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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Bobby Jindal

Aired February 17, 2008 - 10:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's 11 a.m. in Washington, 10 a.m. here New Orleans, 7 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition."
The race for the White House is heating up on the Democratic side. The candidates are looking ahead to the next big contest. That would be in Wisconsin this coming Tuesday. That's also where both Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, are campaigning fiercely right now.

Let's go to CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's joining us from Milwaukee with the latest. Set the scene for us, a huge couple of days coming up before this Wisconsin primary, Jessica.

YELLIN: Enormous intensity here, Wolf. Both Barack Obama and Senator Clinton campaigning here in Wisconsin through a wintry mix, both snow and sleet, both going after their key audiences.

For Senator Clinton, lots of blue-collar voters here who respond to her message of creating policy solutions that will help them in these economic hard times. Barack Obama has a different advantage. In the primary on Tuesday, both independents and Republicans are allowed to vote in the Democratic primary, a key swing vote that Barack Obama's had luck attracting.

They are going head to head, as you say, sharpening their differences. Senator Clinton hitting Barack Obama for giving essentially nice speeches without lots of solutions, Barack Obama saying Martin Luther King, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, they all gave important speeches that changed America. Words matter.

Beyond that, the campaigns are looking nationally, talking about this issue of superdelegates, emphasizing that this race should not be decided by those back-room door deals. The Clinton campaign saying, if it remains close, they'll fight this all the way through the convention. Barack Obama's team pushing back, saying this should be resolved only by the voters.

This is a fight that seems likely to go on well beyond Wisconsin, even beyond March 4, possibly up to the convention. A final note, Wolf. I should tell you that I was at a big dinner last night, a Democratic Party dinner for the Wisconsin Democrats where both Clinton and Obama spoke. Clinton gave a much more muted speech, talking about policy. Obama gave one of his rousing speeches that got lots of standing ovations. I went up to some people afterwards, asked them why were they were giving Barack Obama all these standing ovations, why they like him so much. They said to me, oh, we like Barack Obama. The speech was so exciting. But we're voting for Hillary Clinton.

Just a sense of how divided Democrats are, how hard it is to read the playing field out here. And everybody told me to a person they are enormously excited about both candidates from the Democratic Party. It's an embarrassment of riches, they said. So this race is far from over.

BLITZER: Jessica, quickly, on the polls right now, one of the polls in Wisconsin show -- I know some of them have been sort of misleading in other states, but what are the latest numbers that we're getting in advance of Tuesday's primary?

YELLIN: The hard number will show that this is still a statistical dead heat, that all the recent press that Barack Obama is so far ahead might be a little misleading. They are very much in a race to the finish here. It could go either way. Wolf?

BLITZER: They're getting excited in Milwaukee and Green Bay, throughout the state of Wisconsin, a big night coming up, big day on Tuesday. Jessica, thanks very much for that.

While the presidential candidates were all over the campaign trail, the United States Senate back in Washington approved the domestic spying bill to help eavesdrop on suspected terrorists. But the measure is now stuck in the House of Representatives because, in part, of a controversial provision providing retroactive immunity to the huge telecommunications companies that cooperate with this kind of surveillance activity.

Let's talk about that and more, including the presidential contest, with the Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Senator, welcome back to "Late Edition." Thanks very much for joining us.

MCCONNELL: Glad to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Before we get to this surveillance legislation, which passed the Senate, now stuck in the House of Representatives, a lot of conservatives still are saying they're uneasy, they're uncomfortable with John McCain as the party's nominee.

I know you support him right now, but you've disagreed with him on many of these issues over your joint years in the Senate. How worried are you that the conservatives will not only support him but will be enthusiastic come November?

MCCONNELL; I'm not worried at all. We all agree with John McCain on way more things than we disagree with him on. The differences between John McCain and either Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are stunning. Obama, for example, was recently called by the National Journal the most liberal member of the United States Senate. There are dramatic philosophical differences.

I think we're going to have a very enthusiastic and unified Republican Party going into the general election, and we're excited about a candidate who obviously has a lot of appeal to independent voters, who are going to determine who the next president of the United States is.

BLITZER: What about the Republican conservatives, Senator, who are disappointed or opposed to the fact that he was one of only two Republicans that opposed President Bush's tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 saying that they simply favored the wealthy?

MCCONNELL: Well, you know, I think John has taken a different view later. I think he now believes that the tax cuts worked. I think he's now advocating a permanent extension of the tax cuts. He's right in sync with us on taxes going forward.

And, you know, we don't want to get fixated on what may have happened years and years ago. The question is now and in the future, this race this year is going to be about the future, not the past. John McCain shares our view of the kind of future America ought to have, and certainly Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama don't.

BLITZER: What about on some of the other sensitive issues they keep pointing out, for example his support with Russ Feingold, one of the more liberal senators, from Wisconsin, on campaign finance reform, with Senator Lieberman on global warming right now. Are you with John McCain on those kinds of issues?

MCCONNELL; No, I'm not. But I'm with him on a whole lot of other issues, and he's been a solid conservative on most issues. And look, none of us agree 100 percent of the time. I think the disagreements with John McCain are not a huge impediment to the conservatives getting on board.

And as you've noticed, more and more of them are. I think John is going to preside over an entirely unified Republican Party. And as I said earlier, at the risk of being redundant, we're pretty excited to have a nominee who has demonstrated appeal to independent voters, who are going to determine who the next president of the United States is.

BLITZER: Is that more important than having the conservative base unified behind him?

MCCONNELL: I think the conservative base will be unified. Most of them are on board now. Others are coming. The party's going to be unified and we're going to have a candidate who can appeal to independent voters, and after all, that's the way you win elections. And unless you win elections, it's obvious you can't make policy.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the war on terror. The Senate passed the domestic surveillance legislation extending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the kind of provisions that the president wanted, but it's now stuck in the House of Representatives.

Here's what Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, is now saying. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF.: He knows that the underlying FISA law and the power given to him in the Protect America Act gives him sufficient authority to do all of the surveillance and collecting that he needs to do to protect the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, it lapsed last night, but the authorities are saying -- at least they're saying to me and I'm sure a lot of other people -- that they can continue this process at least for six months without any serious damage to the United States intelligence gathering.

What's wrong with just letting it continue on a piecemeal basis, which is what a lot of Democrats in the House are suggesting?

MCCONNELL: Of course, that's entirely inaccurate. The director of national intelligence on another show just this morning indicated that starting midnight last night, we have a degrading capability.

We can't go up on new targets. Let's say, for example, you've got a terrorist in Baghdad communicating with a terrorist in London. You can't go up on a new target without going through the extensive warrant provisions at FISA that have made this law not work in the first place.

MCCONNELL: And let me just step back, just a minute, and remind your audience, the bill not only passed the Senate; it passed the Senate by an overwhelming bipartisan majority.

Let me also remind the audience that there is a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives to take up and pass the Senate bill.

So the speaker, instead of taking up a bill that enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate and bipartisan majority support in the House, what were they doing last Thursday?

They were questioning a major league baseball pitcher and they were sanctioning White House officials, and then they went on vacation.

Director of National Intelligence McConnell is telling us, starting this morning, on another network, the facts, which are that we have a degrading capability to intercept terrorist communications.

Now what's going on here, Wolf? Let me tell you what's going on.

BLITZER: All right.

MCCONNELL: This is the Democratic allegiance to the plaintiff's bar. They're more interested in seeing companies in court than they are seeing terrorists in jail. This is all about the liability issue.

BLITZER: On that specific point, let me read to you what Nancy Pelosi says. Because that's a sensitive issue, this retroactive immunity given to the phone companies that did cooperate with the federal government right after 9/11. "Their true concern here," Nancy Pelosi says, "is not national security. Rather, they want to protect the financial interests of telecommunications companies and avoid judicial scrutiny of their warrantless wiretapping program."

What Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic, the majority leader -- they're saying, is they want to at least know what was going on before they grant this kind of immunity to these telecommunications companies.

MCCONNELL: Look, 90 percent of this program is carried out by the private sector, not the government. We have to have their cooperation in order to do this. Right now, they've got 40 lawsuits pending against them, the communications companies.

They have a fiduciary responsibility to their boards of directors and to their shareholders not to put the companies out of business. It is inappropriate for the government of the United States to compel them to go out of existence.

And, of course, if we compel them to go out of existence, then we wouldn't have the program which has been so successful in intercepting communications between terrorists overseas and helping to protect the homeland.

BLITZER: All right. Well, let's listen to Steny Hoyer, the majority leader in the House, because he has a specific issue here. And he's considered a moderate Democrat on these kinds of matters. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STENY H. HOYER, D-MD.: What does the law require of us, in terms of granting immunity, as the chairman points out, to -- if immunity is required, it's required because perhaps there was wrongdoing. If there was wrongdoing, we ought to know, as you've heard me say, what the wrong doing was before we grant immunity for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Does he have a point?

MCCONNELL: The problem with that approach is, in the meantime, our ability to intercept terrorist communications overseas is degrading. The willingness...

BLITZER: Well, why not extend it for 30 days or 60 days, which is what the Democrats in the House say?

MCCONNELL: Why do that, when you've already got a majority in favor of this bill?

An overwhelming majority in the Senate passed it. A bipartisan majority in the House is for it. The only reason it didn't pass the House last Thursday is because the speaker wouldn't bring it up. The only majority in the House, in fact, is for this bill. They voted down a 21-day extension in the House last week. There isn't a majority for an extension in the house. There is a majority for the bill that passed the Senate overwhelmingly.

And if we don't do it, starting last night, we have a degrading capability of intercepting terrorist communications overseas, which makes the homeland in greater danger.

This really should be a no-brainer. I mean, it got 68 votes in the Senate. That's pretty overwhelmingly partisan support for this bill.

BLITZER: All right, Senator. The Senate Republican leader, the minority leader, Mitch McConnell. Thanks very much for joining us.

MCCONNELL: Thank you.

BLITZER: And in the next hour, we're going to get a different perspective from Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island. He's a top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee. He disagrees with Senator McConnell.

But just ahead, for the first time since he joined the race for the White House, Senator Barack Obama is the Democratic presidential front-runner right now. We're going to talk with a top adviser to his campaign, former presidential candidate and senator Bill Bradley.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Coming up in our next hour, my conversation with Louisiana's new governor Bobby Jindal. Rush Limbaugh, by the way, says he might be a perfect vice presidential running mate for John McCain. My conversation with the new governor -- that's coming up.

But first, let's get some more, now, on the Democratic race for the White House. Senator Barack Obama now leading the Democratic presidential race in both pledged and so-called super delegates.

How does he plan to stay in front of his rival, Hillary Clinton?

Joining us now from Austin, Texas is former senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley. He's a top adviser to the Barack Obama campaign.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "Late Edition."

BRADLEY: Hi, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Let's talk about those super delegates right now, nearly 800 of them at the convention in Denver at the end of the summer. They potentially could turn the tide one way or the another.

How should they decide for whom to vote? Under what criteria?

BRADLEY: Well, first, I think it's, maybe, a little premature to make that point because there's still some significant elections ahead. And you actually could make it without having to win the majority of the super delegates.

But ultimately, I think, super delegates have to take a look, if they haven't already pledged to someone, they have to take a look at how their state or their congressional district voted. I think that that is a very important consideration. BLITZER: So, in other words, Senator Ted Kennedy, for example, or Senator John Kerry, both from Massachusetts, both super delegates, and the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick -- Massachusetts went for Hillary Clinton, but they support Barack Obama.

Should they go with their constituents or should they go with Barack Obama?

BRADLEY: No, that's not what I said, Wolf. I said, if somebody has not made a commitment before their state votes, then that person has to take into consideration how their state votes. In the case, if you have made a commitment to someone before your state votes, then you've just got to take the heat.

BLITZER: And you just go with what you decided before?

BRADLEY: Well, or you change your mind, for whatever reason.

BLITZER: And you're allowed to change your mind under those circumstances.

But when it comes down to it, should those super delegates -- is this process that the Democratic Party has come up with really fair?

Because super delegates -- they can do whatever they want. The pledged delegates, on the other hand, they have to go with what their state rules require.

BRADLEY: Well, whether it's fair or not, those are the rules we have to work with. And I think that the key thing is super delegates are feeling the same way that a lot of Americans feel when they hear Barack speak.

I mean, you know, think about how you feel when you hear him speak. I mean, he touches the best that is America.

BRADLEY: I mean, he says it's not naive to hope for a better day. That's it's all right to have faith in your neighbor, in the people, in humankind. He's practicing the politics of idealism. He's a uniter, not a divider.

And you know, the politicians you can divide into politicians that know a lot of little things and politicians that know one big thing. And I think Barack knows one big thing, and that is unless we as people believe again in our democracy and rediscover our power as citizens, then we're not going to be able to solve the problems that our country faces. I think superdelegates as well as citizens understand that message and are moved by that message.

BLITZER: Well, Hillary Clinton says he does give a good speech, he's got a lot of great rhetoric, he inspires a lot of people, especially young people out there. But she's also suggesting that when you look closer, in terms of the substance, there's not a whole lot there. Listen to this. Listen to Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: There's a big difference between speeches and solutions. Between talk and action. I have the highest regard for my opponent. I just believe that if were hiring a president, I would be the one you would hire for this job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, do you want to respond to that as someone who supports Barack Obama?

BRADLEY: You know, Wolf, it's bewildering to me about the Clinton campaign strategy here. I mean, words are central to who we are as a people. I mean, we hold these truths to be self-evident, give me liberty, give me death, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

What are those? Those are words, and those are words that a leader uses to inspire people to do great things once again. And if you talk about any issue, it's going to be caught in the Washington grinder unless you have a leader who can inspire people to involve themselves.

And now you actually see Barack Obama not only saying it's not about me, it's about you, and not only for voting for me for nomination or for general election but because I need you when I am president because you are central to my plan to make sure that we have solid pensions, that we have great schools, that people have a chance to go to college. That you get a good job with good pay and you get health care for your family.

You cannot separate words from those things. There are a lot of policy papers out there, but the real point is, which candidate represents a fresh start, a real fresh start from the Bush years, and which candidate can inspire people to do great things again in this country.

BLITZER: The likely Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, a man you served with, a man you know quite well, he also is raising questions about Barack Obama if Barack Obama gets the Democratic nomination. Listen to McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: There's going to come a time where we have to get into specifics. And I've not observed every speech that he's given, obviously. But they are singularly lacking in specifics, and that's when, as the campaign moves forward, we will be portraying very stark differences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How worried are you about a potential matchup between Barack Obama and John McCain?

BRADLEY: I'm not worried. I think Barack has by far the best chance. When it comes to the Iraq war, he did not vote for it. He is the only candidate running who did not vote for the Iraq war that we're now in and regretting that we've gotten ourselves into.

I look at this and I say, one of the major differences is Barack has reached out to all Americans. He's reached out to Democrats, independents, Republicans. And he's telling them the same thing.

He's not slivering off the electorate into demographics with special messages. He's not going out slash and burn. He's telling people what he believes and what he cares about and where we can go as a people if we are unified, and that he can be the agent of unifying and inspiring us.

I mean, I don't see how that's not what the country wants and needs. I mean, you know, if you think about it, putting your country ahead of party and telling people the truth is what we need in a leader. Barack Obama represents that.

BLITZER: How worried are you, Senator, that as a Democrat, that as this Democratic fight continues, John McCain is solidifying his Republican base out there that in the long-term looking towards November, whoever gets the Democratic nomination, the party's candidate could be hurt by this internal battle that continues for weeks and weeks and maybe months and months?

BRADLEY: I mean, I think this energizes people. Democratic turnout dwarfs Democratic turnout. People are enthused. They're very anxious to make sure that a Democrat is in the White House. I don't think it's going to be a problem coming behind the nominee. Because we know what's at stake, and we know what we've had for eight years, and we know what change we can have if Barack Obama is president.

BLITZER: Former Senator Bill Bradley, thanks very much for joining us.

BRADLEY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up next, after another clean sweep by Barack Obama this past week, is it make or break time for Hillary Clinton? We'll talk with a top supporter of her campaign, the former White House special counsel, Lanny Davis. He's standing by live for a very different perspective. Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our special "Late Edition." We're live in New Orleans today. After eight straight losses to Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is looking to try to bounce back big in the Ohio and Texas primaries. Both are delegate- rich states critical to keeping her campaign alive.

Joining us now from Washington is a top supporter of the Hillary Clinton campaign, the former White House special counsel, Lanny Davis. Lanny, thanks very much for coming in.

DAVIS: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the so called superdelegates -- the party leaders, members of Congress, DNC insiders, almost 800 of them who could have a decisive say at the Democratic convention, if it comes down to that in determining what the party's nominee is going to be.

Here's what Barack Obama says on this sensitive issue of superdelegates and how they should cast their votes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.: Our position has always been clear, which is that the voters should make these decisions. Whoever has the most pledged delegates at the end of this contest, you know, should be the nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He's talking about the pledged delegates. Those are the ones who actually are the result of people voting in primaries and caucuses as opposed to the superdelegates who are simply party leaders. What do you say about that criteria that he is putting forward?

DAVIS: Well, first of all, Senator Obama very ironically wants to change the rules of the game in the middle of the game or game the rules to get an outcome.

His own campaign consultant, David Axelrod, said superdelegates were intended -- I was there when they were created as a Democratic National Committee member -- to vote their conscience and to leaven the process.

Now, that's what his chairman says. Howard Dean says that. Congressman Clyburn says that. Barack Obama is now trying to game the system and change the rules in the middle of the game, and even his own campaign consultant, as I said, David Axelrod, specifically disagreed with that. He needs to get together with Mr. Axelrod and make his mind up.

BLITZER: But you know, there are plenty of the -- even superdelegates, our own Democratic analyst, Donna Brazile, says that if in fact the pledged delegates, those who are actually elected by the voters out there, the caucus-goers -- if they don't get to determine it, but it comes down to the party leaders, she would quit the party in disgust, if that were to happen.

BLITZER: How would you feel if that were to happen?

DAVIS: I've talked to Donna about that, and she's actually said it a little bit differently. She agrees that the rules are that these delegates are supposed to be, as Congressman Clyburn said, independent and exercise their best judgment, regardless of what happens in the elected delegate and caucus states.

Those are the rules. Now, if people want to change the rules, that's fine. But let's be clear. Senator Obama wants to change the rules in the middle of the game. His campaign consultant, Mr. Axelrod, has disagreed with him. He needs to get his act together within his own campaign.

We can debate that these individuals who are party leaders, who are members of Congress, who are governors, who represent broad electorates, are going to make their own independent judgments whether that's a good idea.

But there is no debate. When they were set up, that's what was supposed to happen. And I've just told you the individuals who know that that's a fact.

BLITZER: A lot of Democrats are saying, out there, Lanny, that they want to get beyond the Bush years, the Clinton years. They're looking for a new leader, right now, and Barack Obama fits the bill.

They don't want to start rehashing all the stories of the Clinton years. They want to move beyond Clinton.

How do you, as a Hillary Clinton supporter, respond to that complaint you hear from Democrats all over the country, "Let's move on?"

DAVIS: Yes, well, first of all, I ask any Democrat, starting with Senator Obama -- today, let's ask him. In the debate, you ask him, what exactly about the 1990s under Bill Clinton did you not like?

One of the great prosperous countries that we've ever had; the longest uninterrupted prosperity; we balanced the budget, took a deficit into surplus. We were renowned around the world and respected.

So, Senator Obama, what do you not like about President Clinton's two terms, where he led office with a 65 percent approval rating?

Secondly, we have a candidate in Hillary Clinton who stands for change and makes change happen.

You just heard Senator Bradley. It was quite interesting to me -- not one fact, not one accomplishment cited by Senator Bradley. Of course, we are inspired by inspiring speeches. And I admire Senator Obama.

But when you ask somebody, what is his accomplishment; what is his record, you actually have a contrast between the words and the deeds. For example... (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right, hold on, Lanny, let's talk about some of the complaints that Barack Obama and his campaign have. I'll play this little clip of what he says about her. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: In this campaign, she has taken nearly double the amount from lobbyists than any Democrat or Republican running for president. That's not being a part of the solutions business. That is being in the business as usual business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, what do you say about that, that she's simply part of the old-style, inside-the-Beltway Washington politics?

DAVIS: I say that Senator Obama's words are contradicted by deeds. He said he would -- he pledged to take public financing, as, now, Senator McCain has pledged. He's just reversed that pledge.

He criticizes her for lobbyists. He voted for the Dick Cheney bill that subsidizes billions of dollars to oil companies.

He says that he wants health care, and he leaves out 15 million Americans.

He took hundreds of thousands of dollars from a nuclear energy company in Illinois, of lobbyists, after they lobbied him. He diluted the bill on nuclear waste being exposed to his Illinois constituents.

BLITZER: All right.

DAVIS: His words are inspirational. We need to get the facts. What Senator Bradley, what Senator Obama doesn't do are talk about the facts of his record, which is virtually nonexistent, as compared to Senator Clinton, who has now specifically proposed mortgage and -- relief for people on foreclosures. And we get from Senator Obama very little detail. He's opposed to an interest rate cap, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lanny, we're going to...

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS: ... Senator Clinton is fighting for those issues. BLITZER: Here's some numbers we're going to put up on the screen, in terms of what they call pork barrel spending, those earmarks, those special interest projects that members of the Senate go for.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, Hillary Clinton got $342 million for her home state, compared to Barack Obama's $91,400,000 or so.

John McCain -- he opposes these kinds of earmarks, pork barrel spending. He's taken zero -- zero. This is an issue that's going to come up. It's a sensitive issue out there. As someone who supports Hillary, who has received more than the other -- a lot more than the other two -- what do you say?

DAVIS: Well, I'm sure Barack Obama would have liked to have received a lot more; $91 million is a lot of money.

I'm opposed to earmarks that aren't transparent. And once they're transparent, then people can judge. One of Senator Clinton's great achievements was all the money she brought back for 9/11 victims.

One of her great achievements is working with Senator Lindsey Graham, reaching across the aisle to get health care for National Guardsmen and Reserves, as a member of the Armed Services Committee.

She has a record. And as a woman, as the first woman president that I believe she will be, anybody that suggests that she isn't the candidate of change, as our first woman president, as a woman who, since law school, went into the public sector.

When I knew her back in law school, she fought for people who were poor. She served in legal clinics. She came out and worked on the children's legal defense fund.

She worked for public education as the first lady of Arkansas.

In the White House, she was centrally involved in creating SCHIP, health insurance for children. These are specifics.

It's one thing to be rhetorical. When you ask Senator Obama, "Name an accomplishment" -- Governor Doyle of Wisconsin struggled to name one accomplishment, the other day, when I was on a program with him.

And he came up with the lobbying bill. This is the bill that prohibits lobbyists from paying for meals if people are seated down, but if you're standing up, it's OK.

He has an absence of accomplishment compared to the candidate of change with a record of accomplishment. That's the choice in the election. "Where's the beef?" has not been answered by Senator Obama.

BLITZER: I told our viewers we'd get a very different perspective from former Senator Bill Bradley. (LAUGHTER)

We just did. Lanny Davis, thanks for coming back.

DAVIS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And up next, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are getting assists from two NBA greats, Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson. They weigh in on the presidential race, when "Late Edition" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from New Orleans today.

The former NBA superstar Charles Barkley is also here in New Orleans for tonight's NBA all-star game. He's an analyst for our sister network TNT, which is televising the big game tonight, 8 p.m. Eastern.

But he also has politics on his mind. He's always very outspoken. Barkley is also a huge supporter of Barack Obama. I spoke with him earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now, the TNT analyst, Charles Barkley, the basketball great.

Charles, thanks very much for coming in. I don't really want to talk basketball with you. I want to talk politics. I know you support Obama. Tell us why you decided to go with him as opposed to, let say, Hillary Clinton.

BARKLEY: Well, I think first and foremost, I consider him a friend of mine. And when I look at him, he represents everything that's good in the black community. He's intelligent, he's articulate, he's -- we need that.

You know, most of our role models are athletes or entertainers. We got to get more black kids to be educated, carry themselves with great class and dignity. And he's perfect for what we need. Because we've got so much black on black crime in this country right now. We got a lot of kids who are not getting their education. That's why I'm supporting him.

BLITZER: A few years ago you were a Republican. I know you're a Democrat now, but when you were a Republican, you were asked why you were a Republican and you said something along the lines that the Democrats want to raise my taxes, the Republicans don't. Obama wants to raise your taxes.

BARKLEY: Well, you know what, it won't affect me at all. But what I really said, I'm rich like a Republican. I never voted for a Republican. I am actually an independent. But I'm supporting Barack because I have to look at the big picture. This country is divided by economics between the rich and the poor. And I'm going to support him all the way to the wall, and I really like our chances right now.

BLITZER: If he doesn't get the nomination, if Hillary Clinton does get it, how would you feel about that? How would you feel about supporting her?

BARKLEY: I've got no problem with that. Last time, I supported John Edwards. I'm going to vote Democratic. I hope it's my guy, Barack. But I'm going to vote Democratic either way, because I don't like what the Republicans have done to our country.

BLITZER: I spoke with Magic Johnson, who was a member of the so- called dream team in the old days. And he said that his dream team right now is Clinton and Obama. How would you feel about the two of them on the same ticket?

BARKLEY: Well, my dream team would be Obama-Clinton. Not Clinton-Obama. My dream team -- you know, I don't care -- I want Barack to be president. If he's vice president, that's good.

But I just think we need a new face. We need a new leader. Because the way things are going, it's not going well. But I want him to be the president, not the vice president. BLITZER: How do you think he would shape up against John McCain, who's the likely Republican presidential nominee, on the specific issue of national security?

BARKLEY: Well, I think, you know, people keep saying, well, he doesn't have enough experience on national security and things like that. First of all, whoever the president is, he's going to have tons of advisers. It ain't like the president gets to make every decision on his own. You have great advisers around you.

Hey, I live in Arizona. I've got great respect for Senator McCain. Great respect. But I don't like the way the Republicans are taking this country. Every time I hear the word "conservative," it makes me sick to my stomach because they're really just fake Christians, as I call them. That's all they are. But I just -- I'm going to vote Democratic no matter what.

BLITZER: What about you and politics? At one point you were thinking of running back in Alabama, what do you think?

BARKLEY: Well, I just bought a house in 2007, and in 2014, I promise you I'm going to run for governor of Alabama.

BLITZER: When will you run for governor of Alabama?

BARKLEY: 2014. You have to have residency for seven years, and I bought my house at the end of last year, and I'll be eligible in 2014.

BLITZER: One quick point before I let you go. You use the phrase "fake Christians" for conservatives. Explain what you're talking about.

BARKLEY: Well, I think they want to be judge and jury. Like, I'm for gay marriage. It's none of my business if gay people want to get married. I'm pro-choice.

And I think these Christians -- first of all, they're supposed to be -- they're not supposed to judge other people, but they're the most hypocritical judge of people we have in this country. And it bugs the hell out of me that they act like they're Christians, and they're not forgiving at all.

BLITZER: So you're going to get a lot of feedback on this one, Charles.

BARKLEY: They can't do anything to me. I don't work for them.

BLITZER: So you feel comfortable saying all that?

BARKLEY: I feel very comfortable saying I'm pro-choice and I'm for gay marriage. Very comfortable.

BLITZER: But you can't lump all these conservatives as being fake. A lot of them -- obviously, most of them are very, very sincere in their religious beliefs. BARKLEY: Well, they should read the part of the Bible where they're not supposed to judge other people. They forget that one when it doesn't fit what they want to say.

BLITZER: All right, we've got to leave it there, Charles, thanks very much for joining us.

BARKLEY: Thank you for having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Up next, we'll get a different perspective from another former NBA superstar, Magic Johnson. He'll tell us why he supports Hillary Clinton, and what does he think of a Clinton-Obama dream ticket? We'll ask him that, a lot more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You just heard former NBA star and Obama supporter Charles Barkley. Let's get to my conversation with Magic Johnson, a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Magic Johnson, thanks very much for joining us.

JOHNSON: My pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Now, let's talk about politics a little bit. You're on the line for Hillary Clinton. What do you think? Not looking so great necessarily, at least right now.

JOHNSON: Exactly. But I think that, you know, the thing that I love the most is that the party is united, and we've got a lot of young people out here voting now for the Democratic Party. Yes, she's lost, what, eight in a row, I think, primaries, but I feel really good. I still feel that she's the best candidate.

BLITZER: Why do you? Because, you know, a lot of African Americans are really excited. He's getting 70, 80, 85 percent of the vote right now in some of these more recent primaries among African Americans. Tell us why you think she would be a better president.

JOHNSON: Well, I still go back to the experience and the expertise, and also her foreign relationships, things that she's been doing for a long, long time, battling the health-care issue. Everybody wants health care for everybody, but you have been in that fight to understand what has been the pitfalls, why everybody doesn't have health care. So it's those type of things that I still think she still has the edge on Obama. But, at the same time, he's done a wonderful job of rallying new voters over to the Democratic Party, that being young people. First of all, he's energized that young voter as well as he's brought some independents over.

BLITZER: If he got the nomination, you would be happy too?

JOHNSON: Oh, yeah, I'd be happy. And I'm going to go to work for him. You know, I'm going to go out and try to make him become the president of the United States. But at the same time...

BLITZER: You think a lot of his supporters would feel like that about Hillary Clinton?

JOHNSON: If she won...

BLITZER: If she got the nomination, do you think they would sort of be demoralized because, you know, they're so enthusiastic about him right now?

BLITZER: Because you would easily make the transition from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama.

JOHNSON: Yes.

BLITZER: But what about the other way?

JOHNSON: I think it would be -- I think at first, it would be a shock to them, because you've got young people now. But at the end of the day, they'll look and say, OK, if it's John McCain or Hillary Clinton, they're going to go for Hillary Clinton at the end of the day.

BLITZER: You think so?

JOHNSON: Oh, I know so. I think America wants a change. They want a change from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, and that's who's going to bring them change.

BLITZER: He does appeal to some independents, though, John McCain.

JOHNSON: Yes, he does, but at the same time, he's still going to be linked to Bush no matter what happens. And so, we feel really good.

Look at what the voter turnout has been for the Democratic primaries. It's been amazing. And so, I think that you're going to still see that even if Hillary wins.

But at the same time, give Barack credit.

BLITZER: You've got to be proud...

JOHNSON: I'm very proud. BLITZER: ... that an African-American has reached this level, that he's on the verge potentially of being the Democratic presidential nominee.

JOHNSON: Wolf, I'm just probably like a lot of others. I never thought he would do this well right now, and rally non-blacks around him. Because if you look at a lot of the states that he has won, there had been a lot of states that very little blacks live in those states.

BLITZER: The Midwest and...

JOHNSON: Exactly. So he's done an amazing job and I am proud. And I hope really that both of them end up on the same ticket...

BLITZER: Really?

JOHNSON: ... at the end of the day. I would really love seeing that. And I think a lot of other people would love seeing it as well.

BLITZER: Seeing that -- and from your perspective, a Clinton- Obama ticket?

JOHNSON: Yes.

BLITZER: That's the so-called dream ticket.

JOHNSON: That's like dream -- it's just like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic all playing together on the dream team.

BLITZER: We'll leave it on that note...

JOHNSON: Exactly.

BLITZER: Magic Johnson, thanks very much.

JOHNSON: Thank you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And this programming note: You can see the NBA All-Star game tonight on our sister network, TNT. It starts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight.

Just ahead, revisiting New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. Why is it still in shambles two and a half years after Hurricane Katrina? We tour the neighborhood when "Late Edition" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our special "Late Edition." We're live here in New Orleans.

Two and a half years ago, much of this city was under water after being hit by Hurricane Katrina. One of the most devastated areas was the Lower Ninth Ward, home to some of New Orleans' poorest residents. It's a neighborhood that is yet to recover, still very much a wasteland.

I had a chance to see the lack of progress firsthand during a tour with Peter Kovacs. He's the managing editor of the city's Times- Picayune newspaper, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the hurricane.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: This is really devastated. Talk about what's going on over here, because there were houses, lot after lot.

PETER KOVACS, NEW ORLEANS TIMES-PICAYUNE: The channel on the other side of this wall filled up with water, and the wall gave way, and a torrent of water came through this area and washed these houses into each other.

BLITZER: That's the destructed -- destruction of one house over there clearly destroyed by Katrina, right?

KOVACS: Yes.

BLITZER: And then here, it looks like somebody wants to rebuild it. They've got a little trailer going on.

KOVACS: You can see the trailer and you can see the footing for a foundation. They're pouring the foundation to build a house. So they are coming back. And people live in trailers. There are about 40,000 people living in trailers.

BLITZER: These little trailers...

KOVACS: Yes, and about three-quarters of them are in a trailer at their property, so they can watch the rebuilding.

BLITZER: And it looks like this house, somebody wants to rebuild it. It looks like a new roof, relatively speaking?

KOVACS: Yes, they have a new roof, and I can't tell if those are new windows, but it does look like they're trying to rebuild it. And it's a brick house, so it withstood the water better than most of the houses in this neighborhood.

They're not going to have a lot of neighbors when they get done.

BLITZER: Yes. There were thousands and thousands of people living here. And now, there might be dozens and dozens.

KOVACS: Yes. And these were very closely knit neighborhoods, and these were owner-occupied houses.

BLITZER: And most of the people that lived here are never going to come back.

KOVACS: Yes. That's true. And most of the people who lived here, the houses were in their families for more than one generation.

BLITZER: This was your house once, wasn't it?

CHARMAYNE FLUKER, FORMER NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Yes.

BLITZER: Right over here. Your mom lived here?

FLUKER: Raised here.

BLITZER: Really? And so there's nothing here now?

FLUKER: It's empty.

BLITZER: So why are you here now? We just met, as I was walking around, you popped up.

FLUKER: Yes.

BLITZER: Tell us why you came back.

FLUKER: I came back for a funeral. But I was coming back to show my mother there's nothing left. All that she put, her time and money, and it took all those years. She's doing pretty good. She's a little unstable, but she's adjusting pretty good. She's just accepting -- and now, she's really going to accept it since she can see it for herself.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: It's a heartbreaking story, what's still going on in the Lower Ninth Ward here in New Orleans.

There's much more coming up on "Late Edition," including my interview with Louisiana's new governor, Bobby Jindal. He shares his thoughts on New Orleans' slow recovery and his history-making election. We also talked presidential politics. Is he, a rising star in the Republican Party, ready to make an endorsement? "Late Edition" continues at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Somewhere in the world, terrorists are planning new attacks on our country.

BLITZER (voice over): Democrats in Congress defy President Bush over domestic spying. We'll talk about that, and presidential politics, with a top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jack Reed.

JINDAL: Don't expect a huge surprise out of me.

BLITZER: Who will a rising Republican star endorse for president? The new governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, talks about the race for the White House, and his home state, 2 1/2 years after Hurricane Katrina.

Closing ranks...

ROMNEY: I am honored, today, to give my full support to Senator McCain's candidacy for the presidency of the United States.

BLITZER: ... and pressing on.

FMR. GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE, R-ARK.: I think it would be a great disservice to the country and to my own party to just give up and quit.

BLITZER: Insight on a dramatic and hard-fought week in the presidential race from three of the best political team on television.

"Late Edition's" second hour beginning right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from New Orleans, this is "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: And welcome back to our special "Late Edition" from New Orleans. We'll get to our conversation with Senator Jack Reed in just a moment.

First, a quick look at a very busy political weekend. To a lot of people, it may look like John McCain has won the GOP nomination, but Mike Huckabee is definitely not one of those people.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's been watching the GOP race. She's joining us now from the Olympic bowling lanes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Mike Huckabee will be appearing later today.

All right, Mary, Mike Huckabee, the numbers are clearly against him, but he's not yet giving up.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He isn't, Wolf. And he remains defiant. And I think the setting, here today, shows also that Mike Huckabee is also remaining an unconventional candidate. He's going to be back here in Milwaukee, campaigning, saying he's going to stay in this until someone gets 1,191 delegates, even though it's mathematically impossible for him to achieve that.

He did take a break from the campaign trail, went to the Cayman Islands yesterday to deliver a speech, pointing out that he needs to make a living just like everybody else.

He did not talk about the presidential race. He talked about leadership, but did say that there are many people who do not achieve great things because they listen to critics.

He's vowing not to listen to those critics, trying to draw a contrast between himself. And Senator John McCain, while he wasn't here, was running TV ads, here in Wisconsin.

Now, Senator John McCain is saying, in an interview this morning on ABC, he still has a lot of work to do to reunite the party. But he is pushing ahead, also contrasting himself to the Democratic presidential contenders.

Senator McCain did take a break from campaigning this weekend, as he moves closer to becoming the Republican nominee. And though he wasn't on the campaign trail, he did pick up some delegates.

In Louisiana, yesterday, Republicans in the state met. You may remember that, with the primaries in Louisiana, none of the Republican candidates got 50 percent. So Republicans are divvying up their delegates. A.P. is counting at least 32 of 47 delegates going to McCain. We're still crunching the numbers.

And, also, in Michigan, where Mitt Romney won, A.P. is saying that John McCain will pick up at least 17 delegates there. So his delegate count is climbing. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Mary Snow, in Milwaukee, for us. Mary, thanks. We're going to have a lot more coming up on the presidential race shortly.

But there's other news we're following, including the issue of spying. Our country is in more danger of an attack. That's -- those specific words are how President Bush described the situation on Friday, as Congress, or the House, specifically, refused to renew a post-9/11 law allowing increased government electronic surveillance, House Democrats accusing the president of fear-mongering. And today, the law actually expired.

Is the United States really in more danger?

Let's discuss that and more with Democratic senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island. He's a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

REED: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Quickly, though, before we talk about that, have you endorsed -- I don't believe you have, but I just want to be precise -- either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?

They're both your Democratic colleagues in the Senate.

REED: I have not. They're both excellent candidates and are running determined races. But I have not yet endorsed either senator.

BLITZER: You have a primary coming up in Rhode Island on March 4th as well.

REED: March 4th.

BLITZER: Well, why not? Why haven't you decided to pick one of those two candidates? REED: Well, I think, first, it makes a great deal of sense to see how their campaigns emerge. And, also, I'm confident that either one of them will be excellent presidents.

And I'm simply waiting and trying to assess not only what my constituents will do in Rhode Island but also what develops nationally, in terms of one candidate emerging from the primaries with not only more delegates but with real momentum. And then the task is to unify the party and win in November.

BLITZER: As a super delegate yourself, you're a sitting member of the Senate, all members of Congress are super delegates. Almost 800 of them will be going to the Democratic convention in Denver at the end of the summer.

Will you go along, if necessary, if it comes down to this, with what the people of Rhode Island, the Democrats of Rhode Island, voted, or are you going to perhaps go against your own constituents?

REED: Well, I'll certainly take into consideration what my fellow Democrats do in the polls. But I believe, as a delegate, I have a responsibility not just to follow my constituents' lead but also to think about the candidate best prepared to lead the nation and to win in November.

But I certainly will be influenced significantly by my fellow Rhode Islanders.

BLITZER: Would it be appropriate if, when the dust settles, if it comes down to this -- and I know a lot of Democrats don't want to see it -- that the nominee is the nominee based on the super delegates, if, in fact, that person doesn't have the popular, the pledged delegates, the votes that the were actually coming in from Democrats out there in primaries and caucuses?

REED: Well, I think that the candidate who emerges with the most votes will have a strong claim on the super delegates. I don't think it will be automatic.

But we are all hoping for, and will, I believe, work toward a candidate that not only will have strong appeal across the primaries, but also strong support from the delegates.

And then the key task is not just getting a nominee, but getting a candidate that you can have, as a unified party, to win in November. That's our ultimate goal. It's important for the American public, as well as the Democratic Party.

BLITZER: Here's what The Washington Post wrote today about you.

I don't know if you saw this, but if you didn't, I'll read it to you and to our viewers -- Barack Obama's potential running mates -- "Jack Reed: This low-profile Rhode Island senator, the son of a school janitor, has some intriguing advantages. A West Point grad and an Army Ranger, Reed is a leading Democratic expert on military matters, a thoughtful and cautious wonk who is often mentioned as a future Pentagon chief. But like Obama, he opposed the Iraq war from the start."

Would you like to be vice president of the United States?

REED: I am running for my term in the United States Senate. I hope the people of Rhode Island give me the chance to serve six more years. And I would be honored if they would let me serve six more years in the United States Senate. That's my interest.

BLITZER: All right. Well, what about the vice presidency, if it came down to it?

REED: No.

BLITZER: You're not interested in that?

REED: No.

BLITZER: Why not? It would be, you know, the second most important job, presumably, in the country?

REED: I think I have an incredibly important job, now, as the United States senator representing the people of Rhode Island. I'm committed to doing it, and I think I can make a significant contribution to the country. I've always tried, for a long career, going back to West Point, to make a positive difference in the life of the nation. And I think I can as a U.S. senator. And I'm just working my way through that challenging assignment.

BLITZER: All right, in the last hour, Senator, we heard from Mitch McConnell. He's the Republican leader, or the minority leader, in the U.S. Senate.

He made the case that Americans are less secure today because the law involving domestic surveillance lapsed, the House of Representatives refusing to go along with the Senate in extending the law, letting it continue.

Here's what President Bush has to say about the refusal, among Democrats, largely, in the House, to go forward with an extension of this surveillance law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Failure to act would harm our ability to monitor new terrorist activities and could reopen dangerous gaps in our intelligence. Failure to act would also make the private sector less willing to help us protect the country, and this is unacceptable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You were in the minority, in the Senate, in voting against this surveillance law. Tell our viewers why you think the president, the head of national security, Mike McConnell, why Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, why they are wrong and you are right. REED: Well, first, the legislation passed last August allows the continuation of surveillance programs for a year. And, in fact, if there are additional targets that develop, they can use the existing procedures under FISA. You can actually initiate surveillance before you even have the court approval. You have 72 hours to do that.

And, in fact, honestly and logically, if the president really felt that this lapse would cause a harm to the security of the country, why did he insist the Republicans vote against an extension?

The logic would be, extend the existing legislation, which we were quite willing to do, for a period of time.

What the president is talking about is not the security of the country.

REED: It's two factors. One is retroactive immunity for telecom companies. That's important to them, but that's not central to our national security. We're not talking about prospective immunity. We're not talking about current programs. We're talking about looking back and protecting them.

And indeed, we weren't even -- many senators, myself included, weren't even allowed to look at the documentation which would inform our judgment about this immunity program. And the second issue, I think, is that the president prefers to talk about these issues rather than our economy that's sliding into recession, consumer confidence that has fallen to the lowest point in 16 years.

Real problems that are gripping the American families. And I think this is part of the policy of, try to ignore those pressing domestic problems and pick a political issue, not a substantive issue.

BLITZER: Well, listen to Admiral Mike McConnell. He's the director of national intelligence. No relation to Mitch McConnell. And he's making the case that today the American people are less secure than they were yesterday. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE MIKE MCCONNELL: The primary reason for retroactive immunity or liability protection for the carriers is to obtain their assistance. Quite frankly, we cannot do the job we have to do without the cooperation of the private sector. So, the situation we're in now with private-sector companies being subjected to huge suits, they're not inclined to give us assistance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's the retroactive immunity of the giant telecommunications companies. You can't accuse the admiral, Mike McConnell, of being a political hack. He's a professional.

REED: Well, I question the fact that he is raising these concerns about prospective operations of telecommunications companies. If they're following the law, which we were prepared to extend, if they're following FISA, then there is no potential immunity for them.

They're looking back several years ago when they were operating under circumstances that were yet to be disclosed to the American public and certainly not to the majority of senators. That's the issue. And, frankly, it's an issue that requires careful deliberation.

We were backed up to a point at which the law was expiring. The House was basically at a few hours away or days away from the expiration date, and yet the president insisted that the House could not fully deliberate. We could not have a conference.

If this is just an issue about immunity, a highly technical legal question, then why didn't we extend the bill? Why didn't the president allow the bill to be extended to existing legislation so that we could deal in an orderly manner with this very technical issue?

In fact, I do believe that we will get a resolution. I think the timing of this and the particular dramatization of it by the president is more political than it is substantive.

BLITZER: Senator Jack Reed, thanks very much for coming in.

REED: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Still to come on "Late Edition, " Senator John McCain was out speaking today. We're going to tell you what he had to say in our popular "in case you missed it" segment. That's coming up.

But straight ahead, why is still so much of New Orleans devastated 2 1/2 years after Hurricane Katrina? We'll get some answers from Louisiana's governor, Bobby Jindal.

We'll talk about that and the presidential race and a lot more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Louisiana's very popular new Governor Bobby Jindal is a rising star in the Republican Party. He's only 36 years old. We spoke about the national political scene, how Louisiana's recovering two and a half years after Hurricane Katrina, and a lot more, when we sat down in the governor's mansion in Baton Rouge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Governor Jindal, thanks very much. Thanks for welcoming us into your home.

JINDAL: Well, I hope you're enjoying your visit to Louisiana.

BLITZER: We certainly are. And it's really great to be here, especially in the aftermath of Katrina, and see what you've done over these past two and a half years. We're going to get to that in a moment. Let's talk a little bit about the presidential political scene, first of all. So far, correct me if I'm wrong, you haven't endorsed anyone among the Republican candidates, is that right?

JINDAL: No, that's correct. And there's a reason for that. We want all the candidates to pay attention to Louisiana, especially our recovery needs. I think it's a great thing. John Edwards came and announced his candidacy here, and got out of the race here. Major candidates have traveled here multiple times.

We want both parties to pay attention to Louisiana.

You know, the recovery needs will go well into the next administration.

BLITZER: Maybe even beyond that, based on what I saw when I walked through the Lower Ninth Ward yesterday, among other places. But you're a Republican, so you're eventually going to go with a Republican, unless you're going to surprise me right now and say what Colin Powell told us last week, that he's not sure.

JINDAL: Well, no, look, chances are very good I'll end up supporting the Republican nominee.

BLITZER: Is there any chance you will support a Democrat?

JINDAL: Look, in my past, I voted for Republicans and Democrats both. We need to vote for the best person, the best candidate.

Louisiana is a very nonpartisan state. We have open elections. When I was elected, I didn't get elected in a Republican primary.

I'm a lifelong Republican. I'm a conservative. But we run candidates from all the different parties run in one election here in Louisiana. So we're kind of used to...

BLITZER: Right now, there are really four or five candidates left, if you include Ron Paul. On the Republican side, John McCain seems to have the nomination pretty much in hand. And your former -- the former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, still in the race as well.

But are you leaving open the possibility that you could support Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton?

JINDAL: Well, let me be clear. Look, I'm not -- don't expect a huge surprise out of me or the governor of Louisiana. I'm -- I'm very likely to support the Republican nominee. We just want the process to finish. I've said, you know, I don't think as elected officials, we need to tell voters who to vote for.

When it comes to Senator McCain, he's been a good fiscal conservative when it comes to earmarks and going against pork-barrel spending. On foreign policy, he's been very strong on our military, on the need for defense. I will say this -- and, again, I think it's extremely likely I'll end up when it comes time for me to make a nomination, it will be extremely likely that I'll be supporting the Republican nominee.

But I will say this about the other two major candidates. Senator Obama, I agree with those that find him inspiring. I think he does bring a genuineness and enthusiasm. I think he's an inspirational speaker.

I don't agree with him on a lot of the issues. I do think he is more liberal than I am. But I think there is something that explains the large turnouts and enthusiasm he's generating.

Senator Clinton, I testified in front of her committee before when I worked for the administration. She's smart, capable, professional.

You know, we talked earlier about Governor Huckabee. As the neighboring -- as a governor of a neighboring state, he did a great job of taking in the people of Louisiana. Basically told his cabinet, don't let paperwork or rules get in the way of helping the people of Louisiana. I kind of wish FEMA had done that.

So chances are extremely good I'll be supporting the Republican nominee. But at this point in the process, we want every candidate and all the campaigns to continue to pay attention to Louisiana. We're encouraging them to do that. BLITZER: Because I read some of these speeches you gave in your effort to become the governor of Louisiana. And a lot of it very similar to what we're hearing right now from Barack Obama -- the need for change, yes, we can. A lot of inspirational rhetoric.

There are similarities between you and Barack Obama in terms of the fact that you're both very young.

JINDAL: Well, and I think people are tired of the partisan fighting. What I saw in D.C. -- you know, I sometimes say the parties remind me of my children. We've got young children, and I don't mean to insult my children when I say that, but the parties have this attitude of they don't care if they win as long as the other side loses. And when they do that, we all lose.

And what I think people find so inspirational in the senator's rhetoric -- and I certainly think what resonated with voters when they voted for me -- was that they are tired of all the ideological fighting, they are tired of the partisan fighting.

In a democracy, we should disagree. We should have debates. We should stand up for our principles. But it isn't about winning or losing, it's about finding common ground and enacting common sense (inaudible)...

BLITZER: So you want to work with the Democrats. You want to bring this whole political process together.

JINDAL: Absolutely. Look, I've got a majority Democratic House and Senate here, and we are working extremely well together in the legislature here. I got elected in a state that by far the majority of the voters are registered Democrats. I've always had to go across party lines to build consensus, either when I was in Congress or as governor. And I think that's one of the things that voters are saying, both in the Republican and Democratic primaries.

You look at Senator McCain, you look at Senator Obama, both of whom are independent at times, both of whom appeal to independents, both of whom have broken from their parties at times. I think voters are saying, we may not agree with these candidates and all of their positions, but we respect the fact that they're honest with us, they are authentic with us, and they're trying to do the right thing. Whether we agree with them on everything or not, at least they are willing to go across party lines.

BLITZER: What would it mean if Barack Obama were the president of the United States, an African-American to be president?

JINDAL: You know, a lot of people -- people tried to do it with my election as well; they tried to make it about race. I don't think these elections are about race. I don't think that gives American voters enough credit.

I think American voters are worried about the economy right now and housing, and they are worried about the war in Iraq and they are worried about health care. And if they choose to elect Senator McCain or Senator Obama or Senator Clinton or any one of these candidates, what it will mean is they are saying we think this is the person who best understands our concerns, is most capable of addressing them, and the candidate that by the way we think is going to be honest with us. Because when you elect the president of the United States, you can't anticipate. When we elected George Bush, I don't think most voters were thinking or even imagining the horrors of 9/11. You elect the person that you think is best capable for whatever might come, predictable or unpredictable.

BLITZER: Rush Limbaugh, who is no great fan of John McCain's, as you well know. He is a big fan of yours. He said this on February 8th. "I am going to give you a name that would make me jump for joy -- Bobby Jindal. I did an interview with Bobby Jindal. He is the next Ronald Reagan if he doesn't change."

He was throwing out your name as a potential vice presidential running mate for John McCain. What do you think about that?

JINDAL: Well, first, I'm obviously extremely flattered. Whenever anybody puts your name in that kind of context, it's flattering. It was very nice for Rush to do that.

The reality is, I've got the job I want. I've got an incredible opportunity in Louisiana. We've got an historic opportunity to change our state.

The storms caused massive destruction, but we had challenges before the storms. We had challenges in health care, in our economy, in our roads. We had challenges throughout our state. We now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fix our state.

BLITZER: Well, what if McCain asked you?

JINDAL: He's not going to ask me.

BLITZER: How do you know?

JINDAL: Look, he's not going to ask me. But, no, my focus is on Louisiana. I've been elected. I've told the people of Louisiana, this is our chance to fix our state, and I mean that. I don't think we'll get this chance again in our lifetimes. So it is my responsibility to work with the legislature and the voters.

We're in the middle of an historic ethics session. I promise your viewers this -- we'll move Louisiana from the bottom five to the top five when it comes to ethics and good government.

We have a second session coming up in a couple of weeks to cut taxes on businesses. We have a third regular session coming up in March. We'll revamp workforce training, revamp our health care systems.

This is my goal. What my contribution in public life and public service is right now, my focus is making sure that people in Louisiana can pursue that American dream without leaving the state. BLITZER: Is -- there is this problem with the trailers, and now the poison and the formaldehyde and all of that coming in. Thousands of these FEMA trailers, apparently people shouldn't be breathing, let alone living in these trailers. What are you going to do about it? What can you do about it?

JINDAL: This is so frustrating. The people in south Louisiana were first victims of natural disasters, the storms, Katrina and Rita. Then victims of the federal levees that weren't built the way they were supposed to. And now this.

A year ago, as a member of Congress, I actually went to the Homeland Security Committee and the oversight committees and said, "we need to have hearings on this. We've gotten reports in our offices from constituents who were having breathing problems, and when they went to go to FEMA, they were told there's nothing wrong, this is all in your mind." And there were too many cases for this to be a coincidence.

We actually asked the administrator and others to come testify to us and said...

BLITZER: So how can you fix it? Where are these people going to live if they can't live in these -- there are 40,000 of these trailers?

JINDAL: That's right.

Bottom line is this: FEMA is saying they'll pay for apartments and hotels, but there's not enough apartments and hotels. But here's what's even more glaring. Let's assume they can get everybody out of these trailers quickly, which they need to do. But here's what's even more glaring -- they've not put up any kind of health care system in place to help these people. They have given them a 1-800 number and said, no, we're not sending a team of doctors down there. No, we're not going to try to diagnose you to see whether you've been exposed to carcinogens or respiratory illnesses.

We'll certainly do what we can at the state level. The state Department of Health is providing resources. We have state health care services as well, but we're also calling on the federal government to say, if these people had been made sick because they've been exposed to fumes, then the government has got a responsibility to diagnose them, to treat them, to help get them better.

The bigger question is this. Two years after a storm, why are there 36,000, 38,000 people living in these trailers? That's ridiculous. Two years later, I guarantee you, if you'd gone to those families two years ago, as we pushed them to do and said -- the federal government will spend $80,000 on a trailer, by the time they set it up and take it away and hook it up. We'll give you a choice. You let the federal government buy your trailer, or we'll give you half that money, or $60,000, to go fix your home or go find your own living arrangement.

I guarantee you, the vast majority of people would have taken the dollars, fixed their homes, or gone and found...

BLITZER: Or relocated someplace else.

JINDAL: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Are these hundreds of thousands of people who left Louisiana ever coming back?

JINDAL: Absolutely. But this is the way you bring them back. You give them better schools. Even before the storms, New Orleans had some of the worst public schools in the country. You give them better health care. We were 50th in results, fourth worst in non-emergencies in our emergency rooms before the storms. You give them better housing. Public housing was filled with crime...

BLITZER: It's a huge agenda you got.

JINDAL: Well, you know, we all say on a blank sheet of paper, we never would have created these structures, these inefficient programs. No city has a blank sheet of paper. This is the closest to any American city getting a blank sheet of paper.

Nobody wanted this to happen, but out of this destruction, we've got a chance to get it right.

BLITZER: Here is what was very frustrating to me. I'm here this weekend, watching the NBA All-Star weekend. They've got thousands of fans who have come in from all over the country, all the NBA executives, the owners. And New Orleans is doing a great job receiving all of them. But the Democrats and the Republicans, the presidential debate commission didn't think New Orleans was ready to host a presidential debate. How do you explain that?

JINDAL: Look, that's absurd. You look at it -- the city of New Orleans this year alone has hosted the Sugar Bowl, the National BCS Championship Game -- which LSU won, by the way -- hosted the NBA All- Stars game, has hosted medical conventions bringing tens of thousands of people here.

If the commission had just said, "we don't want to pick you," that's they're right. But for them to say New Orleans wasn't prepared is absurd. We've shown time and time again, we can host large events.

I think not only would it have been good economically for the city, I think it would have been good for the country to be refocused, not just because it's the Gulf Coast, but the reality is, it brings up domestic issues that are important to the rest of the country. It brings up the issue of emergency preparedness, which is important whether it's mudslides or earthquakes or a terrorist attack for the rest of the country.

You know, the lieutenant governor and I have invited the major candidates. We said, we know you have got these presidential debates. We invite you to come down here, whoever the nominees are, we invite you to come down for a townhall meeting, bipartisan, Democratic lieutenant governor, Republican governor -- and I hope that the major candidates will take us up on the invitation. If we do it, I hope you all will come and cover it.

BLITZER: Not only cover it, we'll be happy to televise it on CNN. It would be a good forum for you. It's a win/win/win for everybody, especially for the American public, to see the candidates in action. And it would send a powerful message about New Orleans is coming back, the state of Louisiana is coming back in the process.

JINDAL: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Governor, thanks for the hospitality.

JINDAL: Well, enjoy your visit down here. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And coming up, Senators Clinton and Obama. They are battling down to the wire this weekend. Can they avoid a convention showdown? I'll discuss that and a lot more with the best political team on television. "Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Coming up, our political panel in just a moment. John King, Jeff Toobin, Gloria Borger. They are standing by.

We also want to remind you of a couple of programming notes. You can see the NBA all-star game on our sister network. It's here in New Orleans, TNT, 8 p.m. Eastern. Also remember, CNN is your home for politics. On Tuesday, this coming Tuesday, the Hawaii, Wisconsin and Washington state presidential contests. Take a closer look at which candidate is in the best position and what's next in the battle for the White House. Our coverage Tuesday night starts at 8 p.m. Eastern with the best political team on television.

Coming up, our panel discussion on what's going on in the race for the White House. Will the Democrats manage to avoid a contentious convention? Can John McCain soothe his rebellious right wing? We'll discuss all these questions and a lot more, with the best political team on television.

"Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our special "Late Edition." We're live in New Orleans today. The Democratic candidates for president are virtually neck-and-neck, and they're campaigning like there's no tomorrow. For one of them, though, there won't be a tomorrow.

Let's talk about what's going on in the race for the White House with three of the best political team on television. Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, she's in Washington. Our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin, he's in New York, and CNN's chief political correspondent, John King, he's here in New Orleans. Guys, thanks to all of you for coming in.

First, Gloria, let me start with you. I'll put up some numbers on the screen. The delegate count as we have it right now on the Democratic side, Barack Obama now ahead. He has 1,102 pledged delegates. Add 160 superdelegates for a total of 1,262 to Hillary Clinton's 978 pledged or elected delegates, 235 superdelegates, 1,213 total.

It's extremely close when you add the bottom line. It's a little bit further behind when you just take a look at those pledged delegates or those elected in the primaries and caucuses. Here's the question: Can she catch up in terms of the pledged delegates? Forget about the superdelegates for now?

BORGER: Well, I think it's very difficult for her, but in this campaign, Wolf, if I've learned anything, it's never say never. So I'm not going to say never. All I'm going to say is that the mountain seems to get steeper and steeper and steeper for her.

And what we're in the middle of now, Wolf, I've never seen this. It's sort of the battle of the conference calls between the campaigns, talking about the way these superdelegates ought to behave and should vote. Because both campaigns really understand that this is going to come down to those 795 superdelegates, 450 of whom remain uncommitted at this point.

BLITZER: Jeff Toobin, here's what James Carville told us this past week in "The Situation Room." Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The truth is that Senator Clinton has to win Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. If she wins those three, she's probably the nominee. If she loses one of those three, then Senator Obama is going to probably be the nominee. That's a fact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You think that's a fact?

TOOBIN: I really do. I think James is exactly right. I think, you know, the pledged delegate difference is over 100 delegates, and given the proportional representation method of allocating delegates, there is very -- it's very difficult to catch up, and those are three big states.

That's really the only way she can catch up numerically. It's also the only way she can catch up politically. She's lost so many more states than Obama has won. I think she's got to win those three big states to keep her hopes alive.

I mean, the good news for her is she appears to be leading in all three. But that's the only way for her to win.

BLITZER: All right, what about that, John? Because nobody knows these numbers of these prospective states that are coming up, Wisconsin this week and March 4th, as well as do you.

KING: Well, Wolf, Obama is favored on Tuesday night's contests, which are anchored by a big state, Wisconsin. And to Jeff and Gloria's point, can Hillary Clinton catch up in the delegate math? Yes, but she needs to win Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania, those big delegate-rich states, and she needs to win them by decent margin because of the Democratic Party rules. If it's 51-49, Obama will get roughly half the delegates, depending on how they do in the congressional districts. So, she needs to break those states and win them by decent margins. Then she can catch up on the delegate count.

And she needs those big states to go to the convention with the powerful political argument that we might be very close in the delegate count, but I won the big, giant industrial states, because she would argue that she won Michigan and Florida also. Those states don't count because they broke the rules, they don't get their delegates at the convention.

But somebody needs to be able to go to the convention. If it's going to come to the superdelegates, if they are within 20 or 40 pledged delegates, then you need to have a political argument. If somebody can break away and be 75 or 100 pledged delegates ahead, then the party that calls itself the Democratic Party will most likely rally the superdelegates to the person with the most delegates.

BLITZER: Gloria, you were talking about the battle of the conference calls, if you will. Let me read to you what Harold Ickes, a top strategist, a top adviser to Hillary Clinton's campaign, said yesterday: "At or about, certainly shortly after, the 7th of June, Hillary's going to nail down this nomination. She's going to have the majority of the delegates."

He's talking, you know, well past Pennsylvania. He's looking into well past Puerto Rico, if you will.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: What do you think about that? That this is going to -- she's going to nail this down, he says, in June?

BORGER: Well, "nail it down" is really interesting, because their point on that conference call also was that because they've won these big states they may, in fact, control the rules committee at the convention.

But let me say something, Wolf. If this gets down to a fight about rules at the convention, about seating Florida and Michigan, this is going to be a train wreck for the Democratic Party. And the Democrats I'm talking to are saying this has got to get figured out before that happens or else this is going to be a disaster.

And these superdelegates who remain uncommitted, they're elected party officials. You know, they're not from outer space. They understand that this need to get fixed or else they've got real problems.

TOOBIN: That is so true, and that's why March 4th is much more important than Pennsylvania on April 22nd, because these Democratic officials are dying to get this thing over with.

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: They see John McCain having wrapped this up, and the superdelegates want to go one way or another. They want to go together so that this doesn't turn into a fight. They cannot afford to have a convention in September just eight weeks before the election with the nominee undecided.

That's something that they realize is a suicide pact. And that's why they are going to go one direction or another. And sooner rather than later.

BLITZER: How worried are they, John?

KING: Wolf, they're very worried. That's why see elder statesmen in the party urge the other superdelegates, be quiet, let this play out for another four to six weeks, see who has the lead winning in the primaries.

They're trying to get the superdelegates as a group to essentially pull back and be quiet because, look, conventions are designed for a simple goal, unify the party and get ready with energy to go forward in the general election. Because the conventions are now later and later in the cycle, Jeff's right, you have about two months after the convention. If the Democratic convention rips open all the wounds of the primary season and rips them open in a more deeper, personal, bitter way, then the Democrats will be back on their heels coming out of their conventions. And because the Republicans control the White House, their convention is last, so they will jump in to try to take advantage of those Democratic wounds.

So, most of the elder statesmen of the party are saying, let's calm down, let's be quiet, let's see if somebody can pull away with a decent lead by winning primaries, and then deal with this question. But boy, Wolf, they wish it would go away.

BORGER: But you know, the problem, Wolf, is that these campaigns are so raw right now. It is so emotional between these two campaigns, and it's not as if everybody is just going to be able to get into a room and say, OK, let's see who's number one on the ticket, and let's see who's number two on the ticket. And then we can all hold hands and walk out of here and beat the Republican.

It's really bitter. It's really nasty. And it's very, very delicate. And it's very hard to see...

BLITZER: All right.

BORGER: ... how you get to that.

BLITZER: All right, guys, hold on for a second, because we have a lot more to talk about. Our political panel standing by. We'll continue this conversation when we come back.

We'll also check in on what the Republicans are doing. The GOP front-runner, John McCain, had something to say earlier today. We're going to share it with you in our popular "in case you missed it" segment. Lots more coming up right here on "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our political panel is standing by. We'll talk more with them in a moment. But let's get to our "in case you missed it" segment right now. We'll check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States.

On CBS, top managers for Clinton and Obama campaigns assess the state of the Democratic presidential race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD WOLFSON, HILLARY CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: The Obama campaign manager this past week essentially declared the campaign over in support of his guy. We think that that's giving short shrift to the millions of voters in Texas and Ohio and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and so many other states. We go on to Ohio, and we go on to Texas, where we feel very good.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID AXELROD, BARACK OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We've won nearly twice as many states as Senator Clinton. We've won 14 of them by 20,000 votes or more. And we've done it by bringing not just Democrats but independents and disaffected Republicans to the polls, building the kind of coalition we need to win in November.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On ABC, Republican presidential front-runner John McCain highlighted a few differences between president Bush and himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: In the last two years, the president has signed into law $35 billion worth of pork-barrel projects. That would have been a $1,000 tax credit for every child in America. Wouldn't it have been better for our economy to give $1,000 tax credit for every child in America as opposed to a bridge to no where in Alaska?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, "THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS": How would you have changed it?

MCCAIN: Climate change is an issue. Spending is another issue. There's a number of issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On NBC, Obama supporter Senator Dick Durbin and Clinton supporter Senator Chuck Schumer weighed in on the possibility of allowing Florida and Michigan's currently discounted Democratic delegates to help break a potential deadlock for the Democratic presidential nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD J. DURBIN, D-ILL.: Neither Chuck nor I or any elected official would want our fate determined in an election where our name isn't on the ballot and we weren't allowed to campaign. That's Michigan. And, of course, in Florida, none of the candidates campaigned.

So to say that the outcome of those elections which Senator Clinton agreed would not be counted will somehow be counted in Denver is to change the rules after the election. That isn't fair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES E. SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: You cannot, you cannot let these internecine battles create a war. If they were to seat the Florida and Michigan delegates, the Barack Obama campaign would feel aggrieved. And who knows what would happen in the general election? If they were not to seat them, the senators from Michigan and Florida would feel aggrieved. Hillary Clinton would feel aggrieved. Again, we'd have a fight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On Fox, the director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, talked about the impact of the terrorist surveillance law expiring last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL: Our situation now, when the terrorist threat is increasing because they've achieved -- Al Qaida's achieved de facto safe haven in the border area of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the threat is in -- is going up. And, therefore, we do not have the agility and the speed that we had before to be able to move and try to capture their communications to thwart their planning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

Coming up, we'll get back to our political panel. We'll turn to the Republican race for the White House. If John McCain has the nomination all but locked up, why is Mike Huckabee still in the race? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting -- let's get back to politics. Joining us, once again, Jeff Toobin. He's in New York; Gloria Borger; she's in Washington. John King is here in New Orleans.

Jeff, look at the numbers on the Republican side. Remember, the magic number being 1,191 delegates needed to be the Republican presidential nominee. McCain already has 830. Romney, who endorsed McCain this week, he had 286. But he's encouraging his delegates to go with McCain. That brings him very close to the magic number.

Huckabee has 217; Ron Paul with 16. Why is Mike Huckabee still in this race?

TOOBIN: Well, I think there are a combination of reasons. I think ego plays a part. I think he likes the attention of being a presidential candidate. He doesn't have another job to go back to.

He's also giving voice to conservative discontent with John McCain. I mean, even though, mathematically, this race is over, there are, it looks like, about 40 percent of the voters in each state that want to vote against John McCain. And Mike Huckabee is the option.

So I think it's mixed motives, but none of them help John McCain get elected president. BLITZER: All right, Gloria, you understand what's going on here?

BORGER: Yes, I agree with Jeff. I think there's also, sort of, a mano a mano thing going on here between Romney and Huckabee. I think Huckabee would like to go into that convention with more delegates than Mitt Romney. As you saw, it's pretty close.

If he could do that, then he could get the better speech, be the standard-bearer for conservatives and evangelicals.

And unlike the Democrats, I think, you know, Huckabee and McCain have been friends -- not so much now. But they have been friends. And I think, in the end, Huckabee will wholeheartedly endorse John McCain and embrace him. And I think, in the end, that's going to help John McCain.

BLITZER: Here's what Romney, John, said this week, in endorsing John McCain. He did it in Boston. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS.: I am honored, today, to give my full support to Senator McCain's candidacy for the presidency of the United States. I'm officially endorsing his candidacy, and today I'm asking my delegates to vote for Senator McCain at the convention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How unified, already, is the Republican Party, now that John McCain looks all but certain of getting the nomination, or does he still have a lot of work to do?

KING: He still has quite a bit of work to do, Wolf. And another step in that effort will come tomorrow in Houston, Texas, where the former President Bush, George H.W. Bush, will endorse John McCain.

That is part of the continuing "rally around McCain" movement, and you see it -- and it's a fascinating calculation, the Romney and the Huckabee split, if you will.

You have two men who want to have a future in the Republican Party, both of whom are thinking they want to run for president again down the line, making a very different choice.

Romney decides to get out quickly, embrace McCain, despite their differences, offer to help him in the fall campaign, urging his -- not just his delegates but his fund-raisers to help John McCain.

And the McCain campaign says, Governor Romney, despite those differences, we want to put you out on the road as a surrogate for us.

Governor Huckabee takes the flip side, Wolf. He believes more exposure, more traveling to these states will help him build a base for a future run for president, as well as all those convention qualifications that Gloria made. He wants a bigger speech and everything.

The McCain campaign is worried about only one state, looking forward, and that is Texas. It's a very vocal group of social conservatives there who sparred with George W. Bush when he was governor and during his presidency. And George W. Bush is known as a favorite, for the most part, of social conservatives.

So the thinking of the McCain campaign is, if they didn't like George W. Bush, they certainly don't like John McCain. That is their one worry about Mike Huckabee making a big statement, going forward. It is the state of Texas.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Go ahead.

TOOBIN: And every dollar that McCain is spending on advertising in Wisconsin and in Texas -- and those are substantial dollars -- is money that he can't spend against the Democrat. And that, I think, is a real hindrance to him. Because he doesn't have the kind of money that Barack Obama has or even Hillary Clinton has.

BLITZER: And so it's more than just a nuisance, Gloria. I think that's what Jeff is saying.

BORGER: Yes, I think it is. Particularly, I mean, the McCain campaign is having a big pow-wow this weekend, trying to figure out how to move on, as the nominee, from this point on.

So, you know, this is -- Huckabee has become an irritant to them, at this point. And they know he's going to want to go through Texas and get some more delegates, and then they want to wrap it up already -- enough of Mike Huckabee; good for him -- and get it over with.

But they want to end it well. Because Huckabee, if he does endorse him, brings a group of people that McCain really wants in his tent.

BLITZER: All right, guys, we've got to leave it there. Gloria Borger, Jeff Toobin, John king, three of the best political team on television. Thanks to all of you for coming in.

And coming up at the top of the hour, more politics, "This Week in Politics" with host Tom Foreman. That's coming up at the top of the hour. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And that is your "Late Edition" for this Sunday, February 17th. Please be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

We'll be in New York tomorrow, at the CNN Election Center, for "The Situation Room." Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in New Orleans.

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