Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LARRY KING LIVE
The Latest in Clinton vs. Obama
Aired March 31, 2008 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, they can push, but she won't jump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to keep fighting in these primaries and keep asking for your vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Her opponent isn't fazed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Two combatants and only one can win -- will a fight to the finish at the Democratic convention next summer?
Next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's almost at the unbelievable stage.
Welcome to another edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Our outstanding panel in the first half of the program are Jamal Simmons, the Democratic strategist, president of New Future Communications and Barack Obama supporter.
All the guests are in Washington.
Lanny Davis was special counsel to President Bill Clinton. He's a Hillary Clinton supporter. He's known her since law school. He's not, by the way, an official member of the current Clinton campaign.
Kiki McLean is senior adviser to the Clinton campaign, a Democratic strategist.
And Liz Chadderdon is a Democratic strategist and a Barack Obama supporter.
I don't know if anyone among us is a historian. Jamal, has there ever been anything like this in Democrat Party history?
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC
STRATEGIST, OBAMA SUPPORTER: You know, I'm going to defer to a couple of other people at the table because...
SIMMONS: ...because I go back a little ways, but probably not as far as some of the others.
KING: Lanny, what's your knowledge?
LANNY DAVIS, SUPPORTS CLINTON: I'm pretty young. I don't have much memory. Look, we've had, yes, many contested primaries with lots of vitriol on all sides and we've come together at the convention. Bill Clinton didn't clinch the nomination until June of 1992. He was running third in the national election, behind Ross Perot.
We are going to be together in this party, Larry, because we agree on the major issues. We have our current contentiousness agreed. But we are in agreement on the fundamental issues. We'll be together.
KING: Kiki, how did it get so -- for want of a better term -- out of hand?
KIKI MCLEAN, SENIOR ADVISER, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Well, it's not out of hand, frankly. I think it's legitimate to have a debate about issues, where Senator Clinton differs from with Senator Obama on healthcare. Her plan is universal, his isn't. I think it's legitimate to have a debate about Iraq, about national security, about one's experience.
Who's ready to be commander-in-chief on the first day and be the real steward for our economy?
These are legitimate debates to have. We are Democrats. We're being asked to pick one. We have to pick one now. It's been across several months in different states. And when you have to pick, you have to know what you're choosing. And that's legitimate. That's a -- that's a real discussion.
But let me tell you something that's even more important and that is a fundamental value of our party, Larry. And that is, are we going to make sure that every vote and every voice is heard in this primary process?
Are we going to take a nominee to the general election, with arms, ready to say I stood for every person being counted in this process, I made sure that Michigan and Florida were counted, that they were allowed to vote, they were allowed to have their voice heard, because it matters in the end Larry, in the general election. We've got to have the people of Michigan and Florida participate in this process.
SIMMONS: Larry, the good news here is...
KING: Liz, are you surprised...
SIMMONS: Larry, the good news here is that we had -- we do have two candidate that both want all the delegates to be seated, because one candidate wants them to be seated in a way that's only going to be favorable to her, the other wants the candidates to be sedated -- all those delegates to be seated in a way that will be fair to everyone.
KING: Liz, are you surprised that your candidate, Barack Obama, did not go along with many people who are asking Hillary to leave the race?
He said she should stay in.
LIZ CHADDERDON, OBAMA SUPPORTER: No, I'm actually not surprised at all, Larry, because Senator Obama stands for fairness, just like the Democratic Party stands for fairness. And I actually agree with Kiki, that she should be allowed to stay in the race until this is played out. I don't think she's going to be the nominee. I don't think she can overcome the overwhelming vote totals that Barack Obama has on her right now. But I do think she should stay in the race until he's the winner fair and square.
DAVIS: Larry, let me just remind your viewers that on the great issues facing the country -- on the economy, on leadership and experience to be president -- the voters of Ohio, Democrats, were for Hillary Clinton by 14 points; in Massachusetts by 15 points; in New Jersey; in California. In every major industrial state and battleground state, Hillary Clinton has proven that she can defeat John McCain.
Senator Obama still hasn't proven -- other than a .10 percent victory in Missouri -- that we can win a single big state.
This is about reclaiming the White House for the country...
KING: All right, but then...
DAVIS: And that's why we're going to say in.
CHADDERDON: Wait a minute.
KING: Why is...
KING: Hold it. One at a time.
KING: One at a time.
Why is Obama ahead 51-43 in the latest GOP -- Gallup -- not GOP, Gallup tracking poll?
DAVIS: Look, if that's a question to me, Larry, very quickly, he's run a great campaign. He has lots of support, but not in the battleground states. If you look at the states that Democrats need to win -- in Michigan and Florida, Kiki just pointed out -- Senator Obama has never said I favor a re-vote by absentee ballot or by the parties and I will help finance it the way that Senator Clinton has challenged him to do.
KING: All right...
DAVIS: So it's one thing to say I'm in favor of Florida and Michigan. It's another thing to commit the way Senator Clinton has -- I will help pay for a re-vote. That's my challenge tonight to my friend Jamal.
KING: All right, Jamal...
SIMMONS: Larry, yes...
KING: Jamal -- Jamal...
KING: Mario Cuomo, a good friend of mine of long standing, says that he believes the Democrats are losing votes to McCain every day -- and a very, very smart guy. He says Obama and Clinton need to put aside their difficulties and form a ticket that includes both of them.
Is that the right idea?
SIMMONS: I don't think so. I think that both -- neither one of them really complements the other one in a way that is really very effective going into the fall.
So you wouldn't recommend Senator Clinton as a ticket mate, Jamal?
SIMMONS: I think that both of them are very qualified to be on the ticket, but I don't think either one of them complements the other one to give them a good ticket to go into the fall.
SIMMONS: I actually think that we're going to have -- we're going to have a very sensible process that takes us until June 3rd.
One thing that Lanny said which has to be refuted is that Barack Obama hasn't won any big states. I think he forgot about Georgia, which is, I think, the tenth largest state in the country. He forgot about Wisconsin, which is a large state. You know, Missouri, he mentions, but he tries to downplay it. There's Colorado. All these battleground states that also are going to be on the deck, like Colorado and -- so this is what's important, that we not just stay focused on their talking points.
The very last point here is I think what the Clinton people want to have is a checklist of issues they want to run down. The reality is they're not that far apart on the issues. Barack Obama has a health care plan that's going to cover people. Hillary Clinton has a health care plan that's going to cover people.
Where they are apart is on the issue of judgment. And I think that's the thing the American people are actually looking for. They want to know that they can trust what the president says. They want to know that the president is going to make a decision that's in their best interests, and especially when it comes to issues of war and peace, like what happened in Iraq, when Obama was against it the Iraq War and Hillary Clinton voted for it...
MCLEAN: Yes, see the...
SIMMONS: ...despite the fact that the most senior Democrats who knew about the intelligence leading into the war said that she should not vote for it, she sided with George Bush.
MCLEAN: Yes, this is -- here's the interesting thing about where Jamal goes with this. And he does this again and again and again, which is he -- and the whole Obama campaign has called Senator Clinton names, called her disingenuous, a liar. Jamal just did it a little more politely so his mom wouldn't be upset really upset with him about it.
MCLEAN: But that's what he essentially did. And I think that there are lots of people who believe she has the judgment -- the millions of people who have voted for her. And he's sort of dismissive about the issues, that it's sort of off to the side.
Well, it's not off to the side. And her record in the Senate and her work as first lady and her work as an advocate for children and families over her entire lifetime matter. And that record counts.
KING: All right...
MCLEAN: And that's what voters are hearing about.
KING: All right, let me get in a break here and we'll come right back right after these words. Lots more to cover. Don't go away.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
H. CLINTON: There are some folks saying well, we ought to stop these elections.
H. CLINTON: I didn't think we believed that in America. I thought we, of all people, knew how important it was to give everyone a chance to have their voices heard and their votes counted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: My attitude is that Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants. Her name's on the ballot and she is a fierce and formidable competitor. And she obviously believes that, you know, she would make the best nominee and the best president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with our outstanding panel.
We have an e-mail from Mark in Portland, Oregon: "Will a protracted Democratic elimination battle -- nomination battle -- mean a loss of campaign funds for the general election? Will it siphon off money that might go to Democratic local, state and Congressional candidates?"
We'll start with Liz.
CHADDERDON: Larry, you know, if there's one thing I think we can all agree on, it's that we are not going to behind in the money race this year. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have broken all kinds of money records. I believe they raised a combination of $87 million in February, when John McCain only raised $12 million. I don't see money, at this point, being a problem in the general election -- at least not because of this primary. In fact, I think this primary is bringing more and more people into the process, wanting to get them involved, having them give money over the Internet and in person. No, it's not a money thing at this point. Not at all.
MCLEAN: Yes, you know, it's interesting, the hardest vote to get from somebody is their very first vote. So when more people have come to participate in the primary, you're going to have more people participating in the general. And that means more people participating all the way down the ballot, right into the statewide races, right into the city council races, the county commission races and the school board races. So that's going to be a good thing across board.
KING: Lanny, what about reports that the Clinton campaign is failing to pay bills?
DAVIS: I don't understand those reports because money is coming in over the Internet and I think that Senator Clinton is going to be well-financed. The same reports prior to her winning in Ohio and Texas. We're going to win in Pennsylvania. We're going to win most of the remaining primary states. She is running equal to or ahead of John McCain in the major battleground states where Barack Obama is losing.
Do you know that in Massachusetts, in the latest Gallup poll, Obama is tied with McCain in Massachusetts?
We are not electing a student body president, we are electing the president of the United States. The Democratic convention is going to want someone who can defeat Senator McCain. And right now, I'm sorry to say, I don't believe that Senator Obama is as strong against Senator McCain, according to the Gallup and most of the polls, in the battleground states, as Senator Clinton.
MCLEAN: Larry, let me...
SIMMONS: (INAUDIBLE) a second.
MCLEAN: I just want to clean up...
KING: All right...
MCLEAN: I want to clean up something on the question Larry asked about the money that the campaign has raised and the bills. Just so Elizabeth understands, those bills are all paid. All the rumors today, for most people who have never been through this process, you may not understand that if a bill comes in on February 28 and the report is due on March 1st and you pay it the very next day, it will show that it went as an unpaid debt. So those bills are paid. And there's really not a problem here.
SIMMONS: ...it's very interesting, there's never been a question about whether or not Barack Obama has paid his bills. So I think when you get to the issue of -- this goes back to the question of judgment. And you've got one campaign that has been an incredible steward of its resources, that has been able to run for the entire year-and-a-half, has never had issues about money.
You've got another campaign that -- where the candidate had to loan the campaign money in order for it to stay afloat. They've been raising money, but there's questions about bills. There's vendors who have questions.
So maybe the bills are being paid and they were playing some...
MCLEAN: Well, Jamal, you might...
SIMMONS: ...they were playing some tricky games... MCLEAN: Jamal, you may want to...
SIMMONS: ...with the finance reports, but that's a whole different...
MCLEAN: You might want to talk to some...
SIMMONS: ...that's a whole different issue.
MCLEAN: You might want to talk to some other Democratic office holders who occasionally helped out their own campaign. They might not -- I don't know that Governor Corzine would agree with you, for that matter. So I think that what Liz...
SIMMONS: It's not the same. It's not the same, Kiki.
MCLEAN: What Liz said earlier is that all the campaigns have done a good job of raising money this year. That hasn't been the issue. Clearly, we've had all the...
SIMMONS: Raising money isn't the issue at all.
MCLEAN: Clearly, we've had all the...
SIMMONS: And that's -- I'm sorry. I thought I was answering the question.
MCLEAN: Clearly, the...
SIMMONS: Raising money isn't the issue at all. The issue is stewardship of the resources.
SIMMONS: And so I think that's the question that people have.
KING: Liz, should Senator...
MCLEAN: Like the one (INAUDIBLE)
KING: Liz, should Senator...
SIMMONS: Except we got more delegates.
KING: Liz, should...
CHADDERDON: Yes, Larry?
KING: Liz, should Senator Edwards endorse someone, do you think?
Should Al Gore get into this?
CHADDERDON: Well, should, would, could. You know, that's a really hard call for me to make, Larry. But I have to tell you, I'd like to see Senator Edwards and former Vice President Gore get into this race -- not into the race, excuse me -- into the battle, choose a candidate. I don't want to see them get into the race. That would actually be way too complicated.
But I would like to see them weigh in. I would like to see them choose a candidate. I don't think that they should play the role of, you know, Boss Tweed, I believe was on the front page of CNN.com today. So I don't think they should play that kind of decisive role.
But I would like to see them get in, weigh in, choose a candidate. I think they would be very helpful. They are party elders. They are people that Democrats respect.
DAVIS: Could I respectfully say...
KING: Lanny, what do you think?
DAVIS: ...that I don't think that voters care about endorsements. I'd love to have all the endorsements. The fact is that Senator Clinton, despite Senator Kennedy, Governor Patrick, John Kerry, carried the home state of Massachusetts of those three gentlepersons by 15 percent. Hillary Clinton has won where Democrats have to win. And she's shown the demographics of the Democratic base.
Barack Obama has not yet shown that he can carry the Democratic base. No Democrat can win the presidency if they don't carry the base, which is blue collar voters, senior citizens, people who work with their hands. That's where Hillary Clinton has shown the experience and the trust to be president. Barack Obama has not broken through to those voters yet in any significant state.
MCLEAN: You know, Larry, I just want to say something...
SIMMONS: Larry it looks like...
MCLEAN: ...about Senator -- about Vice President Gore, as a former spokesperson of his. And it's his birthday today, Larry, in case you didn't know.
KING: It is?
MCLEAN: He's clearly focused on an issue that he has been since he left the White House. And announcements he's made this week about the work that his alliance is going to do about climate change, those are his focus right now.
And I think that John Edwards and Al Gore should play the role that other superdelegates do -- and that is their judgment, their decision about who they believe is best ready to lead the party and best ready to lead the nation. And I think that we should respect their decisions. And I don't think it's really for any of us to say what they should be doing.
KING: We'll take a break and be right back with some more moments with this panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Tomorrow night, guess?
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is somehow the suggestion that because we're having a vigorous debate about who would be the best president, we're going to weaken this party in the fall. We are strengthening the Democratic Party. Chill out. We're going to win this election if we just chill out and let everybody have their say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: All right, Jamal, is there a chance -- we just touched about Al Gore. We'll talk about him at the bottom of the hour with Joe Klein.
Is there a chance that Al Gore would be a compromise candidate between two parties that can't get together?
KING: Why is that funny?
SIMMONS: Well, you know, we had a little sidebar here during the commercial break.
SIMMONS: I think the Al Gore scenario is a fantastic scenario that a lot of Democrats like to talk about over drinks at Stetson's, but it's not necessarily the thing that...
SIMMONS: It's a bar here in town. But it's not necessarily what's going to happen. I think if this thing goes to the convention, you could see a scenario where there's a movement if -- there's some movement to -- that both candidates have been damaged too much and then you see like an Al Gore come out of the woodwork. But that's such a fantastic scenario. I think Democrats are very happy with both of these candidates and Al Gore -- Barack Obama is going to finish in June with the most delegates, with the most states, with the most popular votes. He's got the most money.
I think by every measure that Lanny wants to try to -- you know, he's carrying that goal post back and forth across the field. But by every measure, Al Gore -- I mean Barack Obama is winning this race.
DAVIS: Let me give...
SIMMONS: And we all know it.
DAVIS: Let me give my good friend Jamal some facts. Right now, there is less than 1 percent in popular vote separating the candidates. Out of 3,100 delegates, there's about a 138 delegate vote difference and we still have Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, North Carolina and a few other places to vote. And we have superdelegates whose job it is to decide who is best able to defeat John McCain.
SIMMONS: And in order for Hillary Clinton to win...
DAVIS: And if Hillary Clinton wins all of those states -- which I believe she will, or most -- and she comes into the convention ahead of John McCain in the polls, with Barack Obama as he currently is, unable to carry the Democratic base...
CHADDERDON: Wait a minute.
DAVIS: ...we will have our nominee as Hillary Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
SIMMONS: But, Lanny...
DAVIS: That's my prediction.
SIMMONS: She's not even ahead of Barack Obama in the polls...
SIMMONS: ...let alone -- let alone John McCain.
CHADDERDON: I want to know what polls you're reading.
MCLEAN: Here's the...
DAVIS: Every battleground poll against John McCain. Look at them. Hillary Clinton is running even...
SIMMONS: Which ones, Lanny?
DAVIS: ...or ahead of...
SIMMONS: Name them.
SIMMONS: Name them, because I don't know which... (CROSSTALK)
SIMMONS: I don't know what you're looking at.
DAVIS: The last Gallup Poll, the last Pew Research poll. Hillary Clinton is stronger against McCain in the battleground states than Barack Obama. That's a fact.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where's...
KING: Liz, is there any way, Liz, your candidate could win Pennsylvania?
CHADDERDON: Absolutely. We've got a solid four weeks until Pennsylvania.
CHADDERDON: You bet. There were a lot of people who said he couldn't win Iowa. There were people who said he couldn't win Colorado. There were people who said that he couldn't win a number of states. And we've got four weeks to go.
Are you kidding me?
He could absolutely win Pennsylvania.
But I think one of the big crucial points that Lanny is missing is that no one -- neither Obama or Senator Clinton are going to win Pennsylvania or any state by large, large, large margins. It's going to be a close race all the way down to the wire, no matter who wins. And at this point, he's over 700,000 votes ahead of her in the popular vote. There is mathematically no way that she can catch him unless she starts winning states 65-35. And it's not going to happen.
MCLEAN: Well, but this is...
CHADDERDON: No way.
MCLEAN: But, see, here's the challenge with that math. Again, the Obama team leaves Michigan and Florida sitting on the side.
CHADDERDON: Yes, we do.
SIMMONS: As did Hillary Clinton.
MCLEAN: No, you know, let me say this, because I really think is important, guys. Because my guess is come September, no matter which of our teams wins, the four of us are together here in a reunion unified -- just for you, Larry, OK?
DAVIS: Yes, for you, Larry.
CHADDERDON: Absolutely. MCLEAN: We're going to work together.
But I believe in my heart of hearts, you're talking to somebody who was in Florida with that election was taken from Al Gore -- a man who won the election and should have been our president, that Democrats across the United States -- and Americans are not going to stand for people who will not stand up for them. And I think that Senator Obama has done himself and his leadership for our party serious damage by not willing to be an aggressive advocate for having those votes counted.
SIMMONS: Well, let's just remember the actual facts here. The actual...
MCLEAN: I think it's important.
SIMMONS: The actual facts are that all the candidates agreed that they were not going to campaign in these states.
MCLEAN: Agreed. And they didn't.
SIMMONS: All the candidates. And the DNC told both of these states that if they moved the dates of their primaries, that they were not going to count. And you know what?
SIMMONS: They all said it and there are quotes from Hillary Clinton at the time...
SIMMONS: ...saying these states aren't going to count.
MCLEAN: Jamal, I...
SIMMONS: So now what we're doing is...
MCLEAN: I'm the...
SIMMONS: ...we're trying to move that goal post once again.
MCLEAN: But, Jamal, let me ask you...
SIMMONS: Hold on one second, Kiki. I let you finish.
MCLEAN: I want to ask Jamal a question.
SIMMONS: I let you finish. Let me finish.
MCLEAN: All right.
SIMMONS: And so now what we're doing is we're moving that goal post once again. But let's remember, I was in Florida, too. I was in West Palm Beach for three or four weeks. I remember that that was like. I think that Democrats are so fired up about this, they're not going to care what Howard Dean does at the Democratic convention...
DAVIS: Can I repeat, Larry...
MCLEAN: Let me...
SIMMONS: ...they're going to go along...
MCLEAN: I just want to ask...
SIMMONS: ...with the way they think is best to solve the economic crisis...
MCLEAN: I just...
SIMMONS: ...and the health care crisis.
CHADDERDON: I agree.
MCLEAN: I just want to ask Jamal a question. I hear your argument. I hear what you're saying. But next October, do you really want to stand up in Macomb County or in West Palm Beach and tell those people in those communities in Michigan and Florida sorry, it was rules?
And, by the way, there is a scenario -- the chairman of the Democratic National Committee has said by rules, we can actually re- vote those states and have those votes counted.
DAVIS: Larry, let's make some...
MCLEAN: That's the problem.
DAVIS: Let's make some (INAUDIBLE)...
SIMMONS: Let's just keep in mind, Barack Obama did say that he wanted those candidates -- those delegates to be seated.
MCLEAN: He said he (INAUDIBLE)...
SIMMONS: He wants those candidates to be seated.
MCLEAN: ...and has not to help them re-vote.
DAVIS: Let's make some news tonight. Let's make some news tonight.
MCLEAN: And you know, it Jamal.
KING: So what happens?
DAVIS: All four of us should challenge both of the candidates -- I already have mine doing it...
SIMMONS: They already have. They've already (INAUDIBLE). DAVIS: ...to invite and support Florida and Michigan...
DAVIS: ...to do a mail ballot or a party organized ballot.
Let's have both of them tomorrow put up on their Web sites solicitations for funds.
KING: In other words, Lanny...
DAVIS: And then we have a re-vote and then we get Florida and Michigan to be able to vote.
KING: Lanny, therefore they would pay for acting wrongly?
DAVIS: Correct. No. They would allow Florida and Michigan to correct what happened by re-voting. Senator Clinton is for that.
Will Senator Obama say I'm for that, too, yes or no?
So far, he won't say.
SIMMONS: I want to agree with that because I'm actually in a different place than the Obama campaign. The Obama campaign thinks that Michigan and Florida ought to be seated. I actually think that they should only be seated in a way that's not going to indicate -- that's not going to have any effect on the results.
DAVIS: I said re-vote. I said revote.
SIMMONS: Or even a re-vote, because why should they be rewarded for breaking the rules by now being in the position...
MCLEAN: Right. But, Jamal...
SIMMONS: ...of having more influence...
CHADDERDON: I agree.
MCLEAN: Here's the thing...
SIMMONS: ...on the outcome than they would have had earlier?
SIMMONS: And you know what?
John Edwards wasn't on the ballot in a lot of the -- John Edwards wasn't on the ballot in some of these states. If any state had had John Edwards on the ballot, what's to stop them from saying you know what...
SIMMONS: ...we didn't like our result, we're going to move our date to another day?
MCLEAN: Jamal here's -- but here's my big question for you.
SIMMONS: You've got to have rules.
MCLEAN: Here's my big question. I'm for rules. I color inside the lines. I'm really a good girl about all that. But what I'm saying is there is a path. There are rules in the DNC that would allow a re-vote to occur in both states. And we can talk all about the rules we want and we can do this within the rues and because here's what matters...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK...
MCLEAN: We have 4,000 dead American men and women in a war and a Democrat has got to win in November. And getting Michigan and Florida...
MCLEAN: ...involved in the general could make the difference.
KING: I've got to break in.
Lanny and Liz, thanks so much for being with us.
DAVIS: Thanks, Larry.
CHADDERDON: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Jamal -- if you love Jamal and Kiki, don't go away because they'll be back.
MCLEAN: I love Jamal.
KING: It's a return -- a return act.
SIMMONS: I love (INAUDIBLE).
KING: Could there be a McCain/Reagan ticket?
We'll explore the possibilities ahead on LARRY KING LIVE.
And Joe Klein is coming.
Don't go away.
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE friend Michael Reagan, syndicated talk radio host and best-selling author, the son of the late President Ronald Reagan, in Washington, Peter Beinart, senior fellow Counsel on Foreign Relations, "Time Magazine" columnist and author of "The Good Fight; Why Liberals and Only Liberals Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again," and in New York, Joe Klein, political columnist for "Time Magazine," "New York Times" best- selling author, and the man who created considerable discussion in his "Time Magazine" column speculating that it might be time to bring back Al Gore.
Were you surprised at the reaction, Joe?
JOE KLEIN, "TIME MAGAZINE": Yes and no. This is the silly season in presidential politics. The candidates are all bloody, and they seem weak, and the party is distraught. Yes, people are going to be thinking about alternative scenarios. And I said front up, when I wrote the column, that this is a far-fetched scenario, especially right now.
The likelihood is that Barack Obama will be able to win this nomination. But there are things that Obama still has to prove. And if he tanks in Pennsylvania and if he tanks down the rest of the way, as Lanny Davis was saying in the previous segment, then the party may want to turn to someone else.
I don't think at this point the party will turn to Hillary Clinton because she and her husband have alienated African-American voters terribly in this election, and young people will just stay away. And she's crossed the line a couple of times, especially in the last few weeks, things that you just don't do in Democratic primaries, like playing the race card and saying she wouldn't have been a member of Reverend Wright's church and also comparing Obama unfavorably to McCain.
So I think it's going to be very hard for her to get the nomination at this point. The question is whether Obama has the strength to do it. And if he doesn't, then they could turn to someone like Al Gore.
KING: What do you think of his reaction negatively on "60 Minutes?"
KLEIN: If I were Al Gore, I would say no way at this point. In fact, the only way that Al Gore could ever become the nominee is very, very, very reluctantly, with a chalice handed to him on bended knee. Also, I think that for there to be this sort of deal, Barack Obama and the incredible young troops that he's brought to this have to be a party to it. He has to agree that, OK, I'm not going to be able to get the nomination, but I'll run as vice president to Al Gore.
KING: Peter, what do you think of the idea?
BEINART: Everything that Joe writes is provocative and interesting. I think, as he said, I think it's far-fetched. First of all, I don't think there's a lot of evidence right now that Barack Obama is anywhere near so bloodied that Democrats don't think he could win in the general election. Remember, Democrats think this is a Democratic year. A lot of them think that even Hillary Clinton, who would be much more damaged were she to get the nomination, could still win because we're in a tidal wave years. And Obama's that even after the whole Reverend Wright thing Obama's numbers amongst independents aren't really down very much. He has weathered this. You could even argue that the best thing that has happened to him is that this came out early rather than in October. We don't have party elders who have nearly the amount of power to be able to put their candidate in at the end of the day. Do you know why? They don't control the money anymore.
That's the fundamental shift that's taken place in Democratic politics over the last few decades.
KING: Michael, would you rather face Gore or Obama as a Republican?
MICHAEL REAGAN, SYNDICATED TALK SHOW HOST: I think I'd rather face Obama. I don't think you're going to face Gore. Gore's not going to come into the middle of this. Listen, he just told us he's going to spend 300 million dollars to tell us about global warming. He's going to stay in the global warming arena, where he feels he's a winner instead of coming back over and getting in a political situation where he lost last time he ran for president of the United States.
I'd really like to run against Hillary Clinton because she brings so many negatives to the table. Fifty percent of the people like her; 50 percent of the people don't like her. She talks about health care and then doesn't pay her health care bill. She talks about Reverend Wright and then the picture of her husband and herself at the White House with Reverend Wright.
The reason maybe Obama hasn't gone down in the polls much with independents is that every time Hillary says something, she's caught in another kind of an act, whether it's Bosnian sniper fire, whatever it might be.
KING: Joe, Bill Clinton, we both know him very well. Spent some time together with him once at the studios in New York. Has he hurt this campaign?
KLEIN: Absolutely. I think the two weeks after the New Hampshire primary -- she really found her voice in that weekend before New Hampshire, not just tearing up at one point, but in opening up and dealing with the press. She had this press conference where she handled us to a trice (ph). And then Bill Clinton stole that campaign for two weeks, and it became a two-on-one thing.
One on one, she was beating Obama. Two-on-one, she began to lose to Obama. I think there's a real -- this is tragic for the Democrats because seeing Michael Reagan reminds me of 1980, which is an election year very much like this one. That year I kept on bumping into lots and lots of Democrats who said, we've had it with that party. We're moving Republican. This year a lot of those Democrats, working class Democrats who have been Republican ever since Ronald Reagan, you see them showing up at Democratic meetings, but -- and supporting Barack Obama. But if the first three things you learn about a candidate are that he's black, he has a funny name, and his spiritual adviser hates America, then you begin to have second thoughts. And I think that that is the one thing that Obama has to prove. He is a brilliant politician. He may well be able to prove it over the next month. But the door is still open a little bit.
REAGAN: Something else too; Obama has brought a lot of new people to this election, as my father brought a lot of new people back in 1980. And these people don't understand the blood sport it truly is. They're finally starting to understand it. If Hillary Clinton wrestles the nomination away from Barack Obama, the people who are new coming to the Democratic party --
KING: Former Reaganites maybe.
REAGAN: -- will stay home on election day. They will not vote for Hillary Clinton. I do not believe they'll do that. I think they'll be so turned off, they will go home.
KING: Peter Beinart, do you believe it's definitely a Democratic year?
BEINART: You start with the realization that it's very hard for any party to win three straight presidential elections in a row. It's only happened once in the last 50 years. There is a natural pendulum swing. People get tired of the people who have been running things.
People are particularly tired today. The country is in a very sour mood, and it is almost impossible in our political system for the guy who's the same party as the incumbent president to embody change. I can't think of a single presidential election where the incumbent party has been able to represent change. That's what John McCain has to do. The change candidate is going to win this year. It's going to be very hard for him to be the change candidate, particularly with Iraq.
KING: Well said. Peter, thank you. Joe, we'll see you again soon. Michael Reagan remains. Our panelists come back. When we come back, Chelsea Clinton gets asked another provocative question. We'll tell you about it. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with our panel the rest of the way. Returning, Kiki McLean, the senior adviser to the Clinton campaign, and Jamal Simmons, the Democratic strategist and Barack Obama supporter. Joining us now in Washington, Todd Harris, served as press secretary for the 2000 McCain campaign, and a former communications director for the 2008 Fred Thompson campaign. And staying with us here in L.A. is Michael Reagan, the syndicated talk radio host, son of the late President Ronald Reagan.
Todd is our newest member. We'll ask him the question first. How goes all of this for McCain?
TODD HARRIS, FMR MCCAIN 2000 PRESS SECRETARY: You know, Larry, John McCain is a deeply superstitious man, goes back to his days as a fighter pilot. He's got his lucky coin, his lucky shoes, and I think all of those lucky talismans are start to go pay off for him. This has been a year, let's face it, for Republicans that's not been particularly good so far.
All of this fighting between Clinton and Obama has been a huge benefit for the Republican party and for John McCain for two reasons. Number one, it's allowed Senator McCain some running room and some breathing room to get his organization built. He had a major staff shake up last year. He's now putting the pieces of a general election campaign together, which he did not have, and this is giving him the time to do that.
And second, and more important, Senator McCain is able to start out and to start road testing his general election message. General -- targeting general election voters. General election voters are very different from the hyper-partisan primary voters that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are still fighting over. Senator McCain through his new bio tour is able to start talking directly to them.
KING: Chelsea Clinton, by the way, was confronted by another question about the Monica Lewinsky story today. It was from a student in a Q and A at North Carolina University. Here's how she handled it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHELSEA CLINTON, FMR FIRST DAUGHTER: I respectfully disagree. I think that is something that is personal to my family. I'm sure there are things that are personal to your family that you don't think are anyone else's business either.
But also, on a larger point, I don't think you should vote for or against my mother because of my father.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Does she have a point, do you think, Jamal?
SIMMONS: She certainly does have a point. First of all, I think it's rude to ask someone's daughter a question like that. Hopefully, that's the last time we're going to have to see that video. Secondly, I think Hillary Clinton is a very formidable candidate. She's been in the United States Senate for a long enough time. She's got a record of her own. She was a law partner before that and served on boards. All of that should be part of the record that people examine when they make that judgment about her.
They should look at her votes, look at her vote on Iraq, look at her claims about other things, like Bosnia. Whatever the issues are, people should take a look at Hillary Clinton, and that has nothing to do with Bill Clinton.
KING: Michael Reagan, you have announced that you're eligible to be invited, to be nominated and elected vice president because you have more travels with world leaders. Were you kidding?
REAGAN: Yes, the point I was making, Larry, is the fact that Hillary is going around talking about Bosnia and all the trips she made as first lady. As a member of the first family, as you know, I made a lot of trips myself. When you go places, they treat you like you are there on an official visit, whether it's having cocktails with Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos, having wine with the Queen of England, Lady Thatcher.
In fact, I was in the room when my father gave permission to Ed Meese to tell the military they could shoot down the Libyan planes over the Gulf of Sidra (ph). Does that qualify me to be commander in chief?
KING: Does it?
REAGAN: I guess it does know.
KING: Are you throwing your hat in the ring?
REAGAN: Maybe I should throw my hat in the ring and let people know I'm available to run as vice president. My goodness gracious, I'm as qualified as anybody to, in fact, do that. To get back to Chelsea for a moment, when I was in my dad's campaign, I was asked a lot of questions about my dad's first marriage. He was the first president to ever be elected who had gone through a divorce. People ask those kinds of questions, especially when you go on college campuses. Nothing's off limits on a college campus.
KING: What did you say? None of your business?
REAGAN: I would say it was a long time ago. It was 1948. They got divorced. That was then and this is now. And that's probably how she's answering it, then going home and calling her dad and saying, why.
KING: We'll take a break and bring our other panelists into the mold. Right now let's check with Anderson Cooper. He will host "AC 360" at the top of the hour. He's back in the east. Anderson, what's up tonight?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, a lot of politics tonight. Hillary Clinton digging in despite calls to drop out of the race. She was in Pennsylvania today, as you've been talking about, the next primary state, of course, reminding voters the game's not over. Tonight, a new Gallup Poll shows Barack Obama maintaining his lead nationally over Clinton. It's the longest stretch, in fact, that either candidate has had as a front-runner.
Plus, why all three candidates are spending big bucks to advertise on places that might surprise you, the "Wheel of Fortune" and other game shows, for instance. Who exactly are they trying to reach? We'll look at the numbers.
And a controversial program that lets doctors in rehab still treat patients, even operate on them. Is that right? Is it legal? The story on 360 at the top of the hour.
KING: That sounds intriguing. Really that happens?
COOPER: Yes. And a lot of folks say these doctors have performed surgery on them. They say, you know, hurt them badly, and they had no idea these people were currently in rehab. So, it's a lot of controversy.
KING: At the top of the hour, Anderson Cooper, "AC 360," 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific. Back with our panel after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Barack Obama.
MCCAIN: Thank you for that kind and generous welcome.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the next president of the United States of America, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Kiki McLean, do you take seriously what Todd Harris had to say, that this bout between your candidate and Barack Obama is helping McCain?
MCLEAN: I don't really think so. Look, I think there have been a lot of people making predictions this year. I remember what it felt like on the afternoon of New Hampshire primary day, didn't quite turn out that way. Going in to Super Tuesday. Hillary Clinton wasn't supposed to be standing, worked out OK for her there.
KING: What about the effect on McCain?
MCLEAN: What I'm going to say is this: that is it's going to make both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, whoever comes out the nominee -- I honestly believe it's going to be Senator Clinton -- stronger going in. Senator McCain is his own comeback story. I think in some ways his come back story is getting stepped on a bit.
His team's being creative. They've already set up an ad or two. They've begun to try tell his bio story. He's got a lot of work to do to bring his party together. He has a lot of homework before he really kicks off the general against our nominee. I'm a firm believer that our party is going to come together because we have a shared set of values. I believe, if Senator Clinton is our nominee, she'll encourage that. She'll lead our party forward.
At the end of the day, John McCain is still the guy who thinks we ought to keep troops in Iraq for 100 years and privatize Social Security. Doesn't get much cleaner than that.
HARRIS: I do agree that I think that anybody who works in politics should be out of the prediction game this year, because everyone has been dead wrong all year long. You don't have to predict what's going forward. Just take a look at what happened last week. Senator McCain out in California getting the endorsement of Michael's mother, of Nancy Reagan, how important that is within the Republican party.
On the Democratic side, you had Democrats calling each other McCarthyites, Judas. You had an Obama supporter in Iowa talking about Monica Lewinsky. So you don't need to predict what's going to happen going forward. Just take a look at what's already happening. Senator McCain consolidating that conservative base, reaching out to swing voters on his Service to America Tour, introducing his long record of service, introducing his bio to general election voters. All the while Senators Clinton and Obama are beating each other up.
MCLEAN: Todd, let's not forget the image of my old boss, Joe Lieberman, giving him the right information at a press conference in the Middle East. There was that moment too.
KING: Jamal, how would you respond to what Todd just said?
SIMMONS: If John McCain has more messages and policy days like the economic speech he gave the other day, I'm ready for that fight with either one of our candidates.
HARRIS: I think we would welcome that as well.
SIMMONS: It sounds like his message is sort of let them eat cake until they get over the fact they misspent their money.
HARRIS: When you've got a Democratic message which is let's bail out all the big banks and let's bail out all the speculators with a tax payer funded regulatory bailout, I will happily take the John McCain, smaller government, less spending, lower taxes message. That's a message that's won for Republicans in the past and is going to win again this year.
SIMMONS: Todd, I'm sorry. It was a Republican president that bailed out the big banks. The Democrats have said, if we can pony up the money to take care of Bear Stearns, why can't we do something about average, every day home owners?
HARRIS: Senator McCain has said, look, there are four million people that we really need to focus on, and he's going to make sure those people get taken care of.
KING: Hold it, Kiki. Michael, who benefits from this?
REAGAN: Who benefits right now is John McCain. He's looking presidential. The cat fight that's going on in the Democratic party right now -- figure out what they're going to do before the convention. You have Howard Dean saying let's get over before July 1st. Big argument about Florida and Michigan.
Remember, both candidates signed an agreement saying they will accept the fact that neither one of these delegations will be seated because they moved up their primary season. Now to go back and say let's change the rules, that's politics. That's the way it's played out.
John McCain, staying the course he's staying, is doing a good job. He's up in the polls. Right now he's beating both in the polls. Why? Because of the cat fight going on with the Democrats.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments. Don't go away.
KING: Kiki, if you look up right wing radical in the dictionary, you get a picture of Richard Mellon Scaife.
MCLEAN: I thought it was Michael Reagan. I'm just teasing, Michael.
KING: Mr. Scaife is now complimenting your candidate. What do you make of that?
MCLEAN: I think he recognized the courage that it took for her to walk in there, answer the questions they had. That's the great thing about Hillary Clinton. She's not afraid to deal with what other people might shrink away from, to address it head on and deal with it. I think Mr. Scaife responded appropriately.
KING: Were you surprised, Todd?
HARRIS: I was a little surprised. Here Hillary Clinton has been beating Obama over the head because of some of the associations he's made. I happen to like Mr. Scaife. I think he speaks the truth. She has been very clear and very on the record in the past about her opinion of them. Now that he says nice things about her, she seems to be embracing him. I was a lit surprised by his comments and hers. She can be very persuasive in small environments like that and is very impressive.
KING: In Democratic circles, does it help your candidate?
SIMMONS: Any time you spend time with Richard Mellon Scaife or fund-raisers with Rupert Murdoch, it's not the kind of thing you want to put up on the website and broadcast to Democrats. Hillary Clinton has a right to meet with whoever she wants to meet with. That's just the way these campaigns go.
Barack Obama today -- you saw him -- he had a funny day out trying to bowl. Clearly bowling is not one of his great assets. But he did spend --
MCLEAN: I don't know if there are still bowling lanes in the White House.
SIMMONS: But he did spend a day with Bob Casey, and they had a good day talking to average American voters about things they really care about.
KING: Are you saying, Jamal, he would not speak to Mr. Scaife's group? SIMMONS: I'm sure Barack Obama would speak with anyone. Part of what he wants to do is bring people together. The question is whether or not Richard Mellon Scaife would like what he said after he left the room.
MCLEAN: Let's make sure your viewers know what happened here. He runs a newspaper in Pennsylvania. And Senator Clinton went to an editorial board meeting, which is a common practice for candidates to do. She answered questions about her positions, and the kinds of things she's talking about in Pennsylvania, like retirement security and middle class tax cuts.
KING: She knew who owned the paper?
MCLEAN: She knew who owned the paper, and she wasn't afraid of it, because that's a paper that's going to talk to voters and she's got to get information out.
KING: Does that surprise you, Michael?
REAGAN: It's Pennsylvania. That is the big dog now. Hillary Clinton has got to win that big, and she's going to try to get as many votes as she can. Now you've got Operation Chaos going on, where you have people going out and voting across party lines for Hillary to make sure she stays in the race. Of course, she would talk to Scaife and others and have an editorial board meeting. She needs all the support she can get to stay in the race.
She's not going to drop out, I don't think, before August. I'll tell you why. Barack Obama, if he loses, he can run in 2012. He's 46 years old. Hillary will never get another chance to be president of the United States of America. This is it for her. She wins now or goes home.
KING: Do you agree, Todd?
HARRIS: Whether it's the Scaife story or the bowling story, the one thing that they both have in common is that they both took place in Pennsylvania, which is the next great battle ground. WGAL statewide poll of Democrats in Pennsylvania that came out last week showed 20 percent of all Democrats said, if their choice for the nomination doesn't win, they're going to cross over and vote John McCain. Here's tangible evidence in the sense of Democratic activists that this fighting is having a real impact, not only on Obama and Hillary, but on John McCain's long term prospects.
KING: Thanks to Kiki McLean, Jamal Simmons, Todd Harris and Michael Reagan. Viewers continue to ask this show, when will we do an interview with Hillary Clinton, which boggles our mind. Our program has a long-standing invitation to the senator. We call them all the time. We would welcome her appearing here any time, anywhere.
We're ready to do a one on one. We've done in depth sit downs with Barack Obama and John McCain. LARRY KING LIVE looks forward to doing the same with Hillary Clinton very soon. Tomorrow night, former Minnesota Governor Jessie Ventura. What if he entered the presidential race? Something to think about. You should always be thinking about our website, CNN.com/LarryKing. And now my man, my man Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com