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THE SITUATION ROOM

Dems Chase 408 Delegates Left; Public Support, Private Bias; Interview With Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick

Aired April 24, 2008 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the great chase. Only a few big Democratic contests remain, and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are going after every vote. We're going to show you where the biggest contests are and exactly what's at stake right now.
Also, are Barack Obama's presidential hopes hurt by what some are calling the Bradley effect, white voters publicly saying they'd support an African-American, but privately doing otherwise? I'll ask an Obama supporter who is also African-American, the Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick.

And John McCain distanced himself from the Bush White House. In critical terms, McCain says never again will the government repeat one of its worst failures in recent memory.

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

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have many voters to convince, but little time to do it. Both are keeping up a breakneck pace to the finish line.

Only nine contests remain from West Virginia to Oregon. They offer 408 pledged delegates.

The Democratic primary season ends June 3, but the biggest contest happens May 6. Together, North Carolina and Indiana offer 187 delegates. The second biggest prize comes May 20 -- 180 delegates are at stake in Kentucky and Oregon.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's watching all of this, as she does every political nuance.

Candy, we're looking specifically at Indiana, what Clinton needs to do in Indiana and North Carolina to make sure this bounce she's getting presumably from Pennsylvania really can continue.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, two wins would be nice. But more than that, I think she has to win one of them on that day.

What's interesting is they have to play in each other's turf, really. Indiana has demographics. Similar, not identical, but similar to Indiana. He's better known there.

But her demographics are basically in Indiana. His demographics are basically in North Carolina. North Carolina has a huge popular vote. She is now trying to argue that she has the most popular vote. It could all go away in North Carolina if she doesn't cut into what's expected to be his lead there.

BLITZER: The swing of the superdelegates continues right now. It's a full-time effort. Both of these campaigns have a lot of people reaching out to those few hundred still undecided superdelegates.

What are you hearing?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, I talk to several of them every day, try to do different ones. I still get a wait-and-see attitude. But I also know that they are very much conflicted about the idea that they would come in if the pledged delegates go one way -- and we're expecting them to do Barack Obama's way -- that they would undo that.

They will have to have a compelling reason. And that's why everyone's sort of watching that popular vote. And that's why she's begun to argue that.

BLITZER: I want you to listen to this clip we're about to play. Larry King has just interviewed Nancy Pelosi, the exclusive interview up on Capitol Hill. And she's speaking out about this so-called dream ticket: Clinton/Obama, Obama/Clinton. I haven't heard it yet, but I want all of us to hear it at the same time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": If you had your power, would you want them to run together?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: No.

KING: No?

PELOSI: I don't think it's a good idea.

KING: Not a good idea?

PELOSI: No. I don't think so.

KING: Because?

PELOSI: I think that, first of all, the candidate, whoever he or she may be, should choose his or her own vice presidential candidate. I think that's appropriate. That's where you would see the comfort level -- not only how to run, but how to govern the country. And there's plenty of talent to go around, to draw upon for a good, strong ticket. I'm not one of those who thinks that that's a good ticket.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: In the past she suggested she doesn't think it would happen, the so-called dream team, the Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket. But right now she just told Larry she thinks it would be a bad idea. She would oppose it.

That's sort of surprising to me. But what do you think?

CROWLEY: Well, I mean, actually, I think a lot of people think that, not just because a president number one on the ticket should be comfortable with number two, but because they wonder, is it a little bit too much as you go forward into the general election to have the first woman and the first African-American on the same ticket? And the super -- the super-special ticket of the two of them, that dream team, is largely the product of people trying to figure a way out of this.

It's largely Democrats going, how can we please everybody and bring them all back on board? That's where the idea of the dream ticket comes from. It doesn't come so much from people sort of mulling it all over. It comes from, well, here's a way we can fix this.

BLITZER: Yes. I think that's an excellent point.

I'm not necessarily surprised she opposes it. I'm surprised she would say that publicly, that she thinks that would be a bad idea. But she just said it.

Larry King will have the full interview with Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Thanks very much.

As both Democrats race to make history, some people believe Obama might have a unique problem because he's African-American. Brian Todd has been looking into this part of the story.

What are you seeing, Brian? What's going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it has something to do with something not often talked about, but that observers say has been there quite a long time regarding race and politics. Voters saying they'll go one way, then acting quite differently.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice over): His crossover appeal didn't seem to work so well in Pennsylvania. Barack Obama lost a significant portion of working-class whites and Catholic voters to Hillary Clinton.

One theory bandied about is that Obama suffered from what was once called the Bradley effect, later called the Wilder effect. Tom Bradley in California and Douglas Wilder in Virginia are African- Americans who ran for statewide office in the 1980s. Pre-election telephone polling showed them with more support than they actually gotten on election day.

But CNN polling director Keating Holland says that hasn't been seen with African-American politicians since then. And even though Obama had been closer to Hillary Clinton in some pre-election Pennsylvania polls a couple of weeks before primary day, his debate performances and his referral to some state voters as "bitter" might have done more to hurt him than anything else.

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: The primary polling that was held just on the eve of the election, the weekend before the election, tended to show Obama losing by nine points, 10 points, you know. So there is no indication in the polls that were taken immediately before the Pennsylvania primary that there was any sort of a Bradley effect going on.

TODD: The Obama campaign points out in Pennsylvania he improved his standing among whites from what it had been in Ohio. Democratic strategists say the notion of Obama having a problem with working- class whites is overstated, that the racial divide has dissipated. But they say it's naive to believe race still doesn't play a part.

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: When people get in the voting booth, they may have said to folks, I'll vote for an African-American, just like they would have said I'd vote for a woman, or I'd vote for a Hispanic, and they don't do it. And we see a little bit of a drop off still.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But Peter Fenn and other strategists, pollsters as well, caution us not to read too much in Pennsylvania's particular results. They point out Obama did very well among white voters in Iowa, Wisconsin and Virginia, where one pollster says if he's the nominee, he may well be able to challenge Republican dominance right there in Virginia -- Wolf.

BLITZER: There were some other factors involved in Pennsylvania, Brian, in these demographics as well, weren't there?

TODD: There were. One Democratic strategist told us that in Pennsylvania, endorsements carry a lot more weight than they seem to elsewhere. The fact that Governor Ed Rendell, some key mayors and newspapers supported Hillary Clinton played a big role in getting those working class white voters out for her.

BLITZER: And coming up, I'll ask Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts and Obama supporter, to react to this story as well.

Thanks very much, Brian Todd.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Wolf.

"I won the states that we have to win." That's Hillary Clinton after winning the Pennsylvania primary on Tuesday.

She also said it would be hard to imagine a Democrat winning the White House in the general election without winning states that she has won, like Ohio and Pennsylvania. True enough. But she's not the only Democrat who can win those states. More on that in a minute.

At the end of a six-week long bruising battle for Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton gained a grand total of 10 delegates. Barack Obama still leads Clinton by about 130 pledged delegates, and will likely get those 10 back and then some in North Carolina, regardless of what happens in Indiana.

"The New York Times" points to surveys showing that Barack Obama could draw the same majorities from blue collar voters against McCain as Clinton would in a general election. National polls also show that Obama does slightly better among groups that have typically voted Republican in the past like men, those who are wealthy, and Independents, suggesting that he might actually do better in the big states than Hillary Clinton.

Some analysts even suggest Obama's better poised than Clinton in the general election to win in states that typically go to Republicans, places like Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, and Virginia, all of which he won in the primaries. These ideas surely are not lost on the remaining uncommitted superdelegates.

Clinton trails in pledged delegates, trails in popular vote, and trails in the number of states won. And she is rapidly losing her edge in superdelegates. Her lead is down to 23.

Recent polls also suggest more than half the country doesn't trust her.

So here's the question. Is Hillary Clinton deluding herself about her chances for the nomination?

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

BLITZER: Jack, thank you for that.

Despite a tough race, one Democrat says voters will eventually set aside their differences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Frankly, you know, when you get past all the partisan stuff we have to do through the primary season, Americans are hungry to be unified.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Massachusetts governor and Barack Obama supporter Deval Patrick is here with his take on what happened in Pennsylvania and what's still likely to happen. I'll ask if he thinks some whites publicly say they'll support Obama but are privately biased against him.

Also, who's on first? When it comes to Obama and Hillary Clinton, it depends on who you ask and what score you use. And Barack Obama's former pastor is ready to talk. And talk a lot. Might a speech and a bunch of interviews in the coming days from the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and the possibility he'll answer a lot of questions re-ignite a political controversy the Obama campaign would like to see go away?

Stay tuned for that and more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Over the next few weeks Obama and Clinton must convince Americans to support them. Perhaps more importantly, they need to convince Democratic superdelegates to stand with them.

But exactly how should anyone who's undecided finally come to a decision?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now, the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick. He's a strong supporter of Barack Obama.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

PATRICK: You bet, Wolf. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Your colleague in Ohio, Governor Ted Strickland, Democrat, strong supporter of Hillary Clinton, he emerged from the Hillary Clinton win in Pennsylvania with this quote. I'll read it to you.

"This is for me a no-brainer. If we're going to plan a win in November, we need to choose the candidate that has the greatest strength in the states that are necessary to get us the electoral votes we need. I hope the superdelegates are paying attention."

He was specifically referring to Pennsylvania and Ohio, states that Hillary Clinton won by about 10 points. If the Democrats aren't going to carry those two states in November, they're going to have a hard time beating John McCain.

What's your reaction to what Strickland says?

PATRICK: Well, I love Ted. I think he's a great guy. And I think Hillary Clinton is a very strong candidate. But all the states count. And, you know, look, we're talking about in the case of Senator Obama someone who has won more votes, who has won twice as many states as Senator Clinton, and who is leading in delegates.

BLITZER: But don't some states, Governor, count more in the electoral college? Pennsylvania and Ohio count a lot more than Wyoming and Montana.

PATRICK: Well, you know, Wolf, what has concerned me about Democrats for a long time is precisely, with due respect to you, this line of questioning, this line of argument that we ought to concentrate on a handful of states instead of valuing all of the voters and all of the American people. And Senator Obama is offering that kind of unifying, visionary, inclusive leadership, which is why I think his campaign has been so strong and why I think he's going to be the nominee.

BLITZER: But he lost Pennsylvania and Ohio by about 200,000 votes in each of those states. Wouldn't that give her an advantage come November in those two critical states?

PATRICK: No. I think it means that Democrats want to win in the end. And if Senator Obama is the nominee, as I believe he will be and should be, I think Democrats will rally around him. But, like I said, all states count.

And the more we talk about -- frankly, I don't think it has been helpful to have Senator Clinton -- and I congratulate her on her win in Pennsylvania in the same way I congratulate Senator Obama for closing that gap to as much as he was able to. But let's be clear. We have got to have a strategy as Democrats that doesn't, you know, aggrandize some states and some voters and trivialize other states and other voters. We've got to be about all of this being in this together. And frankly, not just Democrats, but Independents and the Republicans we can get as well.

BLITZER: Because there's a lot of concern that a candidate like John McCain could appeal to crossover voters, to Independents, to moderates. Those are exactly the votes that you need -- not necessarily you personally -- but either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would need to beat John McCain.

PATRICK: Well, that's right. And Senator Obama I think has shone shown through the course of this whole campaign, this whole primary season, that he's the candidate able to attract that attention and attract those votes and that support. Because, frankly, you know, when you get past all the partisan stuff we have to do through the primary season, Americans are hungry to be unified, and to be unified around a common purpose.

BLITZER: Well, here's a number that jumped out at me. And I don't know if you paid attention to it, but it's startling.

In our Pennsylvania exit polls we asked the Democratic voters after they emerged from voting some questions. We asked Clinton supporters if they would support Obama if he's the nominee. If she loses and he gets the nomination.

Fifty--four percent said they would, 25 percent of those Clinton supporters said they'd vote for John McCain, not Barack Obama. Seventeen percent said they would not vote.

If you add up those last two categories, 42 percent, Governor, said -- made it clear they didn't want to vote for Barack Obama. How worried are you about that?

PATRICK: Well, I'm not so sure I'd put too much stock in those numbers. I mean, there are a whole bunch of people who are voting for Senator Clinton in the primary who said that they will not vote for her in the general.

You know, there's this whole Republican chat going on about how folks ought to support Senator Clinton in the -- in the Democratic primary so that she can be the nominee, because many Republicans believe she is easier to beat in the -- in the general. I'm not worried about all that. And I don't think most of the American people are or should be.

We should be focusing on how we come out of this with the strongest possible unifying visionary leader. And I believe that's Senator Obama. And I think if we do, if he's the nominee, he will win in November and this will be a very, very powerful administration, a very forward-looking one, and a very exciting one for all of America and all of the world.

BLITZER: How worried are you, Governor, about the so-called Tom Bradley effect? He was the mayor of Los Angeles, favored to win in a gubernatorial contest back in the '80s. Polls showed him winning. He lost.

Doug Wilder, who is the mayor of Richmond right now, the former governor of Virginia, he's quoted by Bloomberg News as saying this today. He said, "Let's not kid ourselves again, the issue of race will not disappear; but I don't think it will predominate." "The election, he said, "will be closer than any polls will suggest."

How much of this Bradley effect exists right now, people not wanting to say they're going to not vote for Barack Obama, but in the end they're not going to vote for him?

PATRICK: Well, Wolf, look, race is with us. I don't think it's as front of mind for most voters today as it was in the time of Tom Bradley. And for goodness sake, it's the same issues that people raised and concerns that my supporters had when I ran for governor of Massachusetts. And I did all right, and I think Senator Obama has done beautifully and will do well through the remaining primaries and in the general as well.

BLITZER: Governor, you did more than fine. You won.

PATRICK: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in.

PATRICK: Thanks a lot, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Critics say Barack Obama can't attract those white blue collar voters in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. But can he counter them by winning the so-called Nascar vote in North Carolina?

We're watching.

And Clinton supporter James Carville comes face to face with the man he called a Judas for endorsing Barack Obama, and he's not backing down at all. We're going to show you the tense exchange between James Carville and Bill Richardson that occurred here on "LARRY KING LIVE."

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

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

Happening now, nuclear intrigue. There are stunning new claims that Syria may have been just weeks away from firing up a nuclear reactor last year, and that they were receiving help from North Korea. We're going to have the latest from the classified intelligence briefings that have been going on all day on Capitol Hill.

Also, closing in on Osama bin Laden. Pakistan is said to be nearing a deal with tribal leaders in its ungoverned border regions where the al Qaeda leader is believed to be hiding out. Could it lead though to his capture?

And global food prices are soaring. We've seen riots around the world. Now some major U.S. retailers are limiting the amount of rice you can purchase. We're going to have a full report.

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

With North Carolina's primary only 12 days away, we're already seeing strong voter turnout there. About 75,000 people have cast their ballots in a new system that allows residents of the state to register and vote the same day. Polling sites reportedly have been swamped since opening last week.

Jessica Yellin has been looking at the demographics of this state.

Jessica, who stands to benefit from the most enthusiastic voters there?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's Barack Obama. He is favored to win in North Carolina. But what we're watching for is not just whether Obama wins, it's who he wins there. Can he get the support of a significant number of white, low- income voters?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice over): It was in North Carolina that Obama brushed off Clinton's attacks.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, you've just got to kind of let it -- you know. You know.

YELLIN: And it could be just the place to brush aside her Pennsylvania victory. A "Los Angeles Times" poll taken before the Pennsylvania primary shows Obama ahead by 13 points with 17 percent undecided. Not surprising since the state's demographics favor him. The Research Triangle is filled with affluent and well-educated liberals. And in the last presidential election, one in four voters were African-American. Obama wins handily with both groups.

The big unknown here is the NASCAR vote. Thirty percent of voters in the last presidential election here were low-income whites. And Clinton suggests Obama will have trouble with this group in a general election. She is courting them aggressively here.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we don't begin to pay attention to the growing inequality in wealth and the loss of good jobs that supported families, we won't recognize our country.

YELLIN: So is he.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fundamental problem is, we don't enforce our trade laws.

YELLIN: North Carolina will be an important test.

JENNIFER PALMIERI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's an opportunity for each of them to break out of their mold. I mean, if -- if Obama can, in fact, appeal to the white -- the undecided white males there that are -- you know, that are largely going to be from rural and suburban areas, I think that would be a huge victory for him.

YELLIN: On the other hand, if Clinton wins affluent whites or African-Americans:

PALMIERI: I think that would show that his -- his -- his base was slipping, and that people may be becoming anxious about his candidacy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Now, Wolf, I should point out that low-income white voters, this is a group that the Democratic Party has been having trouble with lately in general. It's not just Barack Obama's challenge.

Now, the big issues at play with them in North Carolina, the economy, trade, and military issues. You know, North Carolina's home to Fort Bragg, and Clinton is campaigning right near there today, stumping for that military vote in Fayetteville -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jessica -- Jessica Yellin reporting on North Carolina.

We're going to be learning a lot more about this state in the coming days.

Hillary Clinton is claiming new momentum after her win in Pennsylvania this week. But Barack Obama says he's still well ahead on the scoreboard. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is trying to cut through all the spin that is out there. Getting a little dizzy, as I have been saying, from all this spin.

So, what's the real score in the Democratic race right now, Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, now, it all depends on how you count.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The closest thing to an official scorecard in the Democratic race is the number of pledged delegates each candidate has won so far. After the Pennsylvania primary, Barack Obama still leads by 158.

Neither candidate can reach a majority with pledged delegates alone. The superdelegates will determine the winner. The superdelegates are under a lot of pressure to follow the popular vote. But that's not as easy as it sounds.

Here are the vote totals for the 30 primaries that have been held so far, not including Florida and Michigan, which were invalid contests under Democratic Party rules. Obama won the popular vote in those primaries by a margin of 341,000. So, how can Hillary Clinton say this?

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm very proud that, as of today, I have received more votes by the people who have voted than anybody else.

SCHNEIDER: Because she also says this.

CLINTON: But if you count, as I count, the 2.3 million people who voted in Michigan and Florida...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: ... then we are going to build on that.

SCHNEIDER: Some Clinton supporters argue it would be fair to include the Florida votes because both candidates' names were on the ballot and no one campaigned in Florida.

If we add in the Florida votes, Obama's lead in the popular vote shrinks to 46,000. In Michigan, Obama's name was not on the ballot. So, he got zero votes. Clinton got over 300,000. If you add in the Michigan votes, Clinton goes into the lead. But Obama would argue, what about the caucuses? He won most of those.

If we take the 30 undisputed primaries and add in the number of votes cast in 12 caucus states, Obama leads by more than half-a- million votes.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER: Obama says he carried more states. And that's true. But Clinton carried states with more electoral votes. It will be up to the superdelegates to sort all this out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Excellent points, you make. Thanks, Bill, very much.

I write about the same subject, by the way, on my blog at CNNPolitics.com today.

And there's another set of numbers at the center of a dispute right now between the Clinton and Obama camps -- at issue, whether Clinton won Pennsylvania by nine or 10 points. The most up-to-date vote totals from the Associated Press used by all the networks show Clinton won 54.7 percent of the popular vote to 45.3 for Obama. That's a margin of 9.4 percent, if we're going to be precise.

And, if you round up, by the way, if you round up 54.7 to 55, and you round down 45.3 to 45, that gives Clinton a 10-point victory. And that explains why she won by either nine or 10 points, depending if you round up, you round down, how precise you want to be.

John McCain uses choice words talking about the Bush administration. McCain says never again will the government fail to quickly help Americans, the way it did after Hurricane Katrina.

Also, one lawmaker has an interesting idea to help you save money on gas. It involves confronting Saudi Arabia. We're going to tell you what that is in our "Strategy Session."

And just as Barack Obama says he wants to stay positive, one of his supporters goes negative. Doug Wilder, the -- formerly the country's first elected African-American governor, lets loose on Hillary Clinton. We will you what he said. We will get his reaction to what he said. We will get reaction from both campaigns as well.

Carol Costello working that story -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: John McCain continues to tour regions that are typically Democratic strongholds, today's spot -- stop, that is, New Orleans' Ninth Ward, hard-hit after Hurricane Katrina.

Touring that region today, McCain made a special pledge to the voters out there and offered unusual criticism of the Bush administration.

Dana Bash is joining us now from New Orleans. She's watching this story for us.

He used some pretty strong language while in New Orleans today, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Wolf. You know, as you said, all week long, what John McCain has been trying to do is paint himself as a different kind of Republican. But this stop in New Orleans in particular really did seem to be aimed at drawing a sharp contrast between himself and the Republican in the White House that he wants to succeed. He even said that there was a -- quote -- "perfect storm here of mismanagement."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): A walk for the cameras through New Orleans' devastated and still largely uninhabited Lower Ninth Ward.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Never again. Never again will a disaster of this nature be handled in the terrible and disgraceful way that it was handled, never again, never again.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: John McCain used these vivid reminders of a stained Bush legacy to try to distance himself. President Bush famously flew over New Orleans in the days after Hurricane Katrina, a mistake McCain said he wouldn't have made.

MCCAIN: In all candor, if I had been president of the United States, I would have ordered the plane landed at the nearest Air Force base, and I would have been over here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SEPTEMBER 5, 2005)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And, Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: He listed other Bush failures.

MCCAIN: Unqualified people in charge. There was a total misreading of the dimensions of the disaster. There was a failure of communications.

BASH: He also blamed Congress for misplaced priorities, earmarks for bridges to nowhere, instead of funding for levees. McCain vowed to restore Louisiana wetlands and build Category 5 hurricane resistant levees, estimated to cost tens of billions.

MCCAIN: One of the ways we can find the money is by reprioritizing the public works projects, which are now based too often on the power of an individual congressman or senator.

BASH: But his carefully scripted imagery was interrupted by a voter's question about Pastor John Hagee, who endorsed McCain and says things like this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PASTOR JOHN HAGEE, CORNERSTONE CHURCH: What happened in New Orleans looked like the curse of God.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MCCAIN: When someone endorses me, that does not mean that I embrace their views.

BASH: And, on his bus, a dig at Barack Obama.

MCCAIN: I didn't attend Pastor Hagee's church for 20 years. And there's a great deal of difference, in my view, between someone who endorses you and -- and other circumstances.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: That, Wolf, despite McCain's emphatic promise to run an above-the-fray campaign.

And I should mention, also, that the Democratic chairman, Howard Dean, released a statement really hitting McCain for -- quote -- "hiding" from some votes he made on Katrina legislation, like unemployment assistance and emergency health care for people who survived Katrina here.

McCain responded by saying that those pieces of legislation were nothing more than pork-laden bills that were typical of Washington -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dana Bash, in New Orleans for us.

In our "Strategy Session": the politics of high gas prices. One senator wants to get tough on oil-producing nations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We, in return, are demanding that the Bush administration jawbone Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait to increase oil supplies, or risk that Congress blocks their lucrative arms deals while they stick it to American consumers at the pump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But is that the right message to be sending to key friends in the Middle East?

And bridging the gap -- how does Barack Obama convince blue- collar workers that he's their guy? Donna Brazile and John Feehery, they are standing by right here for our "Strategy Session."

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Barack Obama's controversial former pastor is set to give a major speech in front of reporters. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright plans to address the National Press Club here in Washington on Monday. How will this impact the Democratic primary race?

Let's discuss that and more in our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and the Republican strategist John Feehery.

Guys, thanks very much.

He's also going to be doing some interviews as well. This is, I assume, Donna, the last thing the Obama campaign wants to hear, is the Reverend Jeremiah Wright stepping forward right now, almost front and center.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Jeremiah Wright is coming out of retirement, Wolf, in large part because he believes that he's been painted as a lunatic or un-American, unpatriotic.

And I'm -- I'm sure that what Reverend Wright will do tomorrow on the Bill Moyers show is to talk about his faith, to talk about what he has done as a pastor, but not talk about Barack Obama and politics.

BLITZER: You think this is going to potentially serve as -- as something that could hurt Barack Obama?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it could only help him.

Wright right now is a real negative for Barack Obama. You have Bill Moyers, who is probably going to be the friendliest interview he's ever going to have. And if you do a speech at the National Press Club, put a different view of Reverend Wright, he needs that for his own reputation. I think it also helps...

BLITZER: So, you think this is going to help him, because the argument is the story has, you know, sort of gone away. Nobody's really been paying that much attention in the last several days to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And, all of a sudden, he's going to be giving interviews and he's going to be at the National Press Club answering questions. The story's going to come back.

FEEHERY: The story is never going to go away. And the only way you can try to change the story in any way is to get the best positive spin on it and to have him talk in his own words and try to have a different conversation than the one he had on...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So, you think this could help Obama when he goes public like this?

BRAZILE: I don't know if it's about Obama as much as it's about the black church.

The black church, many black pastors believe that they have been unfairly attacked in the press attempt to characterize, you know, Reverend Wright as some form of lunatic, out of -- out of the mainstream.

And what is happening on Monday is that Reverend Wright will be joined with other prominent black preachers to talk about the black church. Look, this is not going away, because, as you know, in North Carolina, they're running an ad now using those snippets and those sound bites. They won't run his patriotism, the fact that he's a former Marine, served his country.

But they will use that to try to hurt Obama and the Democrats.

BLITZER: And you agree with that?

FEEHERY: Well, I think some people will. I don't -- I don't think this has anything to do with the campaign. I think, I mean, from my perspective, it would be really nice to get on to the issues that really matter to the American people and let the Wright stuff go away. But I'm not...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Will you denounce that ad in North Carolina?

FEEHERY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Do you think there was any evidence -- any evidence -- of the so-called Bradley effect in Pennsylvania on Barack Obama, the people saying one thing, but voting another way...

BRAZILE: No.

BLITZER: ... because of prejudice?

BRAZILE: No, no.

And, Wolf, you know, we -- we're focusing on lower-income whites. We're focusing on 16 percent of whites who are saying they will not support Obama. Eighty-four percent of whites say they would support Obama. Let's focus on the positive.

We didn't see the Bradley effect in New Hampshire. Thirty-seven percent said they would vote for Obama. Thirty-seven percent voted. Forty-one percent going into the poll of polls said that they would vote for Senator Obama, and 45 percent voted for him.

BLITZER: All right. Let me ask you quickly about Chuck Schumer's proposal, together with some of his colleagues, to stop arm sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, other friendly countries in the region, unless they start increasing their supply of oil in order to lower the price for American consumers.

What do you think of that? FEEHERY: That's political pandering, what you get from Chuck Schumer. I think it's kind of ironic.

You have some Democrats, like Al Gore and other left luminaries, who want to really increase the price of gasoline for environmental reasons. And, so, they're vulnerable on this. So, you have Chuck Schumer saying let's beat up the Saudis and kind of change the subject from Al Gore and Tom Friedman and others who say, let's really make the gas of price high, so people walk. So...

BRAZILE: Well, it's time that we reduce our dependence on foreign oil and start focusing on some of the alternatives.

Wolf, I filled up my tank today, and I have to tell you, I need more time on air. It's expensive.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: It's really expensive.

BLITZER: Do we pay you for this? Is that what you're saying?

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: I drive myself here, Wolf. I need some help.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right.

BRAZILE: It's almost at $4 here on Capitol Hill.

FEEHERY: I walk to work. I walked, because I'm an environmentalist.

BRAZILE: I will give you a ride.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: You're an Al Gore, green kind of guy? Is that what you're saying?

FEEHERY: Well, not really, but I like to walk to work.

BRAZILE: I have a bicycle. I will be using it more often.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Donna Brazile, John Feehery, guys, thanks for coming in.

You might assume you know which presidential candidate that the Bush family supports. The Republican, right? Not necessarily so fast. We're going to tell you about a possible split in the first family.

Also, Indiana is one of the last big battlegrounds left in the Democratic presidential race. The state is sandwiched right between Ohio, which voted for Hillary Clinton, and Illinois, which went for Barack Obama. So, who's the favorite there? What's going to happen? We're taking a closer look -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In Baghdad, an Iraqi soldier points his rifle after a woman refused to throw away her purse. The woman was taken into custody for questioning.

In Afghanistan, a boy stops to smell a flower, as U.S. soldiers stand guard during a patrol.

In Hungary, a race car flies through the air during the Central Europe Rally, resulting in a multiple rollover. The driver suffered minor injuries.

And, in Germany, a puli sheepdog jumps over a hurdle during a preview for a dog show -- some of this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth 1,000 words.

On our Political Ticker: President and Mrs. Bush definitely want John McCain to become the next president of the United States. But one of their daughters isn't necessarily so sure. Jenna Bush appeared with her mom on "LARRY KING LIVE" last night. Both were asked about the candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Do you have a favorite between the two, the two Democrats?

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: My favorite is the Republican.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Yours too, I would imagine?

JENNA BUSH, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT AND MRS. BUSH: I don't know.

KING: Aha.

J. BUSH: But, I mean, you know...

KING: Are you open to...

J. BUSH: Yes, of course. I mean, who isn't open to learning about the candidates? But, I mean, and I'm sure everybody is like that. But I really -- I honestly have been too busy with books to really pay that much attention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jenna Bush and her mom are currently promoting their new children's book entitled "Read All About It."

Mike Huckabee has a story to tell you. The former presidential candidate is writing a book about his failed presidential bid. Huckabee's publisher says the book will include revealing details and lessons learned, but will also promote Huckabee's ideas for the conservative movement. The book is due to come out two weeks after -- after -- the presidential election, in November. No word on how much Huckabee is being paid for the book.

And, remember, for the latest political news any time, you can check out CNNPolitics.com.

More controversy over the New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson's endorsement of Barack Obama. Many Clinton supporters were surprised over the endorsement because of Richardson's close ties to the Clintons.

Democratic strategist James Carville even called him, as you will recall, a Judas.

Last night, the two men faced each other for the first time directly on "LARRY KING LIVE." And Carville did not back down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, I have never criticized any other Obama supporter. I have many dear friends that support Senator Obama. That's a charge that they have made. As I said, representations were made to people. I thought it was a unique situation. It required a response. I think I gave it the appropriate response and I have said what I had to say. And I don't take a word of it back.

KING: So, other -- wait. Other people can support him, but Bill Richardson was out of the line...

CARVILLE: Again, it was -- again, I don't name names that representations were made to. I have said -- I have had my say on it. I said what I said. I'm in it. And I think the more important thing is, is what's going to happen in here Indiana and what's going to happen in North Carolina. He has his opinions and I have mine. I said it and was quoted accurately. I was quoted in context. I don't take a word of it back.

KING: All right. One of the things said, Governor, that we ought to clear up is had you said -- told people that you were going endorse Senator Clinton?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: No. I was close to endorsing Senator Clinton after President Clinton visited me in Santa Fe to watch the Super Bowl. He's a very persuasive guy. But the more we got into the campaign, it really bothered me, that 3:00 a. m. phone call, implying that Senator Obama was not experienced. That's wrong. This man can face dictators. I have faced dictators. He can lead our foreign policy. He has a judgment and temperament to move forward.

I felt, as the campaign moved on, that Obama had a special quality of being able to bring the country together. And I felt my loyalty wasn't to my past and who appointed me, but my loyalty was to the country, who can bring this country together, who can internationally send a message that America is going to stand on moral standards and change our climate change policy and be a beacon of hope and human rights around the world. I think that's Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. That was last night on "LARRY KING LIVE."

Let's go to Jack right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour: Is Hillary Clinton deluding herself about her chances to win the nomination?

You look at all the categories you measure this stuff by, she's behind in every one of them.

Jim in Michigan writes: "I read a satirical piece months ago titled 'Does Hillary have what it takes to destroy the Democratic Party?' Rather than satirical, it's proven to be prophetic. I genuinely liked and admired Bill Clinton, although I was never a fan of hers. Now I don't want any part of either one of them. It's sad to watch the self-destruction and the delusion."

Darcy writes: "She may get the nomination, but, in doing so, she has stolen my hope. I tear up when I think of what we could have had, if winning had not become more important than bringing people together. I guess that is what being a Democrat is all about."

Jake in South Bend, Indiana: "Why is it, every time she wins, you start running 'why-wont-she-quit' stories? She just roundly defeated Obama in a high-profile rough-and-tumble battle. That is why she is more electable. It's not about the math, not that this solves her math problem, and she is still unlikely to be the nominee, but she has earned the right to fight as long as she wants."

M.G. in New York: "She's not deluding herself. She's trying to delude voters, superdelegates and the Democratic Party. Somewhere deep down, she knows that, just like her trip to Bosnia, this is just another self-created fantasy. As a voter, rather than being annoyed or angry with her, I'm kind of enjoying hearing another fantastical spin. I can't wait for the new spin after May 6 primaries. What do you think she will say then? Let's count all of the Iraqi votes in my favor."

And Doon in California writes: "Without question, and I've seen -- I have even gone so far as mailing correspondence to her campaign headquarters, letting them know how much of a disappointment she is. I may be an Obama supporter, but he too is deluded if he thinks -- he or the Democratic Party thinks they will be unified following the conduct of Hillary Clinton, if and when this ever ends."

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

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack, for that.

And, to your viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: There's breaking news we're following. U.S. officials drop a bombshell, charging, Syria built a nuclear reactor with North Korean help and dubious intentions. And they're backing up that claim right now with video being released. We expect it this hour. We're going to show it to you as soon as we get it.

Also, suddenly, it's an all-important state for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and it has something to offer them both. We're going to show you the advantages each of them will try to cash in on in Indiana.

Plus, a growing world food crisis hits home, as some Americans find limits on the amount of rice they can buy. You're going to find out what's behind the sudden shortage. Is there a shortage?

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

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