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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Hillary Clinton Takes West Virginia

Aired May 13, 2008 - 22:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And let's update our viewers on the numbers that have actually come in.
We have projected a big win for Hillary Clinton in the state of West Virginia. With 42 percent of the precincts now reporting, Hillary Clinton has 65 percent of the vote to 28 percent for Barack Obama. John Edwards, his name was actually on the ballot. He's coming in with 7 percent of the ballots tonight in West Virginia.

Let's take a close look at the actual numbers that have come in from West Virginia, more than 100,000, almost 103,000 for Hillary Clinton, only 44,301 for Barack Obama, 11,253 for John Edwards. If you take a look at the counties of West Virginia, these are the counties that have actually started reporting numbers so far.

The blue suggests Hillary Clinton ahead in all those counties. Not one of those counties, at least not yet, shows Barack Obama ahead of Hillary Clinton yet. So, it's a very impressive win, Anderson, for Hillary Clinton in West Virginia. Now on to the next two states next Tuesday, a week today, in Kentucky and Oregon.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Impressive, no doubt about it, more than 60,000 votes, at this point, with only 42 percent of precincts in.

Almost heaven -- that is what Hillary Clinton called it tonight. West Virginia surely was that for Hillary Clinton.

Let's turn now to CNN's John King at the magic map for a closer look at the winning territory -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, first, look at the neighborhood.

Senator Clinton has done very well in these areas that surround West Virginia. Even in Virginia, where she did very well in the neighborhood that borders it. And let's pull it out and take a look. And this is what you call a thumping, 65 percent to 28 percent.

COOPER: Is that the technical political term?

KING: Thumping, yes.

We learned that in political school.

(LAUGHTER) KING: Sixty-five percent to 28 percent, with a little more than 40 percent of the vote in. And just look at some of these margins out here, down in Huntington, one of the major population centers, 64, 30.

Shrink the map back down, come up to Parkersburg, 67-26 percent. So, she is winning big where the people are. You see the five largest cities in West Virginia. She's winning everywhere. Barack Obama is not carrying a county as yet in the state.

So, it looks like Hillary Clinton will not only win statewide, but, based on this, win all the congressional districts as well, which means Barack Obama will get some delegates, but fewer delegates because of this. And you heard Senator Clinton's speech tonight. She's making a very powerful argument to Democrats to look at this area along here, along the West Virginia-Ohio border, along the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border, along the West Virginia-Virginia border, and, if you pulled the map up a little bit more, along the West Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky border.

She's trying to make a case for the superdelegates remaining: I am winning in the areas that elect a president.

And one quick demonstration of what that means. This is the primary tonight. And primaries are by no means general elections. This will be a different electorate voting in November. But what Hillary Clinton wants a Democratic superdelegate to say is, remember back in 1996. My husband was reelected president.

He's the guy in blue here. Not only winning West Virginia, but winning these areas over here in Ohio. He won in these other areas as well. Look at 1992. My husband won West Virginia. Look at that. He won these areas tonight.

But look what happens. You want to know why George Bush is president of the United States? Because, in the 2000, he won here and he won over in Ohio. Why was George Bush reelected in a competitive election with John Kerry. Because he won over and he won over here in Ohio and did very well in these counties out here in Virginia. Move up the map, and you see this. And you see this.

So, what Hillary Clinton wants Democratic voters to think about is a national county map in a presidential election to go to the full county and say, I -- see all these areas that are red, small-town rural America? I can compete in those areas. However, the delegate math tonight, Anderson, is overwhelmingly against her. But it is a big night for Senator Clinton.

The question now is, is it too late?

COOPER: And it's a big night that continues for the next couple hours, as we watch these margins come in. What, we have about 46 percent of the precincts reporting?

KING: Let's go back in and take a peek. That's where we were. We're up around there. Let's come back to '08, to the Democratic primary. We're up to 44 percent right now. So, we do have more votes to count. I'm going to get those other blue lines out of the way. You can see it filling in for Senator Clinton. The question Saudi the margin.

The bigger the margin, the more powerful she thinks her argument is to any superdelegates. Call a time-out. Give it pause. Don't you want me running in November?

Again, though, Senator Obama has a very compelling case, too. And that is the dilemma facing the Democratic Party, but the math, the money, the momentum all in Obama's favor right now. Senator Clinton is hoping to somehow turn it around by saying, this is a state that matters in November, and look at that.

COOPER: And, right now, certainly, the margin is about as big a margin as you could possibly get. We will see if it actually even grows or shrinks over the next two hours.

John King, thanks very much. We will have a lot more from John and the magic board coming up tonight. In just a moment, we're going to talk to Hillary Clinton's chief spokesman.

He will make the case how he believes his candidate, Hillary Clinton, can still win. Here's a hint. It all depends on Florida, and Michigan, and, of course, superdelegates.

First, though, Senator Clinton hers tonight in Charleston, West Virginia, in her own words.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, this race isn't over yet. Neither of us has the total delegates it takes to win. And both Senator Obama and I believe that the delegates from Florida and Michigan should be seated.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: I believe we should honor the votes cast by 2.3 million people in those states and seat all of their delegates.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: Tonight, in light of our overwhelming victory here in West Virginia, I want to send a message to everyone still making up their mind.

I am in this race because I believe I am the strongest candidate...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: The choice falls to all of you, and I don't envy you.

I deeply admire Senator Obama, but I believe our case -- a case West Virginia has helped to make -- our case is stronger. Together, we have won millions and millions of votes. By the time tonight is over, probably 17 million, close to it.

We've won them in states that we must be prepared and ready to win in November: Pennsylvania and Ohio, Arkansas and New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Michigan, Florida, and now West Virginia.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: It is a fact that no Democrat has won the White House since 1916 without winning West Virginia.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We will have more of Hillary Clinton's comments later tonight, as well as comments made by Barack Obama earlier tonight, nowhere near the state of West Virginia, we should point out, in the state of Missouri.

Up close now -- as we wait for Senator Clinton's final margin of victory, we want to explore who voted for her, why, and why it will matter come November, if it, in fact, does.

Some answers tonight in the exit polling.

Joining us for that, CNN's Bill Schneider and Soledad O'Brien.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Anderson.

It was a big win. The polls predicted the it would be a big win. And we saw it across a lot of categories. Some of those categories were?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: A very big win for Clinton.

Men voted for her. Young people voted for her, high-income voters. These are groups that usually have voted for Obama, independents, liberals, college graduates. A sweeping victory for Clinton. And we actually looked to see if there were any categories of West Virginia who voted for Barack Obama. We found two, and they barely voted for him. White male college graduates voted for Obama over Clinton by two points. And voters who said they wanted change voted for...

O'BRIEN: His message all along, right.

SCHNEIDER: His message.

O'BRIEN: Right.

SCHNEIDER: They voted for him by a margin of one point.

O'BRIEN: Oh. So, it was a squeaker on that one.

SCHNEIDER: A squeaker.

O'BRIEN: OK.

Then we took a closer look, Anderson, at this question. For Obama voters in West Virginia, who would you vote for -- would vote for president in November? Fifty-four percent said they would vote for Clinton.

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

O'BRIEN: That's an interesting number.

SCHNEIDER: That's an interesting number because it's a majority, but it's a very bare majority. Almost half of the Obama voters said they won't vote for Hillary Clinton in November. And it indicates that there is a lot of work to be done to reconcile the differences in this party.

They're pretty wide. And there's a lot of distrust between the Clinton voters and the Obama voters.

When you flip that question and you ask the Clinton voters, who would you vote for president, the Obama number is distressing.

SCHNEIDER: It is distressing for Democrats. It is a startling number. Let's take a look.

Would Clinton voters vote for Barack Obama, West Virginia Democrats, if he's the nominee? And the answer is, 38 percent. Thirty-eight percent -- yikes -- say that they would vote for Obama. Thirty-four percent, almost as many, say they would vote for John McCain.

And the rest, 28 percent, said they wouldn't vote or they would vote for somebody else. That indicates a big problem for Democrats, at least in West Virginia. We don't know if this is going to be true in other states. But it indicates that a lot of Clinton voters say, at this point, they're not prepared to vote for Barack Obama for president.

O'BRIEN: Historically, have you seen a rift that big that has been able to be overcome?

SCHNEIDER: Rarely.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHNEIDER: I think, in 1980, between Kennedy and Carter, it was pretty big, but it wasn't big enough to overcome, so that Carter could be reelected, no.

O'BRIEN: The short answer is no -- Anderson.

(LAUGHTER) COOPER: All right. Fascinating.

We will have more exit polls throughout the evening with Bill and Soledad.

We're digging deeper with our panel.

Let's bring in John King, Suzanne Malveaux, and CNN contributor Donna Brazile.

If you were Barack Obama, and you were sitting there watching these results come in, how concerned would the Obama campaign be? Or have they just written this off and are moving forward?

KING: I think we saw evidence tonight of where he was, even though he was nowhere near West Virginia, as you put it a moment ago. He understands he has a problem. Do they understand the depth of it? What are they going to do to fix it?

That's what we will see over the coming weeks. But they are operating under the assumption that he will be the Democratic nominee. And there he was in rural southeast Missouri tonight, down in Cape Girardeau, hometown of Rush Limbaugh, not an Obama voter...

(LAUGHTER)

KING: ... talking to white rural Americans, saying that, you know, maybe I didn't get your votes last time, but I will be back, I need to win this state -- trying to retool his economic message a little bit, to say, I understand. With Republicans, they want trickle-down. I want to bring it from the bottom up.

So, he needs to court rural white Americans, blue-collar working- class Americans, and he needs to do better among older voters. The most reliable voters in any election are older Americans, 65 and older. They understand they have an issue in the campaign. They say it's not a problem. They say it's an issue. I think many other people would tell you, it's a problem.

But he has six months. He has six months to deal with it. But, as he deals with it, Senator Clinton is going to keep pointing at it in Kentucky and beyond. So, he's got to think about John McCain and think about it fixing it for November, but also keep looking over his shoulder.

KING: And, Suzanne Malveaux, is there a strategy in the Obama campaign for dealing with that issue?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there is a strategy.

I had a chance to sit down and talk with Michelle Obama this past week, and she said, you know, this is going to take time. And, with time, there comes familiarity, and that they really believe that, if you give him time, that they're going to be able to win voters over, that they are a family like many American families. They have kids. They have financial concerns. He has a compelling life story.

These are the kinds of things that he's going to unfold. We have seen it in -- just in the past couple of weeks of really saying, this is who I am. Do you really want to know who I am? Well, this is my story. This is who I am.

The other thing that's happening here, too, is when you talk about Florida and Michigan. Their hope is -- they say, look, from North Carolina, Indiana, that day, to the present, they have gained 27 delegates -- I believe it's superdelegates. They believe they're in a good position, by the end of the month, to have the superdelegates they need to declare a winner, that they are going to be the ones that are victorious in the end, and they don't even have to wait for Florida and Michigan to be decided. That is something that they are hoping for. And they believe that they're going to achieve that before June.

COOPER: Donna Brazile, you're a superdelegate.

How closely are folks in -- in the Democratic Party watching the kind of rhetoric that we see moving forward from Hillary Clinton in this campaign? She was very gracious tonight in her speech about Barack Obama, saying she would campaign for Barack Obama if he is -- in fact is the nominee. How closely is that being watched?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think most superdelegates are watching the clock right now.

They know that, with five more primaries, 189 delegates, they are hoping that this campaign will end on a joyful note. We have a lot of work to do between now and June 3. But, clearly, Senator Obama must continue, as John says, reach out to the voters that, in the last couple of weeks, have seemed to not found his message of change, his message of getting out of Iraq as favorable as they did early in the primary season, when Senator Obama was winning many of these blue- collar voters.

So, I think going forward, Senator Obama has some homework to do, but Senator Clinton must also continue to make the compelling argument she made tonight, in terms of her strength, her ability to bring about a different kind of change. And the superdelegates will hear her out.

COOPER: Do you think -- you talked about, John King, her chipping away at Barack Obama over the next several weeks and/or possibly even months, if this thing goes all the way to convention.

I mean, I guess the same question I asked Donna. How concerned are folks in the Democratic Party about that chipping away?

KING: Well, I think they are concerned. Many are concerned. You can't tell her to get out. She just is winning 65 or more percent of the vote in a very important swing state. So, how can you say, Senator Clinton, you just had a huge victory; get out of the race? You can't. I mean, and she won't.

But Democrats are concerned that, if she is going into places like Kentucky and telling these voters, I'm on your side, making the case that I'm better than him, even if she doesn't criticize him, I'm better than him, it complicates and it delays when he can go directly to those voters without the competition and say, here's why I think you need to come back to me come November.

COOPER: But she can't make the case to superdelegates simply by talking about John McCain.

KING: She can't make the case to superdelegates by talking about John McCain. She can make the case to superdelegates by continuing to win in swing areas of the country, so that, if nothing else, they start asking Barack Obama.

If Barack Obama tomorrow calls an undecided superdelegate, guess what? That superdelegate is going to have some more pointed questions about, look at the math. Republicans have won the presidency two times in a row because they are killing the Democrats in small-town rural America, on the tax issue, on values issues, on character issues, on the culture issue.

And they're going to say to Barack Obama, what are you going to do to improve your standing? The Democratic nominee, and the Obama campaign makes this case. His numbers among white voters are not much worse than Al Gore's or John Kerry's. The response to that is, Al Gore and John Kerry lost.

Now, Donna will say Al Gore won, but then lost, because he did win the popular vote. But you can't just do what -- Obama needs to do a little better. He doesn't have to win the white vote. But he has to do -- if he does a little better than John Kerry and gets big African-American turnout, well, he's the next president of the United States.

COOPER: We will have more from our panelists coming up, including Democratic analyst Democratic analyst Jamal Simmons, an Obama supporter, as well as Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.

Up next: Hillary Clinton's chief spokesman, Howard Wolfson. He says his boss is in it to win it. His detractors say he's just in it to spin it. We will put his claim to the test.

Later, Barack Obama in his own words. He spoke earlier tonight, as I mentioned. We will bring you some of his comments. He appears to be moving beyond the primaries. The question is, is that a mistake at this point in the race?

That and more -- when this special of 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I want to send a message to everyone still making up their mind.

I am in this race because I believe I am the strongest candidate. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Just a little over an hour ago, Hillary Clinton told her supporters in West Virginia that she will work her heart out for the Democratic Party's nominee, but she's made it clear she still wants to be that nominee, and expects to be.

Howard Wolfson is the Clinton campaign's communications director. He's with us here in the CNN Election Center tonight.

How do you see her becoming the next president of the United States? For the last couple of weeks -- I have been reading all your interviews -- you have said it starts with West Virginia.

HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Right.

COOPER: Clearly, a massive victory in West Virginia tonight. How do you see the path?

WOLFSON: Well, we needed a big win in West Virginia, and we got a big win.

And it's because Senator Clinton is connecting with the voters in that state. So, now we have got to go forward. We have got five more states. We have got millions more voters. We have got to make our case to them. We know we have work to do, and we're going to do it.

COOPER: But, even if you win massively in -- in those states, it's still not going to be enough. It boils down to convincing superdelegates to change their mind, and then Florida and Michigan.

WOLFSON: Two other -- two other pieces of the strategy, Florida and Michigan. Two-and-a-half million people voted in those states. We believe that those votes ought to be honored and counted in the way that they were cast. We hope that the DNC -- and we expect that the DNC -- will seat those delegations 100 percent.

COOPER: Now, when did you decide that? Because, I mean, Hillary Clinton, back in October, said in New Hampshire to public radio, "It's clear this election Michigan is having is not going to count for anything."

WOLFSON: Well, that's absolutely right.

And I think there was every expectation that the people of Michigan and Florida, having been told that their elections weren't going to count, weren't going to come out and vote. And, yet, the opposite happened. People came out in record numbers. The largest single turnout in the history of the Florida Democratic Party occurred this year. People were told not to vote. They came out and voted.

COOPER: But...

WOLFSON: So, those votes ought to be counted. We ought to say to the people of Florida and Michigan, we thank you for voting. We reward your votes. We're going to count your votes. I don't see any circumstances under which the Democratic Party is going to go to Denver and seat only 48 state delegations.

COOPER: But when was it that your campaign change their minds? Because, I mean, Harold Ickes, about 12 other Clinton supporters were on the DNC Rules Committee, who voted to have these rules against Michigan and California. And the math you guys have been using for months was the 2,025 number. Now you're using this number 2,209? When did that change, in your mind?

WOLFSON: I think there was every expectation, as I said, that we wouldn't have a large vote out of Florida and Michigan, that people there would basically say, you know, my vote is not going to count. I'm not going to come out. Maybe 50,000, maybe 75,000 people came out.

No, 2.5 million people. And, so, you have got to respect people who are willing to come out in the face of being told that their votes weren't going to matter, kind of like West Virginia tonight. The pundits were all saying, she's dead, she's gone, she's out.

But people in West Virginia said, hold on. Let's wait a minute. This thing's not over yet. We want to give Senator Clinton our votes. So, we think Florida and Michigan are going to get counted.

And then, of course, we have an argument to make to the superdelegates. We think superdelegates are watching tonight. They're going to wake up tomorrow. They're going to open their paper, blowout win for Senator Clinton in a key swing state. No Democrat has won the White House without winning West Virginia since 1916.

This is a state that Democrats can win. People in West Virginia are hurting. The economy's bad. We carried the state in '92 and '96. We lost it in 2000 and 2004. Senator Clinton has predicted she would carry West Virginia against John McCain. And the reason is, is the reason she won tonight so big. She's connecting with the voters who need the help the most.

COOPER: I want to take -- compare your math to what we have been looking at.

John King is at the magic map.

John, how do the numbers break down in terms of delegates, superdelegates, and where this race is?

KING: Well, Anderson, if you keep the math under the existing rules, meaning that the finish line is 2,025, which means we're not counting the Florida and Michigan delegates, because, right now, the Democratic rules do not count them -- and, so, we will stick with the existing rules, unless and until they're changed -- we have added most of the delegates we have apportioned already out of West Virginia tonight to Senator Clinton.

There are still some more. We need the final results before we can apportion all of them. Senator Clinton has made up a little ground, but just a little ground, based on what we have so far. And, again, she will pick up a little more when we apportion the rest of the West Virginia delegates.

But, if you look up here, in this math here, she's still well behind. And a better way to look at it is to switch over to the graph here. When you look at the graph -- and I'm going to match the map and I'm going to bring some of the delegates in from tonight -- she's behind. Barack Obama is here. Senator -- I mean, Barack Obama is here, Senator Clinton back here, and here is the finish line.

And, again, Anderson, I understand Howard's argument about trying to reopen the rules and re-deal with Michigan and Florida. But, under the existing rules, Barack Obama needs three in 10 of the remaining delegates. There's more pledged -- more superdelegates available than pledged delegates in the five remaining contests.

If Barack Obama gets just three in 10 -- and he's been getting 30 percent of the vote -- he's even getting 30 percent of the vote in West Virginia tonight -- if he gets three in 10 from here on out, he gets enough to cross the finish line.

Now, there is that remaining question about Michigan and Florida. Some even think that, even if you broke those down 60-40, Obama would still have the math in his favor. But we will leave that complicated math for another day.

Based on the rules today, Senator Clinton has made up some ground tonight, but would have to win 71, 72 percent of the remaining delegates to deny Barack Obama. He doesn't need much to get across this finish line and be the Democratic nominee, so, very daunting math, not impossible math, but very daunting math.

COOPER: Is that the same math you're using, Howard?

WOLFSON: Well, we think Florida and Michigan are going to get counted, so 2,209, rather than 2,205 is the number. You can spin the numbers different ways. Let's look at the result tonight: a huge victory for Senator Clinton in a must-win state for Democrats in November, not a small win, but a big win.

And it's because she was connecting with middle-class voters, working-class voters, voters who need the kind of help that a Democratic president like Senator Clinton is going to provide.

COOPER: I want to bring in Donna Brazile, who is on the DNC Rules Committee, who is going to be at that meeting May 31.

Donna, you have heard Howard Wolfson. You know the Clinton campaign's argument to the Rules Committee. What are your thoughts?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I have a great deal of respect for Howard. But, more importantly, I have a great deal of respect for the integrity of the process.

We spent a lot of time listening to people all over the country, not just Florida and Michigan. Look, our process was open for over two years. We appealed to states who wanted to go early. Eleven states applied. Michigan did apply. They did not get the votes. South Carolina, as well as Nevada, were awarded the prize of going first to start off the contest.

I understand Howard's arguments, but -- but I also have to respect the other 48 states that complied with the rules. As I mentioned, Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic Party, said that we will meet on May 31 in Washington, D.C. We will listen to these arguments and that the Rules Committee will come up with something that I hope is fair to both candidates.

COOPER: That would be some sort of what, proportion, or some sort of division that -- that -- I mean, what would you see as fair?

BRAZILE: Well, I mean, it depends on what superdelegate or what member of the Rules Committee you talk to.

I think a fair hearing of the arguments involving the two regarding challenges regarding seating the superdelegates. I also believe, if the state parties would like to appeal to us to come up with a different formula in terms of a punishment, not 100 percent of their delegates, but some other apportionment.

Or if the two candidates -- let's -- let's see if Senator Clinton and Senator Obama can use their diplomatic skills and sit down and cut a deal. They were on the House -- the Senate floor today. Excuse me. I know both chambers. Let them sit down and come up with a formula that perhaps we can consider.

At this point, what Howard Dean has urged us to do is to listen to the appeals, listen to the challenges, and to come up with a fair process.

COOPER: We're going to have more from our panel coming up.

As we said, while West Virginians were voting, Barack Obama was three states, an entire time zone away, campaigning hard in Missouri.

Just ahead: why some say that decision might come back to haunt him. We will also have him in his own words tonight.

Also: tough talk about John McCain -- what Obama's speech in Missouri signaled about the possible race ahead.

And the pros and cons of an Obama/Clinton ticket. Some call it a dream team. Others say it would be a nightmare. We have got the "Raw Politics" ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to 360, our continuing campaign coverage.

The Obama and Clinton campaigns seem to be living in parallel universes today, if you heard the candidates talk. And before the polls even closed in West Virginia, Senator Obama was campaigning hard in a key swing state that has already held its primary in Missouri.

Obama, of course, won Missouri in February, but just barely. Today, at an economic town hall in a county with many working-class voters, Obama sent a clear signal that he's moving ahead with bigger battle plans aimed at the man he clearly expects to run against in November: Senator John McCain.

Here's Senator Obama in his own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Bush- Cheney ticket won't be up for re-election, but Bush-Cheney policies will. Because John McCain has decided that he is running for George Bush's third term in office. That's what his campaign has been about: to offer the American people four more years of the same approach that has failed the American people over the last eight years.

What the American people need right now in this defining moment of leadership is a president who will restore the fundamental American belief that if you try hard in this country, you can make it. That your dreams matter more than the demands of special interests or the convenience of political posture. Now, that's what our government should be about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, Barack Obama is campaigning in Missouri came at the expense of time spent in West Virginia and also in Kentucky, which holds its primary a week away. Kentucky is also expected to be a shoo-in for Hillary Clinton.

For Obama, focusing his energies elsewhere is a calculated choice, no doubt about it. The question is, could the strategy backfire?

CNN's Joe Johns has tonight's "Raw Politics."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In billiards, you might call it the bank shot strategy: go around the obstacle in front of you and score where you have a clear shot.

OBAMA: I've still got some more work to do.

JOHNS: Obama says he's competing in every state, but his schedule tells a different story. He carefully chooses where he spends time, and Clinton-friendly West Virginia isn't getting much love.

ROBERT RUPP, WEST VIRGINIA WESLEYAN COLLEGE: What we're really talking about here is the swing voter will be the Appalachian white working-class conservative.

JOHNS: On primary day in the Mountain State, he was spotted on Capitol Hill in his workout clothes. He spent little time in neighboring Kentucky, which holds its primary next week. He's playing to his strengths, not his weaknesses.

OBAMA: There's some stops that we made a decision to make in Oregon. I've been in Oregon more than they have. They put more emphasis on West Virginia. Part of it probably has to do where we anticipate we're going to do best.

JOHNS: But he's also looking past the primary, in the next few days visiting Michigan and Florida. Neither come into play again until the fall election.

(on camera) Is this a good strategy? It's pretty clear Obama can lose West Virginia and Kentucky by wide margins and still get the nomination, but there are risks in that strategy, as Hillary Clinton has noted.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is a fact that no president, Democratic president, has ever won the White House since 1916 without winning West Virginia.

JOHNS (voice-over): Obama needs these voters, once known as Reagan Democrats. If he blows them off now, it will be harder to win them over in the fall, especially since John McCain is expected to target voters along the Appalachian Trail.

Democratic strategist Julian Epstein, who has advised the Clintons, says Obama is on a dangerous course.

JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think what you're doing is you're underscoring your weakness. I mean, the last thing that Barack Obama wants is the 1972 George McGovern coalition of African- Americans and upscale whites. That, we know, is a losing coalition. We know that kind of coalition can't win in key states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

What he has to start doing right now is start making the case to blue-collar workers and to swing states.

JOHNS: Assuming Obama wins the nomination, he'll have to come back to Appalachian for what could be an even more important race than today.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: "Digging Deeper" now with our panel, joined by Jamal Simmons, Democratic strategist and Obama supporter. And also, Alex Castellanos, Republican strategist. Also, we have Paul Begala, Clinton supporter, on remote in Washington.

Jamal, let's start off with you. As you heard Barack Obama speaking earlier tonight, was it a mistake for him not to spend more time in West Virginia? JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, I think like he said today, people are playing where they think they're strong. He's focused on the general election, focused on John McCain.

You know, Senator Clinton had a very impressive win tonight. She won maybe by 30 or 40; 30, 35 points. But you know, Barack Obama won in 15 states by that kind of margin. I mean, from Idaho to Hawaii, Nebraska, Minnesota, Colorado, up and down the line he won by that kind of margin.

You heard from Howard Wolfson today, him trying to say, "Well, you know, we want to change the number to 2,209." You know what? I want to change my freshman year GPA. You can't change things at the end of -- at the end of the game. You have to sort of play the game that's being laid out ahead of you.

And so for tonight, we saw at first in Mississippi, we just saw the Republicans run a very fierce race against Travis Childers, where they tried to compare them to Barack Obama and they lost. They used Jeremiah Wright. They used everything they had, and they lost.

Democrats down ballot will do very well with Barack Obama at the top, and they know that. And that's why...

COOPER: Do you know that Barack Obama has a problem reaching out to working-class, middle-class white voters?

SIMMONS: He's got some work to do on that. We've seen right now this coalition of Democratic voters where there are some white working-class voters who voted for Barack Obama in previous contests. We saw that in Virginia. We saw it in Maryland. And we saw it, I think, in Wisconsin. So we know that he can reach out to those voters.

Now, the question is, can he expand that same work that he did early on in the campaign, can he bring that back? And so that, you know -- that's...

COOPER: We're hearing just right now that John McCain has actually called Hillary Clinton to congratulate her on her win tonight. Interesting, as somebody pointed out, because he apparently has not called Barack Obama to congratulate him on recent wins. So some interesting politics going on.

With that, Alex Castellanos, you heard Barack Obama. And do you think -- I mean, he clearly has a problem with this constituency. Can he reach out to them?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think he's trying, but yes, it's I think a long-lasting problem. There's something in the numbers tonight, another dimension of the problem we haven't talked about.

And that is when you ask these voters in West Virginia who they're supporting and why, the attributes they like are they want change, but they also want experience. Among the voters who wanted change, they were split. Obama and Hillary Clinton, 47, 48 percent, about even. But the second most important thing they were looking for was experience. And among those voters, Hillary Clinton won with 90 percent, 90 to 2.

So Barack Obama is going into an election -- the loss he suffered I guess tonight in West Virginia tells us something about a campaign in the fall, Barack Obama against John McCain, who's got experience coming out the ears.

SIMMONS: What's helpful to know, though, is we saw him tonight in Missouri, where he was walking about jobs. He was talking about $4,000 education credit. He was talking about things really that speak to people's hearts on economic issues.

Tomorrow, he's going to be in Sterling Heights, Michigan, Detroit, where I'm from. Macomb County. He knows he's going back to Michigan where he hasn't competed. He's got to...

CASTELLANOS: And those are important things to talk about, but people are also saying, "Hey, we'd like to know can you actually do these things." And that's where John McCain's experience may help.

SIMMONS: The old John McCain versus the new John McCain. The new John McCain is a little fuzzier.

COOPER: Let's bring in -- let's bring in -- bring in Paul Begala, a Clinton supporter in Washington. Paul, clearly a great night for your candidate. Are you as confident as Howard Wolfson in terms of the path forward?

PAULA BEGALA, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: I don't think anybody is as confident as Howard Wolfson. Look, she -- I think she made a strong case tonight. It was really interesting to listen to her talking, particularly to super delegates.

She wove in and out of talking to citizens and then talking to Donna Brazile and her fellow super delegates. And to the super delegates, she's making a straight-on, political, strategic case: "I've won the swing states." You heard Howard making that case.

But I want to come back to this question of West Virginia. I don't think it hurt Barack Obama at all that he's getting thumped 2-1 in West Virginia, because Hillary didn't attack him there. She did not win by pulling him down. She won by boosting herself up. There's a huge difference.

And so today there's a poll out from the Rasmussen polling agency that has Barack Obama tied in West Virginia -- he's down by three, but that's the margin of error -- against John McCain. Now, John Kerry lost West Virginia by 13 points. If on the day he's losing the West Virginia Democratic primary, Barack is still tied with John McCain, this primary is not hurting him in that state.

I feel like a broken record. I keep saying it every case. This is good for the Democratic Party. It's good for Barack Obama. It's certainly good for Hillary.

COOPER: Does that, then, argue, Paul, against Hillary Clinton's point? I mean, if you have this poll where Barack Obama does just fine or is very close to John McCain, does that argue -- doesn't that argue against her argument, which is that she's the candidate who can beat John McCain in a place like West Virginia?

BEGALA: It might. But I've looked at my paycheck. I'm paid by CNN. I'm not paid by Hillary. In fact, I've donated to her campaign. I'm not a flak for her.

She is going to run the kind of campaign she wants to run. What I like about what she's doing is that it's positive; it's affirming Democratic principles. Frankly, I've never seen her look better than tonight, too. I mean, she just does not look like a woman who's beat and about to get out of the race.

And Democrats don't want this to end. I think Senator Obama has been very smart not calling for her to get out of the race. Two thirds of Democrats want this thing to continue. It's nothing but good for my party.

Plus, I don't know what we're going to talk about afterwards. Maybe, you know, we'll find another car chase or a kitten stuck in a tree. But it's real good for cable television, so everybody wins on this except for John McCain.

COOPER: No doubt about that.

BEGALA: A squirrel water skiing or something, Anderson? I don't know.

COOPER: We have some of those on tap, just in case things get slow tonight. And a great thing of a bear falling out of a tree, too.

We'll have more from Paul, more from Jamal and Alex Castellanos, our entire panel.

If you're a regular watcher of 360 -- we hope you are -- you know our nightly game, "Beat 360," where you come up with a caption for a picture that's better than the one from our staff. We play this cheesy music.

So here's tonight's picture: Senator Barack Obama playing pool at Chelsea's Bar in Charleston, West Virginia yesterday. So here's the caption from our staff winner, Sean: "I don't really have a shot here but neither does you know who, so let me pull something out of her playbook: use the bank and hope for a miracle."

Think you can do better? Go to CNN.com/360, send us your entry. We'll announce the winner at the end of the program tonight.

Up next, if Obama gets the nomination, who will we pick as his running mate? According to a new poll, more than half of the Democrats think it should be Hillary Clinton. But will the so-called dream ticket ever become a reality? The "Raw Politics" on that, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I'm not going to talk about vice president this or vice president that until I've actually won. It would be presumptuous of me to pretend like I've already won and start talking about who my vice president is going to be. I've still got some more work to do. So -- but I'll let you know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was this evening in Missouri. Senator Barack Obama being diplomatic, noncommittal when a voter asked if he'd offer Hillary Clinton the vice presidency.

The new Gallup poll shows that 55 percent of Democrats think Clinton should be Obama's running mate. No surprise. The idea is overwhelmingly popular among Clinton backers but certainly less so among Obama's.

He may not be talking about it, but that's what we do on cable television. We talk about these things. What are the pros and cons of an Obama-Clinton ticket?

Tom Foreman joins us with tonight's "Raw Politics" -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we had to break out our largest scales to consider this hefty issue here. Should Obama take Hillary as his running mate if he gets the nomination?

Let's look at on the plus side over here. Adding her to the ticket would be a quick way to bring her supporters into his camp: older, traditional, women, Democrats who have been weary of his message. It would diffuse their anger possibly and heal this rift in the Democratic Party.

She would also bring the weight of her experience to his campaign. That could deflect what will certainly be Republican attacks on his relatively short time in office and his limited knowledge of international affairs, which Republicans see as a weakness for sure.

And all this could make Obama look stronger, like the leader of a united party who can put aside hard feelings for the common good, despite what she has said about him, and she has said plenty. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am ready to lead.

Enough with the speeches and the big rallies.

I have my own experience to draw on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: If she can get him to get over that, then that's something that makes him look strong and magnanimous, and they can move on.

But let's look at the other side of these scales. What's bad about this idea? Well, first of all, taking her onto the ticket would really undermine Obama's message of change that has resonated so well with voters, particularly the young ones. Time and again, he has said her experience in old-fashioned politics is precisely what is wrong with Washington. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: She knows better? I don't want Bush-Cheney Lite. She thinks that Washington works the way it should.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: So, again, that's something that he'd have to deal with.

The second problem, Obama would be opening the White House door not just for Hillary, but also for Bill Clinton. You could expect the Clintons to want a significant voice in appointments, policy, you name it. Obama could find himself, in effect, dealing with a shadow administration. That could be very, very tough, despite the best intentions of all involved.

And exactly contrary to our last point on the plus side, taking her on could make him look not strong but weak, as if he's afraid that he can't win her supporters without her and he can't take on John McCain alone.

So while some political analysts are looking at the pluses and firmly believe that she is angling for the vice presidency, others are just as adamant that the negatives on this scale are far too damaging for Obama to even consider it -- Anderson.

COOPER: Looks like the scale is about even there from the graphic. Let's see.

Some breaking news now with potentially big implications for the Obama campaign. As Jamal talked about earlier, CNN is projecting that Democrat Travis Childers will win the special congressional election in Mississippi. Republicans there had been running ads linking Childers to Senator Obama and his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. But Childers' victory may be a sign that the Wright issue is losing its punch.

It may also be a sign of trouble for Republicans come November. A Republican has held the seat for the last 14 years. And now Vice President Dick Cheney had recently gone there to campaign for the Republican candidate.

Let's go back now to our panel: chief national correspondent John King; correspondent Suzanne Malveaux; senior political analyst Gloria Borger; and CNN political contributor Donna Brazile.

Donna, when you heard that Mississippi -- that it had won for Childers, were you surprised?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No, I was not. As you know, just about a week ago, Don Kahu (ph) in my home state of Louisiana, also won a very resounding victory in a ruby-red district. This is very important, because Democrats are campaigning in these so- called Republican districts. This is now three special elections. The Democratic Party carried all three. Republican brand is in trouble.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You want to talk about foreshadowing. I mean, this is real trouble. And I'm sure that the head of the Republican Campaign Committee, Tom Cole, is not very happy this evening. This is -- you know, Congressional House Republicans have got to be very, very nervous now about this upcoming election.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Republican Party is in a huge funk. It is a carry-over hangover for the 2006 elections. So many Republicans who didn't really like John McCain wanted somebody else to be their nominee, are now saying, "Look, this guy is actually competitive or very close to competitive in the national polls, where we are down in the dumps. We've got to find a way to make friends with John McCain."

So John McCain is suddenly this beloved figure in the Republican Party where just months ago many members of Congress were saying, "This is the last guy we want," because of John McCain's ability to reach out to independents and to have a different kind of Republican image. There is no question the brand is in deep trouble.

COOPER: Do we still have -- sorry...

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And one of the things, too, that they're trying to do with these undecided super delegates is there's been pressure to link them in some way to Reverend Wright, these super delegates. It's clear that that didn't necessarily work in this case. That was something that some of the Clinton aides were talking about: look at this. They're in trouble because of the link to Reverend Wright. It backfired.

COOPER: Do you think the Reverend Wright issue, will it be front and center? Will it be an issue come the general election?

BORGER: Sure, sure. I think it will, particularly if John McCain doesn't raise it. You're surely going to have those outside groups running political ads, the so-called 527 ads, which is what the swift boat ads were. And you could see that it is clearly going to be raised again.

In West Virginia tonight, you know, half of the voters said that they believed that Barack Obama shared Reverend Wright's values.

COOPER: I guess the question is, will it still have the punch months from now that it has had or was said to have? BORGER: You know, probably not. But then again, you know, you don't know what Reverend Wright is going to do. You don't know. They're going to try and keep him in a box, but you don't know if he's going to come out again and cause Barack Obama more heartburn. Don't know.

BRAZILE: Reverend Wright is a free citizen, so I'm sure he can do whatever he wants to, but he's no longer involved in the Obama campaign. He's a former pastor. And God knows what Reverend Wright will do.

But what this says is that Republican Party, which has used these old divisions of trying to do guilt by association, didn't work. All politics is local.

This guy in Mississippi, a very important, you know, player in Mississippi Democratic Party politics, he kept it local. He focused on, you know, the folk -- the people of Mississippi. He didn't try to nationalize the race. The Republican Party did, and they lost.

KING: To borrow Tom Foreman's scales again, Reverend Wright will be an issue in the fall campaign. Somebody will raise it. Some will raise it harshly. Others will raise it less harshly.

The question is how do the scales tip when it is added to the portfolio? What is this guy's voting record? Is he a liberal? What is his judgment about staying in this church for 20 years, about this pastor? Can -- can his opponents tip the scales to say he is culturally not like you?

That is how they will try to use Reverend Wright. Not so much as a "look at Barack Obama's pastor. He's very controversial." Or "he said un-American things." They'll try to add it to a list of things that they hope convinces people, again, in small-town rural America, this guy's not like you.

COOPER: As we continue to watch results come in, 66 percent of voters right now have voted for Clinton in West Virginia, 27 percent for Obama. John Edwards, whose name is still on the ballot, got 7 percent.

Tomorrow, what happens? I mean, all -- a lot of talk tonight. Hillary Clinton gives this victory speech. Onward, onward, you know, full steam ahead, as she said last time around. What do both candidates do tomorrow? Where does this race go?

KING: The most interesting thing tomorrow is that we saw this passionate speech from Senator Clinton tonight. It was a pretty powerful message. Barack Obama has an equally compelling argument to make to the delegates.

Tomorrow, Senator Clinton goes private and has to make some very important arguments in private to her donors: "I need more money. I need more money to stay alive. And you know as I know the math is against me, but raise me more money. Give me more money and go out and raise me more money." And she's going to make some phone calls to some of those undecided super delegates.

COOPER: And I should also point out...

KING: ... would like to tap into those.

COOPER: And I should also point out she sits down, one on one, with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

BORGER: The most important part of her day.

But she's got to make her case to these fund raisers that they're not throwing their money away and that when they call people on the phone and say, you know, "Can you give some more money to Hillary Clinton," that they have a good rationale behind -- behind their request.

And I think look, she's going to say, "I'm trying to move that number" you were talking about earlier, that 2,029, "I want to try and move it up. I'm going to play for time. I'm going to hope that Barack Obama makes some mistakes. I'm going to win big in Puerto Rico. I'm going to get that popular vote, and I'm going to go to the White House."

That's a tough case to make. Really tough.

COOPER: Donna Brazile, May 31 there's not going to be cameras in that room, are there?

BRAZILE: I welcome you to come.

COOPER: It would be great if there were cameras in there.

BRAZILE: Anderson, it's live, it's open. All our meetings are open.

COOPER: Is it really?

BRAZILE: Yes.

COOPER: So there will be cameras in there?

BRAZILE: We do not conduct our meetings in private. Yes, CNN hopefully will cover it.

COOPER: Wow. That will be interesting. May 31.

More with our panel coming up.

Also ahead, the search for survivors in China. More than 18,000 people are feared trapped in one city alone. The death toll already more than 12,000. Erica Hill joins us with new information next in a "360 Bulletin."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: More election coverage is coming up, including a big chunk of Senator Clinton's victory speech tonight. She may have won in West Virginia, but she is fighting an uphill battle, certainly, in the rest of the campaign. And we'll have an unfiltered view of the candidate in her own words in just a moment.

But first, some of tonight's other headlines. Erica Hill joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we begin in China where rescuers are now stepping up efforts to reach tens of thousands of victims from yesterday's powerful earthquake. More than 12,000 are dead. That number, though, expected to climb much higher.

The town of Wenchuan, which is the epicenter, the Chinese military says only one quarter of that town's population survived.

Desperately needed relief is finally making its way into Burma but more than a week after a cyclone ravaged that country. The U.S. delivered two shipments of food, water and other aid today. Those efforts, though, could be slowed by another storm. The U.N. estimates as many as 100,000 people have died there.

Firefighters today managing to get the upper hand on wildfires raging in central Florida. Police suspect those fires, which scorched 17,000 acres and started within just hours of one another, may have been deliberately set.

And Barry Bonds charged today with lying and obstruction of justice during the investigation into alleged illegal steroid use. Federal prosecutors charged the former San Francisco slugger with 14 counts of perjury, one count of obstruction of justice, Anderson.

COOPER: Things just keep getting worse for him.

Erica, time again for "Beat 360," your chance to beat our -- excuse me, our staff by coming up with a better caption to the photo posted each day on our 360 blog.

Tonight's picture shows Senator Obama lining up a tricky behind- the-back shot during a stop of Chelsea's (ph) Bar in South Charleston, West Virginia, yesterday. Tonight's staff winner, we told you earlier, is Sean. His caption reads, "I don't really have a shot here, but neither does you know who, so let me pull something out of her playbook. Use the bank and hope for a miracle."

Our viewer winner tonight is Nina whose short but sweet caption reads, "Nomination, corner pocket."

You can view the captions that barely missed the mark by logging onto CNN.com/360 and clicking on our blog, though some are way off the mark, to be honest.

Turning back to our big story: Hillary Clinton's thumping tonight of Barack Obama. She says the White House is won in the swing states, and she's winning the swing states. That is her argument. She certainly did tonight.

But Senator Clinton's victories have been coming in primaries against a Democrat against overwhelming odds of winning her party's nomination. Still she says she's staying in the race, even as Senator Obama appears to be shifting his campaign into general election mode.

We've got all the angles tonight, starting with CNN's John King, who is at our magic map, crunching the numbers. John, what have you got?

KING: Anderson, this is a dramatic and a thumping win for Senator Clinton tonight in West Virginia. Let's pull out the state and look: about 69 percent of the vote counted, 66 percent to 27 percent. So she was winning 2/3 of the vote. As you noted, she says this is a swing state, and Democratic super delegates should take notice.

It is a huge and impressive win along the populated areas of West Virginia out here, along the Ohio River, Senator Clinton racking up impressive margins across the state. As you noticed, no dark blue on this map. Barack Obama is not winning one county as yet in the state of West Virginia, as the results come in.

Now, some would say this is expected. It is a -- largely a white state. It is an older state. It is built demographically for Senator Clinton. But this is an impressive and a sweeping victory across this state. Again, 66 to 27 percent with almost 70 percent of the vote in.

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