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THE SITUATION ROOM

Can McCain Rally Conservatives?; Battle on the Potomac

Aired February 11, 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: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: The Democrats do battle along the Potomac. Barack Obama is hoping for another sweep tomorrow. Hillary Clinton rejects talk of trouble in her campaign.

Plus, John McCain snags a Bush. Will an endorsement from a member of the first family ease the sting of new losses to Mike Huckabee?

And terror politics -- as the U.S. seeks the death penalty against six detainees, we are going to tell you how the presidential hopefuls think terror suspects should be tried.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York, along with the best political team on television, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

There's no time for the Democrats to rest on their victories or lick their wounds around defeat. The next round of presidential contests is tomorrow, the so-called Potomac primaries in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. -- 168 delegates are up for grabs in the close as they come Democratic race. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are fighting for every single vote, every delegate, every advantage.

Let's go straight to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's watching all of this unfold in Baltimore -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, if you go around from arena to arena with Barack Obama, there's really no question at this point after the weekend he had that, for the moment, he has momentum. And they're expecting a little more tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It looks like we're having March madness a little early.

CROWLEY (voice-over): Working off the adrenaline of a clean sweep weekend and the possibility of a Tuesday trifecta, Barack Obama pounded through Maryland arguing his issues and his electability. OBAMA: They call them Obamacans. We can get some Republican votes. That's how we're going to win is to build a winning coalition, not just Democrats but independents and Republicans who have also lost trust in their government, have lost faith in their leaders, who want to move in a new direction. That's what we want, everybody getting on the change bandwagon, the change express.

CROWLEY: One hundred and sixty-eight delegates are at stake Tuesday in the Potomac primary, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. All have sizable African-American populations, as well as significant numbers of affluent, well-educated white voters, the so- called latte liberals who along with young voters form the core of Obama's voting bloc.

The momentum for the moment is his built on part in wins in all five weekend contests, caucuses in Washington State, Nebraska, Maine, the Virgin Islands, and a primary in Louisiana.

In the midst of her winless weekend, Hillary Clinton got a new campaign manager and tossed off Obama's streak.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The case of Louisiana, you know, a very strong and very proud African- American electorate which I totally respect and understand and would expect that, you know, by the fall we would be united and going forward to victory against the Republicans.

You know my sense of caucus states. They are primarily dominated by activists. They don't represent the electorate. We know that. As I said, my husband never did well in caucus states either. So, it doesn't surprise me. It doesn't affect me one way or the other.

CROWLEY: Clinton sources say they hope the new campaign hierarchy will bring energy and focus to a campaign criticized for too many messages and not enough attention to fund-raising. She was outraised and outspent by Obama in January.

Her campaign concedes it may lose all three contests tomorrow but she's looking to grab a good share of delegates with a strong play for her most loyal supporters, campaigning with home-and-hearth issues to older women, working-class and Latino voters.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Now, there is some concern among high-profile Clinton supporters that she really cannot wait until those early March contests in both Ohio and Texas to start showing some momentum. They think she needs to break his winning streak some time soon and they believe that some time soon may be next week, Wolf, in Wisconsin.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much. Candy's in Baltimore.

Here's where the all-important race for delegates sands right now, by the way. CNN estimates that Hillary Clinton has 1,148 total delegates, narrowly leading Barack Obama with 1, 121. John Edwards, who's out of the contest, has 26. Democrats need just more than 2,000 delegates to clinch the nomination. Obama won about 60 more delegates than Clinton in primaries and caucuses, but Clinton has more superdelegates, as they're called, 224 to 135 for Obama.

That's our estimate.

In the Republican race, CNN estimates that John McCain has 723 delegates. That's far ahead of former rival Mitt Romney, with 286. Mike Huckabee has 217 delegates, Ron Paul 16. Republicans need 1,191 delegates to lock up the nomination.

John McCain is campaigning in Virginia this hour. The likely GOP nominee is welcoming a batch of new endorsements, including nods from the former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the former presidential rival Fred Thompson. McCain acknowledges he has a lot of work to do after big wins by Huckabee in contests over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I never expected a unanimous vote., although I would certainly like to have that, but I think we will continue to win primaries across the country, including tomorrow. And I hope that we will do well here. I have great confidence that we will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The chances of Mike Huckabee clinching the Republican presidential nomination are tiny, tiny indeed. But he's still in the race. He's still winning primaries and caucuses.

So, what does that mean for the front-runner John McCain?

Let's go to our chief national correspondent, John King. He's in Virginia. He's watching this story.

Is there any way Huckabee can be a real threat, or is he just a nuisance to McCain right now?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just a few moments ago, I had a chance to chat with Governor Huckabee here.

We're out in Weyers Cave, about -- in the Shenandoah Valley, a little more than two hours west of Washington. And he says he believes he's still making a positive impact on this race. He says he still believes, though it's a long shot, he can win. And what his message here to conservative voters in rural Virginia: Even if I don't win, support me and I can take this all the way to the convention.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

KING (voice-over): They keep telling Mike Huckabee it's over, but he keeps telling conservatives, they can do better. MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We want a candidate who believes in the Human Life Amendment and in the marriage amendment. We want to vote for a president who believes that embryonic stem cell research on humans is wrong.

KING: After big weekend wins in Kansas and Louisiana, Huckabee is hoping Virginia sends another message on Tuesday.

HUCKABEE: Let's show them the election isn't over until the people have spoken.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KING: Huckabee has won a modest 16 percent of the delegates awarded so far and would need to win an overwhelming 93 percent of the remaining delegates to win the nomination. That math is near impossible. But Huckabee, for now, is ignoring calls for him to step aside.

HUCKABEE: I just think the people ultimately lose when we have this kind of microwaved election. We ought to cook it slow.

KING: It is still, overall, relatively polite, but some attacks on John McCain are raising eyebrows. One new favorite is comparing himself to Ronald Reagan in 1976 and John McCain to the man who beat back Reagan's nomination challenge, but then lost the general election, Gerald Ford.

HUCKABEE: Here's why they lost. They elected a person who did not really energize the conservative base of the Republican Party.

KING: Some Republicans worry, the longer Huckabee soldiers on, the more difficult it will be for McCain to make peace with skeptical conservatives. But there are contrarians, who believe, as long as Huckabee keeps it polite, a longer nomination battle could help McCain.

WHIT AYRES, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: As long as Mike Huckabee stays positive and as long has he does not stimulate a third-party challenge from the right in the fall, Mike Huckabee staying in could actually help John McCain. Moreover, if very conservative spokesmen continue to criticize him, it makes John McCain look better to the independents, who are going to decide the election in the fall.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And, in our conversation, Wolf, just a few moments ago, Governor Huckabee said he believes, even if McCain in the end wins, that a longer nomination fight is good for him. He says, when you're not out training every day, you get lazy and sloppy. But if you are training every day and fighting every day, he says you build strength and stamina -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's a good point, excellent point, John. Thanks very much. Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He knows that, when he's playing tennis with someone who is worse than him, his game deteriorates. But when you're playing with a better player, all of a sudden, you're playing...

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, you elevate your game.

BLITZER: Yes, you're playing a little bit better.

CAFFERTY: And you're a guy who fights every single day, which accounts for the optimum level of your performance.

BLITZER: I don't fight, but I run every day.

CAFFERTY: Well, but you work weekends. You're doing returns all the time. Were you in the Virgin Islands over the weekend?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: It's amazing.

BLITZER: Going to Hawaii next week for those primaries.

CAFFERTY: I will go with you for that.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: John McCain is a true conservative, the gospel according to President Bush. However, the president acknowledges the likely Republican presidential nominee, McCain, may have to work harder to convince other conservatives that he's one of them. A lot harder.

In an interview over the weekend, Mr. Bush ticked through McCain's conservative credentials, saying he's strong on national defense, tough fiscally, believes in making the tax cuts permanent, and he's pro-life.

When asked about criticism coming from conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh, President Bush said that McCain -- quote -- "has some convincing to do" -- unquote -- and added that he will be glad to help him if the Arizona senator is the nominee.

The president's comments were as close to an endorsement as McCain will get at this point because there are still other Republicans in the race. It was also something new for Mr. Bush who up until this point has refused to be drawn in to comment on the race.

Many conservatives still don't trust McCain, and his aides are hoping that the head of the party, President Bush, could help to bring the fractured groups together.

Of course, it's worth noting that Mr. Bush remains largely unpopular, hovering around some of the worst approval ratings of his presidency. A poll out last week showed even Mr. Bush's support among Republicans is now at an all-time low.

So, here's the question. How will President Bush's support affect John McCain's candidacy? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, where you can post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: Yes, sir.

BLITZER: Jack will be back with the best political team shortly.

They're on opposite sides of the Potomac and opposite sides of the presidential campaign. I'll speak with former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder -- he's backing Barack Obama -- and Maryland's current governor, Martin O'Malley. He's in the Clinton camp.

Also, charges in the 9/11 terror attacks. Six Guantanamo Bay detainees could face the death penalty. You're going to find out why it may come down to the next president who will have to deal with this.

And Ron Paul has lots of campaign cash, but not many delegates to show for it, at least not yet. Will he start worrying more about his congressional seat than the White House? We have some new clues that we're finding online.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Democratic leaders are picking sides as the race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama intensifies, all equally convinced their candidate is the one who can win the general election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now the governor of Maryland, Martin O'Malley, and the former governor of Virginia, the current mayor of Richmond, Doug Wilder.

Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming in.

Let me start with you, Governor O'Malley. I'm going to play a little sound bite of what Barack Obama says about Hillary Clinton, suggesting, as a matter of fact, she's way too polarizing to go forward in a general election. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I think that it's very hard for Senator Clinton to break out of the politics of the last 15 years. And that politics is basically a politics where 47 percent of the country is on one side, 47 percent's on the other, you got 5 percent in the middle. They all live in Florida and Ohio apparently.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: What do you say about that charge, that it's simply the polarization politics of the past if you give the nomination to Hillary Clinton?

GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), MARYLAND: I think both the candidates are best served by talking about what they can do for the American people, and I'm proud to support Senator Clinton. I'm proud of the fact that she has a specific plan on addressing the foreclosure crisis that's sweeping across our country, a specific plan to create 5 million new green jobs. And I think both our candidates really do the most to excite the electorate and about a better tomorrow for our country when they talk about the future rather than trying to demean one another.

BLITZER: Governor Wilder, you hear a lot of criticism of Barack Obama coming from Hillary Clinton supporters, among others, that Senator Obama's simply untested, hasn't been vetted, won't be able to stand up to the Republican attack machine. Here's what Senator Clinton said just the other day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: People say to me all the time, "You're so specific. You talk about all these things you want to do. Why don't you just come and, you know, really just give us one of these great rhetorical flourishes and then, you know, get everybody all whooped up?"

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: Well, I...

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: ... I have got to tell you, I want you to hold me accountable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Governor Wilder." Rhetorical flourish" is clearly a reference that he's a powerful speaker, but he doesn't bring a lot of experience to the table.

DOUGLAS WILDER (D), MAYOR OF RICHMOND, VIRGINIA: Well, according to her husband, he's a fairy tale. And that is just a put-down that you just can't accept. Moreover...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Well, let me just correct. What I think he was saying was that the argument that Barack Obama didn't necessarily change his position on Iraq, and that once he was senator...

WILDER: It was a fairy tale.

BLITZER: ... that he's not necessarily a fairy tale, but his stance on Iraq, he was suggesting, was a fairy tale. WILDER: And it is not a fairy tale because, whenever he's had the chance to voice opposition to the war, he did it; he did just that.

Since it's been brought up, Mrs. Clinton would have you believe that she had absolutely nothing to do with it, when she talks about the need for health care. I remember -- I was a governor -- when we went and said, OK, you are in charge of health care. She was made the czar of health.

She had working for her Mr. Magaziner. And we kept saying, well, what are you plans? What can we tell our people? How are we going to be involved?

Now, if you didn't do it when you had the chance, with eight full years to do it, what makes the American people believe now there's something new been poured into the water that gives you this impetus to get it done?

BLITZER: All right. I'm going to let Governor O'Malley respond, but I just want to press you on the point, Governor Wilder.

The Republican attack machine, as the Clinton people are calling it; once they go after Barack Obama, he's not going to be able to withstand that assault. And they point to the history of what they did to John Kerry four years ago, or Al Gore eight years ago, they say, distorting their respective records. What do you say to that argument?

WILDER: Well, they did that to me when I ran for governor, in the last days. And some people talk about the Wilder effect in the polls. Sure, I was leading a little more than I did. But I won.

And I think Barack Obama's record, his past, is strong enough to stand any of these attack machines that come his way. And moreover, the American people are crying out for change. They want a difference. They want someone who won't just say, "I stood the test."

What did you do after you stood the test? Are you going to fight for them? Are you going to bring schools for them? Are you going to get roads and infrastructure for them?

BLITZER: Governor O'Malley, you want to respond to that?

O'MALLEY: Sure. I mean, you know, in this race, Hillary Clinton does have the strength. She has experience. And she also has a record.

And certainly people who do not have a record of national, you know, politics, and being on the national scene for more than two years, as the very talented senator from Illinois has, you know, have an easy time throwing rocks at that record.

But let's look at health care: Years ago she did work on health care. Like many other Democratic administrations before, we were not successful. However, there are millions of children now that do have health care coverage because of the SCHIP program that she helped craft and create.

What's different now? Ten years later, you see people from opposite ends of the spectrum -- in businesses, like Wal-Mart, and also with the service employees unions -- coming together, understanding, as Senator Clinton was trying to tell us years ago that health care is a mayor impediment to our nation's economic development, to our able to create jobs, and our ability to do the right things as other industrialized countries have done to promote universal and actually have universal health care.

That's a key domestic policy difference. Senator Obama is not for universal health care. Senator Clinton is universal health care.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And, tomorrow, voters will go to the polls in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia in what's being called the Potomac primaries.

Our coverage begins right here in THE SITUATION ROOM at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. We will then pick it up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern with special coverage from the CNN ELECTION CENTER. That will continue well into the night.

U.S. jets intercept Russian bombers near a Navy carrier, chilling echoes of the Cold War, except the Cold War's supposed to have ended a long time ago. So, what happened in the skies over the Pacific?

And Chelsea Clinton speaks -- the Clintons daughter opening up about her parents and how a second Clinton White House would be different. You're going to hear it in her own words.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: The Pentagon is moving ahead with an unprecedented military trial of terror suspects, and six detainees at Guantanamo Bay could get the death penalty. Just ahead, the presidential candidates weigh in on the case and questions it raises about the issue of torture.

Plus, Mike Huckabee launches a cold war over the outcome in Washington State with charges of Soviet-style vote-counting.

And what would force Ron Paul to scale back on his underdog presidential campaign? We are going to tell you why the Republican may actually be running scared.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now: The government is about to charge six Guantanamo Bay detainees in connection with the 9/11 terror attacks, and it will seek the death penalty. You are going to find out what impact the case might have on the presidential campaign and where the candidates stand.

Also, Mike Huckabee compares what happened in the Washington State caucus to voting in the Soviet Union. Were voters disenfranchised and was Huckabee robbed?

Plus, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama courting their former rival John Edwards. They each want his endorsement. So, who will get it?

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

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

Six men held at Guantanamo Bay are about to be charged in connection with the 9/11 terror attacks. And the Pentagon says it will seek the death penalty. They include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the attack. It's a case that will stretch well into the next presidency.

So, where do the presidential candidates stand when it comes to Guantanamo?

CNN's Brian Todd has been looking at their records.

What are you finding, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, from the current president to the next one, there seem to be no easy answers how to deal with those detainees.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Solemn promises from military prosecutors. They want the death penalty for six alleged masterminds of 9/11, but they will let a special military commission set up by the president make that final call.

The overseer of that commission, a former judge, will also decide whether to allow evidence gathered from waterboarding or other harsh interrogation methods. And despite the fact that they will be tried at Guantanamo, the suspects will have legal rights.

BRIG. GEN. THOMAS HARTMANN, PENTAGON LEGAL ADVISER: Every stitch of evidence, every whiff of evidence that goes to the finder of fact, to the jury, to the military tribunal, will be reviewed by the accused.

TODD: With all that and the fact that the Supreme Court may still declare this military commission unconstitutional, analysts say it's likely a long way from Guantanamo to the death chamber. JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Given the pace we've been going, there is no doubt that the fate of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the fate of Guantanamo will not be in President Bush's hands, but in his successor's hands.

TODD: How will that turn out?

As senators, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both voted against the creation of the military commission.

Mrs. Clinton's reason...

CLINTON: The bill allowed the admission into evidence of statements derived through cruel, inhuman and degrading interrogations.

TODD: Obama's aides tell us he was against it because it limits the suspect's ability to legally challenge their detention.

OBAMA: We're going to close Guantanamo and restore habeas corpus.

TODD: Obama's aides say he favors seeking the death penalty, but wants to try the suspects publicly in either civilian courts or more traditional military courts.

John McCain has long been outspoken against torture, but voted for the military commission.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would declare the closure of Guantanamo Bay and move those prisoners to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and proceed with tribunals -- not fair trials, but tribunals.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama also favor closing Guantanamo. Mike Huckabee's chief of staff tells us he favors keeping it open as long as President Bush does. But the president has said he'd like to close Guantanamo at some point.

Huckabee's adviser says he also favors the military commission, as long as there's a death penalty provision along with it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.

Let's talk about this and more with the best political team on television.

Joining us now, our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. He's here in New York.

CNN's Jack Cafferty is, as well.

And joining us from the campaign trail, in Annapolis, Maryland, our own Dana Bash.

Jack, what do you make of this development today, these six Guantanamo Bay detainees about to be charged?

CAFFERTY: Well, it occurs to me that it's about time. I mean, this was 2001. We've had a lot of time run off the clock. The Bush administration set up one set of rules for tribunals that were little more than kangaroo courts. The courts said no, you can't do that. Congress passed a new one. These are still secretive proceedings.

There are two issues. If these people are guilty of September 11th, try them, execute and hang their bodies from the George Washington Bridge. I don't care what you do with them, just get rid of this them.

But the other part of it is what does this do to due process?

If they close Guantanamo, where are they going to put these people?

And what's the difference -- and Jeff Toobin will know this in a heartbeat -- between these military tribunals and a more traditional form of our justice system?

Jeff, what's the answer?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the rights granted to the defendant are much less in these military commissions. Access to evidence, public nature of the proceedings, the rights of appeal are all much less in the military commissions. They are better, as Jack said, than the original Bush proposal for how to treat these folks, but it is not the same as a criminal -- as an American criminal court.

And one of the big, big issues still hanging out there is how to deal with the fact that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and perhaps others were tortured. They were water boarded.

Do their confessions come into evidence?

Does other evidence derived from those confessions come into evidence?

That's a big issue, not just for the legal system, but for the diplomatic reputation of the United States.

BLITZER: And, Dana, on this issue...

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is...

BLITZER: John McCain speaks with some authority on the subject, having himself been tortured -- a POW in Vietnam. And he has been outspoken against waterboarding, against any semblance of torture and highly critical of the administration on this issue.

BASH: He has. And that's actually the point I was just going to make, based on what Jeff was just saying, about the issue of torture. It's going to be interesting to see how John McCain reacts to this, Wolf. Because as you heard in Brian's piece, he wants -- when he is president -- to close Guantanamo. But he also is for the tribunals to go forward.

But when it comes down to it, the question is whether or not he is going to support this kind of tribunal going forward, given the fact that even the CIA admitted last week that -- that these guys were tortured. They were waterboarded. And John McCain has been so vocal in his opposition to that.

So what happens if they want to use evidence from them and it's -- you know, John McCain says over and over again that any evidence that's gotten from torture is tainted?

So big picture, politically, this kind of trial helps a national security kind of candidate like John McCain. But when you get into the nitty-gritty, because he really differs with the administration and with many Republicans on the issue of torture, it could be dicey for him.

BLITZER: It doesn't necessarily shore up his conservative base on this issue.

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: He seems to be a little closer to the Democrats than he is to the Bush White House on this issue.

All right, let's talk a little bit about what happened over the weekend, specifically in Washington State, where there were Republican caucuses. It was very close. With 87 percent of the vote counted, McCain had 26 percent, Mike Huckabee had 24 percent, Ron Paul had 21 percent. But then the chairman of the Republican Party in Washington State said it's over, McCain is the winner.

Here is how Mike Huckabee responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That is not what we do in American elections. It may be how they used to conduct it in the old Soviet Union. But you don't just throw people's votes out and say, well, we're not going to bother counting them because we kind of think we know where this is going.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Jack, what do you make of this?

CAFFERTY: Every time we hold an election in this country, there's a bunch of rubes some place that prove they have no idea how democracy works. We had it in Florida in 2000. Ohio was questionable. Now you've got these clowns out in Washington.

I mean who says we're not going to -- we're not going to count the rest of the votes?

Who says stuff like that?

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: And who says that's OK?

TOOBIN: What an outrage. Huckabee is...

CAFFERTY: It's ridiculous.

TOOBIN: Huckabee is exactly right.

CAFFERTY: Sure.

TOOBIN: And shame on John McCain for not coming out and saying, look, count the votes. I mean, this isn't even a situation like 2000 in Florida, where the issue was do you recount the votes. These votes haven't been counted in the first place.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: I mean it's just outrageous.

BASH: And...

BLITZER: What is the McCain camp saying, Dana?

BASH: Well, John McCain himself said this morning at a press conference where I was, here in Annapolis, he was asked about it. And he said, well, Mike Huckabee has every right to challenge this, to contest this and to have everything counted, but I still think I won. That was kind of his answer to that question.

But you know what's interesting about what's going on in Washington State is that the chairman said that he decided that he was going to call it for John McCain, even though he fully admits that all of these votes weren't counted. And now he's saying he's going back to count them, but he says he's probably not going to change his mind.

CAFFERTY: Oh, that's not the point.

BASH: That's what's so perplexing about this.

CAFFERTY: The point isn't whether McCain won or not. The point is that there are rules and laws in place about how we conduct elections. And these morons just tore up the rule book and decided they were tired and wanted to go have a hot toddy and to hell with it and we'll just go home now.

TOOBIN: And it's not a question of changing his mind. This is a fact in the world -- who won this election. They should just count the votes.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: No one cares what he thinks. Just count the votes.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We've got more coming up.

John Edwards -- will he endorse anyone?

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama certainly are seeking it. They're both courting him.

But who's likely to get it?

Plus, Chelsea Clinton on why her mother would be a different president than her father. You're going to hear her in her own words.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL)

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both courting their former rival, John Edwards right now, seeking his endorsement.

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

Jack, I wrote a little column about this on CNNPolitics.com -- what these endorsements mean.

What do you think about this courting of John Edwards?

CAFFERTY: I think he -- you know, he was a popular guy, got hundreds of thousands of people to vote for him before he pulled out of the race. On the other hand, the Kennedy clan, starting with Senator Kennedy, all came out and endorsed Barack Obama and then he lost Massachusetts. So I don't know.

My guess is Edwards is looking to play let's make a deal. And at some point, he'll probably endorse one or the other.

BLITZER: I'm sure they'd love Edwards, Jeff. And they'd love Al Gore, as well. He hasn't endorsed anyone.

TOOBIN: Yes, although, just to prove Jack's point, Al Gore endorsed Howard Dean four years ago.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: It didn't do him much good. You know, these endorsements are murky things.

I think, clearly, it's better to have them than not. But I don't think they're going to determine the outcome of the race.

BLITZER: I can't turn on my Blackberry...

BASH: But the one...

BLITZER: ...I can't...

BASH: ...but there is one big difference... BLITZER: Dana, I can't turn on my Blackberry without getting some press release from these candidates telling us who their latest endorsements are coming from.

BASH: Oh, big time, especially from John McCain, as he's turning out conservative endorsement after conservative endorsement to prove that he is one.

But back on what you were talking about, about John Edwards and the Kennedys, there is, obviously, one big difference here, which is that John Edwards has actually won a good number of delegates. So what they're looking at is not just sort of a pat on the back and saying hi, I'm with you. It's that this is so tight between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, in terms of the delegate count, that if John Edwards does back one of them and, you know, gives the nod to his delegates and releases them, that could make a big, big difference in this Democratic race.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the -- something that President Bush doesn't want to be called -- the pundit-in-chief. He did a little of that yesterday. And he said this, among other things, about Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY FOX NEWS)

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the only foreign policy thing I remember he said was that he's going to attack Pakistan and embrace Ahmadinejad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Jack, he was on Fox News Sunday yesterday.

What do you think about President Bush's political analysis?

CAFFERTY: Well, two things. One, what he said is wrong. And, two, perhaps even more importantly, is the guy conducting the interview over there on the "F" word network never called him on it -- never challenged him on it, never said he didn't say he was going to embrace Ahmadinejad. He just let it go.

BLITZER: He said he'd have a direct dialogue with Ahmadinejad.

CAFFERTY: That's not embracing.

TOOBIN: And he...

CAFFERTY: That's having a meeting with him. There's a whole difference.

TOOBIN: He didn't say he was going to attack Pakistan.

CAFFERTY: No.

TOOBIN: He said if he saw -- knew where Osama bin Laden was, he would try to kill him there. BLITZER: Which is exactly what Bush told me in two interviews over the past year or so, that if the U.S. had actionable intelligence on where Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan, he would authorize U.S. troops to go in there, as well.

CAFFERTY: But this was a deliberately misleading thing he said. You say he said he was going to attack Pakistan. That's not the same as we have actionable intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. This sounds like a preemptive strike -- you know, like Bush did in Iraq.

BASH: Well...

BLITZER: They're gearing up, I think it's fair to say, Dana, what the Democrats call the Republican attack machine. And once the two candidates are settled -- the Democrat and the Republican -- it's going to get tight out -- it's going to get tough out there.

BASH: Exactly. Beyond all the facts, which everybody was talking about in terms of the raw politics here, this is a reminder, first of all, that George W. Bush -- whatever you want to say about him, he is very astute, very interested political observer and player. And he understands what -- you know, every Republican that you talk to, basically, that they say, which is that they are very concerned about a Barack Obama nomination on the Democratic side.

And so he is beginning to sort of put out those talking points that you're going to hear if, in fact, he is the nominee, particularly against a Republican nominee, if it is, in fact, John McCain, because they think the way that they can get Democrats -- any Democrats, but especially Barack Obama -- is on the issue of national security.

BLITZER: Dana has been working hard all day for weeks now. Dana, get some rest.

Thanks very much

Jeff Toobin, you're not working so hard.

TOOBIN: No.

BLITZER: You don't have to rest that much.

TOOBIN: That's all right.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty can't leave.

CAFFERTY: He never tells me I can this...

BLITZER: He can't leave. He's got The Cafferty File coming up.

Thanks to our panelists.

Long shot Republican presidential candidate, Ron Paul, may be shifting his priorities. He's shrinking his campaign, even though he has plenty of cash. Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

She is joining us -- Abbi, what is Ron Paul saying to supporters online?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, he's saying he's still running as a Republican, but that he's scaling back his national campaign.

In this post here, he says he has another priority. That's his seat in Congress. Ron Paul faces a primary challenge next month. His campaign says that he's reducing his national staff by about half and focusing in on Texas.

Now, this is a presidential bid that's been fueled right here online by grassroots supporters who been organizing fundraising drives -- gimmicks like the Ron Paul blimp and a Money Bomb that went to over $6 million in one time in one day in December.

Ron Paul says that -- the spokesman says they have cash on hand right now, more than $5 million. If he were to drop out of the race entirely, that's money he could use for the Congressional race. But the spokesman says that's not the case, that's not the intention -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.

Let's see what's going on with Lou Dobbs.

His show coming up right at the top of the hour.

He's standing by with a preview -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, a lot's going on, Wolf.

Tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, we'll much more on the presidential campaign.

Also tonight, President Felipe Calderon of Mexico -- he's in the United States, meddling in our politics, pushing his amnesty agenda and insulting us in general. We'll have a special report for you.

Also, a federal agent smashing two communist Chinese spy rings. A top Justice Department official saying China's espionage activities reaching cold war levels. That's what we've been reporting on this broadcast now for years. We'll have the latest for you from Washington this time.

And more state and local law enforcement agencies are helping the federal government enforce our immigration laws.

How about that?

We'll have a special report from one community that's trying to stop the severe impact of illegal immigration. And among my guests here tonight distinguished Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, responsible for tracking recessions in this country.

You don't want to miss what he'll be saying.

Join us for all of that and a great deal more at the top of the hour right here on CNN. All the day's news and more coming up -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Lou.

Thanks very much.

Chelsea Clinton -- she's campaigning for her mom, telling voters why they should vote for her and why they shouldn't necessarily be doing something else. We're watching this.

And how will President Bush's support affect John McCain's candidacy?

Jack and your e-mail and a lot more, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Checking our Political Ticker, listen to what Chelsea Clinton is telling voters in Wisconsin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHELSEA CLINTON: Well, I don't think that you should vote for my mom because of my father. I don't think you should vote against her because of my father.

But how would she be different?

On so many fronts. We're talking about fiscal responsibility, and my mother is more fiscally conservative than my father, and certainly this president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com. That's where you can read my latest blog post, as well.

Let's bring back Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File.

CAFFERTY: A picture of Al Gore there.

You wrote about endorsements on the blog.

BLITZER: Yes, I did.

CAFFERTY: I read that blog earlier. BLITZER: Thank you.

CAFFERTY: Not bad. C.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: No.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I passed.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is how will President Bush's support affect John McCain's candidacy?

Benjamin in Atlanta: "Support for Mr. Bush can only hurt McCain. The main Republican base has tired of his leadership and his approval ratings show it. Likewise, Independents are not looking for another Bush. And by accepting support from Bush, McCain, in their eyes, aligns himself with the current president -- dangerous ground."

Jim in L.A. : "Bush should hop right into the fray. We have McCain and Huckabee -- old and pious -- being supported by Bush the nuclear. It's proof of intelligent design and that some people did not evolve. Glory hallelujah. Let the campaign begin."

Jon in Virginia writes: "Every photo-op involving Bush and McCain will turn into footage for the Democrats to use this fall -- the more the merrier."

Mac writes: "President Bush's endorsement will help John McCain solidify his stance as a true conservative and help him secure the Republican presidential nomination. However, President Bush will also cost McCain valuable support from Independents during the general election."

Tom in Maine writes: "The time for George Bush to support Senator McCain was when Republican dirty tricksters swift-boated the senator eight years ago. It's mind-boggling what moronic garbage some idiots will believe at campaign time."

Davie writes from Minnesota: "Right now, an endorsement from George Bush would be the equivalent of the kiss of death from the mafia."

And Rex in Oregon says: "How could any support by Bush possibly help anyone, anywhere, any time? Jack, get a grip. You want Bush to put in a good word for you at CNN?"

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: Yes, I'll take all the good words I can get.

BLITZER: You get a lot of good words, Jack.

CAFFERTY: I do. BLITZER: Thanks very much.

See you back here tomorrow.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: So what would a campaign be without all those weird gestures from the politicians?

CNN's Jeanne Moos bringing us some body language experts and some pointers for the presidential candidates. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: So what is it about a campaign that triggers all those strange hand gestures from the candidates?

Jeanne Moss has been looking into this Moost Unusual phenomenon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to what matters in the presidential race, this is completely beside the point.

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: But why do they point like that?

Hillary has even managed a two finger point.

Huckabee's finger deserted his guitar.

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: What exactly is the point?

Our favorite body language expert, Dan Hill, describes a candidate's entrance before an adoring crowd as a moment of vulnerability.

DAN HILL, BODY LANGUAGE EXPERT: And if you don't do something, I think you run the risk of looking kind of listless, forlorn, marooned.

MOOS: So, to project confidence and connect with a crowd, they salute, they give a thumbs up and they point.

(VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: She has these big, forced social smiles. She's waving. Her eyes are going wide like she's so surprised and delighted to see someone she knows.

MOOS: It's not like we're the only ones to notice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE COLBERT REPORT," COURTESY YOUTUBE/COMEDY CENTRAL)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST:

She engaged in her traditional pre-victory speech game -- clap, clap, point, point, clap, clap, point, point.

(VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT: That is good. Take a look at her audience.

(VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT: Kids love the Clinton campaign -- or, as they call it, lady in the yellow jacket '08, clap, clap, point, point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Hey, Obama claps just as much, though he seems to point less, preferring a casual wave.

HILL: I think he has a little bit of disdain for doing something really cheesy.

MOOS: Because of Vietnam War injuries, John McCain has trouble raising his arms high.

HILL: He will push his hands out and he'll do thumbs up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Thank you thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Body language experts like to gauge smiles as natural or forced.

HILL: ...is that Obama,, when he does flash a smile, has the best smile in the race.

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Now, since we usually can't see who the candidates are pointing at, we'll just have to use our imagination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS (on camera): You know, this is so unfair -- putting these candidates' every single gesture under the magnifying glass.

I mean what do we want?

Do we want them to act like waxed figures?

(voice-over): Speaking of which, there's wax Obama -- lifelike down to the mole next to his nose. He just joined Hillary and Bill in the Oval Office at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Washington. But enough of this pointlessness.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: And remember, voters will go to the polls in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, in what's being called the Potomac primaries, tomorrow. Our coverage begins right here in THE SITUATION ROOM at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll then pick it up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern -- special coverage that will continue into the night. Tomorrow is going to be another big day on the road to the White House.

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, subscribe at CNNPolitics.com or iTunes. And remember, we've just announced that CNN will be hosting yet another Democratic presidential debate in Texas Thursday night, February 21st. Check your schedules for that.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

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