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BALLOT BOWL 2008

Richardson Endorses Obama

Aired March 22, 2008 - 15:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST, CNN BALLOT BOWL 08: Hi, and welcome to a new edition of CNN's BALLOT BOWL. Coming to you today from the nation's capital. I'm candy Crowley.
Over the next three hours you'll have a chance to hear from the presidential candidates on the stump and in their own words, unfiltered, discussing the issues that are important to you. Today, my co-host Jessica Yellin, more from her in just a moment.

But the latest dust-up now involving Senator Barack Obama and the comment from former president Bill Clinton yesterday as he campaigned in Charlotte, North Carolina, on behalf of his wife Hillary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where two people who loved the country, were devoted to the interest of the country and people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Senior Obama campaign adviser and former air force chief of staff Tony McPeak jumped on those comments with both feet saying this to an "Associated Press" reporter. "It sounds more like McCarthy. I grew up. I was going to college when Joe McCarthy was accusing good Americans of being traitors. So I've had enough of it. Today in Medford, Oregon, McPeak touched again on the subject.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. MERRILL "TONY" MCPEAK, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): President Clinton was speaking to a group of veterans yesterday in North Carolina. And he said something that, frankly, astonished me. He said in promoting his wife's candidacy, I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who love this country and were devoted to the interests of the country and the people. And the people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself in our politics.

Well, let me say first, we will have such an election this year. Because both Barack Obama and John McCain are great patriots. Who love this country and are devoted to it. So is Hillary Clinton. Any suggestion to the contrary is flat wrong. And so as one who for 37 years proudly wore the uniform of our country, I am saddened to see a president employ these kinds of tactics. He of all people should know better because he was the target of exactly the same kind of tactic when he first ran 16 years ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: General McPeak there referencing the campaign of Bill Clinton in '92 which was dogged by criticism that he was a draft dodger. Now the Clinton campaign says McPeak's comparison to Joe McCarthy and Bill Clinton is absurd and a spokesman says anyone who believes that Bill Clinton was questioning Barack Obama's patriotism is misinterpreting what the former president said.

So from patriotism to passports, big developments today in the passport scandal that's rocking the campaign trail. The head of one company tied to unauthorized access of the confidential records of Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain is an adviser to Obama's campaign. The State Department is investigating and a red- faced secretary of state Condoleezza Rice is personally apologizing for the breach. Here's State Department correspondent Zain Verjee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZAIN VERJEE, STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: The "I'm sorry's" just keep coming. First to Senator Barack Obama after the revelation that State Department contractors had sneaked a look into his passport file three times this year.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I told him that I was sorry and I told him that I myself would be very disturbed if I learned that someone had looked into my passport file.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She called me and offered her apologies which I appreciated, but I also indicated that this is something that has to be investigated diligently and openly.

VERJEE: Then word that a trainee, a state department employee, got into Senator Hillary Clinton's file last summer. Rice called the senator again offering apologies. Next victim on the Republican side, Senator John McCain. He reacted to the Obama breach.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If anyone's privacy is breached, then they deserve an apology and a full investigation.

VERJEE: That was John McCain before he found out he was also on the list. One of the same people who clicked into Obama's file served his as well. Rice telephoned him in Paris. A top state department official was dispatched to the hill to brief all three senator staff. Obama and others are demanding congressional investigations. Big questions remain. What exactly is in a candidate's passport file? Why would anyone want to see it, and was any of this politically motivated?

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: It is still our initial take this was, I referred to it as imprudent curiosity. But we are not dismissive of any other possibility.

VERJEE: We've been down this road before. An unauthorized leak of the passport files of then presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992. The probe cost $2.2 million and no laws broken. The count so far, two contractors fired, one disciplined for the two violations and a state department trainee still on the job.

The state department says that computers flagged the breaches immediately. The problem was that low-level supervisors failed to report up to senior management. The state department is also revealing the identities of the two contractors involved in all of this. They are Stanley Inc and the Analysis Corporation.

Zain Verjee, CNN, at the State Department.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CO-HOST, CNN BALLOT BOWL 08: And the news developments on that will no doubt continue. Apologies all around to the candidates in the passport scandal. But who is going to apologize to the voters of Florida and Michigan? The Democrats in those two states are still unclear about whether their votes will in any way count when it comes time for the Democratic Convention. That's because the other big news this week was about the scuttled plans for a redo in both Michigan and Florida.

The story in Florida, plans for a mail-in redo versus a new primary went nowhere after the parties disagreed over how it should be executed and which plan should be followed. Then bad news again for Michigan when their legislature adjourned without voting on their plan for a makeup primary. Which leaves all of this up in the air. How will their delegates count? Will their votes be counted in any way at all?

Of course, Senator Hillary Clinton has been advocating passionately for revotes in both Michigan and Florida. Her campaign believes she would benefit most from that. Barack Obama quietly resisting plans for any sort of official revote. Publicly saying look these are the rules we're playing by. These were the rules that were laid out and those were the rules we played by. It's essentially of circling firing squad. Everyone attacking the other for the mishaps in both states and a lot of accusations flying on the campaign trail. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is not in the interest of the Democratic Party or our eventual nominee to be disenfranchising Michigan and Florida. And for the life of me, I don't understand why Senator Obama seems to be afraid of letting there be a revote in Michigan. And you'll have to ask him. He comes up with all these legalistic answers. The people of Michigan and their legislature made it very clear that they would proceed with a revote. Unfortunately, Senator Obama's campaign said no. Two out of the three of us said yes. You'll have to ask him what he's afraid of.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll abide by whatever rules the Democratic National Committee puts forward as we've done from the start. We were told it wasn't going to count so we didn't campaign there. My name wasn't on the ballot in Michigan. But I think it's important to make sure that the people of Michigan, the people of Florida that their delegated are seated. So we're going to be committed to making sure that that happens in a fair and equitable way. And I'm confident that they will be participating fully in the Democratic Convention and I'm looking forward to, hopefully, campaigning there as the nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Everybody wants a solution but no one can agree on exactly what it should be. The one thing that is -- that all parties can agree on is that this failure to come to terms on a revote in both Michigan and Florida hurt Senator Clinton's campaign the most. She's facing an uphill climb now to be in position to really challenge Barack Obama for the nomination come time for the Democratic Convention. Joining me to discuss this is CNN's Bill Schneider. Bill, Senator Clinton is looking at a rough road ahead, huh?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: She is. To talk about that road ahead, we just might need a road map. Right now Barack Obama leads Hillary Clinton in both pledge delegates and popular votes. Can Clinton overtake Obama's lead in pledge delegates? She would need to win about two-thirds of the pledge delegates in the remaining contests to do that. That will be tough.

Can she overtake Obama's lead in popular votes? In the primaries and caucuses today, Obama has gotten about 700,000 more popular votes than Clinton. We estimate that about 6 million more people are likely to vote. To over come Obama's lead Clinton would have to get 56 percent of those votes. How tough will that be? In the 28 primaries in February and March when the Democratic contests became a two-candidate race, Clinton has averaged 46 percent. She's gotten 56 percent or more in only four states. Massachusetts, Rhode Island and her current and former home states, New York and Arkansas.

The next state to vote is Pennsylvania, where our poll of polls shows Clinton leading Obama by 13 points. If you just look at decided voters, Clinton gets just over 56 percent. West Virginia and Kentucky are heavily rural states with a lot of lower income voters. Also good for Clinton. Indiana looks like more of a battleground. Many Indiana voters are in the Chicago media market. North Carolina with its large African-American population and a lot of upscale voters is Obama's most promising state.

Obama also ought to do well in Oregon, which has a lot of affluent Democrats. Obama has generally done well in western states where the traditional Democratic base is small, like Montana and South Dakota. The outlook is for Clinton and Obama to split the remaining states. Can Clinton get 56 percent of the vote? That's a tall order.

Now if Michigan and Florida were somehow to redo their primaries, she would still need to carry 53 percent of the remaining votes. But that still won't be easy. She's done that well in only eight of the last 28 primaries. Of course, we all know the ultimate decision will rest with the super delegates. But they are going to be paying a lot of attention to who is ahead in pledge delegates and in popular votes.

Jessica. YELLIN: Bill, it really is clear that everything has to break just right. She has to get every possible break for Senator Clinton to really make this all the way to the Democratic Convention and get that nomination. How crucial is the state that you are in right now, Pennsylvania?

SCHNEIDER: Pennsylvania is very important. Here's why. If she wins big here in Pennsylvania, she's ahead right now, then a lot of the super delegates are going to say, wait a minute. Maybe she can do it if she gets 56 or 60 percent. Then everyone will say, this just might be possible. On the other hand, if somehow Barack Obama were to defeat her in Pennsylvania, I think the race would essentially be over because her argument that she's the one who can carry the big swing states would be blown right up.

YELLIN: So yet another crucial, crucial primary upcoming. I'm sure we'll cover it nonstop. Thank you, Bill. We'll check back in with Bill Schneider later. We're going to take a quick break. On the other side of the break, we'll look at John McCain and his world tour. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Hi. And welcome back to CNN's BALLOT BOWL. This is our Saturday edition. I'm Candy Crowley coming to you live from Washington, D.C. This is your chance to hear these candidates and to catch up on this past week, which has been very, very busy on the Democratic side as the two candidates and their campaigns spar over patriotism, passports and race.

But on the Republican side, somewhat easier road for Senator John McCain with no rival to run against. He is now looking very presidential as he trots around the globe meeting with world leaders. Our chief national correspondent John King examines the world view of the Arizona senator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Last stop, Paris. Meeting with the president and a final effort to make all this about his day job.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wish every senator would take the same trip that we have taken.

KING: But only one senator is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and with out a doubt the unspoken goal of John McCain's week on the world stage was to back up a favorite campaign theme.

MCCAIN: I've spent my entire life addressing national security issues, and I know how to handle them. I don't need any on-the-job training and I am prepared to lead.

KING: Prepared as well, he says, to do some repair work. And much of Europe, George W. Bush is viewed as a go it alone cowboy. Guantanamo Bay as a moral outrage and from day one Europeans felt ignored by Mr. Bush on climate change. McCain promises he would be not more of the same.

MCCAIN: I'll join with them to try to address climate change. We won't torture any prisoner that Americans hold in our custody. I think I can improve those relations and have us work together in a more cooperative fashion.

KING: As Mr. Bush knows, it is often not what you say but how you say it that can ruffle feathers.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE U.S.: There's an old poster out west, as I recall, that said wanted, dead or alive.

KING: So while Senator McCain is known to wish the British would keep more troops in Iraq a bit longer, outside of 10 Downing Street, the picture of diplomacy.

MCCAIN: I believe that that decision is made by the British government and people.

KING: No apologies, though, for a musical parody that many around the world took as a true sign of his thinking.

MCCAIN: Bomb Iran. Bomb, bomb, bomb when veterans are together, veterans joke. And I was with veterans and we were joking. If somebody can't understand that, then my answer is, please, get a life.

KING: What he calls straight talk at a time seems brusque like in Israel, when asked about Palestinians complains he scheduled no time with their leaders.

If it's proof to them you wouldn't be an honest broker, or until you are president you are pandering to a lobby back home.

MCCAIN: Well they are free to say what ever they want to say.

KING: A colleague Joseph Lieberman stepped in to note McCain had telephoned the Palestinian president as he did a day earlier when McCain needed some help.

MCCAIN: We continue to be concerned about Iranian taking al Qaeda into Iran and training them and sending them back.

KING: Iran, al Qaeda, Sunni, Lieberman leaned in to remind McCain there is no such training.

MCCAIN: I'm sorry; the Iranians are training extremists, not al Qaeda. I'm sorry.

KING: Not sorry, though, to spend a little time sightseeing. Very much unlike the president he hopes to succeed.

John King, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Given the public turning against the war at this point, John McCain support of the war has long been seen as a problem for him in the general election. Now this for John McCain, 71 percent of Americans believe that what we are spending in the war on Iraq is a reason for the economic problems. We are having here at home.

And, of course, the ongoing bloodshed always something that factors in the minds of voters. Three U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq today. Our military's toll in this war now nearly 4,000. This week as we mark the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, both Democratic presidential candidates reiterated their desire to end this war. Each blasting the way we got into Iraq and discussing how they can to get us out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As we continue to police Iraq's civil war, the threats to our national security, our economy and our standing in the world continue to mount. The lives of our brave men and women are at stake. Nearly 4,000 of them have by now made that ultimate sacrifice. Tens of thousands more have suffered wounds both visible and invisible to their bodies, their minds and their hearts.

Their families have sacrificed, too. And empty places at the dinner table and the struggle to raise children alone in the wrenching reversal of parents burying children. The strength of our military is at stake. Only one of our army brigades is certified by the army to be ready. Our armed forces are stretched to near the breaking point with many of our troops on their second, third or fourth tours of duty.

Our economic security is at stake. Taking into consideration the long- term costs of replacing equipment and providing medical care for troops and survivors benefits for their families. The war in Iraq could ultimately cost well over $1 trillion. That is enough to provide health care for all 47 million uninsured Americans and quality prekindergarten for every American child, solve the housing crisis once and for all, make college affordable for every American student and provide tax relief to tens of millions of middle class families.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you believe we are fighting the right war as John McCain does, as George Bush does, then the problems we face are purely tactical in nature. And that is what Senator McCain wants to discuss, tactics. What he and the administration have failed to present is an overarching strategy. How the war in Iraq enhances our long-term security or how it might enhance our long-term security in the future.

That's why this administration cannot answer the simple question posed by Republican Senator John Warner in hearings last year. Are we safer because of this war? And that is why Senator McCain can argue, as he did last year, that we couldn't leave Iraq because violence was up. And then argue this year that we can't leave Iraq because violence is down. When you have no overarching strategy, there is no clear definition of success. Success comes to be defined as the ability to maintain a flawed policy indefinitely.

Here is the truth. Fighting a war without end will not force the Iraqi's to take responsibility for their own future. And fighting in a war without end will not make the American people safer. So when I am commander in chief, I will set a new goal on day one. I will end this war. Not because politics compels it. Not because our troops cannot bear the burden, as heavy as it is, but because it is the right thing to do for our national security and it will ultimately make us safer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Although all the polling shows us now that Americans say the economy is their top most concern, the war in Iraq still casting a very large shadow over politics.

Now we've been telling you that Bill Richardson has lent his support to Barack Obama but there are a lot of other big names out there who still haven't taken a side, at least publicly. We are going to talk about that after this break when BALLOT BOWL continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Welcome back to BALLOT BOWL, your chance to catch up on the political highlights of the week. This week sure ended on a high note for Barack Obama. He won the endorsement of Bill Richardson. The nation's only Latino governor. A longtime Clinton confidante, and, of course, a former rival in the race. Richardson didn't just lend Barack Obama his support but he gave him overwhelming praise calling him a once in a lifetime candidate and historic figure heaping the kind of praise on Barack Obama that says to the Democratic Party, Bill Richardson believes everyone should get behind Barack Obama. This is the time to back this man. Richardson could not have been more effusive in his praise. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, (D) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Your candidacy, and this is an expression of your candidacy is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our nation, and you are a once in a lifetime leader. You will make -- you will make every American proud to be an American, and I am very -- and I am very proud today to endorse your candidacy for president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Bill Richardson brings a lot to Barack Obama with this endorsement. It's a nod to Barack Obama's ability to be commander-in- chief because Bill Richardson has such significant foreign policy credentials of his own. He is suggesting, he's showing he believes this man is ready to lead America's military.

It is an important endorsement from one of the nation's most prominent Latino leaders saying, especially immigrant Americans should get behind Barack Obama. Richardson said as much in his comments praising Obama for his speech on race earlier this week. But most of all, it's a signal to other superdelegates that it is OK to break with the Clintons and one can live to tell the tale. Bill Richardson clearly calling on other superdelegates to follow his lead. The big question is, will they? Brian Todd explores that issue in this package.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): One of the most hotly sought after endorsements, John Edwards, who beat Hillary Clinton in Iowa and won 26 delegate slots before dropping out. Edwards still is not saying whether he will endorse Clinton or Barack Obama and didn't tip his hand on "NBC's Tonight Show."

JOHN EDWARDS (D), FMR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the case of Senator Obama he's inspirational, he gets people excited; he gets young people out who otherwise may not be involved in the process. Senator Clinton has a toughness and a tenacity and experience that has value. So, I think both -- either of them, I think, will be a great candidate and I think either will be a great president.

TODD: Both Clinton and Obama have visited the Edwards house since he dropped out. A former top aide to Edwards says he is speaking frequently with both and has also consulted advisers about who to endorse or whether to endorse at all.

(on camera): So far, Edwards has divulged nothing and a former top aide to him says he may not, even to those closest to him. The former aide says that is part of his pattern.

(voice over): Also still silent, Al Gore, who won the popular vote for president in 2000 and endorsed Howard dean's failed candidacy in 2004.

GLORIA BORGER, SR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm told that he didn't really want to insert himself into the middle of this campaign because if he had, say, endorsed Barack Obama it would have brought up the psychodrama between the Clintons and Al Gore.

TODD: But, if the race is still undecided at the time of the convention, could Gore take on a different role?

ROGER SIMON, POLITICO.COM: You are going to need someone to step in, meet with both senators and say, look, we don't want to go to 55 votes on the floor of the convention and we don't want to leave anybody with a bad taste in their mouths. We've got to work ought a deal in this room and I am here to help you come to some agreement. I think that is the role, if any role exists, that Al Gore could play.

TODD: Some other high-profile Democrats, like Jimmy Carter and Howard Dean, have pledged to make no endorsement and they, too, could play a role in brokering an agreement near the convention.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: And of course, Senator Clinton is work overtime trying to convince the remaining uncommitted superdelegates not to make an endorsement, at least until the next big states, including Pennsylvania go ahead and vote. She thinks it's her best chance of winning over their support in the long run. Now I've spoken to aides to the four of those top uncommitted superdelegates, all of whom tell me don't expect their bosses to make any imminent moves. These include Harry Reid, Speaker Pelosi, Al Gore and also Joseph Biden. None of them is expected to follow Richardson's lead, at least not at this very time.

Now, we are going to take a closer look at some of the other big events from this week, especially Barack Obama's newsmaking speech on race. Bill Richardson says it was the reason he's finally decided to endorse Barack Obama. That's on the other side of this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Welcome back to CNN's BALLOT BOWL. I'm Jessica Yellin in Washington, D.C. As you know, the next big primary coming up on the Democratic side is on April 22, that's in the state of Pennsylvania Pennsylvania, a major battleground there, because there are so many delegates. Senator Hillary Clinton is significantly ahead and she is counting on a major victory in that state. She needs a huge lead over Barack Obama coming out of that state to continue arguing that her candidacy has legs and that she could walk out of the Democratic convention the winner.

Her week was not the best this past -- these past few days. Barack Obama seemed to make some headway in breaking his run of bad news stories and it started with a speech he gave on race enormously well received. In it, he called on Americans to open up and have a more frank dialogue on America's history of racial division. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can accept a politics that breeds division and conflict and cynicism. We can tackle race, only as spectacle, as we did in the O.J. trial or in the wake of tragedy as we did in the aftermath of Katrina or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermon on every channel every day and talk about them from now until the election and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all income to John McCain in the general election, regardless of his policies. We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction, and then another one, and then another one. And nothing will change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Even Senator Clinton called that an important speech or said she was glad he delivered it because it's such an important topic in American public life. Let me bring in my co-host Candy Crowley to discuss the significance of this speech.

You know, Candy, I heard one pro-Obama pundit say he sealed the nomination with that speech. Do you agree? CANDY CROWLEY, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I'm going to wait until the vote on that one. I have to tell you that I do think at the very least, Obama steadied the ship. The Wright controversy was really damaging. It was played so many times over YouTube, over cable. It was just under this perpetual loop. So, I think with that speech, he certainly did steady his ship. We have seen some anecdotal evidence of people talking to reporters saying: I was kind of Hillary until I saw that speech and I thought that speech was wonderful. It has got, that speech itself, I saw one statistic saying it had over two million hits, just the speech. Just watching -- looking at the speech, the script of it. So it certainly got a lot of wide play. It certainly was a very direct, very blunt speech about racism giving both -- talking about both about white resentment as well as black anger, this from a candidate who had a white mother and a black father, so there was lots of symbolism in it.

When I was in North Carolina with Obama after that speech and heard so many people talking about it. There was this one point where he had said -- someone asked him a question about black on black crime and he said, well, I gave a speech recently about race and the whole place went nuts, stood up, gave him a standing ovation. Obviously, these are Obama supporters and that's how they took the speech. I think that people who were very much against him going into the speech came out probably the same way. People who are very much for him came out probably the same way. What this is about is those independents. It is about voters who were sort of hadn't decided yet and looked at Jeremiah Wright's speech, the Obama's pastor, and went whoa, whoa, what is this. So, I do think he steadied the ship.

We saw from the poll that Bill Schneider gave us that Obama was going down after the Wright comments became public and went right back up to almost even after that speech. So, clearly it did him some good. I'm not sure at this point I'd look at it as the nomination clincher.

YELLIN: Right. You know, there are a number of people who have compared this speech in terms of its importance to the emancipation proclamation, to John Kennedy, some of the speeches he's given or Martin Luther King. It clearly hit a note or a chord in the American public discourse for some sort of steps it made forward in discussing this issue, people saying more honestly and personally than they've heard before. I wonder, though, about the political impact of this speech on Senator Clinton, herself. One of the big issues is if more videos from Reverend Wright come out or if there's more criticism of Reverend Wright is Senator Clinton now in a box where she can't be critical because then in some ways she'll be accused of playing the race card?

CROWLEY: Well, that's long been the complaint of those certainly around Senator Clinton, not Clinton herself, who have said every time we say anything, we're accused of racism. So, it has that potential. But nearly in the speech that he gave, Obama was trying to draw the sting from what might have come out later by Jeremiah Wright. I mean, the man has been a pastor for -- been Obama's pastor for more than 20 years, so clearly he's given a lot of sermons.

Surely, as we have seen in these clips that we're getting that, in fact, he must have said other things. So, what Obama was saying was, look, we can go on like this forever or we can talk about bringing this country together.

I do think that it makes it more difficult for Hillary Clinton. But, it's always been difficult for them to take on the race issue, to discuss it in any form because there is some sincere feeling, Geraldine Ferraro was the latest, who said, you know, I bring something up and immediately people say it's racism. It's not necessarily coming from the Obama camp, but it does get out there. So, honestly, to me it just showed how we really haven't grown up that much as a nation about race, that there are still so many things out there that people have been unwilling to address and that maybe this is a speech, regardless of what it does politically, that might move America forward a little bit.

YELLIN: You know, something, this reminds me of a little bit of something you and I have talked about, the difference between what the candidates say on the stump and what the campaigns say privately to reporters, or at least not in front of the cameras, to reporters. Barack Obama -- Bill Richardson said this was an enormously positive optimistic speech, but we're also hearing other things from the campaigns on conference calls, even Obama campaign can get pretty negative, even while the candidate himself is hitting these high notes on various lofty targets. Can you talk about what reporters are hearing that -- what we're hearing from these campaigns? Even Obama's campaign has gotten a little bit negative this week.

CROWLEY: Well absolutely, I mean, there have been so many things going on that have come up this week, I mean, from patriotism, the latest from Bill Clinton versus General McPeak on the Obama side. And what we get, as you know, are these big headlines that sort of try to drive reporters toward one side of the story or the other. We've also had the passport thing which, to me, has not enabled either of the candidates to go after each other because they're all kind of included in this passport snooping.

So, we've had a lot of things that have come up. You can tell, Jessica, I know, by looking at some of these e-mails and by listening in on these conference calls, what happens is that literally while you are still on the conference call from, say, the Clinton strategist, you begin to get responses by the Obama people and vice versa. Some of it has been on who's more electable so we get a lot of polling pushes, if you will, from the various camps saying, look, my candidate is more electable.

You will also hear the words "hypocritical." You know, Senator Clinton was hypocritical about NAFTA, that came up this week with the Obama camp pushing very hard on the revelation that Hillary Clinton held several NAFTA meetings at the White House while her husband was trying to push it. They say it shows that she says one thing and does another. So, that doesn't come out of the candidate's mouth, as you know. That generally comes out of the mouth of the strategists, so they're always, both of these campaigns are trying to walk a fine line, here. They all have their eyes on a prize, Jessica, as you know, and right now the prize that's coming up, April 22, Pennsylvania. And when it comes to winning Pennsylvania, Senator Hillary Clinton may have a slight advantage. Experts say much of the population is like that of Ohio, hit hard by economic problems, disgusted seeing their jobs head overassess, that NAFTA problem, again. CNN's Randi Kaye says the swing vote there may just be white working class men.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At this Philadelphia construction site, workers are focused on building a better life, keeping their jobs and keeping money in their pockets. Steel worker Rick Czyzewski believes Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, can help him do that.

(on camera): What do you think it's going take for Barack Obama to win the working class white man's vote?

RICK CZYZEWSKI, CLINTON SUPPORTER: He's got to come out and talk us to and tell us what he wants to do with the economy. All's I hear is it's a change, it's a change. But, what type of change he's got for us?

KAYE: Here in Pennsylvania, working class white males represent about 27 percent of the vote. They may turn out to be the swing votes simply because there's no obvious place for them to go. The Republicans are looking at an older white male candidate and the Democrats have Obama or Clinton. So, the candidates have to find issues that appeal to them.

(voice over): Obama and Clinton have been seesawing among them. Most recently in Ohio, white men carried Clinton to victory.

DON KETTL, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Pennsylvania is really Ohio on steroids, if you think about it. It is all of the things that made Ohio so hot, but with all the heat turned up even more.

KAYE: In Ohio, we now know more than a quarter of white men there said race was an important factor in their vote. So, here in Pennsylvania...

KETTL: Racial politics are never very far below the surface, here in Pennsylvania.

BOB MERK, CLINTON SUPPORTER: I don't believe race is an issue at all. If I knew more about him, knew more about his politics and he was backing what I wanted, I don't care if he's black, white or green. I would vote for him.

KAYE (on camera): What does Barack Obama have to do to win this voting bloc?

KETTL: It's not only a matter of helping them feel confident about themselves, but what kind of future are they going to have for their children? What kind of situation are we going to have with inflation? What kind of job opportunities are there?

KAYE (voice over): Don kettl thought he heard hints of that.

OBAMA: The larger aspirations of all Americans, the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who has been laid off.

KETTL: White male construction workers looking for the kind of guy they can imagine at some point being able to have a beer with at the corner bar. And Obama, for all of his strengths, has not projected that.

KAYE: To fix that, Kettl suggests Obama show these men he can identify with them, having grown up poor and work on Chicago's south side. He must get specific about how he's going to help them, Kettl says. That will make the difference.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Philadelphia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Randi Kaye on the white working class vote in Philadelphia, that primary coming up on April 22, the most critical primary since the last critical primary.

Coming up, we're going to take a look at other news, including that massive flooding in Missouri which has been tragic in that state and elsewhere. But BALLOT BOWL will be back after that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Hello. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, live at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. More BALLOT BOWL in a moment. But first, a double dose of severe weather tops the news this hour. Just look at Missouri, right here. Much of the state is swallowed up in floodwater. But they're not the only ones facing it. There are flood watches posted from the Dallas metro area to the Ohio River Valley. And part of the flooding problem is melting snow.

And another round of white stuff in the upper Midwest isn't helping. But, that's what we've got along with plenty of travel delays and flight cancellations after heavy snowstorms. Bonnie Schneider is tracking all of it from the Weather Center -- Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well Fredricka, we still have those flood warnings well in place, no only over Missouri, but down through Arkansas, Tennessee and then northward towards Illinois and even in Ohio. You mentioned the melting snow, that is the concern now as well as the rivers kind of taking awhile to recede. We're still seeing a little bit of rain coming into areas of southwest Missouri, but for the most part, it is dry. Not the case in south Florida. There is heavy rain sweeping across the Gulf of Mexico, a stalled front combined with area of low pressure coming in is bringing heavy downpours to the Miami Ft. Lauderdale, Miami-Dade area and that means we have urban street flooding advisories that are in places for areas like Hialeah South and also to the north toward Hallandale.

We're watching out for that for at least the next few hours with this heavy rain coming onshore that is affecting travel on this Saturday before Easter. We have some delays. Right now 25 minutes, it looks like they're decreasing, but keep in mind, driving will be tough when you have those heavy downpours. Just very light delays otherwise, into Colorado.

Yesterday actually was a worse day for flight delays around Chicago and he had them at times, Fredricka, three hours. At least right now, so far so good, there.

WHITFIELD: OK, that's good. Thanks so much, Bonnie.

Well, workers cleaning up after last week's tornado which hit downtown Atlanta. Found a body, today. Police say the body of a man was found under the rubble of a collapsed brick wall. It could prove to be the city's first tornado-related death from the March 14th storm.

And three U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq this morning. That brings the military's death toll in the war close to the 4,000 mark. The soldiers along with two Iraqis were killed when a roadside bomb blew up near their vehicle while they were on patrol in Baghdad.

A government official in Yemen says an al Qaeda cell was behind Tuesday's mortar attack that targeted the U.S. embassy. The mortars struck a nearby girls' school instead killing a security guard and wounding 13 students. The official says four attackers fled the scene and are still at large.

Vice president Dick Cheney says the U.S. will never pressure Israel to take steps that threaten its security. He's in the region to press Israeli and Palestinian leaders on a peace deal. In Jerusalem, Cheney said the U.S. wants to see a new beginning for Palestinians.

In Saudi Arabia yesterday, Cheney raised U.S. concerns about record oil prices in talks with King Abdullah. Aides say they discussed ways to stabilize the energy market.

And it looks like Taiwan has a new president. Voters elected a man whose main platform was economic growth through closer ties to communist China and they picked him in overwhelming fashion. It's the largest margin of victory in Taiwan's history of presidential contests.

And astronauts at the International Space Station are making final preparations for a space walk, later today. The crew is expected to store away a boom that the space shuttle is leaving behind. It will be the fifth and final space walk for "Endeavour" astronauts on this mission to the International Space Station. They're scheduled to undock on Monday and then head home.

And those are the headlines. Our next hour of BALLOT BOWL begins after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Welcome to a new round of CNN's BALLOT BOWL. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. During the next two hours, you'll have a chance to hear from the presidential candidates on the campaign trail, unfiltered. My co-anchor, Jessica Yellin, is joining me this hour with the latest on the passport story involving all three presidential candidates. Hey Jessica.

YELLIN: Hi Candy. It was quite a surprising story developing that developed earlier this week. At first the news was Barack Obama was the only one whose passport was breached by some low-level people inside the state Department. There was all sorts of speculation flying at that point, who might have been behind it, even some blog reports that an official who had originally been appointed during the Clinton administration oversaw these folks and there was all sorts of speculation, who might be behind it. But sure enough, we find out both of the other candidates had their passports breached and suddenly all that conspiracy theorizing went up in smoke.

CNN's Kate Baldwin is joining me now with the latest news. And Kate, it does seem like there's a new wrinkle in all of this.

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