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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Reviewing the Results: The Indiana and North Carolina Primaries
Aired May 7, 2008 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the day after -- Hillary Clinton says she's sticking around.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm staying in this race until there's a nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Is her campaign going anywhere?
Defections -- calls for her to drop out intensify, as Barack Obama dominates the delegate count.
Can her chances be revived?
Next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening from Washington. I'm John King.
It's treat to sit in for Larry tonight. The master is making his way back out to Los Angeles. He'll be back tomorrow night. Especially a treat because of the fascinating state of the Democratic race.
And we have a great panel tonight -- prominent Clinton supporters, prominent Obama supporters, Democratic strategists. Republicans will join us later. We'll talk to Senator George McGovern. You just saw him there in the open. He switched sides today -- withdrew his endorsement of Senator Clinton. He says it's time for her to get out and for Democrats to unify around Barack Obama.
And we'll also talk to some superdelegates. They are the major players in the game right now. It is the superdelegates who will decide, ultimately, the Democratic nominee. Three undeclared superdelegates will join us.
But first, let's start with this fabulous panel we have with us here in Washington.
Congressman Charlie Rangel is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He is a prominent Hillary Clinton supporter. He joins us tonight.
Bob Wexford is a congressman from Florida, an Obama supporter. Sitting beside him and behaving at the moment, Kiki McLean, a prominent Democratic strategist, a veteran of past presidential campaigns and a senior Clinton adviser in this campaign.
Tanya Acker is a Democratic strategist and a Barack Obama supporter.
Congressman Rangel, I want to start with you, Mr. Chairman. This is a tough day for the Clinton campaign. She says she will stay in and she will fight, but you count the votes on Capitol Hill, you count the money in the House Ways and Means Committee. You know the math. It is increasingly against her.
At what point does she have to say Barack Obama leads in pledged delegates, is catching up and about to pass her in superdelegates, leads in the popular votes and many are saying this one's over?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK, SUPPORTS CLINTON: The Ways and Means Committee, when we pass a bill, we say nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. I know the math. When you fail at the math, it's over. I cannot think of one reason -- and I came here to learn it -- as to why somebody would really say that a woman who's dedicated her life -- and certainly in large part to this race -- and at least at this time the math is doable.
You know, it's just like playing cards. If you're all in and you get chance to win, you don't quit. And, of course, being from New York and the Giants and the Patriots, I mean that's the spirit.
KING: Ouch, ouch, ouch. You're hurting a Patriots fan sitting in tonight.
But Congressman Wexler, jump in on that point. The math is doable. But it's like drawing to an inside straight at this point, is it not?
REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA, SUPPORTS OBAMA: Well, that's the whole point. Of course, it's doable if you presume that Hillary Clinton, for the next six weeks, can do what she has been unable to do for the previous eight months.
But there's a larger question here. The larger question isn't Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama. The larger question is how do we Democrats regain the White House. And, yes, it's OK -- it's, in fact, constructive to have a hotly contested primary.
But when a candidate gets an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates, as you said -- and he added to it last night. And he adds to his popular vote count and he's still two to one in terms of winning the states and today I think four superdelegates went with Senator Obama, one with Senator Clinton.
We have to start asking how does, in fact, Senator Clinton present a plan -- a reasonable plan that she could become the nominee and at what cost. And the ultimate price of Mrs. Clinton -- Senator Clinton going on at this point, unfortunately, becomes taking away from Senator Obama when we ought to be presenting ourselves against Senator McCain.
KING: Well, Kiki McLean, you're shaking your head. You're in the Clinton war room. How does she do it now?
And when the congressman says at what cost, he's speaking at what cost to the party. Do you divide the Democrats to the point at which they risk losing an election they should win in November?
There's also a personal cost. She has now loaned herself even more money. The campaign says it's a sign of her commitment. Others would say it's a sign of her desperation. There's no more money coming in.
KIKI MCLEAN, SENIOR ADVISER, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Well, with all due respect to the congressman -- and we've been on front lines together before and we will be again before this is all over. But there are still six contests to go. And this is not news that Senator Clinton said she intended to be in this race through the end, to have every vote counted, every vote heard. We've other states to go to -- West Virginia, Kentucky, Montana, South Dakota, right into Puerto Rico. And let's not forget about Michigan and Florida.
The reality is, I don't think any Democrat wants to go into the general election with 2.5 million people -- 2.5 million voters who showed up at the polls because they care about our democracy -- and have them left out and not counted.
This is a legitimate process to go through. And I think it's wrong for anybody to call for anybody to step out any earlier. And, listen, when it comes to unity Democrats are going to be fighting together come the fall.
MCLEAN: The reality is -- let me tell you, Republicans want this over because you know what's happening, John? Registration is going through the roof in states where Hillary Clinton wins and in states where Barack Obama wins. This is good for Democrats all across.
And you know what?
I have a little more faith in Senator Obama. I think he can take this. This is not the end all be all of political campaigns of negativity. The have been some really honest, aggressive debates and there are going to be some more going into this.
Is it an uphill battle for her right now?
Sure. Has she, as a leader of our party and for our country, faced uphill battles before?
Absolutely. And if I didn't think there was a chance she could do it, I wouldn't be here tonight.
KING: So, Tanya, from an Obama perspective then, Clinton says she's staying in. The congressman says, well, she's hurting the party.
What should the candidate do -- leave that she's hurting the party to his supporters and his surrogates and be the gracious winner, if you will, and talk like he did last night about the Republicans and John McCain, almost forgetting Hillary Clinton was still in the race.
What is Barack Obama's challenge at this moment, when he's in front?
TANYA ACKER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, SUPPORTS OBAMA: I think that right now his challenge is to make a convincing argument that he can and will win a general election. Again, with all due respect to the Clinton supporters here, the math is just not there. And the likelihood of her surpassing him in the elected delegate count is slim.
So you have to think about the end game.
Is the end game to press on and then to try to make an argument to the superdelegates that, for whatever reason, the will of the people, the will of the elected voters -- of the elected delegates -- should be overturned?
That would be incredibly detrimental to the party. And so, hopefully, that's not the end game that Senator Clinton hopes to play.
I think right now, Senator Obama is doing what he needs to do. We saw that last night when he made the argument that his administration will make the best break from the past eight years of the Bush administration.
KING: So, Chairman Rangel, take me inside the room. Senator Clinton today -- and even this evening, we are lead to believe -- is having meetings with these superdelegates. They will decide who is the Democratic nominee. At best, she's hoping they would endorse her. But at least she's hoping they would just wait right now -- give me a chance in West Virginia, give me a chance in Kentucky.
Take me inside the room. If you're meeting with a superdelegate and you're saying look, she can win this or she's the better candidate for the fall, make your case.
RANGEL: Well, first of all, when you get into the presidency of the United States, you need a lot of help. I remember the first days I came to Congress I needed help. And I had to rely on the people that I knew in the state legislature, the people I knew that was chairman of the Ways and Means, the speaker. And so it means you have to call on all of your resources. And this --
KING: Is that a polite way of saying you don't think Barack Obama is ready?
RANGEL: No. I'm just saying that I know he's smart enough and he's inspiring enough to attract a lot of people. But I know that on a rolodex of Senator Clinton, we know what works.
And so, it doesn't take long for someone as bright as he. But in terms of this campaign, this has been the most exciting thing that's ever happened to our country, to our party and to me. To think in my lifetime we could have a woman running, an African-American running -- and don't get us wrong. I mean, Democrats -- we're supposed to fight. That's what we do.
RANGEL: And every day its gets more exciting. Young people ask who is president -- who was McGovern -- Senator McGovern?
That's good. History is here. Young people are here. And I just think the more momentum we have going into the convention -- when we make up, we've got to be a solid, unbeatable force.
KING: So, Congressman Wexler, it's cliched, but true -- all politics is local.
KING: You're in a tough spot. Your state, under the rules right now, doesn't count. You can come to Denver, you can party, but you don't really get a vote that contests at the moment.
You're a Barack Obama supporter. But you know what they think -- keep a freeze right here. The way this is going right now, we're doing just fine, why enter into any negotiations that might be some quicksand, might get us into trouble.
So can you go home and walk the streets of your district and walk the streets of your state saying sorry, we broke the rules, we're not going to get to have a say at the convention and that's what I want, because I want my guy to win?
WEXLER: No, I wouldn't say that, because Florida needs to be fully represented at the Democratic convention. From the very beginning, I believed -- and still do -- that the Democratic Party made a terrible error in, in effect, penalizing the people of Florida.
What we need to make certain -- and both Clinton and Obama supporters and undeclared members of Congress in Florida have joined together in an unified way in saying we must have our people seated and the people's votes in Florida must be respected.
But what most of our colleagues -- at least in my case -- and I would never dare question a man who is an institution in this Congress. But what many of our colleagues are now saying is, you know what, the elected delegates, they have spoken clearly and we, the superdelegates, we would only do our party harm if people perceived that we undid the role of the voters. And that's the real key.
And what Barack Obama showed last night was he can take a punch. In fact, he can take a barrage of punches. And he won. And he won with a principled, positive argument.
KING: We'll talk more about that.
RANGEL: And listen, this is (INAUDIBLE)...
KING: Hang on one second. Let me call a quick time out here.
We'll talk more about this with our panel when we come back. This group will join us -- and a great group it is -- in just a few moments.
But when we come back, former Senator George McGovern -- he was once the Democratic nominee for president. He was, until early today, a supporter of Hillary Clinton. Now he says that the way he looks at the numbers, it is time for the party to rally around Barack Obama.
Senator George McGovern, when LARRY KING LIVE returns in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I'm staying in this race until there's a nominee. And I obviously am going to work as hard as I can to become that nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Hillary Clinton speaking earlier today in West Virginia.
Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm John King filling in tonight.
Let's go straight out to Mitchell, South Dakota. George McGovern was the Democratic nominee for president back in 1972. He's the former Senator from the State of South Dakota. He woke up this morning a supporter of Hillary Clinton but he announced that he was withdrawing that support, saying it is time for the party now to get around Barack Obama.
Senator, the test of friendship to many is you stand by your friends when they are in the deepest trouble. Senator Clinton is in that position tonight.
Why did you change your mind? Why did you think it was so important?
GEORGE MCGOVERN, 1972 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE, NOW SUPPORTS OBAMA: You know, there's two kinds of loyalty. There's loyalty to people and there's loyalty to principle. And I've touched on both of those areas during these last eight months.
I'm proud that I endorsed Hillary Clinton last October. But I think the time has come, in the life of the Democratic Party, in fact, in the life of the nation, for us to get together on a candidate as soon as conveniently possible.
I'm not trying to dictate to Senator Clinton what to do. And if she decides to stay in through June, God bless her. I would like to see this matter cleared up before we go to the convention because I don't want to see a repeat of what happened to me in 1972, when I got cut up all the ways across the middle and up and down, even after it was clear I was going to win that nomination.
Then that fight got carried right onto the convention floor and we spent most of the convention fighting with each other. That set the stage for Nixon to have an easy win in the fall.
This should be a Democratic presidential year. We've offered the country two great candidates in Hillary and Barack. Barack seems to have an insurmountable lead.
So that is why I hope as soon as it's reasonably possible and as soon as Hillary feels the time has come, for us to get behind our nominee and win that election next November.
KING: Senator, have you had a conversation with either Senator Clinton or former President Clinton about your decision?
And, if so, share some of it with us.
MCGOVERN: I have. I talked at considerable length this morning to President Clinton. The reason I called him was twofold. I thought Hillary must be exhausted from last night and the weeks preceding that. And, also, my first contact in voting for -- or deciding to endorse Hillary Clinton last October came after I talked to President Clinton.
And so I began there this morning. I had a good visit with him. There wasn't one cross word. There wasn't anything said that either one of us would take offense to. And, obviously, he was disappointed in my decision.
But we finished that conversation -- it must have been a half an hour on the phone -- with no hard feelings whatsoever.
I intend, for whatever years I have left, to continue the affection and the admiration that I have always had for Hillary and for President Clinton.
KING: I want you to get back to the point about you see a potential split in the party like the one you went through back in 1972.
Is it based on your personal history and a concern or do you see real evidence that we are at the point where that split would hurt the party? And explain what the split would be. And I asked the question because you mentioned your loyalty to the Clintons. I covered Bill Clinton back in 1992. And when I first met him back in the late 1980s, one of the political stories he loved to tell was going to Texas to organize for a guy named George McGovern...
MCGOVERN: That's right.
KING: ...who didn't have much of a prayer in the state of Texas, but Bill Clinton said he enjoyed the mission.
MCGOVERN: Yes, he did. And I want to tell you something, John.
Isn't it easy selling George McGovern in Texas. But they did it. They went down there and they got delegates out of that state. And they've been friends of mine ever since.
I don't think this race until now, between Hillary and Barack, I don't think it's hurt the Democratic Party at all. I don't think it's hurt America at all. As a matter of fact, as Congressman Rangel said -- one of the great members of the Congress -- it's done us a lot of good. They've brought out millions of people who had never voted before in an election. Both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama have activated literally millions of voters that we would haven't had in the process without this campaign.
But there comes a time, I think, when even in a good, vigorous, intelligent campaign like that, when you have to begin to think about the general election campaign. That's what was forgotten in 1927. It was forgotten in 1968. And the result was that Richard Nixon got elected twice -- once in '68 over Senator Humphrey, once in '72 over me.
KING: Let me ask you, lastly, sir, for your wisdom at this moment. We will watch this race play out and see what Senator Clinton decides. But come up to 10,000 feet with me. You mentioned 1968. You were involved in a commission after that to try to look at the Democratic Party rules -- how should we pick a nominee. You went through this personally yourself in 1972. The rules were changed again after the Jackson candidacies in the 1980s. And the Democratic Party has the rules it has now, plus the additional this year bonus, if you will, of Michigan and Florida deciding to step over the line.
Does the Democratic Party, at the end of this -- no matter how it turns out -- need to lock itself in a room and figure out a better way to do is this?
MCGOVERN: I don't think so. I think we've got a superb way of doing it right now. The McGovern-Fraser reforms of 1972 are still in effect after all these 36 years. Even the Republicans have adopted some of those reforms.
The superdelegates, as you said, came in 10 years later, in the 1980s. And I don't think that's a bad idea. I would hope these superdelegates would begin -- well, of course, they have begun -- but would continue announcing how they're going to vote between these two candidates. I'd like to see all of that cleared up before we go into the convention in Denver next fall.
KING: Senator George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic nominee, joining us from his home state of South Dakota tonight.
Senator, thank you so much for your time.
And when LARRY KING returns, we will take Senator McGovern's switch -- will there be more of them in the days and weeks ahead?
Will more Clinton supporters decide it is time to go into Camp Obama?
Much more with our political panel when LARRY KING LIVE returns in a moment.
KING: Back here in Washington to continue our discussion of the fascinating Democratic race.
And we're joined by Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and a Hillary Clinton supporter. Robert Wexler, a congressman from Florida, a Barack Obama supporter. And the Democrat, of course, Kiki McLean is the senior Clinton adviser in this campaign, in the war room as they debate what to do next. Tanya Acker a Democratic strategist and a Barack Obama supporter.
We just listened to Senator George McGovern say he switched because he thinks the party is at the point where it could have a divide that causes lasting wounds.
I want to ask you, Congressman Rangel, if this campaign ends and Barack Obama has the most popular votes, the most pledged delegates, if Hillary Clinton's only chance then is to go to the superdelegates and say forget will of the Democratic primary electorate and the Democratic caucus electorate and come to me and make me the nominee. You are one of the leading senior African-American politicians in the United States of America.
Are you comfortable walking the streets of Harlem, in your district, and looking at young men and women in the face and saying we decided to take it away from the man who could be the African-American nominee and president of the United States?
RANGEL: I don't know who we would be, just the same as if I had endorsed Obama and Clinton would win. I think, in my district, there is great sense of admiration and respect, as I have, for Obama. But you have to remember that she's a part of the New York family. And she won in my district. And so it wouldn't be walking in (INAUDIBLE)...
KING: I'm not questioning your support for her now. She's your senator and she has worked your district. The former president put his office -- I believe it's in your district.
RANGEL: Why is (INAUDIBLE). KING: I'm not questioning your support for her now. I'm saying at the end of the process, if superdelegates overrode the will of the Democratic electorate, would you be comfortable going to the African- American community, whether it's home in New York or anywhere in this country, and saying, we're sorry. We decided those votes didn't count, that she was a better candidate?
RANGEL: You know, I never knew what the obligation was of a superdelegate. When you phrase it overrule the will of the people, it sounds like something that may happen in Cuba.
RANGEL: But, you know, it just seems to me that even though it didn't work this time, the superdelegates are supposed to bring some damn order to our party and to select a candidate. And it seems to me you don't come in here and say here I am overruling the will of the people.
RANGEL: It has to be something that's truly understood.
KING: Congressman Wexler wants to jump in. But as you do, he's obviously not wavering. He's with Senator Clinton. I think he's made that quite clear.
KING: Senator Dianne Feinstein, who had been way out there for Senator Clinton and enthusiastic -- an enthusiastic supporter of Senator Clinton -- said this today. She said she's worried the drawn out nomination process is producing "negative dividends for the Democratic Party." She didn't withdraw her support, but, boy, that seemed like a big flashing neon sign saying she's worried, too.
Are you sensing that?
WEXLER: There is a growing anxiety. I admire Senator Clinton. I respect her enormously. But the question isn't just what would be the reaction be in the African-American community if superdelegates, in effect, overturned the election results thus far.
The question is not just the African-American community -- what if superdelegates overturned the will of the people as expressed in a primary process that has extended throughout the country? Why have a primary and caucus process and these tense of millions of people go and vote if superdelegates are simply going to ignore that result?
That would be the question.
KING: But the rules allow it. The rules allow it.
WEXLER: Yes, they do. They do allow it. That's where I would respectfully differ with Senator McGovern. The process that the Democratic Party has is not one that should remain. It ought to be changed. And it ought to be changed first, immediately, to allow the people of Florida to have their voice.
But the issue is ultimately a respect for voters collectively in this country. And I believe we, as the Democratic Party, will be strongest if we go with the candidate who won the most pledged delegates and the most votes.
MCLEAN: This is -- this is where I have a little bit of a problem. And that is that the whole discussion about the will of the people. But then when you get down to looking at where some of these superdelegates are from and the will of the districts or the states where they're from, you have -- I don't know if you call it cross- typing or a cross-endorsement of members whose districts didn't support the person that the superdelegate did. So there's some real inconsistencies in this.
But the other problem I have is that, yet again, we're making prediction when there -- predictions when there are six races. If we've learned anything this year, predictions really are out the window.
I think when you talk about things like electability -- I think Tanya brings up a very good point about a strategy for Senator Obama. That's a case he's got to make.
I think when Senator -- when people look at Senator Clinton and they talk about the states that are in serious play in a general election, like Pennsylvania, like Ohio, places like Arkansas, those are places she's demonstrated her electability.
KING: OK, more on this in just a minute.
I think we're going to lose the two congressmen.
Chairman Rangel, Congressman Wexler, thank you very much for joining us.
LARRY KING LIVE will be back in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We intend to march forward as one Democratic party, united by a common vision for this country.
CLINTON: I can ensure you, as I have said on many occasions, that no matter what happens, I will work for the nominee of the Democratic party because we must win in November.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Back to continue our fascinating conversation of this presidential race. Joining us to help, Michael Reagan; he's a conservative talk radio host. He supports John McCain. His Web site, the Reagan Exchange, is at Reagan.com. He's with us from Los Angeles tonight. And from Chicago, Laura Schwartz, Democratic strategist, former special assistant in the Clinton White House. She has not endorsed either of the Democratic candidates. Maybe we'll get to that business tonight right her on LARRY KING LIVE.
Michael, let me begin with you. We've had the Democratic conversation so far. You're the first conservative to join in. Watching the Democratic race, your observations on -- Obama made modest gains in delegates last night. Most people think he's lost the momentum. As you watched this from the conservative perspective, your thoughts on the race, and does this help or hurt? Is this helping the Democratic party or helping the Republican party?
MICHAEL REAGAN, REAGAN.COM: I think it's helping the Republican party right now. Everybody thought there was going to be a coronation in the middle of the summer between Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton. That didn't happen. Battle is taking place. But battles are also good within parties. We did in 1976, my father and Gerald Ford. Yes, Gerald Ford ultimately lost. My dad became president in 1980. But, they are fun to be in middle of, I will tell you that.
But I will tell you right now, I think it's helping John McCain. He's looking presidential while this battle goes on between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Barack Obama says, hey listen, Hillary, I've got the delegates. I'm going to go all the way. Hillary says, listen, you're not going to go all the way. Watch out. Superdelegates are going to be with her.
I've got to tell you something, Hillary Clinton needs to get nominated before she can run for president of the United States. He's much closer than she is.
KING: Laura, unless you want to deliver your endorsement right here, right now, Let's get your thoughts on the race, and to the point that's being discussed privately and publicly in the Democratic party: are we at a point where it hurts or does this make Obama a better candidate? You remember the Clinton campaign back in 1992; Gennifer Flowers was going to knock him out of the race. The controversy about the draft was going to knock him out of the race. Everybody in the Democratic party was saying, somebody go find Mario Cuomo. Somebody go find Lloyd Benson. Find somebody, this guy can't win. He was elected two terms as president.
LAURA SCHWARTZ, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Exactly. I think that set a good standard for Democrats, looking at our last two-term president from the Democratic party. I really believe that through the course of this campaign, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been strengthened. We saw, just after these two best weeks of Hillary Clinton, and really the two worst weeks of Barack Obama, he was able to wither the Reverend Wright storm, the bitter comment, and especially when I think it was important for Democrats to see, both his supporters and the wavering independents, is that he weathered a policy storm.
He discussed that gas tax holiday. He needed to go at a policy, because, let's face it, a lot of these policies are very similar on the Democratic side. It's been personality. It's been perseverance. So I think we have seen both of them strengthen. Now, going into the next three weeks, we're still attracting Democrats to the process. People are tuning in to watch what you're saying, John, and everybody else, and people are showing up at the polls. Over all, I think it's a positive case for the Dems.
REAGAN: John, if I can jump in real quick. The fact is, we have two senators on the Democratic side running for president of the United States. Both of them saying, elect me; this is what we'll do. They have yet to write the legislation as senators of the United States. They have more power now to write the legislation. They only have the power to sign it as the president of the United States.
Charles Rangel, you just had on, head of the Ways and Means Committee, has not written any legislation that mirrors what they're trying to sell to the American people as they go around campaigning. On the other hand, John McCain offered an amendment to a bill on his gas tax situation, which was, by the way, turned down by Barbara Boxer of California. So if you're going to run and tell us what you're going to do, do it when you're a senator. Show us now that you can write the legislation, instead of just signing it as president.
KING: No disrespect, but I'm not sure either three of these senators could find their way to the capital without some help right now. They spent so much time out in the country. Tanya, I want to jump to the point that Laura was making about the challenge ahead for Barack Obama. If you listened to him last night, he was different. He had his confidence back after several very rough weeks. But he also called himself an imperfect messenger, seemed to try to be a little more humble. He also said he understands there are people out there who don't look like him who might not be voting for him.
That is his biggest weakness in the Democratic primary, and it's a weakness McCain wants to exploit, white, blue collar voters who, in years past, have been called Reagan Democrats. How does he deal with his weakness, even though he's right now in a position of strength?
ACKER: A couple of things, I think we should first not overstate the notion that white working-class people are somehow turned off by him. He won more white voters in Virginia than Senator Clinton did. He won Iowa. He won a number of states, a number of primaries and caucuses in states that had no significant African-American population.
But I'll agree with you that it's a challenge and he does have to go out and reach these voters and deliver to them a substantive message. Fine, he doesn't look like them, but he can represent their concerns. Irrespective of the color of the skin, at the end of the day, a dollar in a pocket book or the lack thereof is an absent dollar in the pocket book. These are the messages that he's going to bring home, and I think he's going to do that. We saw that him starting to do that last night.
KING: Much more of our conversation just ahead, a fascinating political panel and a fascinating Democratic race. More of our discussion when we come back. Also, three undecided superdelegates -- they are the name of the game right now, as Hillary Clinton tries to say, don't give up on me just yet. Stay with us.
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.
The name of the game in the Democratic nomination battle right now is superdelegates. Both candidates need them to clinch the nomination. Hillary Clinton needs an overwhelming percentage of them, somewhere in the ballpark of 65 or 70 percent, depending on what happens in the remaining primaries.
Three undeclared superdelegates join us tonight to weigh in on the race for president. In San Francisco, Christine Pelosi. She is undeclared as a superdelegate, author of "Campaign Boot Camp," and the daughter of the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. On Capitol Hill, representative Ron Klein, Democrat of Florida, again another undeclared superdelegate. Here with me in Washington, Debbie Dingell. She is an undecided and the wife of the veteran Congressman John Dingell of Michigan.
Debbie Dingell, let me start with you, because you're from one of the states with the slashes through it on our map, Michigan. It does not count right now. There have been countless conversations about trying to broker a compromise. One of the calculations in the Obama camp is don't strike a deal that might benefit Senator Clinton at this point. Where are we in those conversations? And where are you in your decision, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?
DEBBIE DINGELL, UNDECIDED SUPERDELEGATE: I'm totally -- I'm going to stay undecided until we get this deal cut. Those of us that are working on it have stayed --
KING: I don't mean to interrupt. But you know in the Obama campaign, they think all you Michigan people are for Clinton.
DINGELL: I know. They've been dead. They've been dead wrong from the beginning. I have said to them, they need to start asking those superdelegates for their votes. I believe they took their name off the ballot, I think, because they didn't think they would do as well. I think they would have done a lot better than people thought they would have. I want to make that clear from right from the start of this conversation.
Where are we? Actually, the Obama campaign and the Clinton campaign are talking to us. I think each of them is coming to it from a different perspective. But we in the state, as a matter of fact, had an executive committee meeting of the party tonight. They're supporting a proposal that we have put forward to the rules committee. The fact of the matter is we had an election in January; 600,000 people voted. The fact of the matter is Senator Obama wasn't on the ballot.
We have talked about countless solutions. We talked about redoes. We have looked at variety of solutions. We have always said at this point, it has to include both campaigns and the DNC. We have put forth a solution. The executive committee of the Democratic party is supporting us, in suggesting a 69-59 split, which would take into account the January election, but also recognize that Senator Obama was not there, and will pull us all together and move forward.
KING: Congressman Klein from Capitol Hill, you represent the state of Florida, another state that's having this problem for moving up its primaries in violation of the Democratic party rules. You know the calculation right now. Obama's building a lead. What Senator Clinton needs most of all is for superdelegates like yourself to step in the way and say, no, I'm with Senator Clinton. I think this should go on. I'm willing to do that.
Are you willing to do that, sir, make a decision for us tonight?
REP. RON KLEIN (D), FLORIDA: No, I'm not.
I have been a supporter all along of the primary process. I think that Florida's -- my primary concern is to make sure Florida gets counted. We've obviously been through a lot in Florida since 2000, and the voters in Florida feel like they cast their vote or there's some formula that will make it all work. I have suggested to both campaigns and, along with other members of Congress from Florida, to the DNC, there are formulaic ways of dealing with this, small adjustments. It will all work. It's actually easier in Florida than in Michigan, because both candidates were on the ballot in Florida, but there wasn't a full campaign.
KING: You have the power Congressman. At the end of the day, would you cast a vote as a superdelegate that ran counter to the popular vote and the pledged delegate count of the Democratic party?
KLEIN: My view is I want to make sure that either one of our candidates, who are superbly qualified for the presidency, who will match up very well, either one of them, against Senator McCain -- I think when the general election comes about, you're going to see very distinct differences between the Democrat and Republican candidate.
My view is either candidate could win. I'm very interested in making sure the Democrats select the one that has the best shot. I have no problem with the primary process still continuing.
KING: Christine Pelosi, as I mentioned, in the Obama camp, they're suspicious of people like Debbie Dingell. They think the whole Michigan crowd is for Senator Clinton. In the Clinton campaign, they're suspicious of the Pelosi family. They think your mother, the speaker, although she's publicly neutral, actually leans towards Senator Obama. What about her daughter?
CHRISTINE PELOSI, UNDECIDED SUPERDELEGATE: I made my decision on Super Tuesday, February 5, in San Francisco that I would cast a secret ballot and that I would cast my public ballot for the winner of the pledged delegate count. When I made that decision and made that pledge as an elected member of the DNC, Hillary Clinton was the leader of pledged delegates. Everybody thought I must be a Clinton supporter.
Now, I have kept my word. I'll keep my word. Before Father's Day, when I stand for re-election, I'll announce my endorsement of the winner.
KING: The winner of the popular vote at that point?
PELOSI: The pledged delegate count. As a DNC member, I voted for the rules that created a nomination by elected delegates. So whomever the American people elect with the majority of those delegates will be the person that I endorse for president at the time. So early June, by Father's Day, I will make that decision and announcement and work my heart out for that person.
KING: As you watch it right now -- let me ask you this question. Maybe you're willing to answer it, maybe not, Christine Pelosi. If you look at it right now, Hillary Clinton did win your state of California. It's a huge piece of the Democratic electoral map. Which one of these candidates do you think is a stronger general election candidate? And I ask the question because you know what the Clinton campaign's doing and the Obama campaign, but the Clinton campaign more forcefully at the moment, calling superdelegates to say look at the electoral map. We can run a stronger race.
PELOSI: I think both candidates can win in California. Barack Obama won San Francisco overwhelmingly. And he was basically tied on election day. Senator Clinton had a very aggressive and successful early voting campaign in California. I think both of our candidates will defeat John McCain in the fall. Again, for me, the decision was, I as a superdelegate am not going to over turn the will of the voters. Three months ago, I gave my vote to the American people, and I'm very confident that whoever they choose will be the first that will be our next president.
KING: Diplomatic response from a superdelegate. We need to take a quick break.
LARRY KING LIVE will be back in just a moment.
KING: Back now with our three undeclared superdelegates. They are the power of the universe, if you will, in the Democratic nominating contest. Christine Pelosi is with us from California. Congressman Ron Klein from Capital Hill, Debbie Dingell here in the studio with me.
I want each of you to help us peal back the curtain. You are being courted by both campaigns, the candidates themselves, their top surrogates. The former president happens to be one of the top surrogates for Senator Clinton.
Congressman Klein, let me begin with you, take us inside rooms, the phone calls you're getting from both of these candidates and their surrogates saying, I need you with me.
KLEIN: These are friends. These are colleagues. These are people I have worked with over the years, back at home in Florida, people that have been supportive of me, a lot of good well wishers. Everybody is passionate about their candidate. I think it has settled down a little bit. But it's a great passion you're seeing in the political system.
The other great thing I'm seeing is so many young people just engaged, that haven't been in politics for, calling me, engaging me, talking to me about it as well. So, you know, I have explained to them that as an independent, I have been trying to work through the process of making sure Florida's delegates count, which is something all Democrats in Florida want. Florida's going to be in play this year, because of the fact our economy, unfortunately, is hurting. People are looking for something different. I think there's a great amount of excitement in Florida. Once we get the candidate, it's really going to rally around whoever it is.
Even though Senator Clinton started out a little bit ahead and it showed on the January 29 election, Senator Obama, who hasn't had a chance to campaign there, I think has a great opportunity to also be greatly successful.
KING: Christine Pelosi, you have said the pledged delegate count will make your decision. Is there any wavering there? Is your phone perhaps not ringing because the candidates think we know what she's going to do?
PELOSI: My pledge is very solid. Before I made my decision, I was planning my wedding to my wonderful husband, Peter. So I was shopping for my brides maid, my little niece, or getting our marriage license. At various times we would be getting calls. I got a congratulatory call from Senator Clinton and then calls from Senator -- Michelle Obama. It was very interesting to be planning our wedding and at the same time, being courted for a future presidential vote.
But, ever since then, people are still contacting me. I'm very clear about my position. Yet every day, I'm getting on my Pelosi boot camp Web site, and on my Facebook page, e-mails from people. I think there's just a real need for people to, as you say, peel back the curtain and make sure that we're being as transparent as possible, and that when we say we're making a pledge to the American people, that we keep our word. I will and I don't mind the added scrutiny to make sure that I do.
KING: The last word of our undeclared superdelegates goes to Debbie Dingell. You said earlier, why haven't the Obama people picked up the phone? Why haven't they reached into Michigan. It sounded to me like you were open the door to your state, your colleagues, but maybe to you, yourself.
DINGELL: Well, I have said that, and I said it to them. I think they need to reach out. Quite frankly, the people I care about are the people at home. I'm hearing from a lot of the college students, the African-American community, the women, all kinds of people. That's really what's going to impact me anyway. That's what I care about, is what people back home thing. That's where I come from. That's the community that I care about.
But I have been surprised. There have been a significant number of calls from the Clinton campaign and Senator Obama's campaign has not reached out to a lot of people in Michigan. I think part of it has been the Michigan situation, but hopefully, we'll move toward resolving that. We have two strong candidates. This long primary season has been good. What's been the most exciting about it, John, is that every state is having its opportunities to have its issues heard and see the candidates. What Michigan's fighting for is that every election cycle be like this one; every state have the opportunity to have their voices heard and the candidates visit and see what their issues are.
Hopefully, at the end of this, the pain that we've gone through in Michigan will be for real and fundamental change in the presidential nominating system.
KING: Debbie Dingell, Congressman Klein, Christine Pelosi, thanks for your insight as superdelegates tonight. More conversations in the days ahead, I'm sure. When LARRY KING returns, we'll bring back our political panel for a final word on the state of the presidential race, whether Hillary Clinton can survive and where we go from her.
KING: Back with our political panel for a few final thoughts. As we head from here to West Virginia, the next big contest in the Democratic race -- Michael Reagan is out in Los Angeles, conservative talk radio host. Laura Schwartz in Chicago. Tanya Acker here in D.C. And Kiki Mclean, as well -- Democrats, except for Michael Reagan.
Michael, let me give you the first word of the last round. As you look at this race, the Wright controversy disappeared a bit this past week as Obama and Clinton fought over a policy issue, the gas tax holiday. If Barack Obama is the nominee, does the Reverend Wright controversy come back in the general election?
REAGAN: I think it will always come back in the general election, John. I'll tell you something, Hillary Clinton is not Bill Clinton. That's just a fact you have to live with. The other side of the coin is the superdelegates of the Democratic party have put themselves in a position they have to nominate Barack Obama. If they do not, all those girls who have been swooning and fainting at every one of his events will be passed out drunk on election day, because they will not be voting on election day at all. Ninety one percent of the black vote that went for Barack Obama last night in North Carolina, they will be sitting home on election day and John McCain will waltz into the Oval Office on January 20 of next year. You can bank that.
KING: Fair concern, Laura Schwartz, that is somehow Hillary Clinton pulls this out, that the African-American base of the Democratic party says, we're going to sit this out?
SCHWARTZ: I have to actually -- I give the African American community a lot more credit than that. I believe that they will be out, because, again, as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been saying, there's a lot more different between the Democrat and Republican parties than there are between these two candidates right now in the primary. I believe the Democrats will rise above that. I think it will be unified. I think you'll hear that message -- we started hearing it last night, the message of unity from Barack Obama, as he rebuilt his narrative as he wanted to. Hillary Clinton's been going down that road as well.
I think there will be peace in the valley of West Virginia. I think it will be positive from here on out. Again, unification is the key word.
KING: Kiki, did your candidate help Barack Obama by focusing on the gas tax holiday, and making it a policy debate, instead of trying to make it more about personal character and judgment and Reverend Wright?
MCLEAN: I think everybody has sort of forgotten tonight, Hillary Clinton did win Indiana last night. This was a state that was long predicted to be a big win for Barack Obama. He was expected to win it by seven points. He said it was the tie-breaker. I think tonight's dialogue and discussion has forgotten that she had a big win last night.
I want to go back to something that Michael raised earlier, when he said this was great for John McCain. I beg to differ. The reality is, John McCain's not on the radar screen at all right now. I don't know that that's really -- he's not looking presidential, because nobody's looking at him right now. That's not doing him much good.
Once we have our nominee -- I believe and hope it will be Hillary Clinton, because I believe she is better suited to win the general election. I believe we have a better chance with her as our nominee to beat John McCain. I believe when we get that nominee and that debate begins, we'll prevail.
KING: How can it be, Tanya, if John McCain's not on the radar, that he's competitive in a general election right now in the polls. I know, it's only May. Polls can change up and down. But he is competitive, roughly 50-50, in a general election right now, in which you have an unpopular president, an unpopular war, an economy in trouble, and 70 percent of the American people think the country's on the wrong track. That should be a lopsided Democratic advantage. Somehow, John McCain's in the game.
ACKER: He's in the game because not on the radar. He's in the game because people aren't focusing on his close -- We spent a lot of time in the past few news cycles talking about Reverend Wright, almost nothing about John Hagee, who is a big McCain supporter, whose endorsement McCain sought. We're not focusing on McCain's close alliance with the Bush administration, this administration's policies. And he's not being dissected in the way that these other two candidates are.
But I want to jump back to Michael's point, because I always find it interesting when people speak to what African-Americans are going to do. I think that's might be overstated quite a bit.
KING: We have to cut you off. My apologies. We're running out of time here. Thanks to all of our panelists. Anderson Cooper, "AC 360" in New York starts right now -- Anderson.