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A Brand New Ball Game: Clinton Turns A Corner

Aired March 5, 2008 - 17:00   ET

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


BLITZER: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the Democratic campaign turning into a wild ride. Hillary Clinton hanging on for dear life.

But can she now climb into the driver's seat?

Barack Obama says he's still the one at the wheel.

They once fought a bitter battle for the White House and they still have their differences. But John McCain now has the backing of President Bush.

How much will it help?

And Democrats call it their dream team -- a lot of Democrats do. But the radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, is -- as we just noted, he's laughing at the idea of a woman and an African-American on the same ticket.

What's going on?

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's a brand new game. Hillary Clinton going three for four -- big hits in Ohio and Texas. Barack Obama, though, still leading, but may now be in for a much tougher ride. Both Democrats are keeping the crowd on the edge of their seats, with a lot more tough contests ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think what's important here is that this campaign has turned a corner. It is now about who is strongest against the Republican nominee, John McCain. You know, people who voted a month ago didn't know who the Republican nominee was going to be. They didn't, perhaps, factor in that it will be about national security, because, indeed, with Senator McCain, that's what it will be about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are confident that after last night, where Senator Clinton had a good night, but said that, you know, she had to win Texas and Ohio decisively, we end up emerging with essentially the same delegate count that we had going in and feel confident that we're going to be able to go on to the nomination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Barack Obama now has 1,520 delegates, picking up 137 of them yesterday. Hillary Clinton now has 1,424 delegates, gaining 155 in yesterday's voting.

Hillary Clinton is being hailed for her comeback victories.. But one of those wins may be less than meets the eye.

Let's go to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.

She's in Austin, Texas watching this.

To the victor go the spoils, as they say.

What's going on in Texas right now, because it is oh so complicated -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Clinton was declared the winner of the Texas primary. But there's a lot more to this whole thing. And that is, of course, the Texas caucus process, as well. While Camp Obama says that they have declared themselves the victors of that process, saying that they've got more delegates, certainly state party officials are not ready to do that. They say they've got so far at the count 38 percent reporting, those precincts, Barack Obama 55 percent to Hillary Clinton's 44 percent.

The reason why this continues -- the tally goes on -- is because of the record turnout. More than a million people participating.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): They don't call it the Texas two-step for nothing.

CLINTON: We're just getting started.

MALVEAUX: Senator Hillary Clinton won the Texas primary. But for one step forward, she may end up taking two-steps back.

PAUL BURKA, SENIOR EDITOR, "TEXAS MONTHLY": It's kind of a mess.

MALVEAUX: "Texas Monthly's" Paul Burka has reported on the state's complicated voting process for nearly two decades. He says despite the fact Clinton won 51 percent of the primary vote Tuesday to Barack Obama's 48 percent, Clinton may end up being the loser -- getting fewer delegates than Obama. A quirky system here allots more delegates from districts that have been Democratic strongholds in the past. BURKA: Those that have supported the Democratic ticket well in the past tend to get up to as many as eight delegates. Those who have not get as few as two. Senator Clinton tended to carry the rural areas, where the Republicans are very strong, in the suburbs, so her districts are worth fewer delegates. And Obama has won districts that are in urban areas that have been very strong for Democrats. So he gets more delegates.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He'll say I won Texas, she didn't win Texas because what counts are the delegates.

MALVEAUX: And just to make things even more confusing, the primary process awards just two-thirds of the delegates. Remember that two-step?

The remaining delegates are awarded through a caucus, where voters actually had to come back a second time and vote again. At some sites, the record turnout at the Tuesday caucuses led to confusion and complaints.

SCHNEIDER: It literally makes no sense. So there are bound to be irregularities. The voters don't understand it. And, to some extent, they're in control of the caucus process. So I think you're going to get complaints about irregularities. Those complaints are likely to come from whoever loses the delegates.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, there is a battle raging between the campaigns. There are allegations of voter intimidation and misconduct. These are the type of things that the state party says it is trying to address at this time. But they realize there's a lot of unhappiness because of the confusion -- all of that because of the incredible turnout that happened yesterday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it was incredible.

Thanks very much, Suzanne, for that.

Only eight years ago, they were fierce opponents battling for the White House. But today, the White House was the setting as the winner of that battle, George W. Bush, formally endorsed his would-be successor John McCain.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Elaine Quijano.

She's watching the story for us -- Elaine, tell our viewers what happened today behind you over at the White House.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially bygones are bygones. That is certainly the image, Wolf, that both men here at the White House today were trying to project. Senator John McCain being welcomed warmly by President Bush -- a united front that they hope Republicans can rally behind. But it has been a long rocky road to this point.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUIJANO (voice-over): Just steps from the office they bitterly fought over in 2000, President Bush endorsed his former political rival, Senator John McCain.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I welcome you here. I wish you all the best. I'm proud to be your friend.

QUIJANO: The pleasantries in the Rose Garden were a far cry from the acrimony of the 2000 South Carolina primary fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM February 15, 2000)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not the Washington mentality, it's the grownup mentality.

BUSH: And, John, you know, grownup or not grownup, you know, I know that's kind of a line you're trying to come across with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: In 2000, an underground whisper campaign dogged Senator McCain and his family with vicious personal rumors. The rumors were never tied to the Bush team, but the damage destroyed McCain's chances of winning the GOP nomination. A few months later, McCain signaled he would move on, characterizing his political support for Mr. Bush this way.

MCCAIN: I think your take the medicine now is probably a good description of me. For me to look back in anger or with any rancor would be a mistake.

QUIJANO: Since then, the two have differed sharply on tax cuts, campaign finance reform and even the early handling of the Iraq War. But in 2004, amid rampant speculation that Democrat John Kerry would ask McCain to be his running mate, the senator embraced the president, ultimately helping President Bush win a second term.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

QUIJANO: Now President Bush is returning the favor by embracing Senator McCain. And the main goals -- to raise money and, of course, to try to boost John McCain's standing among conservatives in the hopes of driving them to the polls come November -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Elaine.

Thanks very much.

For the latest political news any time, check out our Political Ticker at CNNPolitics.com. The Ticker is now the number one political news blog on the Web. That's always where you can read my latest blog post. I just posted one before the show.

Jack Cafferty is here with The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Do you know off hand -- how many terms has John McCain been in the Senate?

BLITZER: About 20 years or so.

CAFFERTY: Like three terms, maybe more?

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: OK.

Now that he's the nominee, the Republican nominee, people are starting to wonder who's going to fill out that number two position on the ticket.

"The New York Times" reports McCain and his advisers insist that there is no short list of potential names for vice president. Instead -- and here's the reason I asked, Wolf, that question -- John McCain has directed his campaign to study past methods that nominees have used to pick running mates. This is a 71-year-old guy. He spent half his adult life in Washington, D.C. . He's run for president twice, a three-term U.S. senator and he's going to have his campaign study how to get a vice president.

There's no hope. There is just no hope.

Some suggest McCain's selection of a vice presidential candidate is more important than usual given his age. If he wins, McCain would be 72 when he's sworn in -- the oldest candidate every elected to a first term. Of course, there are already some names floating around out there -- several governors, Florida's Charlie Crist, Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty, whose executive experience could be a plus for the ticket. Former governors, too -- Pennsylvania's Tom Ridge, he of the -- what was it -- clear plastic sheeting and duct tape. He's been mentioned as a possible vice president. There are also former governors Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee who, until recently, were McCain's rivals.

One expert says that McCain basically has three choices when it comes to a vice president -- pick a conservative who could rally the base, pick someone who has crossover appeal to try to attract Independents or make a geographical decision and try to win a specific swing state or region. These are all things that the campaign will be studying, no doubt.

Here's the question -- how should John McCain go about selecting his running mate?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: You heard what President Bush said to him today about that. He said be careful who you select to head the selection committee...

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Because, as you and our viewers know, Vice President Cheney was in charge of selecting the vice presidential running mate eight years ago.

And guess who became the running mate?

CAFFERTY: Yes. He said here's a good idea, I'll do it.

BLITZER: So maybe the guy he selects to select the committee.

CAFFERTY: Keep an eye on him.

BLITZER: You keep an eye on him.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: All right, Jack.

Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Many Democrats are calling it their dream ticket.

But would Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton ever agree to team up?

And would it really be good for the party?

We're watching this story. The Democratic Party isn't counting delegates from Florida and Michigan. That's punishment for their early primaries.

But can the Democrats pick a nominee without them?

And record shattering oil prices -- another high that may have you reaching for your wallet. We know it does.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: He's a very tough Marine who once headed the U.S. military's Central Command, which oversees all U.S. forces throughout the Middle East. He's also an outspoken critic of parts of the way this war in Iraq has unfolded.

Let's get to retired U.S. Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni.

He's joins us now in our Washington studios.

General, thanks very much for coming in.

GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI, CENTER FOR U.S. GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT: Good to be with you, Wolf. BLITZER: We saw that "Washington Post" story had a picture of you. It had your name cited as a possible running mate for Barack Obama. You saw that, as well.

When you saw it, what's going on behind-the-scenes?

Are you and Barack Obama talking about a strategy -- a military strategy in the Middle East?

How close are you with this Democratic presidential candidate?

ZINNI: Well, not at all. It was a surprise to me and a shock. Of course, I respect all the candidates. But certainly I had nothing to do with that and I'm certainly not interested in politics in any way.

BLITZER: Have you endorsed any of the candidates formally or informally?

ZINNI: I have not and will not. I think the messages that I may have or the advice I might provide, I wanted to ensure that no one thought there was political motivation behind them. And I've talked to most of the candidates, including the ones that have already stepped down.

BLITZER: Have you had any good serious conversations with Barack Obama?

Has he asked for your advice?

ZINNI: When he first came to the Senate, before, obviously, the beginning of the campaign, he did. And we talked about Iraq and the Middle East and other issues that, obviously, I might be familiar with.

ZINNI: Because the suggestion is he needs someone -- if he were to get the Democratic presidential nomination -- that could help him with national security experience, someone like you.

What do you think about that?

Does he have the national security experience, based on what, you know, to be commander-in-chief?

ZINNI: Well, I think when you look at national security experience, it's who you have around you, not only in terms of advisers, but it's how you pick your secretary of state, secretary of defense, national security adviser.

What we expect from the commander-in-chief is good judgment, the ability to listen, hear all the options. And I think that's what we should focus on any of these candidates.

BLITZER: What do you think of his strategy?

He's said if he becomes president, he would meet with the Joint Chiefs, he'd meet with his military commanders. He'd come up with a strategy, but what he'd like to see happen in Iraq is to start withdrawing U.S. forces at a rate of one or two brigades a month and get U.S. combat forces out of Iraq as quickly as possible -- no end date specific in mind, but a quick withdrawal.

What about that general notion?

ZINNI: Well, I think that we should be talking about the next phase, the next strategic design for Iraq. It's not simply a matter of pulling out. Our interests in this region really are too great. Now we may evolve into a phase where we go into more of a support role and to a containment role, keeping our options open to strike, possibly, Al Qaeda targets, a robust security assistance program for the Iraqi security forces, obviously protecting our own interests in Iraq, like our embassy and elsewhere.

So I think it would be a better dialogue to have to talk about the next phase and the strategy for the next phase, as opposed to just pullouts or stay-ins or stay the course.

BLITZER: Is this current strategy, the so-called surge, based on everything you know, is it working?

ZINNI: Well, first of all, I don't think the surge was a strategy. The surge is a tactic. I think it was an important tactic. I think it contributed to much of the calming of the violence and the increased stability we see, along with the Sunni awakening and the cease-fire with the Shia. And it gave breathing room for other things to happen.

The surge, in and of itself, is not an end state, as General Petraeus has said. There's no military solution. With the surge and the increased better security environment, there's been hope that the Maliki government and others would engage in a way of bettering the political, economic and social conditions that really are the answers to resolving this problem.

BLITZER: General Zinni, thanks very much for coming in.

ZINNI: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama together as running mates -- we're going to show you why there's new buzz today about what many Democrats call their dream ticket.

And the view of the race for the White House from Iran. We're going to go there. You're going to find out why some people in Iran, especially some young people, are way interested in this U.S. election.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Carol Costello is off today. Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, what's going on?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello again, Wolf.

High tensions and thousands of troops along Colombia's borders with Ecuador and Venezuela. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates says there's little chance of war breaking out. But if it did, U.S. ally Colombia would need U.S. help -- would not, rather, need U.S. help. The three countries are in an escalating conflict over Colombia's cross-border raid on rebels hiding in Ecuador.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he'll resume peace talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert despite continuing violence in Gaza. Abbas had threatened to boycott talks until Israel reached a truce with Hamas. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in the region, as the Bush administration pushes for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal before the president leaves office.

And take a look at this. It's all that remains of a house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Something triggered an explosion that blew it to pieces this afternoon. But investigators still don't know what it was. An elderly man and a young child were injured. We don't know their condition. And eight neighboring homes were damaged.

And you all know the story of Moses and the burning bush on Mount Sinai. Well, here's what you probably didn't know. An Israeli academic says the burning bush probably was a drug-induced hallucination experienced by Moses. Professor Benny Shanon says biblical descriptions bear the hallmark of a psychedelic experience and that the drug could have come from the acacia tree, common in the region. Shanon says he himself has had similar experiences with a plant-based hallucinogenic brew used in Brazil.

Very perplexing there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that.

Fredricka Whitfield reporting for us.

We'll check back with you.

A Clinton/Obama dream ticket -- that's what some are calling it. Some are suggesting it may not necessarily be a dream.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY RUSH LIMBAUGH.COM)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Put Hillary at the top of it. Put Hillary on top. It's a position she's familiar with. Therefore, you've got a woman and a black the first time ever on the Democrat ticket.

(LAUGHTER)

LIMBAUGH: They don't have a prayer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to give you the context of exactly what Rush Limbaugh said. Terry Jeffrey earlier said he wants to know what he said in more detail. We'll give you the detail of what Rush Limbaugh had to say.

Also, growing talk of do-overs in Michigan and Florida. You're going to find out why those states could each hold another primary.

Plus, an unlikely outbreak of Obama-mania in this small Japanese town. We'll show you what's causing it.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, the U.S. government says its oil stockpile is down and that helped send the price of crude to a new record high -- more than $104 a barrel. The Energy Information Administration says oil supplies fell by more than three million barrels last week.

Meanwhile, OPEC says it will not increase oil production despite the skyrocketing prices. Ministers from the 13 OPEC nations meeting in Vienna, Austria say current supplies are adequate and the worldwide economic slowdown will likely reduce oil demand in the near future.

And a new clue in the probe into the contaminated blood thinner Heparin, recalled after being linked to at least 21 deaths. The drug maker Baxter International says it has found a possible contaminant that may have originated in ingredients from China.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Many Democrats call it their dream ticket. That would be Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama together. And a comment Clinton made today is raising some speculation it could happen. But there's one big question that would have to be answered first.

Let's bring in Deborah Feyerick.

She's watching this story, the so-called Democratic dream ticket -- Deb, is it looking any more likely?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not looking all that likely. And many Democrats say, really, the obvious answer would be just put them together. They would be unbeatable. But for people who follow this and do this for a living, they say it is not that simple.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FEYERICK (voice-over): The question was asked in January by CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Would you consider an Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama ticket going down the road?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, obviously, there's a big difference between those two.

(LAUGHTER)

FEYERICK: With Democrats seemingly split between the two candidates, why not have both, say many voters like this university professor.

HENRY SCHWARZ, RHODE ISLAND VOTER: If we could make a blend of the best qualities of each, we'd be in heaven.

FEYERICK: Hillary Clinton, fresh off her victories in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island, acknowledged the possibility of a joint ticket on CBS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY CBS)

CLINTON: Well, that may, you know, be where this is headed. But, of course, we have to decide who's on top of the ticket.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We want change.

FEYERICK: Barack Obama, with more delegates, has made it clear -- he's running for just one office.

OBAMA: We are on our way to winning this nomination.

FEYERICK: Imagine the two of them behind closed doors working at who gets first billing, who gets second. Not likely to happen, say some analysts.

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Right now, if you asked Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama privately is there any way to do this, they'd both say no way. But the pressure from Democrats nationally and elite Democrats might be so strong that it gives them no choice but to team up.

FEYERICK: It's happened before. Rivals John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson worked it out. Some political insiders say an Obama/Clinton Clinton/Obama ticket might unify the party. Others say no, it will isolate key voting blocs and threaten a win in November.

Then there are those who suggest she needs him more than he needs her.

HENRY SHEINKOPF, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Here's the question -- the question is why hasn't Barack said it yet? It's simple. Hillary Clinton has a vested interest in saying those two -- this ticket of togetherness argument.

Why?

It reduces the anger against her, particularly among African- Americans. It makes it easier for her to maintain momentum and it makes him look like a spoiler. That's why she's doing it. And it's smart tactically.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

FEYERICK: Political insiders say if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination, she would be under more pressure to pick Barack Obama. That same is not true for Obama. His campaign feels she does not represent the kind of change he has promised to bring to Washington -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that. Deb Feyerick reporting for us.

Rush Limbaugh says a Clinton/Obama ticket would ensure, ensure a Republican victory. Earlier, we played that controversial sound bite for the Republican strategist, Terry Jeffrey. He wanted to hear the context of Limbaugh's comment. So here's more of that sound bite. Listen for yourself.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Let's talk about something else that you're afraid of. Let's just put it out on the table. Let's say that there is a joint ticket between Obama and Hillary and they come to an agreement over who's on top. Frankly, I hope it's Obama on top -- excuse me, well, I actually don't but I'm just -- if it's Obama on top and if they happen to win, I just can't wait for Hillary to undermine him during his presidency and lead impeachment proceedings against him.

But the point is, let's say it is Obama and Hillary -- Hillary/Obama, let's put Hillary at the top -- put Hillary on top. That's a position she's familiar with. Therefore, you've got a woman and a black, first time ever on the Democrat ticket.

(LAUGHTER)

LIMBAUGH: They don't have a prayer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's discuss this and for that, we are joined by the former Dallas mayor, Ron Kirk, he supports Barack Obama. And the Democratic strategist Lisa Caputo. She was the then-first lady's press secretary. She is of course backing Hillary Clinton.

Thanks to both of you for coming in. Mr. Mayor, let me ask you first for a comment on what Rush Limbaugh had to say. You heard the entire chunk there. Give us your reaction.

RON KIRK (D), FORMER DALLAS MAYOR: Yes, it's the first time I've heard it. But I think -- who was it wrote the book "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Jerk (sic)" or whatever it was? I mean, why are we talking about this guy? Why is he on TV? He is so irrelevant. And he only says stuff to be inflammatory. And frankly, the best thing that could happen to either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, should they be the nominee, would be for Rush Limbaugh to keep saying stupid stuff like this.

BLITZER: You want to say anything or just leave it alone, Lisa?

LISA CAPUTO, FMR. HILLARY CLINTON PRESS SECY.: Oh, well, all I would say, Wolf, is I think that the voter turnout in these primaries and caucuses for the Democrats I think is an indicator of how Democrats feel about both candidates. And I think Rush Limbaugh is absolutely delusional if he thinks a ticket like that doesn't have a prayer.

BLITZER: How do you feel, Mr. Mayor, about that so-called dream team -- the dream ticket, irrespective of who's the vice presidential candidate and who's the presidential candidate? What do you think about it?

KIRK: Well, Wolf, I remember watching that debate in California when you asked that question, and the audience's response. And you would expect that from that audience. And as I've said before, I would love nothing more than to present Senator Obama with the challenge of trying to decide who he wants to choose as a running mate.

But right now, our number one objective is to keep fighting and keep working for Senator Obama to bring about the kind of change that we need in Washington so we can address the critical issues that the American people wants Congress to do.

BLITZER: All right. I want to talk about what happened in your state in Texas yesterday. But, Lisa, what do you think about that dream team as some people call it?

CAPUTO: Well, as I said, I mean, I think Democrats could certainly get excited about that ticket and I think it would also reach out into independents. I think that the independent voters are obviously key to this election, key to the general election. It's obviously a base of Senator McCain. And I think, you know, a Clinton/Obama ticket would absolutely plow into that population.

But I think it's important to note, Wolf, you know, what we saw last night was, you know, voters are not decided here. And I think I would like to say Hillary Clinton is the comeback kid, part two. And you know, she brought back her base, labor, elderly, women, Hispanics, two-to-one I believe in Texas.

And let's remember, she was outspent by Barack Obama three-to- one. And something else, she took the late deciders, Wolf. And that means her message on commander-in-chief, who's better to deal with the national security issues, who's better to deal with the economy and has an economic blueprint, voters are saying it's Hillary.

BLITZER: All right. Mr. Mayor, what do you say?

KIRK: Well, Lisa, I do want to congratulate the Clinton campaign on the great victory in Ohio. But obviously, you all left Texas at halftime because at the end of the day, when the delegate count is distributed from both the primary and the caucuses, we're going to find that Senator Obama has, in fact, won the delegate count in Texas and probably come out ahead.

But the reality is -- as shameful as what Rush Limbaugh has said, it's as disconcerting to many Democrats, the tone that Senator Clinton has chosen to take in attacking Barack Obama. And if it's irresponsible and if it's not appropriate for Rush Limbaugh to say what he said, to many of us, it's just as distasteful for the Clinton campaign to try to exploit race, exploit sex, exploit fear for political expediency.

And Barack Obama is running not only to change the tone in Washington but to change the way we run these campaigns. And we're going to stay on a positive message that appeals to the best instincts and hopes and dreams of Americans. And that's why I believe he's going to come out on top at the end of the day.

BLITZER: Lisa, those are strong words. Go ahead.

CAPUTO: Well, what I would say in response to that is a few things. I think it's important to note, Wolf, that when you look at the numbers both on the delegate count and the popular vote, the popular vote, they're basically even. It's 0.1 percent. When you look at the delegate count, it's within 2 percent. So they're running even.

So this will likely come down to the superdelegates. That's point one. Point two, I would say, is, you know, no one in the Clinton campaign and certainly not Senator Clinton, has made race or sex an issue. What she has talked about are the issues and yes, she has put out there the differences in their records and there are differences.

When you look at Senator Obama's position on NAFTA and the conversations had with Canadian officials by his economic policy and trade people, when you look at the fact that he hasn't held oversight hearings on Afghanistan, it does raise questions that are valid questions and differences between the two about who is ready to be commander-in-chief, particularly in a time of national security crisis.

So I think that these are valid issues and issues that ought to be discussed. One other thing I would note, Wolf, is, hey, you know...

BLITZER: Before you give us the other thing, let me let the mayor respond. Go ahead.

CAPUTO: Sure. KIRK: Well, Wolf, I think Senator Obama has shown a readiness and willingness to stand and defend his positions on any of those issues, but there's no question that Senator Clinton and her campaign strategists felt that they were backed into a corner and were willing to do anything to win.

And some of the ads that have been run, some of the attacks, some of the innuendoes that have been leveled against Senator Obama are some that have turned off, frankly, a lot of voters that have traditionally not been involved in the political process.

And as much as I want us to win, I want us to win the right way. And I want to win with a candidate like Barack Obama who for the first time is bringing scores of new voters and young voters and independents, into the political process because they desperately want a change in the tenor and tone of American politics.

And I think at the end of the day, while there may arguably be a brief victory for Senator Clinton in terms of the short term attack, I think long term it's not good for our party and it's not good for the American public. We are never going to pass health care, an economic stimulus plan if we don't change the tenor of debate and find a way to try to bring Americans together rather than divide us.

BLITZER: Lisa, I'm not going to be able to let you make that additional point, because unfortunately, we are out of time. But I would love both of you to come back and we'll continue this conversation.

CAPUTO: Be happy to, Wolf.

KIRK: Be happy to.

BLITZER: This contest clearly is not ending any time soon, as we all now know. Appreciate it very much, guys, for coming in.

CAPUTO: Nice to be with you.

KIRK: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you. The dream team dreaming. Democrats are buzzing. Youtube is brimming with videos of what it might look like. We are going to show you some of the best.

Plus Florida and Michigan. Should the democrats change the rules and count their votes? Lots more coming up right here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In the tight Democratic race, the all-important delegate counts do not, do not include Florida and Michigan. Those states were punished for defying the national party by holding early primaries. Now especially in Florida, there are demands to either seat the delegates or hold a new vote. Let's go to CNN's John Zarrella. He is Miami watching this. What are the odds, John, of what they are calling a do-over in Florida?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I tell you, the issue is absolutely not going to go away. The problem that we have is that nobody seems to be willing to pay for the so-called do-over. No one can figure out exactly what they would do, how do you not disenfranchise voters when you already had 1.7 million Democrats go to the polls?

So right now, Wolf, the whole thing is a mess.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA (voice-over): In Tallahassee, Democratic and Republican legislators are talking, although it's just talk, it's something they agree on. Florida's vote must count. What they're talking about is moving to force the two national parties to seat all the state's delegates at their respective conventions, or else.

NAN RICH, FLORIDA STATE SENATE: Legislation that would basically say that any national party that did not put -- count the delegates would not be able to put the nominee on to the ballot.

ZARRELLA: It is likely unconstitutional, legal scholars say, and a bluff. But it highlights the level of frustration in Florida, particularly among Democrats over their party's refusal to seat the delegates.

Florida and Michigan were stripped of their delegates as punishment for moving up their primaries. But in the wake of Tuesday's election results in Texas and Ohio, those delegates now seem more important than ever.

MITCH CAESAR, BROWARD COUNTY DEMOCRATIC CHMN.: You can't make the numbers work intelligently unless there's a Florida and Michigan solution.

ZARRELLA: The governors of the two states, Republican Charlie Crist of Florida and Democrat Jennifer Granholm of Michigan have now joined in an appeal to their parties to seat all Florida and Michigan delegates.

But in Florida, everyone is pointing at the Democratic National Committee, saying, it's your problem to fix.

RICH: There is no way that the Democratic National -- the Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, can allow this to fester anymore.

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Florida is key. And the Democratic National Committee is going to have to come up with some kind of solution.

ZARRELLA: But what kind of solution? There has been talk of a re-do of the primary. That would cost $18 million and no one appears willing to pay for it.

NELSON: There's no way that the state legislature is going to fund another election in Florida when they are in economic cardiac arrest right now.

ZARRELLA: The results of the original primary are not acceptable to the Obama campaign because none of the candidates campaigned in Florida. An agreement they made with the DNC. He lost to Clinton by 17 points.

A Caucus? Florida has never held one. State party leaders say a plan must be worked out now before the Pennsylvania primary in April.

CAESAR: This is our window to put a plan into place and then maybe activate it if necessary after Pennsylvania.

ZARRELLA: If only there were a plan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA: We talked to the Democratic National committee late this afternoon, and we were told, listen, we're still willing to negotiate with the states but Wolf, as far as we can tell, no negotiations are going on and we're not sure who's talking to whom. As one state representative told me, Wolf, this is like your typical Democratic firing squad, where we all stand in a circle -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a nightmare. What a nightmare indeed, in Florida and Michigan, for the Democrats. Thanks very much, John Zarrella, reporting.

The world is watching this U.S. election. And we are going to take you to Tehran where the race over -- the battle for the race for the White House is all the buzz.

And as Democrats dream about that dream team, our own Jeanne Moos, she will give us a closer look at the -- what it might look like. A "Moost Unusual" report later here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Get back to Jack Cafferty. He has got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: How should John McCain, is the question this hour, go about selecting his running mate?

William in San Diego: "McCain's main weakness, the conservative base. Look at the numbers in Texas, 38 percent Huckabee, 51 percent McCain. If he goes into the general election lacking a half a million votes in Texas, he will stand no chance against the Democratic nominee. It's vital he choose either Huckabee or Romney and appeals to all of the conservatives that he has so far failed to impress."

Eileen writes: "John McCain has to pick someone with more than a room temperature IQ who acknowledges the diversity of religious belief in this country."

David writes: "George Bush may punk him into picking Jeb Bush.

Sky says: "Maybe he should look over at Shady Pines. There should be plenty of his contemporaries there. He might even find one who agrees with his brilliant suggestion to keep our GIs in Iraq for 100 years."

Ed in Houston: "McCain ought to let Rush Limbaugh help him pick the vice presidential candidate as soon as possible. It sounds by his comments today regarding a Clinton/Obama dream ticket that he will be re-entering rehab again soon."

Jake in New York: "John McCain ought to choose a somewhat younger running mate with shared ideals and executive experience. I personally hope he picks Charlie Crist."

Dan in Gulfport, Florida: "Unfortunately, a lot of potential candidates are in jail or soon will be. McCain might be better off if he placed an ad in the jobs available section of The Times. The nice thing is that after Dick Cheney, the bar for vice president is so low that it won't be difficult for anyone to hop over it. My personal recommendation would be Senator Larry Craig. He'd lock up the public restroom vote and there might not be many other places Republicans will be able to find votes this year."

And Vinnie in New York writes: "If he wants to win, he had better dig up Ronald Reagan."

That's all I have at this time.

BLITZER: That's enough.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Jack, for that.

In news from around the world, Iranians, yes, Iranians are focusing in on our upcoming vote here in the United States. But the outcome of the election process in the U.S. may affect them more than they realize. Our Middle East correspondent Aneesh Raman takes the pulse in Tehran.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, whoever the next U.S. president is, they'll have to deal with Iran. So we set out to find out what Iranians think of the election so far.

(voice-over): The scent of politics is in the air in Iran, but not American politics. Not yet. With just over a week to go until Iran elects a new parliament, the U.S. presidential primaries are, for most, out of sight and out of mind.

Many in Tehran's main bazaar didn't even know who was running. Mohammed (ph) knew one candidate. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama.

RAMAN: But it's just a matter of time before all that changes. Press TV, Iran's English language state-run channel, this week produced its first program devoted entirely to the U.S. elections. Complete with American pundits battling for air time. It was a detailed discussion that for at least one group of Iranians is old news

. The young and educated have been paying attention to the race for weeks and we gathered three 20-somethings to talk about it.

Sharsad (ph) works at a publishing house. Ayub (ph) is a college student. And Sara (ph) is an architect. All said they were hoping a Democrat would win.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I remember when President Bush was elected and everybody said, OK, now we're in trouble. Now that is Republican, everything is bad.

RAMAN: And they were all impressed by the historic nature of the Democratic process, even citing the pop culture behind senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, there is a series called "Commander-in-Chief." There is -- the president is a lady. I mean, I don't...

RAMAN (on camera): The TV show.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

RAMAN: So people have seen that here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, of course. Even from the other side, Oprah is supporting Obama. Oprah is very famous in Iran. People are very eager to watch and follow that program.

RAMAN (voice-over): As for advice for whoever becomes the next president? "They should prioritize dialogue and discussion," Ayub says. "They should open up and talk with the powers in this region, not pursue war."

And Sara is hoping a new president means a new chance for direct talks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think everybody wants to go to America, we drink Pepsi with every meal, you know what I mean? So we want to do it but we don't know how. Even the government don't know how.

RAMAN: What the young and educated in Iran already know will soon spread to the rest, that the U.S. elections could impact Iran as much as who they vote into parliament next week.

(on camera): Most people tell us that once there's a Democrat and Republican nominee, that's when Iran will really start paying attention -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Aneesh, thank you. Lou Dobbs is standing by. He's going to be joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, what will it take for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, for that matter, to hit the magic number they need to secure the nomination? We are going to do the delegate math. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Lou. He's here. Got a show coming up in one hour.

But I want your thoughts on what happened last night.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, I think what happened is that Senator Clinton did the amazing and came back for a second time. Not often do you see -- her husband became "the comeback kid: based on one comeback.

BLITZER: In New Hampshire, that was '92.

DOBBS: And she managed to pull it off with two. I think she's probably a little tired of these near death political experiences and is ready to prevail as best she can when we get to Pennsylvania.

BLITZER: Who has got the upper hand right now?

DOBBS: I don't think there's any doubt she does.

BLITZER: Really.

DOBBS: She may not have stopped the so-called Obama momentum, but she certainly stopped the decline in her own fortunes and I believe has asserted herself as the most powerful factor right now. It was unthinkable two weeks ago but I think that's exactly what she has pulled off here.

BLITZER: Even though he's still ahead in delegates.

DOBBS: He's ahead in delegates. In popular vote, they are just virtually tied. In point of fact, if you add Michigan and Florida, she has a 15,000-vote popular advantage. And the Democratic Party -- and I love the fact that Howard Dean, the chairman of the DNC, he has just got to squeal like a pig again because this just isn't going his way. People really think that they should get their votes counted in the Democratic Party.

BLITZER: So how do they fix that problem in Michigan and Florida?

DOBBS: It's not a problem -- well, that problem. Well, that problem, I think it is really simple. You either take the time to set up a caucus or you set up the time to set up another primary. The idea that the Democratic Party, after what it went through in 2000, would sit there and disenfranchise two states, that is arrogance, that is elitism and the Democratic parties in both Michigan and Florida shouldn't stand for it.

BLITZER: You know, we heard John Zarrella say it would cost $18 million to organize a formal primary in the state of Florida. In the scheme of things, $18 million, given how much these candidates have spent, that's not a lot of money.

DOBBS: Obama raising a million a year, Clinton almost the same amount. The DNC can go out and put and together $18 million, $30 million, that's not the issue. We're looking at a billion-dollar presidential election. We're spending enough money. These parties want to buy a presidency? Well, they certainly put up the down payment on it.

BLITZER: It would be exciting if they did these primaries -- the re-dos in both of these states, Michigan and Florida, given the issues that are involved that they could debate again.

DOBBS: Absolutely. And by the way, there are 16 other states now still to be heard from, including Pennsylvania. How about that? In this country, all of the states, all of the people getting a voice, an opportunity to cast a vote.

BLITZER: And we are going to cover every single second of it.

DOBBS: Yes we are.

BLITZER: You will. I will. And it is an exciting time to be a journalist.

DOBBS: Absolutely. It's an exciting time to be an American.

BLITZER: Lou, see you in an hour.

DOBBS: You have got a deal, Wolf.

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

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