Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Clinton Captures West Virginia; Interviews with Clinton Campaign Chairman, Terry McAuliffe, and New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson
Aired May 13, 2008 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And we're here at the CNN Election Center. As you can see, we're only about a half hour away from when the polls will close in West Virginia, 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Hillary Clinton expected to win decisively tonight. She'll be speaking later on tonight in Charleston, West Virginia. She and her supporters are already gathered there. Once she starts speaking, we'll go there live.
We've already heard from Barack Obama on this day. We're not expecting to hear anything else from the Democratic presidential front-runner. He already spoke in the past hour to his supporters in Missouri. You saw that live here on CNN.
An important night, though because not necessarily it will change, as John just pointed out, the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, all that much, but it does underscore some potential problems for Barack Obama looking forward, assuming he gets the Democratic presidential nomination.
We have the best political team on television who are going to be watching all of this tonight. Lou Dobbs is standing by. He's watching it with some of the best right now. Lou, welcome. Give us a sense together with our analysts what we're looking for in the immediate minutes and hours to come.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Well we're looking at the polls closing in less than half an hour. And I'm sitting here with Suzanne, standing here with Suzanne Malveaux, Donna Brazile, Gloria Borger. Thank you very much.
And I'd like to get a sense from you all as to what you're going to be looking for, what we can expect tonight. We know, as Wolf just said, we're talking about -- I haven't heard the words decisive leading into the final count in a long time. Gloria, what do you think?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well we've already heard from Barack Obama, which gives you an indication that he doesn't think he's winning tonight. This wasn't exactly a victory speech...
DOBBS: I love the fact that Senator Obama said he would go with Bill Clinton's 80 percent for Senator Clinton.
BORGER: Right. Exactly, but the person I want to watch tonight carefully actually is Senator Hillary Clinton. I think it's going be interesting to see what her speech will be like this evening. What kind of a so-called victory speech it will be. Because she can be as strong for herself I think as she wants to be, but there are lots of Democrats who are going to be watching this to whether she attacks Barack Obama, says I won because I appeal to these voters and he doesn't or my gasoline tax or whether she pivots, as he has done already to a general theme of unity for the Democrats.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm going to be looking at turnout. As you well know the popular vote matters, also the superdelegates, like myself, I'm going to look at the southern coal fields, the turnout there, which might influence what happens in Kentucky next week, the northern panhandle counties along the Ohio River. So I'll look at turnout because if Democrats expect to carry the state in the fall, clearly I want to see how well Senator Clinton will do in those areas.
DOBBS: Well first Democrats have just almost a two to one advantage over Republicans in West Virginia in registration.
What -- Suzanne, how about you?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know it's interesting because I want to take a look at -- hear from Barack Obama and Michelle tomorrow because this is one of the things where they actually say look, we know we have a problem with some of these voters, the ones in West Virginia. There has been a lot of talk about the working class, the white voters, but they also feel too confident that he's the kind of person that they've been through this kind of test before.
That he's won over people in Illinois. And that this is not something that he feels uncomfortable about with himself. This is something that has been projected and that other people seem to be uncomfortable with. But Michelle and Barack Obama seem to be very convinced that the longer this plays out they are going to be able to win some of those folks in West Virginia.
DOBBS: Well for Senator Obama and it's for people to forget, I mean Senator Obama is relatively new on the scene. This is an opportunity for him to start introducing himself and Michelle Obama to a few voters around the country. Thank you very much, Suzanne.
Leslie Sanchez, if I may turn to you, what are you looking for tonight?
LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I agree we're looking at in terms of the response is going to be tomorrow overall. I think West Virginia is so interesting. We walk away from that 1960 was the big win for Jack Kennedy, showing that a Catholic could win among Baptists and here we are 50 years later, and it's basically showing to be a swing state, but is not as significant. I think it could have been more pointed had Barack Obama made it a stronger attempt to appeal to working class voters there, had a stronger message than going to some of the other (INAUDIBLE) states. DOBBS: OK. Jamal.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I'm going stay focused on the delegate count because that's really what this whole contest is all about, so if Senator Clinton does really well, there are 28 delegates that are up for grabs tonight. Barack Obama has already gotten 27 or 28 some superdelegates that have come over to his side since last Tuesday, so let's see...
DOBBS: He's already had his West Virginia...
SIMMONS: That's right and he won the whole thing.
DOBBS: Alex, what are you looking at?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well I think the interesting thing to look at tonight are the Clinton voters. The exit polls are saying that 75 percent of her voters would not be satisfied with Barack Obama as the nominee. That's three out of four. Those are most Democrats are going to need in the fall not just in West Virginia, but around the country. So you know other than that there's really not much of an election tonight, it's more of a census. If you're middle class, working, white, you're voting for Hillary Clinton. If you're black or you go to a Starbucks, maybe the only one in West Virginia, you're voting for Barack Obama.
SIMMONS: There's one thing (INAUDIBLE) is if you look at this "Washington Post" poll that came out today what you saw is among white voters in the general election, McCain versus Obama or McCain versus Clinton, they both score about the same way against John McCain, so in the primary Hillary Clinton may have somewhat of an advantage in some of these states, but in the general election they're already scoring (INAUDIBLE).
DOBBS: You know Roland, I'm not sure, but I think Jamal was speaking to the superdelegates, not to me on that...
DOBBS: I feel like I got bypassed somehow. What are you looking for...
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm looking -- I'm studying the exit polls and data -- I mean we know what the results are going to be -- primarily to see if Democrats are going to begin to speak to the issues that connect with these voters. North Carolina, more registered Democrats than Republicans. West Virginia, more Democrats than Republicans.
I don't think the issue is really, does Barack Obama have a problem with getting these white voters, does the Democratic Party have an inability to really touch upon the issues important to these larger Democratic states, what exactly is the deal with these Democratic states that they are not buying into the party's position as opposed to who the candidates.
Remember, George W. Bush still beat the Democrats in the last two elections. And so, what are the Democrats' issues in terms of touching these voters?
DOBBS: OK. All interesting things to be looking for -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: All right, Lou, stand by. I want to go back to John King because he's looking at West Virginia pretty closely right now.
Once the numbers start coming in, what are you going to be looking for specifically? What should we be paying attention to?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well first let's start -- this is a county by county analysis of the Democratic primary votes so far nationwide. The dark blue being Senator Obama, the light blue is Senator Clinton, so you see that she has done very well in the neighborhood, in Pennsylvania, in Ohio, down here in the rural parts of Virginia even though Barack Obama carried Virginia.
Let's pull out West Virginia, very small cities, there are five major population centers and we have them highlighted here, (INAUDIBLE), Parkersburg, Huntingdon (ph), Charleston and Morgantown, those cities. Charleston is the biggest city. It's a little over 50,000, so we're talking about very modest sized cities.
The population is based mostly here, this is along the Ohio River, so we'll watch the Ohio River population in here come in, and we'll watch Charleston come in. If Barack Obama has a hope in the state of West Virginia it could be up here. It's one of the college towns in Morgantown. He tends to do well with younger voters, so if there's any surprise we'll watch it there.
But as we go forward, this is an argument, Obama has already conceded the state, so we'll assume the voters of West Virginia are going to side with Senator Clinton. It will come down to the margins. How much does she expose his weaknesses with white working class voters? How much does she expose his weaknesses with voters over the age of 65?
Both of those constituencies, Wolf, are critical in November. Democrats won't win the white vote unless something dramatic happens in this country, but to be competitive, if we pull back out some, if we pull back out to a national map, to be competitive in these battleground states they need to get those voters. So I want you to pay attention to this just for one second.
The Obama campaign will say West Virginia doesn't matter. I'm going to draw this circle here, actually let me stretch the map out before I do that. Let's pull this out a little bit and let's draw this circle around West Virginia into rural Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and North Carolina. If you take that circle right there, Kentucky hasn't voted yet in the Democratic primary. Look at Senator Clinton's strength in rural America. Now let's go back in time to the last presidential election. This is why George W. Bush is president of the United States, because the Republicans more and more are winning in rural America and these areas of Ohio vote like these areas in West Virginia.
These areas in Kentucky vote like these areas in West Virginia. These areas in Virginia vote like their neighboring counties just across the border in Virginia, same with up in Pennsylvania for the most part. There's a reason that Republicans are doing well in national elections. Let's pull back to the county by county across the United States of America.
This was a competitive presidential election in 2004, 51-48. This was an even more competitive presidential election in 2000, the Gore-Bush presidential election, but the Democrats win in the big cities and in the suburbs more and more, but the Republicans win almost everywhere in small town rural America. That is why the Republicans do well in governor races. It is why they are competitive even though the Democrats now run Congress and it is why they have won the last two presidential elections because in states like West Virginia and in Iowa, in Kentucky, in North Carolina, the Republicans win and win big in small town, white America.
BLITZER: And Hillary Clinton does better in those areas than Barack Obama does in rural America, but in a general election, would it make any difference based on what we know and the research that you've done whether Hillary Clinton were that candidate or Barack Obama would be that candidate and chipping away at the Republican advantage in rural America?
KING: What the Clinton campaign says yes, but the Clinton campaign -- I'm going to pull out to an electoral map -- the Clinton campaign says it would hold Pennsylvania and be competitive over here -- I'm going to turn it blue in Ohio -- would be competitive again in West Virginia. The Clinton campaign makes that argument.
Now what the Obama campaign can say is forget about it. We can get a significantly higher African-American turnout. If we do that, that puts Virginia in play. Maybe we can win that state. We're registering younger voters. We're brining in new people over the process. That could put a place like Colorado in play, so each campaign can make its argument.
Hillary Clinton's argument is based on white working class voters and their significance in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The Obama campaign says you know what, if I can make up with those voters, at least get some of them back, then get higher African American turnout, higher younger American turnout, I can put Virginia into play. I can perhaps make the Republicans have to come down here and fight for Georgia.
If you had a higher African American turnout, so they each have their arguments, Wolf. There is no question that nearing the end of the Democratic race, Barack Obama has a problem with white working class voters. You saw him in Cape Girardeau earlier tonight, a small rural white American city and county. He's trying to deal with that. He has six months. He has time, but he does have a problem.
BLITZER: In Missouri, Cape Girardeau. All right.
John, don't leave. We're coming back to you. Our coverage only just beginning. We're only, what about 20 minutes, less than 20 minutes away from the polls actually closing in West Virginia. Once they close we'll have a good assessment of where this contest on this day stands.
Remember you can do what John King was just doing. Go to CNNPolitics.com. You can watch the numbers come in. You'll know what we know, CNNPolitics.com county by county in West Virginia.
We're also standing by to speak with a top aide to Hillary Clinton. She'll be speaking later in the night in Charleston, West Virginia. Her remarks will be carried live here on CNN.
Also new exit poll numbers just coming in, Soledad O'Brien and Bill Schneider standing by for that, much more of our coverage from the CNN Election Center right after this.
BLITZER: Fifteen minutes until the polls close in West Virginia. We'll see who wins, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. The polls will be closing. Once they close, we'll have a good sense of what is happening. Hillary Clinton expected to win and to win big on this day. Let's go to Soledad O'Brien and Bill Schneider.
They're looking at the exit polls for us. Some fascinating insight into the minds of these actual voters today, Soledad, in West Virginia.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, absolutely, and one of the exit poll questions looks toward the nomination. And I think it's a pretty interesting indication about the rift within the party. The question goes like this. If you're an Obama voter, will you be satisfied if Clinton wins the nomination? The answer is...
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And the answer is no. There's no sign of reconciliation here. Sixty-one percent say no. Only 38 percent would be satisfied if Clinton wins. Now the experts say well Obama is going to win.
How do the Clinton voters feel about that? And the answer is even less happy. Seventy-five percent of Clinton voters say they would not be satisfied if Obama wins the nomination. Only 23 percent say yes, so it looks like there's a lot of reconciliation to be done and it hasn't started yet.
O'BRIEN: Now a lot of the Democratic leadership would say well rifts can be healed. It will just take time, et cetera, et cetera. We've heard that for weeks really. Historically, is that true? SCHNEIDER: Historically no, it isn't true. Very often these things go right into the convention and even beyond the convention. But there is hope in this case because the issues separating the Obama and Clinton voters are not nearly as deep as some that we may remember. I don't know if you do, but I remember a war in Vietnam which separated Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy. That not only went to the convention but that produces rioting and protests and lots of ill will.
There is nothing like that here. So I mean that's an extreme comparison, but the issue differences -- there is no war, there is no civil rights difference here. The issue difference here could be reconciled. We're just not seeing it happen yet.
O'BRIEN: And there's a big old rift, certainly.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much. Bill Schneider is going to have running commentary at CNNPolitics.com. It's a good place to get some more information.
I want to turn right now to Terry McAuliffe. He's the chairman of the Clinton campaign. He's joining us from Charleston Civic Center. That's where she is going to be speaking later tonight.
Terry, we're what, only a few minutes away from the polls closing in West Virginia.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Hi, Wolf.
BLITZER: We do expect she will win. We'll wait for the voters, for the numbers actually to come in. If she does win and she wins decisively, impressively tonight, what does that mean going down the road?
MCAULIFFE: Well I think it's an important win. You know last week, after North Carolina and Indiana, from some commentators, not you of course, Wolf, but there was a breathless rush to say that this was over. What does it say a week later when we have the biggest turnout in West Virginia history?
And it looks like Hillary Clinton is off to a two to one victory. I think what that says is the voters like what Hillary is saying on the economic issues. They want this race to go on, a race that some people said was over is a huge, huge turnout today here in West Virginia and a big win for Hillary Clinton. It tells you they want the race to go on, we're on to Kentucky and to Oregon and to all the remaining states. And you know we're going to fight on right through the end and we should.
MCAULIFFE: This is a very tight race.
BLITZER: What do you say, Terry -- what do you say to all those pundits out there who keep saying the math is simply not in her favor? Not only isn't in her favor... MCAULIFFE: Yes.
BLITZER: ... there's no way she can really overcome the mathematical problems she faces involving the pledged and superdelegates?
MCAULIFFE: Sure. Listen, I've said, listen it's going to be difficult to catch up. I said that over the weekend. What I have said for a long time is I believe by the end of this process, by the time we get through the next five states after today, Hillary Clinton will be ahead in the popular vote. When you count everybody who has voted, she'll be ahead in the popular vote.
She'll be within 100 delegates out of over 4,000 chosen, then they have to make a decision, Wolf. Who is it best to take on John McCain? Today, as you know, Hillary wins Florida. The governor here in West Virginia says Hillary will clearly win West Virginia in the general election.
This is a state Bill Clinton won twice. We lost it in 2000, lost it in '04. Hillary can win it back. She can win Kentucky back. She will win Ohio back. And for the Democrats winning the White House is the most important thing we have going. Hillary Clinton has proven she can win the Electoral College with extra votes.
BLITZER: How worried are you about these exit polls that we've been reporting them now for a little bit more than an hour that a huge percentage of Hillary Clinton voters say they won't vote for Barack Obama. They'll either vote for McCain or won't vote. How worried are you about uniting the Democratic Party when the dust settles?
MCAULIFFE: You know I'm not that worried. You know I was chairman of the party four years ago when we went through this process. We had a vigorous primary. We had a vigorous primary in 1992, everybody came together.
I do believe once we finish, we get out of the heat of the primaries, this party I believe very quickly, George Bush has been the greatest unifying force in the history of the Democratic Party, we will come together because you know we agree on a lot of the issues and we won't to be unified in order to win the fall election, so right now everybody is excited because you know we've got a competitive race going on, but when it's done we will all come together and I've said this, if Hillary isn't the nominee, she and the entire Clinton family, myself and everybody involved will be over to help Senator Barack Obama.
Likewise, Senator Barack Obama and his team to help us. We'll be together. We've got three weeks to go. Let's let the voters vote. They sent a strong message here tonight. Record vote turnout, they don't think this is over Wolf and I would argue this is good for the general election for the Democratic Party.
BLITZER: And we're standing by to hear from Hillary Clinton. She's going to be speaking at that podium behind you later tonight.
BLITZER: We'll carry her remarks live as well. Terry McAuliffe, thanks very much for coming in.
MCAULIFFE: Thank you, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: And we're only a few moments away, what, nine minutes away from the polls closing in West Virginia. We'll see what we can report at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, that's coming up, much more of our coverage from the CNN Election Center. Remember CNNPolitics.com a good place where you can watch all this unfold on your laptop. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from the CNN Election Center.
We're only a little bit more than five minutes away from the polls closing in West Virginia. A lot of people expect Hillary Clinton will win. One question we're going to be looking at is the margin of victory, assuming she does in fact carry West Virginia tonight.
Let's go back to Lou Dobbs. He's got the best political team on television getting ready to assess.
We expect she will win, but this margin could be significant, Lou.
DOBBS: Yes, we expect she should win and she should win, as you put it at the outset, decisively. You know I'm interested in what West Virginia really is. We've got, let me prevail on your minds. Is this going to be a statement of Barack Obama's deficiencies or is it going to be a statement of Hillary Clinton's strengths or is it going to be simply irrelevant to the superdelegates? Is it going to be highlighting where Senator Clinton is strong and Senator Obama weak? How will we be analyzing this?
BORGER: Well will you shoot me if I say all of the above?
DOBBS: No, I won't because it really seems that there's a certain dismissive atmosphere in some quarters about West Virginia. Others are saying it's absolutely critical to understanding what the candidacy whoever the nominee will be of the Democratic Party. What the candidacy will have to overcome.
BORGER: Well West Virginia is a state sort of as bad as it gets for Barack Obama. Four percent African-American population, low income, and I think that these are not, these are generally not his supporters. Having said that, we're kind of taking a census as we go along in this election, and you would have to say that these are not his people. I have in my hands a memo, all ready, we all have it, from the Obama campaign, which is essentially doing a rebuttal, to the results they know were going to come out. And it is saying in fact that this doesn't prove that Obama cannot win white working class voters. This does not prove that he...
DOBBS: It just proves that Senator Clinton can.
BORGER: It just -- no, it does not prove that it's this is a small snapshot, and it does not prove that he could not win states like this. And you know it's very predictable what they're saying. That today in "The Washington Post" poll he won 81 percent of Democrats in a match-up against McCain.
DOBBS: Well Donna, without the benefit of the rebuttal...
DOBBS: ... we're both in the same boat here. What is your judgment, your assessment? Is West Virginia so anomalous from 49 other states that it is not going to be taken as particularly, determinative of -- or suggestive of what we can expect in the general election? Or is it in fact representative of issues that Senator Obama is going to have to overcome in the general election if he indeed turns out to be the nominee.
BRAZILE: Well first of all I want to give credit to Senator Clinton and Bill Clinton; they have campaigned nonstop in West Virginia. Chelsea Clinton was in West Virginia as early as April before Pennsylvania. Look, one could argue that West Virginia is Clinton country, he carried the state. President Clinton carried the state twice in the 1990's.
West Virginians are hurting. They want a president who will focus on the economy. Hillary Clinton has spent the last week talking about gas prices. She's talked about you know rising fuel costs. She's connecting with voters. I think Senator Obama yesterday he went there; he talked about a new GI Bill. He talked about the economy, but clearly this says a lot about Hillary Clinton. I don't think it says that much about Barack Obama.
DOBBS: What does it say about Barack Obama that he's supporting a new one of these?
MALVEAUX: Well you know clearly in West Virginia, as you know, I mean he was wearing one of those and his speech was all about patriotism, trying to connect with the veterans and trying to out -- I don't if the word patrotize (ph) McCain here, but I mean that's the biggest weakness that he's going to have is going up again McCain...
MALVEAUX: ... when it comes to the armed services, but I also wanted to bring up a point too. I just got off the phone with an Obama insider and a couple of things that are happening already is that they realize and recognize this is all-out courtship with Hillary Clinton now. You can't get any of them to say anything bad about Hillary Clinton. They say it is to her testament and to her strength that she's lasted this long as a female going beyond here. You have one of the African-American supporters inside Obama's camp reaching out to African American supporter of the Clinton camp. (CROSSTALK)
DOBBS: ... play nice tonight?
MALVEAUX: Absolutely. Absolutely and they are trying to make amends on both sides blacks and whites.
DOBBS: Will West Virginia and we've got just a few seconds, but we're going to take up what its impact will be on that so-called dream ticket. We'll take that up next. Let me turn it over to Wolf Blitzer now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou. Thanks to the best political team on television.
What, we're only a few seconds away from 7:30 p.m. Eastern. That's when the polls will be closed in the state of West Virginia and we'll be able to give you an assessment of where this contest on this day stands right now.
This has been a state, as we've been hearing now for some time that Hillary Clinton expects to win and expects to win impressively on this day. Next Tuesday, a week from today, they will go forward to two more states, neighboring Kentucky, where she's also ahead in the polls right now, as well as Oregon, where he seems to be doing rather well.
All of this setting the stage for the completion of these contests on June 3 in Montana and South Dakota, June 1, Puerto Rico. But on this day, we're going to be looking at West Virginia, a state that the Democrats would desperately like to win in November, a state that's been important.
And CNN now projects with the polls closed in West Virginia that Hillary Clinton will win, will win the state of West Virginia and she will win by a wide margin. All the earlier polls suggested she would win impressively, decisively and now based on the exit polls we have, we can report that we're projecting Hillary Clinton the winner in West Virginia, a state that does have significant potential political impact going forward in November.
This is a state that the Democrats carried in '92 and '96 helping Bill Clinton become the president of the United States. They lost though in 2000, a major setback to Al Gore then. They lost in 2004 John Kerry would have loved to have carried West Virginia. So both of these parties will be anxious about what goes forward in West Virginia but on this day, an impressive win for Hillary Clinton in West Virginia.
She's going to be speaking to her supporters fairly soon, early in the evening. She's getting ready in Charleston, West Virginia. We spoke to her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, just a little bit ago.
I walk over to our own John King, who is looking at West Virginia.
The number of delegates in West Virginia not huge but this is a state that does have an important political impact potentially down the road.
KING: It will have an important political impact depending on the size of the victory to Hillary Clinton's philosophical argument, if you will, psychological argument to the superdelegates, Wolf, but because it has a relatively small pool of delegates, 39 total delegates, I believe 10 of those are superdelegates so those available to her, even if she wins big today.
Let's show it on the map. Show the math coming in tonight. There's our map coming in. Here's where Obama is. Here's where Clinton is. And even you give her, let's say I'm going to tap this twice and it's programmed to say 65/35 so a big, big win. Watch those lines, when you give it to her, doesn't move that much because you have such a small pool of delegates.
So she will have a big win. We don't know how big but we expect a significant win. We expect she will make the case that look, I am winning the white, working class voters who are in Pennsylvania, in Ohio, in West Virginia, in Kentucky, out here in rural Virginia, a state Democrats want to put in play this fall. She will have a win to help her with that targeting argument.
The problem is she will have only a small number of delegates, which is much more easy to see if you swing it over this way. I did this. I just hit this to give her the delegates tonight if she won 65/35. I added the delegates to the equation. You see Senator Clinton moves out a bit beyond what she started today. Senator Obama moves out just a bit more but Wolf even if you do that, Senator Clinton still needs more than 70 percent of the available delegates.
Or flip the coin, Barack Obama needs three in 10. So if he can get about this many of the pledged delegates remaining, that's about three in 10, get about this many here, Barack Obama is the nominee, even if he gets only 30 percent of the delegates the rest of the way out. We'll see how the pledged delegates break down. It will help her argument that she's a stronger candidate with key constituencies in November. The math is overwhelmingly in Senator Obama's favor.
BLITZER: Stand by, John. We've got a lot more to discuss.
I want to get reaction from a major Barack Obama supporter, the governor of New Mexico. Bill Richardson, who is joining us from Santa Fe.
Governor, thanks very much for coming in. We have projected an impressive Hillary Clinton win in West Virginia tonight by a wide margin. What does that say to you as a politician looking forward, if Barack Obama cannot carry a state like West Virginia with a lot of working class voters?
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Well, Senator Clinton deserves a lot of credit for her victory. Her family, they have been popular there. But you know Senator Obama won neighboring Virginia by 29 points not too long ago. So if you look at working class whites, there are a lot in Virginia. If you look at recent polling, Senator Obama is enormously strong with independent voters throughout the country, the strongest Democrat since 1988.
The last week, momentum of superdelegates, 27 superdelegates have moved toward Senator Obama. He need 143 more to go. Look, Senator Clinton deserves a lot of credit. She's strong but the reality is that after June 3, in the remaining primaries, Oregon, others, Montana, South Dakota, I think you're going to see Senator Obama reach the point of clinching the nomination.
The best thing then for the party is to come together around a nominee that can bring the country together, that is bipartisan, that can unify us. I think you will see this all the way until June 3. The best thing for us to do is unite behind that nominee.
BLITZER: You saw she devoted a lot more resources in West Virginia but he outspent her in advertising by about 2-1. He outspent her in Ohio and in Pennsylvania as well. He's got a lot more money, campaign money that she does. What does it say about this campaign or what does this say about money and advertising it in an election?
RICHARDSON: Well look, the Clintons have been around for years. Senator Obama is new on the national scene. Many of these voters know the Clintons better. President Clinton, the family has spent a lot of time in those states. I'm not diminishing her victory. I'm just pointing out that on a national basis, you've got Senator Obama having won 32 states, Senator Clinton 16.
You've got 143 more delegates to go, a lead of 170 delegates. The popular vote, Senator Obama is ahead. Who is the strongest general election candidate? Senator Obama defeating Senator McCain. My concern Wolf is that right now we have Senator McCain campaigning in Democratic states like Oregon, talking about Democratic issues like global warming, taking votes away from us while we're still in the battle for the nomination.
BLITZER: Are you saying you want her to end this right now?
RICHARDSON: No, no, she has a right to continue. I think after June 3, after you add the superdelegates, add the states, after Senator Obama gets the 143 more, rather than contest other states, continue the divisiveness, let's unite around a strong nominee like Senator Obama. Senator Clinton will have a major role in the convention and policy. She's a major player. She deserves a lot of credit.
BLITZER: Do you want her to be the running mate?
RICHARDSON: I think that's up to Senator Obama. She would be a strong running mate obviously.
BLITZER: Governor Richardson, thanks for coming in.
Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Coming up, we're going to take a closer look at some more exit poll numbers that are coming in right now into the CNN Election Center.
We're also standing by, Howard Wolfson, from the Clinton campaign, the communications director, he's going to be here with us at the CNN Election Center. We'll hear what's on his mind as he assesses what's going to happen next. Remember, CNNPolitics.com is the place for you to be to get information.
We're also going to be getting actual numbers coming in. We want to see how big the margin of victory will be for Hillary Clinton actually turns out to be tonight. We projected Hillary Clinton the winner by a wide margin in West Virginia. Much more of our coverage from the CNN Election Center right after this.
DOBBS: Welcome back.
CNN has projected Hillary Clinton as the winner of the West Virginia Democratic primary. It appears she's winning decisively. Also, the exit polls revealing some interesting information, some information that in point of fact is problematic for Senator Obama. It's going to be a matter of some discussion I'm sure through this evening and into the days to follow.
Let's turn to Gloria Borger first.
Gloria, the most interesting aspect from these exit polls tonight?
BORGER: To me, I think, that obviously, two-thirds of the voters say that the economy is important. Hillary Clinton clearly made an impact with those voters. She won them two to one.
West Virginia, which was an important state for Bill Clinton, 6 of 10 of these voters said Bill Clinton was a real boost for Hillary Clinton in this state.
DOBBS: Bill Clinton working in the rural counties in West Virginia and working hard.
BORGER: Right. A hard thing for him I think is that half of the voters in West Virginia believe that Obama shares the values of Reverend Wright. That's not something the Obama campaign would like to hear. Not great numbers for him.
DOBBS: Donna, before we come to you, I want to turn to Bill Schneider and see what we've got here and Soledad O'Brien.
What's jumping out at you guys right now?
O'BRIEN: Well you know, we always take a look at why she won or why he won but tonight it's why she won. You have to look at race first and foremost. We know that it's a state that's 95 percent white. She's always done well among white voters. No question about that.
SCHNEIDER: She's carrying them handily. Although he's getting 28 percent of the white vote. So he's getting a share. You can't say that whites won't vote for him. He always gets a share of the white votes, rather small in West Virginia 28 percent. In some states like Virginia, right next door, it's been over 40 percent.
O'BRIEN: West Virginia, we also think economy, economy, economy it's everybody's top issue. So when you ask Clinton voters has the recession affected you a great deal, that's an interesting answer.
SCHNEIDER: Very interesting and let's look at how the vote was shaped by your view of the recession. Among the voters, now we've got to snake this carefully, who say they've been affected a great deal by the recession, 76 percent voted for Hillary Clinton, three quarters voted for Clinton. Among those who said they had been somewhat effected by the recession, her vote was 58 percent. Among those minority of Democrats who say the recession has not affected them much or at all, probably more prosperous voters, she split the vote with Obama 50/50.
So what does this say?
It says the bigger the issue the economy was, the more trouble you're in economically, the bigger the vote for Hillary Clinton. She clearly capitalized on the economic worries and anxieties of these West Virginia Democrats.
O'BRIEN: What about the female vote? That's always been a very big strength for her as well.
SCHNEIDER: Right. She did very well among women. We do see a gender gap. Among women voters in West Virginia, Clinton got 71 percent of the vote, Obama with 27 percent. He got a share of women's votes. Women clearly delivered for Hillary Clinton.
And I should point out that while there was a gender gap, men voted for Hillary Clinton, too but in fewer numbers. Less than 60 percent of men voted for Hillary Clinton. Women clearly delivered for her as did the voters who are very worried about the recession.
O'BRIEN: You win in those categories and you win. Back to you.
DOBBS: Absolutely, Soledad.
Donna, these numbers, to what degree do you think they represent a problem for Senator Obama?
BRAZILE: First of all, I do believe this is a win for Hillary Clinton. I believe that Senator Obama, if he didn't compete effectively, perhaps it's a loss for him but I think it's a win for Hillary Clinton and the message that she carried to a state. 1 in 6 West Virginians are on food stamps. They heard Hillary Clinton talk about rising food prices.
DOBBS: Put that in context nationwide, it's one in 10. BRAZILE: Absolutely and you know there's been an increase in West Virginia, for example. I think Senator Obama will have to continue to reach out to the voters that turned out in West Virginia today. It's not a loss for Obama. It's a big win for Hillary Clinton. That's the story coming out tonight.
DOBBS: Is it a story, Suzanne, that you think will hold up through analysis through the evening. Taking exactly what Donna said, it's hard to argue that if this number that is starting to show up here early were to prevail, we're talking about, as Terry McAuliffe told Wolf Blitzer, we're tacking 2-1 if the numbers hold up.
MALVEAUX: Well what's also bad for Barack Obama is you take a look at the age and the income levels as well and it overwhelmingly the young voters go for Clinton. Obama usually does much better with the young voters. We saw that in Iowa where there were the young, white voters that went to him. They clearly went to Clinton as well as higher income folks as well also went to Clinton.
DOBBS: His traditional strengths.
MALVEAUX: He has not done as well. They didn't compete in West Virginia all that much. I just got a note from the Michelle Obama camp that she's going to be in Puerto Rico tomorrow. That is one of the places where they didn't think they'd be so competitive. They're going to make a real go of it so clearly they're looking at this loss here. They're making some adjustments and moving forward.
DOBBS: And you think perhaps regrets that they spent twice as much money as the Clinton campaign in West Virginia but they didn't spend the time. Did they learn something there, regret not being there?
MALVEAUX: They usually compete strongly. This is something they decided we're going to move on. We have the numbers. We don't need to worry about. When you look at the perception of it, it doesn't look good.
We want to remind you, you can go to CNN.com, we have the very latest there for you if you want to get more on exit polls, instantly. We have it the fastest, we have it the deepest, we have it the best because it's CNN.com.
I want to go to the panel back here and just see what your thoughts are.
Roland, let's start with you. What are you thoughts about what is happening in the exit polls? We're starting to see as Suzanne suggested, even the categories that Senator Obama has traditionally been strong, the fact is he's lost those groups here in West Virginia?
MARTIN: Curtis Wilkerson is a West Virginia Democratic strategist on my radio show this morning. He said bottom line is Obama did not compete in the state. If you look what took place the last four weeks, coming out of Pennsylvania, he loses Pennsylvania. They put focus on Indiana. They drew even in Indiana. It paid off dividends in superdelegates. I think pretty much their attitude was we could simply move beyond West Virginia. Our focus must be on Indiana but more importantly winning Oregon.
Alex and I were playing around with numbers looking at the electoral states thinking forward to November. To be honest, they can concede West Virginia. John McCain is not doing well among evangelicals. You concede West Virginia and Ohio and Pennsylvania.
DOBBS: When was the last person elected president that didn't take West Virginia or Ohio?
MARTIN: You don't have to.
DOBBS: I know, I'm trying to figure out when the last time was that happened.
SIMMONS: When was the last time we had an African-American nominee for president?
DOBBS: Is that relevant?
SIMMONS: My point here is that this is a year where everything is on the table. They had a woman and an African-American in the files to get the nomination. Look at what happened with Gore or Kerry. If Gore had won New Hampshire, another state wouldn't have mattered.
DOBBS: I understand. We can three tall rules into the air, historically, we haven't seen a candidate pull that off.
SANCHEZ: You would like to say, great, you're going have a surge of young workers, lower income white women who maybe tend not to come out in large numbers. All that is for naught once you lose a major female candidate at the top of the ticket who may or may not be the nominee. That's going to change the flow and the dynamic.
DOBBS: Who may or may not be the undercard, if you will.
SANCHEZ: Exactly. And I think the biggest story that's coming out of this is what does it mean moving ahead? Everybody is talking about the electoral map. Two big constituencies, the working class white and the Catholics. She got almost 6 in 10 of the catholic vote in key battleground states. Talking about competitiveness, that's a strong case against Barack Obama.
MARTIN: Half those states she lost.
SANCHEZ: It's a good argument for John McCain.
MARTIN: Of course. He still has to go after evangelicals. John McCain lost Michigan to Mitt Romney. How someone performs in the primary doesn't tell how they're going perform in the election. It's going change. CASTELLANOS: If Barack Obama does not at some point poke his finger in the Democratic establishment's eye and move back to the center, it's going to be tough to get the vote. Hillary Clinton is keeping her finger in that wound a long time. The cement tends to settle after a while. So when do we see a general election Barack Obama who stands up.
For example, there was an oped in the paper this morning in the "Washington Post," Marion Berry is up standing up school vouchers against the Democrat Education Union. That would be a perfect issue for Barack Obama to say, you know what, bottom up change, empowering people. That's an issue he could get on. When will see that kind of movement from Barack Obama?
MARTIN: Not like he would lose support.
SIMMONS: Equal opportunity education.
DOBBS: I'm sure no one is polling on that issue right now any ways.
We're going to be back and when we do return with out coverage of the West Virginia presidential primary when we come back, we'll be going to Senator Hillary Clinton's headquarters for the latest which we expect to be the latest, Senator Clinton's remarks. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
BLITZER: CNN as projected a victory for Hillary Clinton tonight in West Virginia over Barack Obama, a victory by a wide margin. We're standing by to get the actual numbers. We want to see this margin of victory precisely how wide the margin is. It will be an impressive win for Senator Clinton tonight in West Virginia. A week from today, we go on to Kentucky and Oregon. We'll see what happens then.
I want to go to Charleston, West Virginia right now. Jessica Yellin is over at Clinton headquarters.
I guess we're going to be hearing from Senator Clinton in a little while. She's going to be speaking to an enthusiastic crowd, Jessica, behind you. Set the stage for us what this means for Hillary Clinton.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'll tell you Wolf, first of all, this crowd is going nuts every time CNN is up here every time we say that Hillary Clinton is going to win West Virginia. So a very enthusiastic crowd that reflects the mood of this state for Senator Clinton.
And I'll tell you Wolf, I heard Gloria Borger say earlier what she's going to watch for tonight is the tone of Senator Clinton's remarks. I can report that I've spoken with a Clinton insider that tells me that Clinton is going to stay very positive. We should expect her remarks to focus on the importance of West Virginia historically in choosing a Democratic president, how the economic troubles in this state are reflective of the troubles other Americans are having nationally, that she believes this shows race is not over, how can the front-runner, the so-called front-runner, lose such a state by such a large margin as expected.
She'll be really directing her remarks to superdelegates and the chattering classes to sort of turn around the coverage and see this as a race. Obviously that's a stretch for her because her campaign is fighting gravity it would seem on this one. But really I'm getting the message she will instead of attacking Obama, she will stay very focused on how she can win rather than focusing on whether he can't.
One other thing I can report is that Chelsea Clinton is in Puerto Rico this evening and she's part of a three day swing she's taking through Puerto Rico campaigning for her mom. Apparently, she was marching through downtown San Juan when she got word that her mom had won here or was projected to win. She's being led by a marching band and a huge crowd and I'm told by the press secretary with her, they went nuts, went wild.
So Chelsea Clinton in very friendly terrain for her mom, Puerto Rico. They don't vote until June 1 so it's a clear signal that the Clinton campaign wants us to know that she plans to go on.
BLITZER: And Chelsea Clinton, Jessica, is going to have some competition there. You heard from our Suzanne Malveaux reporting that Michelle Obama is going to be heading to Puerto Rico as well. The Puerto Rico primary on June 1 and then on June 3 final two primaries in Montana and South Dakota.
There is no expectation, correct me if I'm wrong, based on everything you're hearing from the Hillary Clinton camp, especially on the night she wins so impressively in West Virginia, that she's thinking of dropping out, given the financial problems, reports that her campaign some $20 million in debt?
YELLIN: No expectation, Wolf. You know I heard it floated by Democratic Party elders that there was some hope that maybe she would drop out tonight. That was a few days ago but recently I don't hear that talk anymore and I am told by very high place people inside the Clinton campaign, she will not get out tonight.
And I spoke with Ann Lewis who is one of her long time advisers and a member of this campaign a few moments ago and Lewis insists they have enough money, the fundraising is doing well enough to keep the campaign going through June 3 so tonight is not the night to look for Clinton to bow out.
BLITZER: Jessica, set the scene for us at the venue where Hillary Clinton is going to be speaking fairly soon tonight. We know you're in Charleston, West Virginia. We know she's going to be surrounded by a lot of enthusiastic supporters there.
Tell us a little bit about this place that she selected for tonight's speech.
YELLIN: Well, this is the heart of a state that, as you can see, is passionately supportive of Senator Clinton, and it's a very mixed crowd. I've been at other Clinton rallies and victory night parties where the people in attendance tend to be older. I've seen a lot of young people for her in this crowd, and I'll tell you throughout the state as we've been following her campaign here, she has a lot of young support. And the governor of the state is here.
Now, he has not endorsed, but the governor is here tonight, and he says, you know, folks in this state have a long history with the Clintons. They are very familiar with this family, with Chelsea. They've seen her grow up. And this is one of the states he says where that says familiarity is crucial. They want to know what these people are like as people.