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'Ballot Bowl '08'

Aired February 12, 2008 - 12:00   ET


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello and welcome to an exciting new round of CNN "Ballot Bowl '08."
I'm Jessica Yellin in New York City.

The Potomac primaries are in full swing, voting under way right now in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

This hour, you'll have the chance to hear the presidential candidates in their own words, unfiltered.

Joining me for the hour, my co-anchor, Dana Bash, in Washington, and Suzanne Malveaux in El Paso, Texas, where Hillary Clinton will be campaigning.

But first let's get right to the Potomac primaries with my colleague Dana Bash.

Dana, tell us what's going on there.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, you probably recognize where I am standing right now. I'm actually standing in the Russell Senate Office Building. It's a place that you and I haven't seen for quite some time covering the campaign. But, you know, here on "Ballot Bowl," what we try to do pretty much every day at this point is bring you the candidates live from the campaign trail.

But today it is a reminder that, at least right now, the leading candidates, unless something changes dramatically, which in this race, you never know, it could -- but unless something changes dramatically, it looks like the nominee for the Republican and Democratic sides will likely come from the U.S. Senate. So, today, these candidates are actually doing their day job, they're in the U.S. Senate. You see a live picture of the Senate right now.

We know that John McCain has been voting this morning. Barack Obama, we know, has been voting this morning, according to our Senate producer, Ted Barrett. Hillary Clinton has not shown up.

And the reason why they are voting is because there are a series -- or have been a series of critical votes on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, specifically on whether or not to grant immunity to telecommunications companies that allow -- because of the government -- allow eavesdropping on people's phone calls. And just so you know, the votes this morning allowed immunity for these telecommunications companies. But -- so basically what we are seeing today is, again, these senators doing their day jobs here in the Senate. But while this is going on, it's pretty convenient that these senators, these candidates, are also campaigning locally. Because as you said, Jessica, there are primaries going on here in the District of Columbia, and in Virginia and in Maryland, the so-called Potomac primaries.

In fact, let's show our viewers what's at stake today in terms of the delegates in all of these primaries.

First, in terms of the District of Columbia, the Democrats have 15 delegates at stake. Republicans, 16 delegates.

In the state of Maryland, Democrats have 70 delegates at stake. And Republicans have 37. And in Virginia, 83 delegates at stake for Democrats, and 60 for Republicans.

And speaking of Republicans, and speaking of senators who want to be president, I'm in the Russell Office Building. This is the building where Senator John McCain has had his office for years and years.

And before coming on the program, before Senator McCain went on the Senate floor, I caught up with him outside his office to talk about the fact that he's back here for the first time in a very long time, and the fact that he is going to see his colleagues and visit and be a part of a weekly policy lunch with Republicans. Again, something he has not done in a very long time.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Feeling good. Guardedly optimistic, as always.

BASH: Also, about the fact that you are back here in the Senate. I mean, it's been a while since you've been back to the Senate.

MCCAIN: Yes. And fortunately there are some important votes on FISA today. Yes.

BASH: The fact that you're going to go back into this conference, you're going to be with your colleagues, are you going to have a message for them in terms of your candidacy?

MCCAIN: Unity. You know, party unity. All work together. Get our candidates elected and re-elected.

You know, kind of a get-together and talk about their agenda, as well as mine.

BASH: Are you going to encourage them to get behind you and talk about...

MCCAIN: Oh, yes. They know me well enough that I just need to talk about how we want to move forward and how we need to continue to try to unify the party. And there's very -- you know, very solid support. I've known all these people for many, many years.

BASH: Yesterday, you had one event in the morning in Maryland, and then you had another, as you know, late in the day in Richmond.


BASH: Doesn't -- I mean, perhaps it's just because of the calendar, perhaps it's because you're in Never-Never-Land right now in the campaign, but are you thinking about how you kind of keep your edge and keep what you need to do in terms of the message going right now? How do you do that?

MCCAIN: Yes. And one of the reasons -- one of the things I spent the day doing was talking about, if I'm fortunate enough to get the nomination, to keep doing what I did in the primary -- the bus, the town hall meetings, the kind of environment that we were able to create. You don't want to get into one of these detached, you know, kind of things where you lose touch with people and lose, frankly, the way you got to the dance.

BASH: And how do you do that?

MCCAIN: Well, we'll have town hall meetings and we'll have a bus for jerks like you to come on and spend time with us. We'll do that. We'll do that.

We'll just make it happen. It won't be easy, because you'll be flying all over the country, but we'll get it done.

BASH: And you just want to put a button (ph) on this. You have not thought about if, in fact, from your perspective, when you button- up the nomination leaving the Senate? That's not -- that is not...

MCCAIN: I hadn't thought about that. I really -- you k now, I'd like to -- you know me. I'm so superstitious, I'd like to put off most of those things until -- Governor Huckabee is running a strong race. And he has every right to do that. So we've got to -- we've got to get the delegates first.

BASH: And when -- so you haven't thought about...

MCCAIN: No, I hadn't. But I promise you I'll talk to you about it.

BASH: One last question about -- a substantive question about the decision by the Pentagon to move forward with the tribunal and try the 9/11 suspects.


BASH: Given your position on torture...


BASH: ... how concerned are you about this going forward and having evidence that is going to be committed into the (INAUDIBLE) that might be, from your perspective (INAUDIBLE)?

MCCAIN: I was going to get briefed on the whole details of this. And that was going to happen today. So I'll get back to you as to how all that interfaces and interacts.



BASH: That's Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain outside his Senate office building here in the Russell Senate Office Building right before he began a series of votes this morning here on Capitol Hill.

And Jessica, it's really interesting to watch Senator McCain, because, you know, we talked about it yesterday, but it is even more evident today, how he's trying to walk this fine line between kind of campaigning and continuing to compete, because he does still have an opponent in Mike Huckabee, but also wanting to sort of have the sense of and the aura of inevitability that he does have this nomination all locked up. He doesn't have any campaign events at all scheduled for today until this evening, where he's going to have what he is calling a victory party in Virginia to -- he hopes to tout some victories today in some of these Potomac primaries.

And for the next couple of days, at least on his schedule, he looks like he's going to be here in the Senate and also in the campaign. His campaign really is sort of trying to figure out how to transition between the primary season, a primary season that isn't really over yet at all for him, and kind of pivoting to a general election campaign in terms of his staff, in terms of his structure.

Also, John McCain, as you remember, Jessica, is somebody who is -- and his staff -- they're trying to be very careful about how they beef up given the fact that, remember, it was back in the summer that he had a huge structure. He had sort of an enormous campaign, and a lot of things had to change because the money dried up and he had to fire a lot of people.

So, just in talking to some his advisers, Jessica, it is interesting to see how they are going to use that lesson that they had from what happened when McCain was the presumed -- or was the front- runner the last time around as they transition to the next phase of this campaign now -- Jessica.

YELLIN: A delicate balancing act for John McCain.

Dana, now, I heard you say in your interview -- you asked him about a vice presidential contender. He says he's not going to go there yet.

My question for you is, I know you've covered Mike Huckabee as well. Is it your sense he's staying in this race at this point to be the vice presidential contender, or is he really trying to shape the platform of the Republican Party going into the November election? BASH: That's a great question. You know, he says, as you can imagine, and as you know, you see over and over again, because he's asked that question, Mike Huckabee, that he's not in this to be the vice president, he's running for president, end of story. You know, but there is a lot of speculation that that is part of the reason why he is staying in. The question now though, Jessica, is whether or not him staying in the race and maybe making it a little bit more difficult for John McCain to prove that he can unite conservatives behind him, whether that's going to hurt Mike Huckabee's chances for being the vice presidential candidate.

You know, it is -- all of these candidates don't want to talk about their VP choice at this point. And, you know, it probably is way too early to talk about it. But, you know, for Mike Huckabee, he -- this is somebody who really surprised himself, surprised a lot of people by really becoming a player.

He had an enormous impact on the state of Iowa, and he's had a big impact on the race. So, it seems to me that he wants to keep this going as long as he can.

He had an interesting answer to the question the other day -- somebody said, "Why are you in this still?" And he said, "I have nothing else to do." He smiled, but maybe that's the most honest answer he's given to that question so far -- Jessica.

YELLIN: OK. Dana back on the old stomping ground, back on the Hill.

BASH: Yes.

YELLIN: And stay with "Ballot Bowl."

Coming up, we've got Mike Huckabee, who says it isn't over yet. And on the Democratic side, a tight delegate race. Could Barack Obama grab the lead in the delegate count today?

Stay with us.


YELLIN: Welcome back to "Ballot Bowl," where you hear from the candidates unfiltered and in their own words.

Already this morning we've heard from John McCain in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash. Now let's turn to the Democrats and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

She'll be focusing on delegate-rich Texas today. That's where we find our Suzanne Malveaux, in El Paso, Texas.

Suzanne, Senator Clinton's campaign is talking a lot about Texas as, in a sense, her firewall. They're not expecting her to do terribly well in the Potomac primaries today.

How is it looking for her there in Texas? SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jessica, we've kind of seen this M.O. before. You remember when she was being trounced in South Carolina. She didn't stick around for the results. She was already in Tennessee. That is where she was holding kind of a town hall meeting, taking questions.

Well, Senator Clinton is not sticking around to be in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C. Her camp already looking at those contests as potentially losses for her, that she is not going to come out the winner. And so what has she done? She's hop-scotched and skipped here to Texas, El Paso being her first stop. She's going to have a huge rally, and then it's going to be followed up by a fundraiser, $1,000 a plate.

As you know, Jessica, it's big money here, it's big votes, lots of delegates at stake. And this really is critical for her. She believes she has a chance in Texas, as well as Ohio. She is looking forward to the March 4th contest. And the reason why she thinks she's so strong here, it is the Hispanic community, the Latinos who make up nearly 50 percent, nearly half of the Democratic voters for that March 4th contest.

She has performed well before when it comes to Latino community in California, New York. She is certainly looking to that group to put her over the hump.

Let's take a listen.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you look at the states that I have won, they are states we have to win. And they are states that I believe I will win in the general election. Obviously, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Michigan, California, Arizona.

I think that if you look at the base that I start from, because a lot of the caucus states which you know are driven by the most active members of a political party -- the people who show up at caucuses are people who are highly motivated and oftentimes, you know, very much on one issue, or at least a certain ideological perspective. We're not going to carry unless there is a tsunami change in American politics between now and then.

We're not going to carry Alaska or North Dakota or Idaho or Nebraska. But we have to carry enough states on top of what John Kerry won to actually win.

And I believe I am in a much better position to do that, because if you look at who I am drawing votes from, people making less than $50,000 a year who need a president, that's going to be one of the greatest contrasts between me and Senator McCain. I think he will have more of the same.

He didn't even vote on the stimulus package. He has said he doesn't really understand the economy. Well, I think it's really important the next president understand the economy and how to make it work for the vast majority of Americans.

I have a huge vote among women, and women have formed the basis of Democratic victories. You know, the gender gap is real. I hope we can close it some. I'd love to see that happen. And I think it will once we get into a race against the Republicans.

But it is a major bulwark of the Democratic Party. And it will be a huge benefit for me.

I have also, as you know from reading this, been very successful with the Latino vote, which is critical in states we have to win. And maybe more than that, I think the idea that you can go into the general election and expect there not to be any negative attacks or any effort to sort of swift-boat whoever our candidate is, is not realistic.

Whichever of us is nominated will be subjected to the full force and effect of the Republican machine. That's what they know how to do.

It will be back to their home base, and I believe I can withstand that better because I've been through it. You know, when you look at any general election match-up with the Republicans, they will not be shy about trying to paint whoever our nominee is in a way that will benefit them.

That's what they're good at. They've done it before. They will try to do it again.

There is very little, if any, new information about me. It has been processed, it is in the sort of mental bank of America, and I think that's a huge advantage for me.

And by the time the Republicans get done with whomever we nominate, you know, you will have a certain number of people who will be against you. That goes with the territory. But if we do our job, we'll be able to push back and get more people to support us in light of what the consequences would be of another Republican presidency.


MALVEAUX: And Jessica, it is not a foregone conclusion that she is going to wrap up Texas. She certainly is going to have a challenge from Barack Obama and his team. They are already setting up shop here.

They say that they are launching TV ads -- now, this across the state -- more than two dozen TV markets in Texas. They've got the finances, they've got the money really to spread his message.

They are talking about health care, something that Senator Clinton considers her signature message. That is what's going over the airwaves right now.

And also, when you look at Barack Obama's trends here, they make the case, they make the argument, that the more people get to know Barack Obama, the more his numbers seem to go up, including those in the Latino community. So, they believe they've got enough time here, some two weeks, to make a difference to see those numbers go up.

We actually saw over the last year or so, he had two big rallies in Austin, one of the most liberal cities in the state. So there was some enthusiasm, some excitement there. But we've also seen as well that his endorsement from Senator Ted Kennedy didn't pan out when it came to California and Massachusetts.

So they are going to have to get their message out here. They're going to have to make some sort of dent in the Latino community. She is going to have to try to hold on to that as much as possible.

And the other big challenge, as you know, this is not just a contest about the delegates and the delegate count, but it is also about perception and momentum. Her challenge over the next two weeks is really going to be able to try to look at those some 800 superdelegates and convince them that -- not to let go of her campaign, that she's electable and that she's winnable. The same thing for people who could possibly endorse her, not to jump ship but to hang with her for the next couple of weeks to see what happens in Texas and Ohio -- Jessica.

YELLIN: Suzanne Malveaux in Texas, where Senator Clinton certainly has had the leg up on organization. She's been organizing on the ground there for more than a year.

But as you point out, Barack Obama really does have the momentum and enthusiasm at this time.

We'll look ahead to that coming up in the beginning of March.

But looking ahead now to "Ballot Bowl," up after the break, we're going to hear from Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee, two candidates from two different parties, both telling us why they are seeking the presidency.


BASH: Welcome back to "Ballot Bowl '08."

I'm Dana Bash on Capitol Hill today, on Capitol Hill because at least a couple of the candidates for president, one Democrat and one Republican, they're here doing their day job, at least this morning, instead of being out on the campaign trail. But there is a very important day and very important voting going on right around here in D.C., in Maryland, and Virginia -- the so-called Potomac primaries.

There's voting going on as we speak for the Republicans and Democrats. A lot of delegates at stake for all of these candidates who are hoping to get their party's nomination.

Now, John McCain is hoping, and his campaign insists that they will, have a clean sweep of these primaries that are going on today. And so he is here working in the Senate for a short time. He's not really campaigning at all today. But his opponent, Mike Huckabee, has been campaigning very, very hard in all of these states, particularly in the state of Virginia, where he thinks that he can do well, like he has in many of the primaries and caucuses so far, with the social conservative voters, particularly in the southern and more rural parts of the state of Virginia.

So we want to bring you some of what Mike Huckabee was telling voters in Roanoke, Virginia, last night.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Most of us are here tonight not just because we love the game of politics, but because we love the goal of this country. And that's to give every man and woman and boy and girl a chance to be free and live their lives to the fullest.


That's worth our effort. That's worth all that we're putting in to try to make sure that these elections give us leaders that will understand what America is about and will lead us to the best we can be, and never accept mediocrity and never accept the status quo, and never want to just look at what is and say, that's OK, but to look at what ought to be and say that's what we're going to get to.

We don't need thermometer leaders. Thermometer leaders are the ones who can take a poll and tell you what the temperature of the country is. But it can't do anything about it.

We need leaders who are thermostats, who understand what the temperature is, but who are determined to change it to what it ought to be. And that's real leadership, and that's what I pledge that I will give this country if you give me the chance to serve as your president.

Now, I know there are some folks who say, well, we've been watching TV, and they said that it's kind of all over. Well, that's what they said last Saturday.

And you know what? The people of Kansas, by 60 percent to 24 percent, said it isn't over yet!


And the people in Louisiana said, it isn't over yet!


And the people in Washington State were in the process of saying it wasn't over yet, but the party chairman, after they counted about 87 percent of the votes said, oh, it's over, all right.

(BOOING) And we're asking for a full accounting of that little deal, because, folks, I don't know about you, it would make me awfully mad to know I went and voted and somebody said, oh, we counted enough to know that your vote wasn't going to matter anyway. In this country every single vote matters, every vote counts, and nobody -- nobody -- has a right to take your vote away from you.


Nobody. And tomorrow, I need you to go out in Virginia, in huge numbers, and to say that in Virginia, it isn't over yet.


If you want a candidate who believes lower taxes are better than higher taxes, if you want one who believes that mothers and fathers raise better kids than governments, if you want one who believes that we need a strong military with no apology, if you want one who is promising to build the border and get those borders secure within 18 months, if you want a candidate who will be your president, who believes that we ought to facilitate the free enterprise system, not complicate it, if you want somebody to get rid of the IRS instead of having it regulate your life to the point you can't function, if you want somebody who believes the best government is the most local government, not the one in Washington, if you have wanted somebody to be president who believes that government ought to be limited to what it has to do, not what it just would like to do, and that the purpose of government is not to provide for you but to protect you so you can provide for yourselves without the government on your back, then I'm the guy that you need to go out and vote for tomorrow!



BASH: And that is former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a defiant Republican presidential candidate, trying to get the 60 votes -- 60 delegates at stake, rather, in the state of Virginia, which, of course, is one of three primaries going on today.

Mike Huckabee, Jessica, is somebody who is not giving up, despite the fact that mathematically it is virtually impossible for him to catch up to John McCain right now with regard to the delegate count. But he says he is staying in the race until somebody, whether it's John McCain or somebody else -- it looks like it could be John McCain -- but gets that magic 1,191 delegates in order to really officially be the Republican nominee.

YELLIN: Dana, staying in the fight.

There's a very different scenario for Barack Obama, who also came from behind to become what is increasingly looking like at least a tide, if not increasingly the front-runner with all this momentum he's had over the last few days. He's looking to clean up with another clean sweep today. He expects to win today in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. This morning he was delivering coffee and doughnuts to supporters with Washington, D.C.'s new mayor with him. And yesterday he explained to a packed crowd in Baltimore exactly why he entered this race.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I decided to run because of what Dr. King called the fierce urgency of now.


The fierce urgency of now. Because I believe there is such a thing as being too late. And that hour is almost upon us.

Now, we are at a defining moment in our history.


OBAMA: Our nation -- I love you back!


Our nation is at war. Our planet is in peril. And the dream that so many generations fought for feels like it's slowly slipping away.

You see it in your own communities, in your own lives, right here in Baltimore. People are working harder and harder just to get by. They've never paid more for health care, never paid more for college, never paid more for gas at the pump.

We have new prisons, but old schools.


Our children aren't able to compete in this new global economy.

Our health care system, 47 million people without health insurance. And if you have health insurance, you've seen your co- payments and deductibles and your premiums going up and up and up, so it's becoming harder and harder to maintain your coverage.

In such a situation, we cannot afford to wait. We cannot wait to fix our schools. We cannot wait to fix our health care system. We cannot wait to bring back good jobs at good wages. We cannot wait to give our young people an opportunity to live a decent life. We cannot wait to end global warming. We can't wait to clean up Chesapeake Bay. We cannot wait to end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home. We cannot wait!

We cannot wait. And a year ago, when I made that decision, I had concluded that the size of our challenges had outstripped the capacity of a broken and divided politics to solve. And I was betting on the fact that Americans were hungry for a new kind of politics. Hungry for something different. That they were tired of a politics that was all about tearing each other down and were more interested in a politics of lifting the country up. That people were tired of being tricked and bamboozled and fooled and hoodwinked. You remember that, being hoodwinked.

They wanted some straight talk from their elected officials. Some honesty from their elected officials. They're tired of spin and PR. They want common sense.

Most of all, I was betting on you. I was betting on you, the American people.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Barack Obama speaking to another packed crowd, this time in Maryland. At that same event the crowd chanted, "it is your time." And he replied, "it's your time," The kind of call of response style that's become a staple of Obama's rallying style.

Coming up, we've got a lot more for you. John McCain on the long-term troop presence in Iraq, and Mike Huckabee pressing his desire to get rid of the IRS. Stay with us.


DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to BALLOT BOWL '08. I'm Dana Bash.

On Capitol Hill today, where at least two of the presidential candidates, who happen to be senators, are back doing their day jobs for a little while. But I'm also in Washington because there is a big primary going on here in D.C., as well as Maryland and Virginia. The so-called Potomac Primaries. Voting is happening as we speak. And we want to bring you up to date on just what's at stake today with all of that voting.

First of all, on the Democratic side, there are 168 delegates total at stake today. Fifteen in the District of Columbia, 70 in Maryland, and 83 in Virginia. On the Republican side, there are 113 delegates at stake total for all three primaries. Sixteen in D.C., 37 delegates at stake for the Republicans in Maryland, and 60 in Virginia.

Also want to kind of put that in perspective to show you just where things stand in the Republican race. John McCain, at this point in time, has 723 delegates total by CNN's count. Mike Huckabee is very distantly behind him at 217 delegates. And Ron Paul has just 16. And how many do you need to actually get the nomination on the Republican side? That's 1,191.

So you see there why John McCain and his campaign continues to say that he feels that he is the presumptive nominee and it will be very, very hard for Mike Huckabee to catch up, even though Mike Huckabee is insisting, as you just heard before the break, that he is staying with this race as long as he can. And he's been campaigning very hard in the state of Virginia.

John McCain was also in Virginia last night. His campaign schedule has lightened up quite a bit. He made just one stop yesterday in the state of Virginia ahead of today's primary. He was speaking in Richmond and he was speaking with some of the sort of well-known senators and local officials for the state of Virginia that have come behind his candidacy.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you for that question because, you know, this is -- anyone who worries about how long we're in Iraq does not understand the military and does not understand war. The question is not how long we stay in Iraq. The question is, is whether we're able to reduce the casualties, eliminate them, have the Iraqi military, as they are today, take over more and more of our responsibilities.

We have troops in Kuwait. I don't hear a single American say, get the troops out of Kuwait. Maybe there are, but certainly it hasn't affected American public opinion. We have a base in Turkey. We have -- we've had troops for 60 years in Germany and Japan. We've had troops in South Korea since 1950.

So, I mean, the argument is really almost insulting to one's intelligence to say, how long we're in Iraq. The question is, will we be able to succeed with this strategy, which is succeeding, and we withdraw American troops to bases out of harm's way, eliminate the casualties and have this counterinsurgency succeed, which we are on the path to doing. And compare that with the demands for setting a date for withdrawal, which in my view is how al Qaeda will trumpet that they've defeated the United States of America.


BASH: And that's John McCain actually speaking with reporters last night in Richmond, Virginia. That, what you herd him talking about, the war in Iraq, that is the issue that John McCain and his campaign thinks is the biggest dividing line between Republicans and Democrats in general and one that he insists is going to make his candidacy more positive for Republicans even though many conservatives are very skeptical of a John McCain nomination because he says that he is somebody who has been so out front on the war in Iraq.

Well, let's go over to the candidate who is still in this race on the Republican side and that is Mike Huckabee. He also, as I have been saying, he's been campaigning very hard in Virginia. Last night in Roanoke, he talked about the issue that really sets him aside from every other candidate in this race, Democrat and Republican, and that is his plan to abolish the IRS.


MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And by the way, there's something really, really exciting that happens when we pass the fair tax. And here's what happens. I get to be the president who goes and nails the going-out-of-business sign on the front door of the IRS. Instead of the IRS putting us out of business, we'll put them out of business.

And I'll tell you something pretty good. You see this lovely form that I have with me? You've seen this before, every April 15th. I can tell, you love it like I do. Well, here's what we're going to be able to do with the 1040. We will, instead -- here's what we're going to do, folks. We're going to quit killing the trees and start killing the IRS and put some people back in business in this country.


BASH: Mike Huckabee speaking last night in Virginia. A little bit of color before we go to break. Our Alexander Markpart (ph) is an embedded producer on the Huckabee campaign. He reported to us this morning that the press bus ran out of gas. Ran out of gas on the highway. Perhaps an unfortunate metaphor for Mike Huckabee's campaign, perhaps not, but an interesting bit of color as to what really goes on, on a campaign trail on days like today.

Now after the break, we are going to go back to the Democratic side and let you listen in to Hillary Clinton who, despite the fact that there are votes going on here in D.C., Virginia and Maryland, she's already looking beyond that. She's already looking to the next very important states that she thinks that she can do well in, and that's Texas. Stay with us.


YELLIN: Welcome back to BALLOT BOWL where we bring you the candidates unfiltered and in their own words and what they're doing today. Take a look at that. What you're seeing is Barack Obama and John McCain at their day jobs. They were on the Senate floor today there in the D.C. area for the primaries and they are also voting on some key national security legislation on some FISA legislation.

And the two of them got a chance to do more than rub elbows. They actually shook hands. But we're told Senator Hillary Clinton did not show up for this vote. My colleague Dana Bash is there on Capitol Hill.

Dana, Senator McCain and Barack Obama already looking at each other as possible opponents in a general election. Quite a match-up.

BASH: It certainly could be, you know. And before we talk about, really quickly, Jessica, I think that you just made a really interesting point. And it's a big question mark today here on Capitol Hill, where's Hillary Clinton. You know for a long time she has had really made a big effort to get back here for votes, especially key votes like what they did today on the so-called FISA bill, at least key amendments on that bill. She wasn't here.

Apparently she's in D.C., but she didn't come for that vote. But as you see once again there, Barack Obama and John McCain did come for those votes. And you do see them sort of rubbing shoulders there. But on your question, you know, John McCain and his campaign -- in fact, Republicans in general, they're concerned about an Obama opponent. Ask pretty much anybody, they would much, much prefer to have Hillary Clinton as their Democratic opponent. First of all, for obvious reasons, because they think that she is much more polarizing.

But when it comes to John McCain, Barack Obama tends to appeal to independents. Well, John McCain has been saying over and over again, that if he doesn't do that well, or at least if he loses votes with the conservative base, he hopes to make up for it with independents. Well, what kind of match-up would that be if Barack Obama is his opponent there?

But you really, if you look at those two men, it's hard to see right there, but we will see them, you know, in other pictures, there's such a big difference between them in terms of generation. I mean Barack Obama in his 40s, John McCain in his 70s. And, of course, in terms of experience. And the experience is going to be the word that you're going to hear probably from John McCain over and over again if Barack Obama is his opponent.

YELLIN: And certainly Senator Hillary Clinton also regularly comparing herself to John McCain, saying she would be the better contender against him. A clear divide in the Democratic party, those who think Senator Clinton's national security credentials make them stronger, others who say Barack Obama's stance against the war makes him a clearer contrast to John McCain. And guessing which one will be the nominee is certainly getting ahead of ourselves.

That takes us right to the next topic, which is the delegates that are at stake for the Democrats. Today, 168 of them are at stake in the Potomac Primaries in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Now each one of them is important since Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are neck-and-neck in the delegate count.

Take a look. Here, today, Clinton holds a slight edge. She has 1,148 to Barack Obama's 1,121. Now those are the number of delegates they've earned. Those numbers include both pledged delegates and those super delegates we've been talking so much about. It takes 2,025 delegates for either of the candidates to capture the Democratic nomination.

Now as we've told you, both of them are aggressively doing what they can to get every single delegate. Both Senator Clinton and Obama spoke last night in a local setting to a television station in the Washington, D.C. area and, talking about what they're planning to do looking ahead beyond the Potomac Primaries. Let's listen.


CLINTON: Well, I think things have gone well. I think this is always going to be a competitive race because there's so much at stake. And the history making nature of my candidacy and Senator Obama's candidacy is just thrilling to me. I mean, obviously, it's bringing people in from all kinds of different perspectives and it's giving people a real stake in what happens in this election.

And, you know, I've been around a long time. So, you know, sometimes you're up. Sometimes you're down. I've been through all of that. But I feel really good about where we are.

We had a great night on Super Tuesday. We're winning the states that we have to win, the big states that are really going to determine whether Democrats win. I have something in common with my husband, he never carried caucuses here. He lost all of the ones that I've lost.

So my perspective is that, as we now move into this two-person race with the big states up ahead, Ohio, Michigan obviously, I mean Ohio and Texas, we're going to see a real focus on the differences between us.

OBAMA: We've got to make sure that whoever wins the most votes, the most states, the most delegates, that they are the nominee. I think it would be problematic if either Senator Clinton or myself came in with having won the most support from voters and that was somehow overturned by party insiders. I think the people would feel as if the voters' voices had been discounted.

Now, as you know, these are all allocated on a congressional district by district basis and so, you know, how folks -- how super delegates want to vote their conscience, that's up to them. But I do know that the bottom line is, our goal is to win the most delegates from the voters. And if we've accomplished that, I think we're going to be able to lay fair claim to the nomination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think should happen to the delegates in Michigan and Florida? You talk about voters -- not thinking that their votes are going to be counted in this process. What about them?

OBAMA: Well, all we've done in this process is to just follow the rules as they were laid out. I love the voters in Michigan and I love the voters in Florida and I want them to participate. We abided by the rules that had been set out by the DNC. All the candidates had agreed to those rules, so we didn't campaign there.


YELLIN: Barack Obama talking about two states where he agreed not to campaign, but Senator Clinton won the popular vote. So what happens with their delegates? Big question. An outstanding question in this race.

I'm going to turn now to Suzanne Malveaux, who is in Texas where Senator Clinton is heading.

Everybody's looking ahead. We just heard two sound bites from the candidates themselves looking ahead to the next contest and the conventions. Suzanne, what about today's votes in Washington, D.C. area?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jessica, I talked to a number of Clinton aides who are certainly hoping when they take a look at the primaries there in that area, they hope that this is not going to be just a trouncing here. That at least she gets some delegates, some representation.

But if it is huge, if the margins are huge, then that is a very big problem for Senator Clinton. But the one place they believe that they are competitive is Virginia. That's where we saw her campaigning over the last couple of days or so.

The reasons why, they're looking at a couple of groups that they believe she'll perform strongly with. This is -- we're talking about the military families, federal employees, the soccer moms. If you look at certain parts of the state itself, southwest Virginia, along the Tennessee border, that is a place where a lot of people have lost their jobs. If you look at the south side of the state bordering on North Carolina, that used to be really textile country there. Big economic problems with folks in that particular part of the state.

So they believe that if she hones her economic message, if she talks about the mortgage crisis, health care, that those are the kinds of issues that will really resonate with those voters. And those are the voters that have been loyal to her in the past, so they certainly hope that they're going to be able to get some sort of support from those groups out of Virginia.

Looking at Washington, D.C., as well as Maryland, they are conceding, they believe Barack Obama is in a much stronger position. When you take a look at the African-American vote, very significant there. Well educated people who have been basically attracted to the technology industry. Those are voters that normally go for Barack Obama. So they are certainly hoping at least they can be competitive in Virginia.


YELLIN: All right, Suzanne Malveaux giving us a good sense of context why exactly it is that the Clinton campaign is concerned about these primaries in the Potomac area and looking ahead.

And here on BALLOT BOWL, we are at the two-minute warning. That means we're going to have to wrap it up after a quick break.


YELLIN: Welcome back to BALLOT BOWL. We have a program note -- stay with CNN for continuing coverage of today's Potomac Primaries. And be sure to get the first results tonight at 8:00 Eastern in the CNN "Election Center." I'm Jessica Yellin in New York.

BASH: And I'm Dana Bash where both Jessica and I usually hang our hats on Capitol Hill, today, because a couple of the senators running for president have been here today. But we're going to be back in the field with BALLOT BOWL tomorrow bringing you a lot more political coverage. And political coverage is still going to be there for you to watch throughout the afternoon. In fact, up next, is CNN "Newsroom" with Don Lemon and Brianna Keilar. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Buying out workers, helping out homeowners. The world's biggest automaker looking to cut costs by cutting union jobs.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And the Bush administration trying to keep people on the verge of foreclosure from going over the edge.

LEMON: Ali Velshi talks homes, our Susan Lisovicz talks jobs and we're all talking about your financial security. Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.