview. We're going to be sharing that with you. That's coming up next.

Also, might you soon be getting some extra cash from the federal government? The Senate has just done something that will speed up rebate checks to millions of Americans.

And after tornadoes brought so much death and disaster in the South, a baby represents what one man calls a miracle. You're going to want to see and hear this amazing story.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Nancy Pelosi is not only the speaker of the House, but also has some superpowers in this presidential race. She and others hold special political capacity, one that could make their vote especially -- make your vote, that is, especially irrelevant. That's a long shot, but it could happen.

I spoke with the House speaker on Capitol Hill in her office in an exclusive interview earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Here's the question.

You're one of those super-delegates that we're hearing a lot about who will go to the convention. It's possible that the super- delegates, like you, will speak, will make that decision, if they're very evenly divided among the pledged delegates, those who are elected by the Democrats who participate in these primaries and caucuses.

Is that a good idea, to go to a so-called brokered convention and allow super-delegates, who are just party leaders, members of Congress, governors, others to make that decision?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, when you say just party leaders, governors, senators, members of Congress, we are people who have fought for what is happening in the party.

But let me tell you why there are super-delegates. There are super-delegates so that those people who have worked in campaigns can come to the caucus where delegates are selected and not have to compete with a governor, a senator, or a member of Congress.

The super-delegates were established to give many more people at the grassroots level the opportunity to go to the convention and be really the overwhelming majority of who will decide this convention.

And, so, again, I don't think that members of Congress, governors and senators, are not attuned to what's happening in their states and in their districts.

BLITZER: But they're not bound by what the voters, the Democrats who show up, what they determine. And, yesterday, when I spoke to Donna Brazile, who herself is a super-delegate, one of our analysts... PELOSI: And she's great.

BLITZER: ... she says she would walk away. She would not accept the notion that the Democratic presidential nominee will be determined by super-delegates, as opposed to the delegates who are actually pledged, committed by the people who vote.

PELOSI: Well, I understand what -- Donna's point.

Here's what I would say. The roll is called by state. You know how drawing it is when the secretary of the convention -- Alabama -- you know, how exciting that is. And it is for me anyway.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: It is exciting for all of us.

(LAUGHTER)

PELOSI: And when they're called by state.

So, these state delegations make their vote. These super- delegates are all part of their state delegation. So, that state will speak. The -- I certainly agree with Donna in the respect that the voices of the people who are elected at caucuses should be heard. I don't think that you can ignore also the voices of the -- those who are part of those state delegations.

BLITZER: Well, do you have a problem if it comes down to a brokered convention and the super-delegates tipping the balance?

PELOSI: Because, in other words, they will be working within their own states. They will do, shall we say, the politics of their states.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You would accept that?

PELOSI: Well, again, they work out their preference working with the people from their state, because they're a super-delegate because they represent somebody. So, they will -- will work it out by state.

So, let's just say that, hopefully, a candidate will emerge soon. There's a chance that our nominee will be chosen...

BLITZER: You would prefer that?

PELOSI: ... at the convention.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You would prefer that the candidate be -- emerge long before the convention?

PELOSI: There are benefits to both. The vitality of these two campaigns are attracting so many people, and people are not against anybody. They're for somebody. So, people are having a hard decision as who to vote for because they have a difficult choice, two great leaders.

And the fact that on Super Tuesday, what, 15 million Democrats voted, almost evenly divided between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, to, what, about nine or 10 million Republicans, tells you something about the enthusiasm in our party, the positive attitude that they have to the candidates, and the recognition of the urgent need to put a -- to elect a Democrat to the White House, to bring it back to where the American people are, whether you're talking about the war, you're talking about the economy, the creation of jobs, you're talking about honoring the Constitution of the United States with a balance of power that reflects the wishes of the American people.

BLITZER: A lot of Democrats would like that so-called dream ticket to emerge, Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton. Would you?

PELOSI: Do you think that that's possible?

BLITZER: It's possible.

PELOSI: Well, do you think it is likely?

BLITZER: I don't know if I -- I don't know if it's likely or -- but it's certainly possible that, if one of them gets the nomination, seeing the enthusiasm out there, that person might ask the challenger, the loser, to join the ticket and unify, unite the Democratic Party.

(CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: Let's agree that there will be no losers in any of this.

BLITZER: Well, somebody is going to win, and somebody is going to come in second.

(LAUGHTER)

PELOSI: Well, there will be a winner and there will somebody that comes in second. I would not like to have to make that decision.

BLITZER: But is it a good -- would you be excited by it?

PELOSI: I told you, I think we have two great leaders. I would like to leave the discretion to the nominee of the party to make the choice he or she wishes to make in that regard.

And I know that it will be a good decision, whatever it is. And whoever it is, we're all going to get behind.

Now, my focus is on reelecting a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. So, my political focus is more there. And we must have a Democratic president. And electing Democrats to the House and to the Senate will help elect a Democratic president. But, as speaker of the House, my responsibility is to maintain a Democratic majority.

BLITZER: And would the dream ticket help that?

(LAUGHTER)

PELOSI: Again, the decision as to who is the running mate of the nominee of the party is the decision of the nominee of the party. And if someone would ask my advice in that capacity, however great you are, Wolf, in that capacity as nominee, I might have a suggestion.

But, right now, let the democracy continue and see how this plays out. There are a lot of people who would be very enthusiastic about it. I will agree with you on that.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: There were -- when I had that debate at the Kodak Theatre, and I even raised that possibility, there were a lot of excited Democrats out there in the audience.

We will leave it right there.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I'm not going to press you anymore.

Madam Speaker, thanks so much for joining us.

PELOSI: It was my pleasure. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And you can see the entire exclusive interview with the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, this Sunday on "LATE EDITION." We get into a lot of issues, including the economy and the war in Iraq.

"LATE EDITION" airs at 11:00 a.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Mike Huckabee is not backing down. The GOP candidate says he's marching on in what he calls a two-man race for the nomination. But how can he do this? Who will be marching with him? We're looking at this part of the story.

And it was no doll, but a baby found lying 100 yards from his home. An astonishing survival story from tornado-stricken Tennessee -- that and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: The Senate is taking action on that economic stimulus package, approving it today -- President Bush now saying in a statement just released by the White House that they're going to go forward and approve it and sign it once it's reconciled, the House version and the Senate version. But the White House is on board. In other words, those checks, the rebate checks, could be coming to you fairly soon.

Now that Mitt Romney is out, will Mike Huckabee go as well?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The people of this country need a choice. And, right now, I'm going to be their choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to take a closer look at Mike Huckabee. He's still out there fighting, but for how long?

Plus, John McCain actually booed by some of those conservatives at that meeting today. Are Republicans on the right so disgruntled, they would actually go and vote for a Democrat? I will ask the best political team on television.

And later, the woman known as the Obama Girl doesn't come through for her man.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now: upheaval in the Republican presidential race: Mitt Romney out, John McCain far ahead. What about Mike Huckabee? What role will he play as the campaign carries on? We're watching.

And Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton running nose and nose preparing for a protracted battle. Millions more votes yet to be cast at upcoming primaries, but, when all is said and done, will those super-delegates wind up picking the nominee?

All of this, plus the best political team on television.

And you can also find out how the country's first African- American elected governor is helping Barack Obama.

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

With Mitt Romney suspending his campaign and John McCain far out in front, there are growing questions about Mike Huckabee's campaign. Like McCain, he also has some serious problems with conservatives, but he's still a player in this GOP race.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's watching this part of the story for us.

So, does Huckabee stand to gain because Romney is now out?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Mike Huckabee is hoping so. Here in New York, he told reporters he's fighting on. He said he would even like Mitt Romney's endorsement. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Mitt Romney chose to announce his withdrawal from the presidential race in front of the very crowd he hoped would rally around him enough to make him the Republican nominee, conservatives.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I entered this race because I love America. And, because I love America, in this time of war, I feel I have to now stand aside for our party and for our country.

SNOW: With Romney out, Mike Huckabee is hoping those conservatives unhappy with Senator John McCain will come his way.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think that, you know, it would be a natural choice for them. And I certainly hope so.

SNOW: But don't expect conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh to hop on the Huckabee bandwagon any time soon. Limbaugh has been highly critical of McCain and raised this question on his nationally syndicated radio talk show.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Now what's going to happen is all of us say OK, who's the conservative alternate? Are you going to go to Huckabee now, Rush? There is no conservative alternative in the race. It's just that simple.

SNOW: But Huckabee's Super Tuesday surprise, with victories in five Southern states, has him vowing to fight on. Some Republican strategists say the fact Huckabee pulled off those victories with far less money than his rivals can't be discounted.

DAVID WINSTON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Huckabee will do reasonably well with some conservatives. And he's run, to his credit, a very good campaign. I just don't think he's in a position to really take on McCain by any stretch of the imagination at this point.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And the next big test for Huckabee is likely to come Tuesday in Virginia's primary. It has a sizable Evangelical population, which could help him, as it has in other states. But it also has a strong military population, which could help John McCain -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow. Thanks very much for that story.

Mitt Romney out of the race right now. Is he looking, though, ahead to 2012? Let's talk about that and more. Joining us, our CNN political analyst Amy Holmes. She's here in Washington. And in New York, our own Jack Cafferty, and our chief national correspondent, John King. They're all part of the best political team on television.

Just to get you on the record, Jack, I assume you think this clears the way for Mitt Romney to be -- excuse me, for John McCain to be the Republican presidential nominee?

CAFFERTY: You know, I love the way we will do anything -- anything -- to perpetuate a story that's not there. Do the math. Mike Huckabee is not going to be the Republican nominee. End of discussion. Next.

BLITZER: All right, Amy, do you agree with that?

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I do agree with that. But, you know, there's something important about Mike Huckabee staying in the race. If he does and he win states, that does two things. It strengthens his position as a vice presidential -- a viable vice presidential candidate. And the second thing that it does for him, is that it shows -- it raises his national profile across the board for any future runs as president or, you know, his political future.

BLITZER: And if anyone has done the math and also done some real reporting it's John King.

What do you think, John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Virtually impossible for Mike Huckabee to catch up to John McCain. He would have to win all of the contests and he would have to win them huge, Wolf, because many of the contests to come have proportional rules in them. So McCain would get some of the delegates even coming in second place. The math is almost impossible.

I just got off the phone with Ed Rollins, who is Mike Huckabee's campaign chairman, and he concedes that point -- that the math is impossible. But he says Mike wants to stay in, to make key points, to accentuate some differences with Senator McCain in a positive way. And Amy is right, he goes to the convention as a stronger candidate if he has more delegates. He would very much like it -- it's a source of pride to have more delegates than Mitt Romney. And he will make his case, we are told, in a polite way, but he also does want to draw some distinctions with John McCain.

BLITZER: And, Jack, when he spoke with McCain at the Conservative Political Action Conference here in Washington today, he was generally pretty well received except when he -- when it came to the issue of illegal immigration. There was this moment -- watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On the issue of illegal immigration, a position which...

(BOOS)

MCCAIN: ... which...

(BOOS)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: His stance with Ted Kennedy and President Bush on a comprehensive immigration reform package not necessarily endearing him to a lot of those conservatives.

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, it was almost painful to have to watch him go and make that appearance. And it was, you know, it was required -- it was a required performance. But a lot of the people in that room don't care for McCain's positions on several issues that are popular with conservatives. And they had even been warned ahead of time no booing, but they couldn't help themselves. When the word immigration came out of his mouth, they just lost it.

BLITZER: It is a lightning rod, especially before that crowd, Amy.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

HOLMES: Well, yes, it's definitely a lightning rod. And, Wolf, I was actually there. I was at CPAC to hear Romney's speech and also to hear John McCain's speech. And, you know, there were rumors going around amongst the students that they might walk out to try to make a statement that McCain was completely unacceptable to them.

This is a, you know, a tough crowd. This is a what have you done for me lately. And when Laura Ingraham -- you know, a very well known radio show host -- when she inter -- when she introduced Romney to the crowd, she said he is a conservative's conservative, do not compromise your values. And that went over well.

BLITZER: You know, it's a -- I think it's a truism, John, that some of these positions would normally hurt McCain in a Republican contest, but when it comes to the general election it's going to help him.

KING: It is the great irony of John McCain, if you will. The man on his path to the Republican nomination has problems within his own party. And yet in the Republican field -- the now shrinking Republican field -- at least if you believe all the polling data, Wolf, he is the strongest candidate who can reach out to Democrats and Independents. He's the strongest Republican candidate to run in the Latino population because of his stance on immigration.

So, John McCain's goal today -- even before he knew about the drama of Mitt Romney -- was to go into that room and try to make detente with those people. He's not going to make peace with most of them. If he can having detente and convince them you disagree with me about 20 percent of the time, you agree with me 80 percent of the time, I can't be president without your support. And if I'm not the president, well, it's going to be Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Consider that, please. That was John McCain's big goal today.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask Jack, then we'll take a break -- can he be president without their support -- the radio talk show hosts and the others who simply don't trust him? CAFFERTY: Well, I don't know the answer to that. My hunch is yes, he might be able to. The problem John McCain is going to have is not whether or not he has the support of the right-wing of the Republican Party. The problem he's going to have is that last Tuesday, 73 percent more Democrats voted than did Republicans. That's McCain's problem.

KING: Yes.

HOLMES: And, Wolf, one more point, with those conservative talk radio hosts, what are they going to talk about for mine months, particularly if the Democratic Party nominates Hillary Clinton?

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: Of course they're going to want to take out after Hillary Clinton. And that will help McCain, you know, just by default.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We've got a lot more to talk about, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. They're running nose and nose, preparing for a long haul battle for delegates and super-delegates -- and dollars.

And will the horserace end with a brokered convention in Denver, with those super-delegates picking the nominee instead of the voters?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are digging in for the long haul. They're battling for delegates, for super-delegates and for dollars.

Let's get back to the best political team on television.

Our sister publication, Jack, "Time" magazine, has a cover story -- "The Struggle for the Soul of the Democrats." It's -- you see the cover there right now. What do you think about this battle that's underway right now, especially the battle for super-delegates? These are not the delegates who are committed, who are pledged, actually, by those who go out and vote, but they're the party leaders.

CAFFERTY: Party bosses. I don't -- you know, I don't want Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi deciding anything for me, OK? Nothing. The Republicans -- if you'll take a football analogy -- it's like getting a buy in the play-offs for a couple of months now. They can replenish their campaign coffers. They can formulate their battle plan, hone their message for November.

And Hillary and Barack, who aren't that far apart on many, many, many of the issues, will go at it hammer and tong for the next couple of months, spending millions and millions of dollars that they could use to fight the Republicans to see who's going to prevail. And there's no guarantee we're not going to head toward a brokered convention and those super-delegates trying to decide this thing in the back rooms, which will just reek with the voting public, who's been all wrapped up in this terrific contest. So I -- you know, Harry -- what's his name -- Dean...

BLITZER: Howard Dean.

CAFFERTY: ... the head of DNC -- Howard Dean. I thought -- I almost said Harry Dean -- says, you know, he thinks they'll have a candidate by March or April. I'm not so sure he's right. And his big problem is what's he going to do if there isn't one.

BLITZER: And just for those viewers who are not familiar, about 4,000 delegates go to the convention -- the Democratic convention in Denver. There are almost 800 super-delegates, who are members of Congress, governors, party leaders.

If there's an even split, more or less, nobody gets the committed -- the pledged delegates, then it's those super-delegates, Amy, who could make the decision.

CAFFERTY: Right.

HOLMES: Yes. And there's some speculation that that advantage is Clinton -- the Clinton machine. You know, after all, President Clinton was president for two terms and a lot of those folks have a lot to owe the Clinton machine for getting them where they are, raising money all of these years.

You know, I agree with Jack that this is great news for Republicans. If they can coalesce around John McCain, then all this time that Democrats are fighting, Republicans will start making distinctions between the Republican platform and John McCain and Democrats. You're going to start hearing a lot more about how the two frontrunners in the Democratic Party are liberals.

BLITZER: You know, John, Donna Brazile was here in THE SITUATION ROOM yesterday. She's one of those super-delegates and she hates the idea that she and her super-delegate colleagues would be able -- would make that decision. Listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think if 795 of my colleagues decide the selection, I will quit the Democratic Party. I feel very strongly about this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Obviously, she does feel pretty strongly.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: What is this whole commotion about, John?

KING: Well, I think she doesn't think it. She hopes it doesn't happen. And most people believe it won't happen. But it is a possibility -- a distant possibility, Wolf, in part because of the legal dispute over those delegates in Florida and Michigan. Remember, Florida and Michigan broke the rules so their delegates at the moment, don't get seated.

Howard Dean could face a choice of saying let's have another caucus -- not a primary, they're too expensive -- but maybe we should go back to Florida and Michigan and have a caucus. But this is a conversation that will have a lot more urgency to it if we're having it in the reality of late April into May and this race is still not solved.

And one quick point. I'm not sure I agree that this is completely to the benefit of the Republicans to have this cleaned up so early. In the sense, yes, from a fundraising perspective. But I hate to say it, but remember, the Giants played their starters against the Patriots in the last game of the season, Wolf. They lost that game and they won the Super Bowl.

There are many who believe that either Clinton or Obama will come out of this a stronger candidate as long as they don't damage the party and leave, say, African-Americans angry if Hillary Clinton wins -- that they could actually have a stronger candidate for going through the battle.

BLITZER: And, Jack, a lot of Democrats -- at least in conversations I've had -- believe it would really be strong if whoever doesn't win the nomination, whether it's Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, is still on the ticket.

CAFFERTY: Well, obviously that's the Democrats' dream. But, you know, on closer inspection, I don't know if that works or not. I don't know if Barack Obama forgets all about Bill Clinton doing the Jesse Jackson stuff in South Carolina and calling his run for the White House a fairy tale and then he says, oh, OK, I'll be your vice presidential candidate, Senator Clinton. I'm not -- I'm not sure that works.

HOLMES: Well, and in the reverse, if Obama becomes the nominee, it's hard to see, necessarily, what he gains by choosing Hillary, because he will have proven that he was able to overcome this high, enormous hurdle -- this extraordinary hurdle -- to become the nominee and then she didn't with all those built in advantages.

So it doesn't necessarily make sense that but, you know is going to reach out to Hillary, just politically speaking, you know, let alone forget the personal issues that might be going on there.

BLITZER: You want to add anything, John, before I let you go?

KING: I just see, Wolf, a very low probability that Barack Obama would pick Senator Clinton, not only because of the hard-fought campaign, but it conflicts with his message, if you will, of bringing new faces into Washington.

I do see a slight possibility -- and I would put very slight possibility -- that if she wins, that she would pick him if presented with the cold political data that says African-American turnout will go down, we need him on the ticket to boost the turnout to win the election. Then I could see that possibility. But I think both of them would head into their search process not wanting to pick the other one.

HOLMES: If she's the nominee, though, boy, she's going to get a ton of pressure to put Barack on that ticket.

KING: Yes, she will.

HOLMES: He is so popular with the party and with African- American voters.

BLITZER: We'll leave it there, guys.

Amy, thanks for coming in. John, you've got a long night ahead of you. He's going -- John is going to be filling in for Anderson Cooper later tonight.

Jack, you've got The Cafferty File coming up in a few moments.

CAFFERTY: That's correct.

BLITZER: Then you can go home. After that you can go home.

CAFFERTY: Fine.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

A new sign of just how hot this presidential race is turning out to be. There are new details of who's turning out to vote, as well as who's not turning out.

And find out what happened to one of Barack Obama's very high profile backers -- the Obama Girl.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Voter turnout this primary season is on track to reach a record high. According to a study by American University, more than 24 million Americans have voted so far in primaries. That's 27 percent of eligible voters. So far this year, turnout records have been set in 15 states that held both Democratic and Republican primaries.

New Hampshire had the highest overall turnout -- above 51 percent. Massachusetts was second, with a turnout above 37 percent. More than 32 percent of voters cast ballots in Illinois and in Missouri. At this pace, primary turn out in 2008 is likely to break the record set in 1972 when, on average, 25.9 percent of voters went to the polls.

Douglas Wilder, the first African-American elected as governor, is helping Barack Obama ahead of Tuesday's primary in Virginia. Wilder says Virginia is a much different state than it was when he won the governorship back in 1989 and he says race will not be an issue there for Obama.

Now that John Edwards has quit the Democratic presidential race, he obviously has more time for fun with his family. Edwards was spotted with his son Jack at the big Duke versus North Carolina basketball game last night in Chapel Hill.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out our CNNPolitics.com. That's where you can read our Political Ticker. You can also read my daily blog there, as well.

Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up at the top of the hour.

He's got a preview -- hi, Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Hi, Wolf.

Coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here, much more on the implications of Mitt Romney's surprise decision to withdraw from the Republican presidential race.

Also, you won't believe this, but the U.S. government is actually funding Russian scientists to work on nuclear projects in Iran.

What in the world is the U.S. government thinking? What's it doing about it? Did it know about it? We'll have a special report for you.

And one community in Connecticut refusing to be intimidated by the pro-illegal alien, pro-amnesty lobby and voting to train its police officers to enforce U.S. immigration laws. Imagine that. More cities and states lining up to make sense out of this country.

And new concerns about the rising threat to this nation from sovereign well funds -- funds buying critical American assets -- many of those funds run by undemocratic governments, anti-American agendas behind many of them. One of the country's leading economists, Professor Laura Tyson, joins me, a former Clinton White House economic adviser. She'll be among our guests here.

Please join us for all of that and all the day's news at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou. We'll see you in a few moments.

Let's see Jack Cafferty right now. He's got The Cafferty File.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is what should the Democrats plan to do if neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama can get enough delegates together to capture the nomination in the next couple of months?

David writes: "I'm 22-years-old, live in Louisiana. In a couple of days, I'll cast my very first vote in our primary for Barack Obama. If this comes down to super-delegates and they don't pick whoever the majority of the voters pick, it'll be my very last vote." Tracy in San Diego: "Obama and Clinton should make a tactical decision that ensures Democrats will hold the White House for 16 years -- Clinton president, Obama vice president. After Hillary cleans up the mess left by Bush, Obama can then run for president, having gained the experience he lacks now."

Lesley in Vancouver: "Some Americans seem to be voting on emotion rather than intellect."

Gee, I didn't realize that.

"The race has been a bit more like "American Idol" than a run for one of the most powerful positions in the world. If the super- delegates are on the scene and know the candidates on the job, why not let them add to the equation, assuming that they can keep their emotions in check?"

Stephen writes: "The race already is ugly. It's going to get worse. Howard Dean should have a meeting with Clinton and Obama and force them both to step down in favor of Al Gore."

Brad writes: "If the Democrats are smart, they would assess the national landscape to see who would be more likely to win the presidential race and choose accordingly."

David in California writes: "As far as I'm concerned, flip a coin. I'll take either of them over McCain or anyone who says we may be in Iraq for a hundred years, wants to deny women the right to make their own choices concerning their bodies and anyone that's willing to change our Constitution regarding marriage, etc. because they insist everyone live by their rules and only their rules."

And Steve writes: "Jack, our current president was selected by five Supreme Court justices. Eight hundred Democratic super-delegates would be an improvement." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that.

She's known as the Obama Girl. She said she has a crush on the presidential candidate, but did she actually bother to go vote for him in her state's primary? CNN's Jeanne Moos investigates. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Some of the Hot Shots -- pictures often worth a thousand words. Online, she went all out to show her adoration of Barack Obama. But did she bother to turn out to vote?

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a closer look into this most unusual case of Obama girl.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We were crushed...

AMBER LEE ETTINGER: 'Cause I got a crush on Obama.

MOOS: ... crushed to learn that Obama Girl...

ETTINGER: I never wanted anybody more than I want you.

MOOS: ... apparently didn't want Senator Obama enough to go vote for him. Amber Lee Ettinger told "The New York Times" blog that she was too sick. But on Super Tuesday, instead of making it here to the New Jersey polls, she did manage to make it here, to an election- themed party thrown by Svedka Vodka in Manhattan -- just across the Hudson from where she didn't vote after all that flirting.

ETTINGER: 'Cause I got a crush on Obama.

MOOS (on camera): So do you now have a crush on Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, a little bit. Definitely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am definitely going to vote for Senator Obama.

MOOS (voice-over): OK, so she may have had a registration issue, as well. But she had months to straighten that out.

ETTINGER: I got a crush on Obama.

MOOS (on camera): Now, we hear that Obama Girl feels really bad about not voting. And we wanted to talk to her about it. But she elected not to fit us into her schedule.

(voice-over): Apparently, she's working on a new video explaining her failure to vote with the folks from Barely Political, who made the first one. Obama Girl videos have become a cottage industry. She went on to pillow fight with Giuliani Girl in a sequel. And more recently, she acquired superpowers.

ETTINGER: Obama Girl, she's flashy.

MOOS: That should have enabled her to fly to the polls no matter how bad she felt. Posted reactions were not kind. "She's weak, typical New York party girl. She thinks the whole "Sex and the City" thing is real life."

Or how about this one -- "Ted Kennedy endorsed Obama and he lost Massachusetts. Maria Shriver endorsed Obama and he lost California. "Obama Girl" endorsed Obama and he lost New Jersey. Dude, get an exorcist."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama.

MOOS: Actually, Amber just lip synched to the song performed by this woman, Leah Kauffman. LEAH KAUFFMAN: I cannot wait until 2008, baby you're the best kind of date.

MOOS: But lip synched so realistically that Obama's wife remarked that their 6-year-old seemed concerned, asking, "Daddy, you have mommy, right?" At least mommy voted for daddy.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: You've helped make our politics pod cast, by the way, one of the most popular on iTunes. To get the best political team to go any time, you can subscribe to CNNPolitics.com or go to iTunes. Remember, CNNPolitics.com -- that's where you can read my daily blog, as well.

Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

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