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THE SITUATION ROOM

March Money Madness; Mitt Romney on why McCain is Right for America; Jimmy Carter Hints Possible Endorsement for Obama

Aired April 3, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): As you look out over this expanse here, do you feel that it is changing New York in a bad way, that so many people from around the world are buying up Manhattan?
PAM LIEBMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, THE CORCORAN GROUP: Absolutely not. I think that one of the things that has always -- that has always made New York City one of the greatest in the world is the diversity. And more and more foreign buyers just add to the clamor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is New York. This is the bridge of New York.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

ROTH: Europeans just better hope their room with a view keeps commanding top dollar -- I mean euro.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Life is so difficult.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even if the euro goes down.

ROTH: Richard Roth, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Barack Obama's big bucks. New numbers show he raised twice as much as Hillary Clinton last month. But, with all that cash, why isn't Obama leading Clinton by a bigger margin? The best political team on television is standing by.

Plus, it sure sounds like an endorsement. Jimmy Carter is dropping big hints that he has chosen sides in the Democratic race for the White House. But how much does his vote really count?

And another 3:00 a.m. wakeup call. Does Hillary Clinton's latest ad tell the truth or stretch it.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

Right now, both Democratic presidential candidates are rolling in campaign cash, but Barack Obama's pile of money is much, much bigger. His campaign announced today that Obama pulled in $40 million last month. Campaign sources say Hillary Clinton raised $20 million in March.

CNN's Dan Lothian is with the CNN Election Express.

Dan, we were together in Philadelphia just yesterday. Obviously, big bucks for Barack Obama. What does this mean, looking forward?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, really big bucks for Obama. His campaign obviously feeling very good about the $40 million that they got in March.

And, of course, Suzanne, as you know, this comes after they pulled in $55 million in February. And, again, this is money that can be used to get out his message, not only here in Pennsylvania, but in the upcoming contests.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice-over): March may be known for basketball madness, but for Senator Barack Obama, who's been talking up his White House hoop dreams...

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to tear up the bowling alley in the White House. We're putting up a basketball court.

LOTHIAN: ... it was all about the money. The Obama campaign says it raised more than $40 million last month from 440,000 different donors. Half of them, the campaign says, gave for the first time. Donations averaged $96.

STU ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: It demonstrates continued enthusiasm out in the grassroots and the fact that there are still people writing checks and new people who are writing checks.

LOTHIAN: Sources tell CNN the Clinton campaign raised $20 million in March, the second highest amount she has collected in a month. While they expect to be out-raised by Obama, they say money doesn't equal winning.

HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER: He outspent us over two to one on TV in Ohio and Texas. We were able to win despite being outspent. And we expect to be successful in Pennsylvania and going forward despite being outspent.

LOTHIAN: But the Obama campaign has been able to saturate Pennsylvania with TV ads, getting out its message while at the same time forcing the Clinton campaign to spend money that could have gone to other states.

NEIL OXMAN, FOUNDER, THE CAMPAIGN GROUP, INC.: He's fighting every place, because he has the most money and can fight every place.

LOTHIAN: The most money not only in this campaign, but compared to Democrats in 2004. Obama's latest figures puts the overall total raised so far at about $234 million, enough to surpass the $200 million raised by Senator John Kerry in his entire campaign.

Political analysts say this kind of fund-raising power can catch the attention of some voters.

ROTHENBERG: I think these big fund-raising numbers convey a sense of success for the campaign. And people want to be with a winner. So they add to the so-called bandwagon effect, the sense that Obama is building, he's going to be the nominee.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: Of course, Senator Clinton believes that she can win. In fact, at a press conference out in California, where she's attending a fund-raiser later tonight, she said that again, the quote, "I'm in it to win it."

Now, the campaign saying that they have enough resources to be competitive and successful in the upcoming contests -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Dan. We noticed that she's turning it to her favorite, saying she's the underdog. And I guess in Pennsylvania that makes a difference.

Thanks again, Dan.

MALVEAUX: Hillary Clinton is taking a swipe at one big-name Democrat and reaching out to another. She flatly denied a report that she told Governor Bill Richardson that Barack Obama couldn't win the general election. There's been obvious tension between the Clintons and Richardson since he endorsed Obama.

Here is how Clinton responded to a question just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have consistently made the case that I can win, because I believe I can win. And, sometimes, people draw the conclusion I'm saying somebody else can't win. I can win. I know I can win. That's why I do this every day. And that's what my campaign is about. I'm in it to win it. And I intend to do just that. That's a no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: The best political team on television will take on the Clinton-Richardson feud just ahead.

Meantime, Senator Clinton is responding to questions about whether Al Gore might have a role in her administration if she wins the White House. Just take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I would be certainly pleased to have his involvement in any way that he would want to be involved. And I don't know whether he would be interested in going back into government or not. But I think the American people would welcome that because of his incredible record of service and his obvious understanding of the problems we're facing today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Yesterday, Senator Obama left the door open to offering Gore a Cabinet-level post to pursue his fight against global warming.

Well, whomever is nominated, the Democrats have already made history. Never before have we seen a woman or an African-American as a top, well-financed and hugely endorsed presidential contender. But is the country ready to add the ultimate page to U.S. history?

There is a new CNN/"Essence" magazine poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation.

CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider joining me with that -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Suzanne, are Americans ready to elect a black or woman president? There's one way to find out? Ask them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): This is a historic moment in America.

CLINTON: We have an election where the two people vying to be the Democratic nominee are an African-American man and a woman.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: And I think that says a lot. It says a lot about who we are as a party and who we are as a country.

SCHNEIDER: But is the country ready? We asked people exactly that question. The answer? In the new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, more than three-quarters say, yes, the country is ready for a black president. Do people think the country is ready for a woman president? That number is a little smaller. Sixty-three percent say yes.

Do Americans see more prejudice against a woman than an African- American? More likely, they see more negative feelings about this woman than about this African-American.

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: The two candidates have done a terrific job in trying to say, judge me for who I am and for what I have done. SCHNEIDER: Do African-Americans believe the country is ready to elect a black president? They're a little more skeptical than whites. But blacks, too, have come around, particularly after the Iowa caucuses demonstrated that Obama could win in an overwhelmingly white electorate.

Barack Obama is the first African-American presidential candidate who does not come out of the civil rights movement. He is not running on racial issues. But he is asking Americans to make a statement about race.

OBAMA: We are going to put aside fear. And we are going to reach out for hope. This time, we are going to turn out like never before. And we're going to vote at record numbers.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: This time, we won't be turned back by racial division.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: That's the good news about this election. Voters are respond to real candidates, not to stereotypes -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Bill, thank you so much.

And, tonight, CNN examines what it's like to be black in America in a group of special series. That begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. And, at 9:00, Soledad O'Brien investigates startling new details on James Earl Ray's role in the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Jack Cafferty now joining us with "The Cafferty File" in New York.

Hey, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Suzanne.

Think about this the next time you climb on an airplane. An FAA whistle-blower testified before Congress today that his bosses repeatedly ignored his reports of inspection requirement violations by Southwest Airlines. He also says his bosses, who were leaned on by Southwest to remove him from the case, knew that the planes were flying illegally and did nothing about it.

You may remember a congressional investigation found that Southwest kept dozens of aircraft flying without mandatory inspections. And it turns out some of them had possibly dangerous cracks in them. The airline is now facing a recorded $10.2 million fine.

There's more to this story. An American Airlines pilots group says that regulators have mostly ignored several dangerous incidents where cockpit windshields have shattered during flights, sometimes forcing emergency landings. The pilots claim these safety abuses exist because the FAA is too close to the airlines. For its part, the FAA says four U.S. airlines -- it doesn't name them -- are being investigated for failure to comply with federal aviation regulations. You have a government agency that knows of four airlines that are not in compliance with FAA regulations, but it won't say which airlines? That is beyond outrageous.

Officials say three of the airlines have missed inspection deadlines. But the FAA still insists people ought to feel safe, despite all this. They say, "Flying is safer today than at any time in the past."

Here is the question: How safe do you feel when you fly?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jack.

Many homeowners facing foreclosure are desperate for a rescue. But when Bear Stearns faced trouble, the government stepped in. One senator wants to know, well, how did it even come to this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Where were the regulators? Was someone asleep at the switch?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: You will hear how federal Chairman Ben Bernanke defends the Bear Stearns rescue.

Also, is Mitt Romney on John McCain's V.P. short list? Does he want to be? Well, I will ask Mitt Romney.

And won't the next president keep daytime hours? If so, why is Hillary Clinton talking about getting phone calls at 3:00 a.m.? Well, we will do a fact-check and see.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: John McCain revealed to CNN just yesterday that he is not only drafting a list of vice presidential prospects, he already has about 20 names on it. Well, could his former rival-turned- supporter Mitt Romney be on that list?

Joining us now, former Massachusetts governor and former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

So, of course, we see you in a different light now, obviously out of the race, on the campaign trail. Are you auditioning for position number two, running mate?

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: No. I don't think that's very likely, frankly. I make the appearances which the McCain campaign asks me to make. They actually in this case called and asked whether I could be with you in THE SITUATION ROOM, and I of course am happy to stand up and speak in favor of a person who I think ought to be the next president.

I sure don't want Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. I think John McCain has exactly what America needs right now.

MALVEAUX: I want you to hear what McCain said earlier today when we asked him that question about you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will be moving forward with the process, but Governor Mitt Romney is a fine man. He earned himself a large place in our Republican Party. And I was pleased to have him campaigning with me at my side. He's a fine man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: What has he told you about that large place in the Republican Party? What has he told you? Has he actually said you're on that list, that he's considering you?

ROMNEY: No, he really hasn't. And, you know, I have no idea whether I am or I'm not, but that's frankly far less relevant than what's happening in the country today with a lot of people suffering as they have lost some homes, with the economy very fragile, with men and women in harm's way in Iraq.

There's a lot of important work going on in the country. And frankly, I'm out campaigning for Senator McCain and for other senators and congressmen and state officials as well that I think can make a difference for America at a critical time.

MALVEAUX: You have also been doing a lot of fund-raising for McCain. We got some new numbers from the Democrats. The Obama campaign releasing their March numbers, saying they raised $40 million. Senator Clinton, $20 million.

You, before you dropped out, had about $65 million. Why has Senator McCain had such a hard time raising money, getting the kind of financial support?

ROMNEY: You know, I think Senator McCain has proven that money is not what's critical in these races. The fun thing about watching the Democrats raise this money is that they're spending it all.

They're spending it all trying to convince us that the other candidate is unelectable. And I frankly agree with both of the Democrats. They're unelectable.

Senator McCain won the nomination without spending much money. He's doing very well in the national opinion polls, and the recognition that he receives, despite the fact that he's not up with advertising. He's instead talking about important issues, traveling around the world, meeting with leaders of the world. I think -- MALVEAUX: But clearly, it's going to take more money in the general election. How is he going to overcome that obstacle? What does he need to do to convince people to open up their pocketbooks?

ROMNEY: Oh, there is no question that he will have the money he needs to run a national campaign. Republicans from all over the country will contribute to the campaign.

We like to see Democrats get their race over. But Senator McCain is going to have all the money he needs to run through this primary season up through the convention. And after that, he may well take federal matching dollars, in which case that would provide the funding for the general part of the election.

MALVEAUX: I want to turn to something more personal. When you were running, a lot of people talked about your faith, being a Mormon. And there were some people who unfairly held it against you.

Do you think that Barack Obama is being treated fairly when you take a look at some of the comments made by his controversial pastor?

ROMNEY: You know, I really think that in politics, you can't be talking about what's fair and what's not fair. Basically, it's a tough sport.

If you get into the political arena, and particularly in the championship arena, running for president of the United States, you're going to be looked at on every different angle. People are going to evaluate you in the ways they would like to do it. And you really can't be calling foul or unfair. You just have to be there and take what comes.

And I think people are going to look at the comments of Reverend Wright and take them for what they are. I agree with Senator McCain, that these comments are ones that have been repudiated by Barack Obama. And I take Barack Obama at his word.

MALVEAUX: So you don't think they're relevant?

ROMNEY: I take Barack Obama at his word that he does not agree with the comments made by Reverend Wright.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Now, to fireworks on Capitol Hill -- at issue, the government's use of billions of taxpayer dollars to help rescue an investment bank on the brink of collapse. Some members of the Senate Banking Committee clearly were ticked off.

Our CNN senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, has been monitoring today's hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senators who approved hundreds of billions in government spending were outraged that the Federal Reserve agreed to lay out $30 billion of taxpayer money last month to rescue Wall Street firm Bear Stearns, a commitment some banking committee members argued could have been avoided.

SCHUMER: Where were the regulators? Was someone asleep at the switch, or is it that our regulatory structure doesn't work?

CHERNOFF: Bear Stearns was on the verge of collapse last month when the Federal Reserve arranged a shotgun wedding with J.P. Morgan Chase. The banking giant would buy Bear for just $2 a share if the government shared some of the risk.

JAMIE DIMON, CEO, JPMORGAN CHASE: We could not and would not have assumed the substantial risk of acquiring Bear Stearns without the $30 billion facility provided by the Fed.

CHERNOFF: The $30 billion, later reduced to $29 billion, was to absorb possible losses from risky investments Bear Stearns had made. Regulators argued if they hadn't stepped in, the collapse of Bear Stearns could have triggered a domino effect on Wall Street that might have devastated markets.

Now that the deal is done, will the government end up losing billions? The chairman of the Federal Reserve couldn't say.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: I am trying to quantify the liability. Give the committee a sense of what the liability is for the American taxpayer in this regard.

BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I don't know the exact number. I think...

MENENDEZ: And that's my concern.

CHERNOFF: Even more concern over why regulators didn't do more to prevent such a crisis.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, PRESIDENT, NEW YORK FEDERAL RESERVE BANK: The people at this table and a bunch of other supervisors and regulators took a lot of actions over the last several years to try to make the system less vulnerable to this kind of event.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry.

GEITHNER: I want to just...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. I have been here too long to try to convince me of that.

GEITHNER: Well, I don't -- I'm not claiming to convince you, but I just want to...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not going to be able to convince me because the red flags have been waving long before you showed up at that table.

CHERNOFF: Fed officials maintain they were trying to protect the financial markets, the economy and the American public. J.P. Morgan, by the way, wanted to make sure the deal got done. The firm later raised its price to $10 a share.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: NATO'S message to Russia: Get over your opposition. Today, President Bush saw NATO do something that he wanted, but that Russia is strongly against.

And a bird is ejected from his seat at a famous baseball park. It's a story about a perch and a painful mishap you will want to hear about.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Hillary Clinton says it's not about who will lose.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I'm in it to win it, and I intend to do just that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Clinton insists she never told Bill Richardson that Barack Obama can't win the White House. The best political team on television is ready to weigh in on that and whether the Democrats' feuding will ever end.

Plus, Jimmy Carter's name-dropping. Will his hints of an endorsement help one of the Democrats, or backfire?

And Clinton gets another 3:00 a.m. call. And it's designed to make John McCain look bad. We will look at her new ad and whether she's making valid claims.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, former President and superdelegate Jimmy Carter drops a heavy hint about which Democrat he's supporting, but stops short of an endorsement. What impact will it have on the Clinton- Obama battle?

Also, new developments in the tension between Clinton and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who endorsed Obama. Find out what Clinton denies she said to him.

Plus, we will show you how many Americans believe the country is ready to make history with either a black president or a woman president -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Something Jimmy Carter said has many people wondering. The former president, who is also a Democratic superdelegate, has not endorsed a candidate, but he is making it clear whom he really, really likes.

Our Brian Todd joining me now.

And, Brian, it seems to me like we have heard some pretty strong hints today.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some very strong hints, Suzanne. He all but says he supports Barack Obama. The question now is, does it tilt this over-so-tight Democratic race?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): As senior statesman and superdelegate, Jimmy Carter was seen as a leader who could help Democrats broker a deal on the nomination between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But now that idea may be out the window.

The former president, quoted in a Nigerian newspaper, says: "My children and their spouses are pro-Obama. My grandchildren are also pro-Obama. As a superdelegate, I would not disclose who I am rooting for, but I leave you to make that guess."

An aide to President Carter confirms the quote is accurate, but reiterates the former president's position that he will remain uncommitted until the Democratic Convention. Still...

TAD DEVINE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: His sentiments clearly are that he supports Barack Obama and he intends to do so as a delegate and to help him in his campaign.

TODD: A Clinton spokesman said both Senator and Presidential Clinton have a great deal of respect for Jimmy Carter, that he's free to make whatever decision he thinks is appropriate, and, "people will be interested in the choice he makes."

Carter's remarks are not a formal endorsement. And Democratic strategists say this does not rise to the level of Obama's endorsements from Bill Richardson and Ted Kennedy, who are also superdelegates.

Hillary Clinton still has the lead in the superdelegate count, but the trend of superdelegate support has tilted heavily in Obama's favor since Super Tuesday. And one Democratic strategist, not aligned with any candidate, says that may continue.

DEVINE: Most of the superdelegates who today are uncommitted are from states that Senator Obama has won. And I think that's going to make the challenge for the Clinton campaign all that tougher.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: Now, the Obama campaign would not comment on the former president's remarks. When we asked if they had any hint of this was coming, if Mr. Carter had given them any private indications of support, an Obama spokesman said no comment to that, too -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Brian, thank you so much.

And joining us to talk about what Carter said and much, much more, CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, here in Washington; CNN's Jack Cafferty in New York; and CNN's senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, in Chicago. They are all part of the best political team on television.

I want to start with you, Candy. Is this a watershed moment for Obama, to see the comments of Carter? Are we beginning to see, really, a turn with the superdelegates heading in his direction?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's a nice moment for him. But there are still enough superdelegates out there that have not decided that can totally sway this race. I think they're mostly holding their fire. Brian is exactly right. Obama has been picking up superdelegates at a faster rate than Hillary Clinton. But you and I know that this race does change.

But I think a lot of people, more and more, are looking at that map, beginning to count on their fingers like who can make it, who can't make it. And, you know, they're beginning to choose sides. But I think you will see the bulk of them -- and by that I mean as many as could decide this election -- really wait until June.

MALVEAUX: And, Gloria, I talked to a Clinton supporter -- a surrogate today -- who said there's a lot of pressure on these superdelegates to hold off. Why do you think they've been so effective with these superdelegates? Are these big time fundraisers? Why do you think they're pushing -- they're holding off a little bit here?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, because, you know, holding off is easy. Holding off is sort of the easy thing to do, if your state hasn't voted yet or you want to see which way the wind is blowing.

I mean, after all, these are elected officials. They want to go with a winner. So if they're not quite sure at this point who's going to win, they may hold back.

But I agree with Candy, that I think after these primaries are really over in early June, you're going to see Howard Dean say to all of these superdelegates -- and he's going to be joined by a bunch of top Democrats -- who are all going to come out and say you folks now have to commit, because they don't want this to go to the convention.

MALVEAUX: Jack, I want to get to you. But on another issue here, we heard from Senator Clinton today, essentially denying that she had this conversation with Governor Bill Richardson, the former governor who is endorsing Barack Obama, telling him that she did not believe that Obama could win in the general election. Let's take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I have consistently made the case that I can win because I believe I can win. And, you know, sometimes people draw the conclusion I'm saying somebody else can't win. I can win. I know I can win. That's why I do this every day. And that's what my campaign is about. I'm in it to win it and I intend to do just that. That's a no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Jack, it seems like a long and nuanced answer to what actually happened in that conversation. Perhaps we'll never really know what happened. But does it really make a difference at this point, this kind of ongoing feud between the Clintons and Richardson?

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, I don't know that it's an ongoing feud. He's endorsed Barack Obama. And for everybody except the Clintons, that's pretty much water over the bridge. The more telling thing is the experience that Bill Richardson had on the campaign trail and at the debates with Obama, with Hillary Clinton; his experience as a member of Bill Clinton's administration.

I think of the endorsements that Barack Obama has gotten, the Bill Richardson one spoke volumes about how he views the two candidates. And he's probably in as good a position as anyone to have seen them up close and personally and observe the way they act when the cameras aren't on them. And based on his experience and alleged allegiance to the Clinton family, because of his experience in the Clinton administration, it was a huge endorsement for Barack Obama.

It's not the first time she's suggested that Barack Obama is not electable. That's an old song and we've heard it from her before.

MALVEAUX: But, Candy, do you believe that this whole thing -- you know, we've heard these reports about the former President Clinton getting quite heated with some California superdelegates in meetings, that he was quite angry with Richardson.

Is this kind of a signal to some of those other superdelegates, look, watch out here, you may have the wrath of this family and it may not be comfortable?

CROWLEY: You know, it's certainly not comfortable. But, you know, Suzanne, when Senator Dodd endorsed Barack Obama, he talked about what he said was a not comfortable phone call with the Clintons. I think there are a couple of things going on.

I think it does feel personal when someone that has -- you are friends with, someone that, in fact, has served in your administration -- at least in President Clinton's administration -- opts for Barack Obama. Now, politics isn't personal. You know, it's that whole thing about getting a dog if you want a friend.

(LAUGHTER) CROWLEY: So I think all of these conversations are, in fact, very hard to have. And Bill Richardson's, in particular, seems to have been very bad. As you know, there is some suggestion out there that he signaled the Clintons that he was going to be on her side. And I think that's added to it.

But I think for precisely the reasons that Jack is now talking about, the closeness with which Richardson saw Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and also his sort of history he has with the Clinton administration -- both Clintons...

MALVEAUX: OK.

CROWLEY: ...made it kind of one of those bright endorsements that people paid a lot of attention to.

MALVEAUX: And, Gloria, we'll get to you at the other side of this break real quick.

BORGER: Sure.

MALVEAUX: Did John McCain want to be John Kerry's running mate in 2004? The former nominee is speaking out about who approached whom with the idea.

And is John Edwards open to being a running mate with either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama? Find out what he's saying about the possibility.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: John McCain as John Kerry's running mate? Well, the former Democratic presidential nominee is giving his version of what happened back in 2004.

We're back with the best political team on television -- CNN's senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; CNN's Jack Cafferty; and Clinton senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

I want to start off first with some of these poll numbers here. The question is, is America ready for a black president?

This from CNN/"Essence" Magazine/Opinion Research Poll. What we see in the first poll, Gloria, is that these numbers are going up among blacks and whites.

If you look back in December, they're lower than what we see now. We see now that blacks -- 69 percent say the country is ready, 78 percent of whites say the country is ready. So it seems as if people are becoming more comfortable with this.

The second poll we take a look at, if you take a look at these numbers, there are more people that say they're ready for a black president than a female president, that being 76 percent to the 63 percent.

What do you make of these numbers?

BORGER: Well, first of all, my first reaction to these numbers is that this is a campaign that's probably been great for this country, because perhaps people who weren't ready for an African- American president or a woman may be ready now. And I think that this is, that, you know, Hillary Clinton keeps saying that isn't this great that we have a choice between a black and a woman for president on the Democratic side?

And I think that maybe the voters are sort of getting used to that idea and that that can't be a bad thing.

MALVEAUX: Candy, when we see the numbers go up as time goes on, is this a reflection, do you think, of the way people feel about race or gender or do you think it's just about viability -- they're starting to see these candidates and they look like they're -- it's more of a realistic option here?

CROWLEY: Yes, I mean, I think it's about possibility, particularly when you look at the numbers, particularly among blacks in December -- prior to Barack Obama winning virtually all white Iowa. So what happened between December and post-Iowa is that victory. And Blacks began to look and say well, wait a minute, actually he has a shot. And they began to move over to the Obama camp.

So, yes, I think the fact that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- one of them is going to end up to be the nominee. And I think it has a lot to do with the fact that they now both look possible.

MALVEAUX: Jack, I know this it might -- it be an impossible question to answer, just taking a look at a poll here. But obviously we're talking to voters, talking to people here.

How much of this, do you think, is about the individuals here, that these are attractive candidates to voters, and it doesn't really say much about the race or the gender of the candidate, that it really is about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as unique people?

CAFFERTY: Well, there's no way I would know that. A couple of quick things. One of the reasons that both an African-American and a woman are attractive, I think, is because of the absolutely horrible job that a while male has done running this country for the last seven-and-a-half years.

If you don't think that's part of the equation, you just haven't paying attention -- the economy, the war, the secrecy, the shredding of the Constitution. I think a chicken could maybe run third in this race if he ran against Bush.

The other thing is that Barack Obama, in addition to what Candy pointed out, winning in Iowa, which was huge, has not uttered the word race, I don't think, since the campaign started. He's not threatening it in any way. He wants to have a dialogue about race, along with a dialogue about a lot of other things. And when people listen to him, they understand he's a bright guy. He's a smart guy. He gets what's going on in the country.

And Hillary Clinton is a known commodity. We've known Hillary for a lot of years -- and not just the time in the Senate, but the eight years she was in the White House. So Hillary and Barack are kind of familiar. We know who they are. We're comfortable with that. And it's like anybody but George Bush -- anybody.

BORGER: You know, I think it's ironic, though, that the margin of victory between the black candidate and the woman is probably going to be the votes of white men. It might come down to that.

MALVEAUX: It is ironic.

Well, thank you so much, all of you, for joining our political panel in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll be back tomorrow.

Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show right at the top of the hour.

Lou, what are you working on? Good to see you.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Good to see you. And I didn't hear any cheers at Gloria's suggestion that white men would decide the vote. I was sure there would be a lot of excitement there.

MALVEAUX: Are you cheering?

BORGER: We're excited. We're excited.

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: Thanks, Suzanne.

Coming up at 7:00 Eastern here on CNN, more on the presidential campaign. The illegal alien lobby at it again defying the will of the American people on the issue of amnesty, ethno-centric special interests planning a new round of protests, some playing the race card. We'll have that report.

And stunning new charges that Communist China is trying to steal our technology and military secrets. Anyone in Washington paying any attention at all? We'll have that special report.

And San Francisco's -- liberal is a -- is actually a very modest conservative word for Mayor Gavin Newsom. He attacked me and my position against illegal immigration. It's just one of those days when it seems like a lot of people are piling on me, criticizing me. I'm a sensitive guy.

And, Suzanne, I tell you what, we're going to be talking about three instances of that occurring today. I know that you're being overwhelmed by empathy and sympathy for me and I appreciate that. We'll have also all the days news and much more -- Suzanne, back to you. MALVEAUX: I see both sides, the sensitivity and the other side.

Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: How safe do you feel when you fly?

That's our question this hour. Jack Cafferty will be back with your e-mail.

Plus, John Edwards speaking out about a possible vice presidential role. Find out what he is saying.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: And that phone just keeps on ringing at 3:00 in the morning. It must mean that the new campaign commercials are out. But are they accurate?

Howard Kurtz, host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES," he has a Fact Check.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Suzanne, Hillary Clinton generated plenty of attention with that ad asking who would be ready to answer the White House phone in a national security crisis at 3:00 in the morning. Well, now she's back with a sequel -- same sleeping children, different issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But there's a phone ringing in the White House and this time the crisis is economic -- home foreclosures mounting, markets teetering. John McCain just said the government shouldn't take any real action on the housing crisis. He'd let the phone keep ringing. Hillary Clinton has a plan to protect our homes, create jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: But hold the phone. It's not plausible that a president would be called at 3:00 a.m. on a financial crisis. The stock markets close at 4:00 in the afternoon. Let's chalk that up to literary license.

It's not true that McCain would let the imaginary phone keep ringing. He has a housing plan, but it's less sweeping than those of the Democratic candidates. The Arizona senator would provide aid to those who he calls "deserving homeowners," but says government shouldn't bail out those who acted irresponsibly by buying houses they couldn't afford.

Senate leaders of both partiers are moving on a bill that provides little aid to people facing foreclosure. Clinton, like Barack Obama, favors a more activist approach, including a $30 billion fund to help homeowners and communities hit hard by the credit crunch. The McCain campaign quickly responded to the Clinton ad with a spot that's airing only online.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM JOHN MCCAIN FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama just said they'd solve the problem by raising your taxes -- more money out of your pocket. John McCain has a better plan -- grow jobs, grow our economy, not grow Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Sorry, wrong number. Clinton and Obama have not proposed raising taxes to deal with the mortgage mess, although their rescue plans would obviously use taxpayer dollars. They have proposed rolling back the Bush tax cuts that McCain originally opposed, but only on the most affluent Americans.

The former first lady is trying to play the experience card with these red phone ads. That may be less effective against a Senate veteran like McCain -- unless Clinton can convince voters that the economy is not his strong suit -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Howard.

And on our political ticker, former presidential candidate John Edwards says he would not accept the Democratic vice presidential nomination this year, as he did four years ago. Edwards was asked about the V.P. nod today by an audience member at a technology convention in Las Vegas. He also declined to say whether he plans to endorse Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

Well, she is the daughter of well-known conservative and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, so you might not expect Elizabeth Murdoch to throw a huge gala for Barack Obama. But that is just she plans to do. It will cost up to $2,300 a person to attend the fundraiser at Elizabeth Murdoch's London home next month.

And Jack Cafferty joining us once again -- Jack, what are you looking at?

CAFFERTY: How safe do you feel when you fly is the question.

Chuck writes from Oregon: "I'm a retired U.S. Army air traffic controller. The last time I flew, December of 1996, going into San Francisco. Do I feel safe? No way -- especially with this inspection thing going on and the obvious poor working conditions of the FAA air traffic controllers."

David in North Carolina: "With a gazillion other problems associated with flying, I'm rarely able to focus on my safety while I'm in the air. Being herded like cattle through security, rude service from airline employees, plane delays, overbooked flights, service carts scraping people's knees, no leg room, the smallest seats outside a Broadway theater, the screaming child in 17A, etc." Such whining.

Scott in Kansas writes: "I work for a major aircraft company. I have a bachelor's in aerospace engineering. I know what's going on pretty much every second during a flight and I know how much redundancy goes into everything a plane does. I feel perfectly safe, just as I hope everyone flying in our planes does."

Nora in Texas: "I've always flown Southwest. I'm just glad I'm here to post a comment."

Ed in Montana: "I'm a member of the Million Mile Club. It means I've flown over a million miles in my travels for work. I gave away my frequent flier miles. I now fly only when I have to. I say a prayer before every one of these flights and I'm an atheist."

John writes: "I feel safer flying than when I board a train, bus or get in a car every morning on my way to work. I feel safer flying than when I take a cruise ship, go sailing, swim in the ocean, or, for that matter, swim at the local pool. The fact is flying is safer than all of these and it's never been more safe."

Teddy disagrees and says: "I don't fly. I stand and bitch at the pump when it goes past 50 bucks. But if I'm going to die, I want to be on the ground."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for your letter there, along with hundreds of others.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jack.

They are way too young to vote. They may be too young to talk. But there are babies out there backing Barack Obama.

CNN's Jeanne Moos finds it Moost Unusual.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Well, they're too young to vote, practically too young to talk, but they're not too young to be pushing a presidential candidate.

It's Moost Unusual and our CNN's Jeanne Moos reports on baby talk for Obama and why they like to try to say his name.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It used to be that candidates were the ones kissing babies. But these days, babies are kissing back -- and even talking back.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Obama. Obama.

MOOS: Home videos of babies for Obama have become a genre on the Web. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you vote for Hillary or for Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I've got a crush on O...

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Bama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you want to be president, Alec (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want my bottle, I don't want my bear, I just want a president who's really going to care.

MOOS: Lest you think we don't care about babies for Hillary...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put both your feet in the air if you will vote for Hillary no matter what?

No, maybe not (INAUDIBLE).

MOOS: And there are kiddies for McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do we like Hillary?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: No.

Do I don't like Barack?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: No.

Do we like McCain?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Yes.

MOOS: But the overwhelming number of babies parroting a preference are saying...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: McCain?

Hillary?

Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Obama. MOOS: Now either parents are beating Obama into their kids or there's something about that word.

Speech development expert Professor Harriet Klein says ba and ma are two of the easiest sounds for children learning to talk.

(on-camera): It's a child friendly word, Obama?

PROF. HARRIET B. KLEIN, SPEECH DEVELOPMENT EXPERT: Yes, it's like just repeating syllables, as children do. You know, they'll say da-da-da-da-da-da.

MOOS (voice-over): He's not quite two and Tyler Robinson (ph) is already an Internet hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tyler, say Hillary. Say Hillary. Hillary.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Obama.

MOOS (on-camera): Your son sounds possessed.

(voice-over): Tyler's dad says the family is split between Obama and Hillary.

(on-camera): You never sat with him and said Obama, Obama, Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we never -- we never made like a point of like drilling it into him.

MOOS: Dad thinks Tyler keeps repeating the word because he likes all the attention it gets him.

It's ironic that after all the talk of Obama's name being a political liability, it goes over big with the youth vote.

(on-camera): The word Obama is very similar to babbling, then?

KLEIN: To the babbling sounds -- ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want my blankie, I don't want a boob, I just want a president who will send us down the tube. I want Obama maybe.

MOOS: Linguistically, it's the next best thing to mama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, honey.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Obama.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Oh, you've helped make our politics podcast one of the most popular on iTunes. To get the best political team to go, subscribe at CNNPolitics.com or iTunes.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

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