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Democrats Promise Economic Relief; Can Al Gore Bridge Democratic Divide? Proposals to Change the Election Process

Aired March 27, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the Democrats go head to head on issue number one for voters. Do Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have clear plans to help Americans in dire straits? We are going to bring you their bottom lines.

Plus, the Al Gore scenario. Could he, would he come to the rescue of a Democratic Party divided? The best political team on television ready to jump in on that.

And a critical moment in Iraq right now. In the midst of a deadly power struggle, is President Bush seeing the situation clearly?

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

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

The Democratic presidential candidates are promising to give you some economic relief. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are offering ideas today for preventing Americans from falling through what Clinton calls the trap door.

Our Suzanne Malveaux is in New York. She's watching this story for us.

All right, is there any agreement, Suzanne, between Clinton and Obama on what to do next?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is some agreement, Wolf. Certainly, the Democratic candidates are squarely putting the blame on President Bush for the weak economy. They are saying that the billions spent on the Iraq war, that tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans have really contributed to this crisis.

But they're also taking aim at each other. They're trying to convince voters that they know what is best to get us out of this mess.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): All three candidates are vying to become economist in chief. SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we can extend a hand to banks on Wall Street when they get into trouble, we can extend a hand to Americans who are struggling, often through no fault of their own.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're trying to run today's economy on yesterday's infrastructure. And we're jeopardizing tomorrow's prosperity.

MALVEAUX: Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama presented competing proposals on how to fix the ailing economy. Obama just a few blocks from Wall Street called for greater government oversight to protect families from predatory lenders.

OBAMA: The American economy does not stand still. And neither should the rules that govern it. The evolution of industries often warrants regulatory reform.

MALVEAUX: Clinton, kicking off a three-state tour from Raleigh, North Carolina, emphasized providing relief.

CLINTON: As president, I will work to rein in the corporate special interests and to rebuild a prosperous and strong middle class.

MALVEAUX: Clinton's plan calls for a $30 billion bailout for states to help them buy properties in foreclosure and a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures. Obama's plan calls for a $30 billion economic stimulus package and greater government intervention.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hillary Clinton's been out ahead of the other candidates for some months in terms of the detail that she's put into her plan.

MALVEAUX: Both Democrats attacked Republican John McCain for his approach, which limits the government's role in stabilizing the market.

OBAMA: It amounts to little more than watching this crisis unfold.

CLINTON: It seems like, if the phone were ringing, he would just let it ring and ring and ring.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Well, John McCain's campaign put out a statement in response to some of that criticism saying: "I believe the role of government is to help the truly needy. Reforms should focus on improving transparency and accountability in our capital markets. What is not necessary is a multibillion-dollar bailout for big banks and speculators, as Senators Clinton and Obama have proposed" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne, thank you. We are going to be discussing this later with the best political team on television.

John McCain is trying to paint a picture of Republican unity today with the help of his former rival turned supporter Mitt Romney. Romney joined McCain for events today in Utah. It's his first campaign swing with the all-but-certain GOP nominee, offering new fuel for speculation about a possible McCain/Romney ticket.

Romney made a case for McCain as commander in chief.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: We face critical challenges in the world today, and you know that. Right here at home, our economy is fragile, and we're facing the threat of radical violent jihadists in other parts of the world. It's essential that we have a leader who understands the consequences of the actions that we take.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Romney is also helping McCain raise needed campaign cash out West. They have got fund-raisers in Salt Lake and Denver.

Right now, the Iraqi city of Basra is caught in a violent power struggle. More than 100 Iraqis already have been killed in three days of fierce fighting, on one side, the new government of the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, on the other side, Shiite militiamen loyal to the radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Now a cease-fire called by al-Sadr is threatening to unravel across the entire country, along with security gains made by U.S. and Iraqi forces during this past year the so-called surge has been under way.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's watching the story for us.

Ed, the president is acknowledging this is a critical moment for Iraq right now.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. And the president did address that violence in Basra. He tried to cast it in the long run as a positive development, but that's far from a reality right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): Another day of chaos in Basra, Shia militiamen sabotaging an oil pipeline, as the Iraqi military's attempt to regain control of the southern port city has stalled.

Meanwhile, at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, President Bush continued to tout progress from the surge, trying to make the case the violence in Basra is actually building on that success.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Prime Minister Maliki's bold decision, and it was a bold decision, to go after the illegal groups in Basra, shows his leadership. It also shows the progress the Iraqi security forces have made during the surge. HENRY: But the president also seemed to be prepping the American people for a spike in violence, as the Mahdi army of Muqtada al-Sadr pushes back against the Iraqi forces.

BUSH: This operation is going to take some time to complete. And the enemy will try to fill the TV screens with violence. But the ultimate result will be this. Terrorists and extremists in Iraq will know they have no place in a free and democratic society.

HENRY: Another possible result? The new violence could spark an unraveling of the cease-fire with the Mahdi army that had stabilized the situation on the ground.

Nevertheless, the president focused on economic and political gains made by the Iraqis, even using a sports anecdote he heard from General Ray Odierno, the former number-two commander in Iraq who just returned home.

BUSH: He flew over Baghdad 15 months ago and he couldn't see a single soccer game. On his final flight last month, he counted more than 180. It is a sign that the surge is working and civil society is beginning to grow. It is a sign normalcy is returning back to Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Just as interesting as what he's saying is what the president is not saying. He's not talking about bringing home more U.S. troops later this year. With the violence increasing not just in Basra, but in Baghdad as well, right around and in the Green Zone, it's going to be harder and harder for the U.S. to bring home a large number of troops before Mr. Bush leaves office -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry, thank you for that.

Meanwhile, amidst all of this, dozens of rockets, dozens, have been raining down on Baghdad's heavily fortified International Zone, the so-called Green Zone, the most secure part of the Iraqi capital. CNN has learned many have landed very close to the U.S. Embassy, which is inside that Green Zone, raising very urgent concerns.

An American government employee was killed in today's attacks, the second American killed this week by the bombardments. Embassy workers are being warned to stay inside secure buildings. A senior U.S. official tells CNN the insurgents may have had recent training to help them target the rockets believed to be Iranian-made.

The bombardments have intensified as clashes have spread between these Iraqi government forces and these Shiite militias.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty. He has got "The Cafferty File."

This is very disturbing stuff, what's coming up in Iraq right now, a pivotal moment, I wrote, on my blog post just a little while ago, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, according to the president, it's all fine. It's all going all right.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Not so fine right now.

CAFFERTY: Oh, man. I mean, it's horrible, Iranian rockets raining down inside the Green Zone, killing Americans, keeping Americans confined to the embassy. You have got Nouri al-Maliki's government, who isn't nearly as close a friend to the Bush administration as the administration would like to think they are. Their sympathies are with the Shia in that country.

It's a nightmare. And Basra is the key to the whole economy of the country. That's the big port city where all the oil is exported and they're blowing up the oil pipelines. Oy vey.

A group of high-profile Hillary Clinton supporters going after Nancy Pelosi. These are big Clinton donors, big money folks, 20 of them. They sent a letter to the House speaker criticizing her, Pelosi, for her recent suggestion that the Democratic superdelegates should not overturn the election results.

Pelosi has said it would hurt the Democratic Party if the superdelegates do not support the candidate who finishes the race with the most pledged delegates. The Clinton donors want Pelosi to clarify her position. That's their word. The letter says Pelosi's take is at odds with the party's original intent of the role of the superdelegates, those nearly 800 party insiders and elected officials who will likely decide the outcome of this race.

The Clinton donors insist the superdelegates should look at a whole range of factors to help them decide who will be the party's strongest nominee in November. Translation -- they should give Hillary the nomination.

Pelosi hasn't endorsed either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Her office responded to this letter today, saying, "As chair of the convention, she's neutral. Her position has remained the same throughout the primary season."

And she repeated her position that the superdelegates should not overturn the will of the voters. That's Pelosi's phrase, overturn the will of the voters. The Obama campaign says the letter from Clinton donors is inappropriate, calls on Clinton's campaign to reject the insinuation contained in it.

Here's the question: Do you agree with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the superdelegates should support the candidate with the most pledged delegates?

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

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

A leading Republican critic of the Iraq war suggests now that President Bush is living in a fantasy land.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I think this is another episode of "Alice in Wonderland." What's up is down and what's down is up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We will tell you what's up next. I will be speaking with senator Chuck Hagel about this critical moment in Iraq and his disagreements with John McCain.

BLITZER: Plus, a governor is ready to turn himself into authorities. We will tell you why.

And he almost won the White House before. Now there's an idea being floated to have Al Gore "save the Democrats." Do they need saving? I will ask the best political team on television -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Bush is giving his critics new fuel, offering an upbeat assessment of the situation in Iraq, this in the midst of some very fierce clashes under way right now between Iraqi forces and Shiite militiamen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: In Baghdad, we have worked with Iraqi security forces to greatly diminish the sectarian violence and civilian deaths. We have broken the grip of al Qaeda on the capital. We have weakened the influence of Iranian-backed militias.

We have dramatically improved security conditions in many devastated neighborhoods in what some have deemed a re-liberation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Just a short while ago, I spoke about this and more with senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. He's an early Republican critic of the war. He's out with a brand-new book on ways to try to improve the U.S. image around the world. It's called "America: Our Next Chapter."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Some of his critics, the president's critics, saying he's basically ignoring reality on the ground in Iraq right now, and some of his severe critics say he's living in a dream world.

What do you say, as someone who has criticized him over these years?

HAGEL: Well, I think this is another episode of "Alice in Wonderland." What's up is down and what's down is up. What do you mean stability and security?

Baghdad, for example, has been, over the last year, essentially ethnically divided. You have separated the Sunnis and the Shias. And to -- and to somehow make some assertion that things are looking much, much better in Baghdad, and it's calm again, and it's back to where it used to be, is just -- is not -- not the case.

And, when you look at the casualties the United States has taken since the so-called military surge, over 900 deaths, you look at almost 30,000 wounded, and the money we have put in there, and then the other point of this is, too, if, in fact, the surge has calmed things to a point where the president and others are saying, well, they have done a -- done a great service, and they have achieved some terrific things, why, then, is the administration talking about keeping more American troops in Iraq for the remainder of this year than we had before the surge?

So, no, this is still a very unstable, serious, dangerous situation in Iraq.

BLITZER: You have served with all three of these remaining presidential candidates, John McCain, and Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton. They're all senators. You know them well.

Who is most qualified among these three to be the next commander in chief?

HAGEL: First, I know all three, as you say. I have served with all three. I am not going to endorse a candidate for president today by saying who I believe is the most qualified to be commander in chief. That will play out, Wolf. The American people will make that decision.

I have not endorsed anyone for president. And I have not endorsed anyone partially because I want whoever those final two candidates are to explain to the American people how they are going to unwind American involvement in this fiasco in Iraq, and what their foreign policy is going to look like over the next four years. We have done terrible damage to our country around the world.

BLITZER: So, without endorsing any candidate, as far as the Iraq policies they're enunciated, whether it's McCain or Obama or Clinton, whose Iraq strategy, as you have heard it, do you like the most?

HAGEL: Well, obviously, what I have heard, like the American people have heard, is McCain on one side saying, we will stay there until there's victory, and, whatever it takes, we're going to win. On the other side, both Obama and Clinton have both said, we're coming out.

That's not good enough, because each of the two final candidates are going to have to enunciate, how are we coming out? How, responsibly, are we coming out? Under what basis? Under what timeline? - I don't agree with John McCain. And you know this, Wolf. I think John and the president and others have put the Iraqi situation in the wrong context. This isn't a win or lose. The Iraqi people will decide whether they want the government they want in place and when.

We can help them, but we shouldn't be framing this up as win or lose, because, when we do that -- and this is where I have a major disagreement with McCain -- then, on that -- on that basis, we will be there forever, because the Iraqis are going to have to find some political accommodation, some political reconciliation, to fix this.

Just as General Petraeus said -- Petraeus said a week ago that the biggest disappointment, the biggest failure there over the last year, after and during the surge, has been very little political progress, which, in the end, is all that's going to matter.

BLITZER: So, bottom line right now, at this point, you have an open mind, and you could endorse in the end any one of these three?

HAGEL: Or I may not endorse anyone.

BLITZER: Is that -- is that possible, you think?

HAGEL: Sure, it is. I may not endorse any of the candidates. But I do think this is so serious for the future of our country and for the world that we get this right over the next four years, because of the terrible blunder that we made here over the last few years.

BLITZER: You have -- you have known Obama since he came into the Senate. He's on the Foreign Relations Committee. Have you seen any -- anything that points to him, any strength that he's shown in terms of his Senate record?

HAGEL: I have -- I have cooperated with Obama, and I have cosponsored with Obama a number of pieces of legislation, one on being a new non-proliferation bill, which I'm very proud of.

I think Obama is a very bright, agile, intuitive, not only politician, but individual. John McCain is bright, experienced, smart. Hillary Clinton is certainly experienced and smart. I think any of those three is qualified to be president of the United States. What kind of a president they would be, no one -- no one can tell.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Chuck Hagel speaking with me just a little while ago.

Is anything missing from America's nuclear arsenal right now? The Pentagon wants to be very, very sure. We're going to tell you why the defense secretary is now ordering a full inventory of all U.S. nuclear weapons and parts.

Is there still time for Democrats to reach a deal on seating those banned delegates from Michigan and Florida? The best political team on television is standing by to take a closer look at latest developments on this front. And there are some developments.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: It happens every time the mayor of New York City gets near a presidential candidate. There's always vice presidential talk.

Coming up, Michael Bloomberg's close encounter today with Barack Obama and the new questions being raised.

Plus, the House speaker is under fire for her comments about superdelegates. Now MoveOn.org is joining the battle. The best political team on television will tell us why.

And later, a growing call to throw out the current system for electing presidents. Is it a serious stab at political reform or is it a pipe dream?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, Hillary Clinton sends a message to Democrats who may jump ship and vote Republican depending on who gets the nomination. You are going to hear her urgent plea and warning.

Also, is Barack Obama ready to make a deal to seat delegates from Florida and Michigan at the party convention? His campaign is now said to be reaching out. We're going to have the latest.

And the surprise role some say former Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore could play in ending the Democratic divide -- all of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

There's a growing call for change in the way we elect our politicians with one new plan that would toss out almost every aspect of the current system. Some say it doesn't have a chance of getting anywhere.

Let's go to Carol Costello. She's got details. She's watching this story for us.

What's going on, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, you're such a cynic, Wolf.

But many Americans are wondering. Here we are in the world's greatest democracy and this is the best system we can come up with? Wouldn't it be nice if we got rid of the superdelegates and the Electoral College, et cetera, et cetera? Well, there is someone on your side, Senator Bill Nelson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE)

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Thank you. Thank you.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Senator Bill Nelson has a dream, election reform.

NELSON: The blessings of liberty cannot wait. I believe the time for reform is now.

COSTELLO: It's not like it's a radical idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is the swinging-door chad.

COSTELLO: After the hanging chads of Florida

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I voted.

COSTELLO: The nasty court battle over Bush/Gore...

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to win Florida.

COSTELLO: Election reform is an idea whose time has come.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would eliminate the Electoral College.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I feel like I was robbed my voice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It should be decided by the people.

COSTELLO: There are even popular Web sites set up to update the system, like this one called Why Tuesday?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you happen to know why it is that we vote on Tuesdays?

COSTELLO: Not many do.

Why not Saturday, when most people have more time to vote? Even our presidential candidates wonder, why Tuesday?

CLINTON: I want to thank Why Tuesday? I do believe our voting system is broken.

COSTELLO: Senator Nelson couldn't agree more, especially since his state, Florida, has no part in this year's Democratic primary process since Florida broke party rules by moving its primary up to January.

NELSON: The goal is simple -- one person one vote.

COSTELLO: Hence idea number one -- abolish the Electoral College. Whoever gets the most votes in a presidential election wins. He would also like to rotate interregional primaries between March and June, thus eliminating Iowa's and New Hampshire's lock on holding the first primary and caucus and early voting.

Bye-bye to voting on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. You can cast your vote anytime before that date.

All great ideas, but to actually adopt them would require a constitutional amendment.

THOMAS MANN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Since small states are advantaged by the current Electoral College vote system, they're very unlikely to support a constitutional amendment. And given the supermajorities you need, the chances of succeeding with that amendment are slim.

COSTELLO: Mann also says the system seems to be working in this year's primary contests. Many more Democratic voters are getting a chance to weigh in -- except those in Florida and Michigan. And that's because they broke the rules.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Still, Senator Nelson is reaching out to other lawmakers for ideas. Some ideas he also has in mind -- he says say good-bye touch-screen voting. It's something they did successfully in Florida, but something other states -- well, they like touch-screen voting. They think it works just fine.

Also, Senator Nelson says hello to absentee ballots on demand. Everybody pretty much likes that idea.

And he says, hello to Internet voting. Senator Nelson wants funding for that. But there are so many potential problems with security right now, that idea certainly seems a long way off -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Carol.

Carol Costello reporting.

Hillary Clinton has a new message for those Democrats who threatening to vote Republican -- to vote for John McCain if their candidate doesn't get nomination. She says don't do it.

Let's discuss this and more with our Suzanne Malveaux, along with Jack Cafferty and our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. They're all part of the best political team on television.

She's making it clear that she really, Jack, she really doesn't think that the Democrats will be divided if either one of them gets the nomination.

I'll play a little clip of what she said earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Please think through this decision. It is not a wise decision for yourself or your country.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you believe that if Barack Obama gets the nomination, some angry Hillary Clinton Democrats would actually vote for John McCain?

CAFFERTY: The only way I think that has a chance of happening is if either Obama supporters or Clinton supporters perceive that there was hanky panky in the way the nomination was ultimately determined. As long as the Democratic voters think that it was a straight up contest with an honest outcome where everybody played by the rules, then I don't think that's going to happen.

We're talking six, seven months before the election. People are emotional about their candidates now, but when it comes right down to it, either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton -- to a Democrat, I would think -- would be preferable to John McCain. So unless there's a hint of something foul going on, I don't think that's something we probably all have to worry about.

BLITZER: I think Jack makes a good point, Jeff. And that may explain why the Barack Obama campaign is now reaching out to key people in both Michigan and Florida and saying, you know, maybe, after all, we can work something out.

Because a lot of Democrats in Michigan and Florida blame his campaign for the lack of a re-vote -- the lack of a do-over, if you will, because Hillary Clinton, as you know, was all in favor of going ahead with some sort of new contest. What do you make of this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think Hillary Clinton was smart to send that message today. And I think Barack Obama is smart to get Michigan and Florida some kind of representation for just that reason.

But I also think, you know, given the stakes of this election, given the fact that there's a war, where one party is for the war and the other party is against the war, where you have the future of the Supreme Court on the line, where you have so many issues where the Democrats are so different from the Republicans, that Democrats really are going to coalesce behind their candidate unless there is a civil war that hasn't happened yet. And, at this point, I don't think will happen.

BLITZER: What are you hearing -- Suzanne, because you've covered both of these Democratic candidates?

MALVEAUX: Well, actually what this is, is a reflection of both of these candidates -- their campaigns quite worried. On the one hand, you have Barack Obama's campaign worried that they've been painted as the ones who are disenfranchising those Michigan and Florida voters. So they obviously are putting this out there -- hey, look, we still want to negotiate here. It's not our fault. And then you hear Senator Clinton here. There's a lot of the blame direction toward her campaign, people feeling like perhaps -- even if it's unfairly -- that it was her campaign that's been pushing kind of the negative message, the negative campaigning that's going on. And this is the fallout -- that people are going to all swarm toward McCain. So she is saying, look, that's a big mistake here. Let's get together and unite.

So you hear both of these sides here essentially kind of pushing back on some of the negative things that have been coming out about their campaigns and have somewhat crippled them within the last couple of weeks.

BLITZER: All right, stand by, guys, because I want to continue this conversation. We'll take a short break, though, first.

There's also new talk underway right now of a possible surprise role for Al Gore in the race for the White House. You're going to find out how some say he could save the Democrats from potential self- destruction.

Plus, it's the other Clinton/Obama race -- that's the dash for cash. We have new fundraising numbers just being released. You'll find out who's ahead and by how much.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There are now some new suggestions Al Gore could actually come to the rescue of divided Democrats by endorsing Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or even becoming the nominee himself.

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

Jack, what do you think, Al Gore to the rescue?

CAFFERTY: We did this, actually, Tuesday as a question on "The Cafferty File," Wolf. And the idea was they go to the convention, they can't get it figured out, there's lots of fighting going on and suddenly somebody says how about if we get Al Gore, put him at the top of the ticket and then put either Hillary or Barack Obama as the number two?

The consensus among the e-mails that I got from viewers was it's probably not a likely thing to have happen. Number one, Al Gore and the Clintons -- there is no love lost between them, based on his failed run for the presidency against George Bush.

And, number two, he has repeatedly said that he is really not interested in being a candidate. And, number three, it would negate an awful lot of time and effort and money spent by the two candidates, who have been out there killing themselves on the campaign trail for the last 13 or 14 months. So the sense I got was, isn't happening.

BLITZER: Does he have that kind of clout in the party, though, to begin with, Jeff?

TOOBIN: I don't think he has the clout. You know, remember, this is the guy who endorsed Howard Dean in a very dramatic moment in the 2004 campaign. And, yes, he has now won the Nobel Prize and he's a more respected figure, perhaps, now than he was four years ago.

But let's keep one thing in mind -- 10 million people, approximately, have voted in Democratic primaries. And one thing all of them have in common is none of them voted for Al Gore.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: And that's not right to nominate someone who didn't run. You know, if Al Gore wants to run for president, he should run. He's done it many times. He knows how to do it. But I think, you know, other than as an elder statesman, he is not going to be a factor in this campaign.

BLITZER: How aggressively, Suzanne, based on what your reporting is, how aggressively are these two Democratic candidates courting Al Gore, hoping to get his endorsement?

MALVEAUX: They're courting him very aggressively, Wolf. I mean, obviously, it would be a big catch here. But there is a little bit of romanticism going on here after the breakup. A lot of people look at Al Gore -- they like him. They believe that he, of course, has a lot of influence behind-the-scenes. But they really -- they don't want to push him forward and throw him out there to run for president. They just don't think that that's necessarily the most effective or a good idea.

But certainly an endorsement, at this point, or, particularly, even a little bit later, after the Pennsylvania primary, would be pretty much a powerful thing, especially if Clinton wasn't in the kind of position that she needs -- a victory in Pennsylvania.

BLITZER: There's a little...

TOOBIN: (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Go ahead, Jeff.

TOOBIN: Well, I was just going to say, Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid -- I mean these people are the big endorsements. And if they were to come out together for a candidate after North Carolina, I mean I think that would have a huge impact. And I think they're waiting until they could have the maximum impact and end this controversy before they get to the convention.

BLITZER: Although Jack, you know, a lot of Clinton supporters are really angry at Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, for suggesting that it should be up to the pledged delegates -- the ones who are actually elected -- to make this decision and forget about the role that those superdelegates are supposed to play.

CAFFERTY: Yes, how outrageous to suggest that the people who participated in the primaries and caucuses for the last year should actually determine the outcome. Shame on you, Miss. Pelosi. I'm no big fan of hers, but she's right on this one.

BLITZER: What do you think, Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Well, you know, a lot of Clinton supporters think that she's a closet Obama supporter and simply that she's taking a position here and that it's not a neutral one. So there is a lot of frustration on the part of the Clinton camp that she has gone too far.

But I think Pelosi is reflecting what many people feel, which is that, you know, let's not all of a sudden switch things around and change how we perceive the process. But there's a lot of the frustration, particularly among supporters and those superdelegates who are really pushing forward for Clinton.

BLITZER: Jeff, here's the statement that MoveOn.org put out today: "The Democratic nomination should be decided by the voters, not by superdelegates or party high-rollers. We've given money and time to progressive candidates and causes, and we'll support Speaker Pelosi and others who stand up for democracy in the Democratic Party."

But the rules of the game are that those 800 or so superdelegates -- they have just as much say as the other thousands of pledged delegates. That's part of the rules isn't it, Jeff?

TOOBIN: It sure is. And the struggle that's going on now is for the superdelegates to have some sort of standard to use. You know, what is the rule that they should apply? Should they simply decide who they think is going to win the election or should they honor the wishes of all the -- these pledged delegates who have gone before them?

Certainly, the Obama people are arguing for honoring the words of -- the votes of the pledged delegates. And the Clinton people are having a very hard time getting around that argument, because that's a tough...

CAFFERTY: You know how to make...

TOOBIN: ...tough to get around.

CAFFERTY: You know how to make the point for letting the people decide? The superdelegates are politicians. The people who are voting in the primaries and the caucuses are citizens of this country. I'm 65-years-old. I haven't met a politician in all my lifetime who has the common sense to match up against any common citizen you meet walking down the sidewalk of any city in America.

The people of this country know much better what's right for them and what they want than a bunch of politicians who have vested interests in their own reelections and all kinds of inter-party political skullduggery. So -- so just let the people vote for the candidates, like the guy in Florida was suggesting, and let's go on down the road.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, don't go away. We've got "The Cafferty File" coming up.

Jeff, Suzanne, thanks to you both for coming in.

Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show that begins right at the top of the hour. He's standing by with a little preview.

What are you working on -- Lou?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, you'll never believe it -- more controversy over Senator Obama's former pastor. We'll have a report tonight on how it's affecting the campaign of Senator Obama and the rest of us. We'll have extensive coverage on the candidates from the campaign trail tonight.

Senators Obama and Clinton locked in what is now a bitter battle for the nomination and the Democratic Party is paying the price. The governor of Tennessee says that could create a substantial problem for the Democratic Party come the general election in November. I'll be joined by Governor Phillip Bredesen, who says he has the solution.

And three years after the Senate overwhelmingly passed Real I.D. , rising opposition to it and some of those senators want their votes back. We'll have that story.

And U.S. airlines canceling hundreds of flights to review maintenance procedures. Are the airlines cutting corners on safety to cut costs? No, I'm sure they would never do that.

Join us for that report and a great deal more. All the day's news, 7:00 Eastern -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks. See you in a few moments, Lou.

DOBBS: You bet.

BLITZER: Barack Obama appearing today with the New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg. And it's sparking lots of buzz and speculation. We're going to show you what it's all about.

The House speaker, as we've been noting, Nancy Pelosi, she says the superdelegates should support the candidate with the most pledged or elected delegates. Do you agree?

Jack Cafferty and your e-mail. All that and more in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Popular Republican turned Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg is setting off a new guessing game about his political intentions. When he introduced Barack Obama in New York City earlier today, tongues started wagging about whether Bloomberg might be on Obama's list of potential running mates or, at the very least, whether the mayor might actually offer his endorsement after ruling out a White House bid of his own.

All three presidential candidates have been seeking Bloomberg's endorsement. But so far, he is not biting. He didn't bite today.

One in 10 voters still believe Barack Obama is a Muslim. A new poll out today shows that very mistaken impression, fanned by the Internet and talk radio, cutting across party lines. The poll, from the non-partisan Pew Research Center, says that just over half of voters correctly identified Obama as Christian, while about a third say they don't know his religion.

New campaign fundraising numbers are now out. Hillary Clinton, raising more than $34 million last month. Her rival, Barack Obama, had a more lucrative February, raising more than $55 million. Republican John McCain is trailing in the money race. He raised just more than $11 million last month. And his total cash haul so far in this election season, more than $60 million -- just a little more than Obama raised in February alone.

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

Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is do you agree with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the superdelegates should support the candidate with the most pledged delegates?

Peg writes: "Yes, they should. That's the will of the people. If they get to overturn what the voters decide, why bother with the process of primaries and caucuses at all? If the Democratic Party chooses to ignore democracy, many of us Democrats will choose to become Independents and ignore the party."

Brian in L.A. writes: "Normally, I'd say yes. But this year, when the rules have been set unreasonably by the DNC in disenfranchising Florida and Michigan voters, I would say a resounding no. The superdelegates should take all factors into account in deciding who should be their nominee. Right now, Hillary looks to be the more capable in November, rather than Barack."

Bob in Michigan writes: "After the fine job Miss. Pelosi has done in fulfilling all those campaign promises since becoming speaker of the House, I'm amazed she has the gall to speak in public about anything. Both she and Senator Harry Reid would serve their party well by staying out of sight and out of mind until the election is over."

Mike says: "No. If the superdelegates are supposed to just mirror the pledged delegates, why not just more pledged delegates? Lower the number of pledged delegates needed to get the nomination to 50 percent plus one. Although the concept seems fatally flawed, it appears the superdelegates were created to save the party from itself by preventing the nomination of a popular, but essentially unelectable or unqualified candidate."

And Lisa in Tennessee says: "Of course the superdelegates should support the candidate with the most delegates. It's only fair. If Hillary Clinton had more delegates and popular votes than Obama, this question wouldn't even be asked." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, see you tomorrow. Thank you.

From supermodel to first lady, the French president's new wife is being called -- and I'm quoting now -- "impossibly gorgeous and glamorous" and is drawing frenzied comparisons to Jackie O.

CNN's Jeanne Moos will find all of this Moost Unusual. You'll want to see this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from the "AP."

In Iraq, a woman weeps during the funeral of her son.

In India, a boy points at a sundog -- a phenomenon that forms when the sun reflects off ice crystals.

In Atlanta, travelers wait in line at a Delta ticket counter after the airline canceled hundreds of flights.

And in England, France's president and Britain's prime minister play a little soccer. Here it is. Some of this hour's Hot Shots.

She's being called impossibly glamorous -- the French president's new wife is drawing frenzied comparisons to Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

CNN's Jeanne Moos finds it all Moost Unusual.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She came, she saw, she curtsied. And rarely has a courtesy looked quite so chic. Dressed in Dior, at least she was dressed.

A 15-year-old nude art photo of former model Carla Bruni circulated just as the French president and his new wife began their state visit to Britain. And what a state it left the media in. "En Chante! "Ooh La, la." One paper described her as "Jackie O. dressed as a nun."

She's been romantically linked in the past to men ranging from Mick Jagger to Donald Trump. She does have Jackie O's breathy voice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLA BRUNI-SARKOZY, FRENCH FIRST LADY: In the face of all this, you are the hope. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: As her husband addressed parliament, she perched elegantly. She did everything elegantly -- from eating to picking off a speck of something. She even wiped her nose elegantly. The media obsessed on her accessories, for instance, her purse -- classier merchants one displayed by a guest attending a charity luncheon for Madame Sarkozy.

Her Dior flats merited a close-up. And one paper pointed out her heels were lower than her husband's -- perhaps to minimize the fact she's taller than he is. By the final gala, any nun look had pretty much disappeared.

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Earlier at a press conference, a French reporter asked President Sarkozy about his wife.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And don't you think she's kind of stolen your show? Isn't it a bit too much?

MOOS: The president bitingly replied that by asking such a question, the reporter showed he must have had an unfortunate experience with marriage.

Of his wife, he said...

PRES. NICOLAS SARKOZY, FRANCE (through translator): And I am proud that people have seen her for what she really is.

MOOS: A humanitarian. The public has seen a lot of her -- albeit partially obscured by stars, a black bar, a pink bar, the notation NS4W -- not suitable for work -- and best of all, the flag of France.

(on-camera): Remember back when some Americans were mad at France over the Iraq War and there was all that talk about naming French fries freedom fries?

(voice-over): That prompted this post commenting on Carla's nude photo -- "Here in America, we call those freedom thighs."

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Being glamorous. And Jeanne Moos is, as well.

You've helped make our politics pod cast one of the most popular on iTunes. To get the best political team to go, you can subscribe at CNNPolitics.com or iTunes.

Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

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