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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Edwards Endorses Obama: Michael Dukakis Reacts; John McCain Sets Goal for Troop Withdrawal
Aired May 14, 2008 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Please give it up for my friend, John Edwards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KING, GUEST HOST: Tonight, is this the Democratic presidential ticket?
John Edwards drops a bomb that could change the whole game. He endorses Barack Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is one man who knows in his heart that it is time to create one America, not two. And that man is Barack Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Does the candidate now have what he needs to claim victory once and for all?
Is it the death blow for Hillary Clinton, who was basking in the glow of a big primary win just hours ago?
Did she see it coming?
One time presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis, weighs in on what it all means in an exclusive interview.
Will he follow with an endorsement of his own?
Tune in and watch out, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. I'm John King sitting in for Larry King tonight.
Another fascinating day in the riveting Democratic nomination battle in the race for president. Just 24 hours ago, Hillary Clinton celebrating a huge win in the West Virginia primary, hoping perhaps it was a stepping stone to a dramatic comeback. Tonight, the page has turned and the big news in Democratic politics is the endorsement of former candidate, John Edwards. He jumped into the fray today, endorsing Barack Obama out in the State of Michigan, where Obama could certainly use the help with blue collar workers. Two former candidates for president will join us tonight to discuss all of this.
But we begin with a fascinating political panel to discuss the impact of the Edwards' endorsement and much more.
Joining us from Philadelphia is Flavia Colgan. She's a columnist for the "Philadelphia Daily News" and a supporter of Barack Obama.
In Washington, D.C. , Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida, a Hillary Clinton supporter.
And in San Francisco, Kamala Harris. She's the San Francisco district attorney and an Obama supporter.
And I should note that Paul Begala, a CNN contributor and a Hillary Clinton supporter, will join us just momentarily. There he is. Paul is in the seat. We were waiting for him to get there. Paul moves down the hall quickly. It's good to have you there.
The big news today is the Edwards' endorsement. John Edwards was a candidate for president, a rival of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Both very much wanted his endorsement, courted him for weeks and months. Today, he appeared in Grand Rapids, Michigan, endorsed Barack Obama.
Let's take a little listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARDS: There is one man who knows and understands that this is a time for bold leadership. There is one man that knows how to create the change -- the lasting change that you have to build from the ground up. There is one man who knows in his heart that it is time to create one America, not two. And that man is Barack Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Congresswoman Schultz, I want to begin with you. You are one of the elected Democrats in the party that's under pressure -- in some quarters, anyway -- to rally around the presumptive nominee. Many say that will be Barack Obama. The delegate math simply doesn't work for Senator Clinton, despite that big win last night.
What is the mood behind the curtain, if you will, in the Democratic caucus when you meet with your colleagues in the House, when you see fundraisers, other activists in the party when you travel back home to your district?
Are you yourself, as a Clinton supporter, facing pressure to say, look, the math is going the other way?
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA, SUPPORTS CLINTON: The math isn't going the other way. I mean, at the end of the day, Hillary Clinton, as of her big win in West Virginia yesterday, is ahead in the popular vote. There are more Democratic primary voters that have gone to the polls to vote for Hillary Clinton than for Barack Obama. And when it comes to adding up that math to electoral victory in the Electoral College, Hillary Clinton won Pennsylvania, won in Ohio, won in Florida and won in West Virginia. I mean those, mathematically...
KING: Let me...
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: ...are the key states we need to win in November.
KING: Let me jump in there. Your math includes Michigan and Florida, correct, for Senator Clinton?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Most definitely.
KING: You say most definitely. But all of the candidates signed a pledge when they were campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire that if Michigan and Florida jumped ahead of the calendar, broke the Democratic National Committee's rules, that they would honor the Democratic National Committee's decision to penalize those states. And now, late in the game, Senator Clinton is saying I was for those rules at the beginning, but now that I need those delegates, I'm against them.
Isn't that true?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: John, at the end of the day, there is no one that understands politics, that thinks we're going to win the general election without Michigan and Florida. And the Democratic nominee must be chosen by voters in all 50 states. Our delegations have to be seated at the convention.
And if we go into that general election with one hand tied behind our backs and write off Michigan and Florida, then we might as well write off the election. That is what matters at the end of the day.
KING: Kamala Harris, you know the calculation in the Obama campaign. They agree with the Congresswoman to the extent that they don't want to make angry and alienate Michigan and Florida Democrats anymore, but they want a deal that suits their interests.
Would Obama agree under any circumstances to give Senator Clinton the delegates as the vote went in Michigan and Florida?
KAMALA HARRIS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, SAN FRANCISCO, SUPPORTS OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think that it has to be As Obama made clear that the Obama campaign wants to ensure that every voice is -- counts and everybody has an opportunity to participate in this process. But the Obama campaign has also been clear -- and I think most of us agree that everyone has to play by the rules. We've had this conversation over and over again.
Those two states did not play by the rules. And you can't change the rules in the game when you decide that you're not winning and you're not ahead.
I think we need to come to some resolution around this issue, but it cannot be by breaking the rules.
KING: Paul Begala, there is math in politics, there is psychology in politics. When you see John Edwards standing next to Barack Obama today, you certainly would have liked him to endorse your candidate, Senator Clinton.
What is the message -- is there a rally around movement?
Is it that time in the Democratic Party?
And to the broader question, Barack Obama has a problem. He may be ahead in the delegate math, but he certainly has a problem with white, working class voters, as evidenced by the results last night in West Virginia.
Will John Edwards' endorsement do anything to help him with the fundamental problem?
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, SUPPORTS CLINTON: No. It's going to depend on if Barack can adjust and have a little bit more of that Edwards' populism in his message. He's still -- you know, I mean I'll support him if he's my party's candidate. But he's still, for me -- you know, I said this at the beginning of the race, he needs to put the jam on the lower shelf where the little folk can reach it. You know, he's very much the "Harvard Law Review" president, which he was. But I think he needs a little of that John Edwards populism.
I will say, this was a very smart thing for their campaign. First, to go to Michigan, where people are angry. And I suspect they are in Congresswoman Schultz's state, as well. So he does a smart thing. He goes there -- and he talked about that at the very beginning of his speech, how I'm going to bring a very special treat here. Second, he does it right after being really wiped out in West Virginia.
This is a smart campaign, right?
When the Jeremiah Wright thing was big, they trot out a big endorsement from Bill Richardson. Now, he has a bad day in West Virginia, he comes back, has a good day with the John Edwards' endorsement. This is a sign of a well-run campaign.
KING: A sign of a well-run campaign, Flavia Colgan, but take -- if you got in your car and paid $3.70 or $3.80 a gallon of gas and drove up the road from Philadelphia and hit Bethlehem, Allentown, Scranton, would John Edwards' just endorsing Barack Obama address the problem he had with the white, working class voters in those communities when your state had its primary?
FLAVIA COLGAN, COLUMNIST, "PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS," SUPPORTS OBAMA: Right. Well, listen, first of all, I would say a good day is a little bit of an understatement. I think, obviously, the endorsement of the voters is the most important. But besides Al Gore, I don't think that the timing or the place he chose to do it -- Michigan, I lived in for 10 years -- is obviously very poignant. And I love -- you know, Paul's a pro. But I love how he just slips in there that you know, he needs to be able to talk to the little guys.
I mean, come on. The fact of the matter is that this is the American dream. And, you know, when you talk about Michigan and Florida, I just want to make one point, because Paul and people that have been in the Democratic Party for a long time, fundamentally, I think have a very different strategy than what I see Obama doing and what I think this party has to do.
When Paul Begala says that we shouldn't spend time in Mississippi when we just had a huge win there last night, I think that Obama is running...
BEGALA: When did I say that, Flavia?
COLGAN: You said that on CNN about a week-and-a-half ago. And you know you said it. You said that we shouldn't be spending tons of money there because it's a waste of money. It's just a fact but we can...
BEGALA: Then send that to me, because I don't remember saying that.
COLGAN: I would be happy to. But this is, this is not...
BEGALA: I send -- I say all kinds of crazy stuff.
COLGAN: This is...
BEGALA: But do you think...
COLGAN: It's not an antagonistic way. Let me just finish.
BEGALA: Yes, it is antagonistic. Come on.
COLGAN: No. I'm saying that I think a 50...
BEGALA: Of course it's antagonistic.
COLGAN: ...a 50 state strategy, unlike banking on Florida or banking on Michigan or banking on Ohio, is much better. And I think Obama is speaking to the entire country. And you can look at states like Colorado and Wisconsin that I think are going to turn. And I also think that primaries -- I vote here in Pennsylvania and primaries, where Independents can't vote and where Democrats are running against Democrats, and Ed Rendell, who is my ex-boss, who's amazing...
COLGAN: ...and whose endorsement matters a lot. It's a whole new ball game when you're talking about a general election. It's not analogous.
KING: OK. Let me call a time out here. As you can see, there's still a lot of feistiness between the Clinton and Obama camps. We'll have much more time to discuss it. Our panel will be back with us in just a few minutes.
But when we come back from a break, a man who knows very well the peaks and valleys of running for president and what happens when the Republicans try to attach the liberal label. The former governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, will be with us when LARRY KING LIVE returns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I decided that I would try to give you something special.
EDWARDS: So the question is what am I doing here?
The Democratic voters in America have made their choice and so have I. Join me in helping send Barack Obama to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Thank you. God bless you. I am honored to be here with you.
Thank you, all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The big event in Democratic presidential politics today there, highlights of John Edwards' endorsement of Barack Obama in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
A special treat, always, to fill in for Larry, even more so tonight, because my next guess is sitting in my hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. In my first presidential campaign 20 years ago, I chased him around the country. The former governor and the 1998 Democratic nominee, Michael Dukakis, joins us tonight.
Governor, good to see you.
GOV. MICHAEL DUKAKIS, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to see you, John.
It's hard to believe it was 20 years since you and I were moving all over this country together.
KING: You look younger, I look much older, but we'll take up my anger about that a little bit later.
KING: Let's get to the big news today. You have not endorsed in this race as yet.
DUKAKIS: I have not.
KING: Your spouse, Kitty, has. She's...
DUKAKIS: She's been with Obama for a long, long time. KING: Senator Edwards jumped into the fray today with that endorsement.
How about Governor Dukakis?
DUKAKIS: Well, I made a decision I wasn't going to endorse. I like both of these candidates, John, and I think they're both terrific. And they're each pioneers in their own way, as we both know.
My self-appointed role, for whatever it's worth -- and it may be worth nothing -- is to try to get this party of mine to get serious about organizing every one of the 200,000 precincts in the United States of America and stop buying into this red/blue nonsense, which is nonsense. And that's what I hope I can persuade my fellow Democrats to do. We've got to organize at the precinct level. We haven't done it. I didn't do it very well. We haven't done it, really, since John Kennedy ran for the presidency. And if we're going to win this thing, that's what we have to do.
So those folks in West Virginia who really don't know Barack Obama have people who live in their communities, vote in their communities, talk and walk like them, knocking on their doors and bringing the message directly to them. We haven't done that in a long, long time.
KING: Do you assume Barack Obama will be the nominee, even though you're not endorsing, based on the math?
DUKAKIS: I don't think you can assume anything. But unless something happens in the course of the next two or three weeks that really comes out of the blue, I mean, it seems to me that he's the likely nominee.
KING: You mentioned the organizing you would like the party to do. Are you concerned -- when you look at the results, if you look at the turnout in the cities, Barack Obama gets 92 percent or more of the African-American vote. Then you look at a 95 percent white state like West Virginia and Senator Clinton has an overwhelming victory.
Are you worried that no matter who wins this nomination, the party will go into the general election with a black/white divide that will hurt it in November?
DUKAKIS: I'm not worried, just as long as we organize every precinct in the State of West Virginia. Look, I carried West Virginia in 1988 by a decisive margin. There's no reason under the sun why we shouldn't be carrying those kinds of states. But we have to organize at the precinct level.
And, John, you know, it's not rocket science. It's a precinct captain and six block or neighborhood captains starting now. We're not talking about parachuting kids in with two weeks to go. These have got to be neighborhood people who are out there starting now, making contact with every single voting household. If we do that, we're going to win this thing with room to spare. KING: You mentioned you won West Virginia. That was one of only 10 states Michael Dukakis won back in 1988. And that was a surprise to many, when you left Atlanta and the convention with a 17-point lead in the national polls. And you know what happened after that convention. And the Republicans say they will do it this year to Barack Obama. They say, when they are done with him, they will convince the American people he is more liberal than George McGovern, more liberal than Walter Mondale and more liberal, yes, sir, than Michael Dukakis. And they say when you look at his record on crime, when you look at his record on taxes, when you look at his record when it comes to same-sex marriage or on abortion rights, that they can push him to the left of center far enough so that what happened to you will happen to him.
A, do you think they can do that?
And, B, what would your advice be to Barack Obama?
DUKAKIS: Well, they're certainly going to try. I mean it's already begun, John. They got the guy that did the Willie Horton ad on me to do this outrageous ad in the State of North Carolina. John McCain deplored it, asked them to take it off and they didn't take it off.
Now, nobody is going to tell me that if John McCain wants the Republican Party of North Carolina to take on an ad off the air, he can't do it. I mean if he can't do it, he shouldn't be running for the presidency.
So it's already begun. But if you listen carefully to Senator Obama in his victory speech after the North Carolina primary, it's quite obvious that he and the people around him know what's about to happen and they're ready for it.
I wasn't. I made, as you know, a deliberate decision. It was my decision and nobody else's -- it turned out to be a terrible decision -- that I would not respond to the Bush attack campaign. Clearly, we cannot do that. He's not going to do that.
But organizing at the precinct level, in my judgment, is the best way you can counteract that kind of thing, because you have real people knocking on doors and telling folks the truth.
But will the Republicans try it?
Of course they're going to try it. They've already begin.
KING: Well, let's draw the lines where you would see them, then. You know, the Republicans came after you with the Willie Horton. They came after you with Boston Harbor...
KING: ...with your record on taxes and this, that and the other thing.
DUKAKIS: Right. KING: One of the things they say they would use against Barack Obama, perhaps, is his 20-year attendance at a church with a pastor who has given some rather provocative lectures and sermons, some of which can easily be interpreted, at least the snippets of them, as anti-American.
Is that fair game?
DUKAKIS: Well, I don't think it's fair game. But I don't think it's ever troubled the Republican Party when it comes to fair game. I mean in -- four years ago, they went after a genuine war hero and tried to turn him into somebody who either had faked his record or whatever while the president of the United States was sitting in Alabama reading magazines and the vice president of the United States had done everything he could to avoid service in Vietnam. And we've seen this many, many times.
But I think it's very clear that Senator Obama knows what's going to be hitting him, already does, and I think will be prepared. But I cannot emphasize enough, John, the importance of real people at the grassroots knocking on those doors and making sure that folks know what the truth is.
And if we do that in Pennsylvania, in West Virginia -- frankly, I think we can do it in a lot of states which Democrats have not won. You know, we talk about red states. There are at least a dozen states in this country who are supposed to be red where they have Democratic governors.
How come they're red?
I mean this is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. We've got to stop buying into it. And that means organizing at the grassroots everywhere.
KING: What is your advice to him, then, as he goes forward?
Because if you look at the results in the primaries so far, and if you look at Pennsylvania, and if you look at Ohio, if you look at West Virginia -- and I could give you even more examples -- he is having a profound problem at the moment with white either rural voters who are downscale on the income scale or blue collar union workers in places like Allentown or Bethlehem, or in Akron or Dayton.
KING: Places where a Democrat must win. Reagan Democrats in Pennsylvania and in Ohio and in Michigan -- places Democrats must win if they are to take the White House back.
What is his problem, sir?
DUKAKIS: I don't think he's got a problem. I think he's running against somebody who, with her husband, is very popular in those states. I mean we had a terrific economy when Bill Clinton was president. And people in those states -- working class folks remember that. And they have a lot of respect and admiration of the Clintons. So I don't care, whether it's Obama or Dukakis or somebody else, if you were running against Hillary Clinton today, you're running up against what is a lot of folks who really care deeply about them and appreciated what they did.
But I don't think that means that the Democratic nominee, if it doesn't happen to be Hillary Clinton, John, can't win those states. I mean the economy is a mess. We're in this terrible war that goes on and on. People are upset. Look at what's happening at the Congressional level in Mississippi and Louisiana and Illinois.
I think this is ripe for a Democratic victory. But nobody is going to...
KING: And yet McCain...
DUKAKIS: Nobody is going to hand it to us.
KING: And yet McCain is competitive in national polls when you look at the demographics in the primaries campaign. You had a process that ultimately led you to Lloyd Bentsen.
Would you recommend that Barack Obama pick Hillary Clinton?
Would that be a ticket that you think would win the White House?
DUKAKIS: I don't think anybody can tell you exactly who his running mate ought to be. What he's got to do -- and it was one of the few things that I did right in 1988. What he's got to do is go through a very careful process of looking at all of the potential candidates for vice president. And if he does it right -- and it's hard to describe this, John.
But if you do it right, it inevitably leads to the right choice. We went through a very, very sound, detailed process. And when it was all over, it was clear that Lloyd Bentsen was my running mate. And, by the way, he was a terrific running mate. And if I had done a better job of running myself in that final, I think Lloyd Bentsen could have made the difference.
KING: Governor, we're short on time. I want to -- before I say goodbye, I want to, A, thank you for doing this and offer you one more chance. You've talked a lot about you assume Barack Obama would be the nominee.
Why not give him your blessing this evening?
I think I will not do that, since I mad a decision that I wouldn't. But I am going to be doing everything I can to get this party of mine to get serious about grassroots organizing.
KING: Governor Michael Dukakis, the former governor of Massachusetts, and a great old friend.
Sir, thanks for joining us tonight.
DUKAKIS: Thanks, John.
KING: Thank you, sir.
And when we return, we'll go back to our political panel. We'll discuss more of the impact of the Edwards' endorsement, where the primary calendar goes from here. Kentucky and Oregon waiting ahead next weekend. Maybe a little bit about the Republican race, as well.
Stay with us. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: Back now with our political panel to discuss the Edwards' endorsement of Barack Obama today. Maybe a bit of a fallout there from our interview with Governor Dukakis.
Paul Begala, I want to go straight to you in Washington. You have lived through these campaigns. You have worked for conservative Democrats, more liberal Democrats.
When you hear Governor Dukakis talking about his failures and what he thinks Barack Obama, if Obama is the nominee, is going to come up against -- I know you're a Clinton supporter.
But do you believe the Republicans can succeed in pushing Barack Obama that far left of center?
BEGALA: No. That's my short answer. No, not at all, because, first off, I'm glad the governor came on. And I certainly hope that Senator Obama and Senator Clinton listened to him. He's got sage counsel.
But look at what is happening today. People want change. Senator Obama is focused on change. And the right-wing attack machine has already tried this. They tried this yesterday in Northern Mississippi, where they ran ads attacking Senator Obama -- attacking this notion that he's linked somehow to his former preacher, which I find preposterous. They did it and they lost. They lost a district that hadn't gone Democratic since Eisenhower was a corporal.
Then they tried it -- or before that, they tried it in Louisiana. In South Louisiana, the same thing. They attacked Barack Obama. They attacked Reverend Wright. It didn't work. As we say in Texas, that old dog don't hunt.
Because the three most -- three of the most powerful words in scripture are be not afraid. And Democrats need to not be afraid of the Republican attack machine. And, in fact, instead of always worrying about answering their attacks, how about we launch some of our own?
OK, John McCain is whole lot closer to George W. Bush than Barack Obama is to Jeremiah Wright. And I think we ought to get on the offense here and show that McCain is nothing but a third term for George W. Bush. And either Obama or Hillary can do that quite effectively.
So I'm not worried. I think they're going to win.
KING: They're going to win. You say they're in the sense that there are still two Democratic candidates in the race. And we should be careful to stress that. Senator Clinton won a big win in West Virginia last night.
BEGALA: She did.
KING: Says she is pressing on. I want to bring all of us back to the Edwards' endorsement, because he was very careful today. He did endorse Barack Obama. He did so quite forcefully. But at the very beginning of his remarks in Grand Rapids, he made a point of reaching out to Senator Clinton and paying tribute to her.
Let's listen to some.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARDS: This tenacity has shown her strength and her determination. She is a woman who, in my judgment, is made of steel. And she's a leader in this country not -- not because of her husband, but because of what she has done, because of speaking out, because of standing up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, you're a Hillary Clinton supporter. You heard John Edwards there. There are some in the party who are trying to find a way to engineer what, for lack of a better term, I would call a soft landing for Hillary Clinton, trying to tell her, look, the math doesn't add up.
What is the dynamic in the Democratic Party right now?
And I asked you about this earlier, about do you face pressure, at what point would you turn to Senator Clinton over the next couple of weeks?
She now needs 72 percent of the remaining delegates and 64 percent, even if you give her what she wants out of Michigan and Florida.
If you see the results next weekend, is that the time to turn to her, after next Tuesday, and say the math is not there?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I'm with Senator Clinton until this election is over. There are four states left plus Puerto Rico to cast ballots in the primary nominating contest. And we need to make sure that those voters in those states and that territory have the right to vote, they have the opportunity to vote and they have the opportunity to weigh in. Because at the end of the day, this election is going to be decided by voters. It is going to be decided by voters casting ballots, the Electoral College map adding up to 270 votes. And Hillary Clinton is still the person that is most likely going to be in the strongest position to be able to do that.
So I'm with Hillary Clinton until the end of -- the end of this election. And I believe that she can be the nominee of this party.
KING: I certainly respect your belief and your support. I want to ask you about her personal state of mind at this moment. You were just in a session with her a short time ago, I am told.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Yes.
KING: She needs 71, 72 percent of the remaining delegates. Barack Obama needs fewer than three in 10.
Obviously, that math -- or, if you take her delegates from Florida and Michigan the way she would like to get them, she still needs more than six in 10 of the remaining delegates. That has to be a pretty tough challenge to know everyday you're getting up with the math stacked so against you.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Elections are a tough challenge. And Hillary Clinton has proven time and again that she's up to that challenge. What we have to do -- because this election is going to come down to superdelegates. And Senator Obama and Senator Clinton are very, you know, are not very far apart in the number of delegates that they each have.
At the end of the day, the superdelegates are going to decide this. And what we're going to need to do is continue to make the case that she's ahead in the popular vote, more Democratic primary voters have cast ballots for her, the electoral map adds up to an electoral victory for her. It's much less likely for an electoral victory for Senator Obama.
And, at the end of the day, what matters is winning this general election because, like Paul said, we cannot end up with a third Bush presidency, which is what John McCain has to offer voters in the fall.
We have consistently shown in the last three special elections that we can win in places that we never had an opportunity to win before. In those types of districts, in Illinois, in Mississippi and in Louisiana, Hillary Clinton won those communities. And she will win those communities in the fall. And that's why we need to make her the nominee.
KING: More from our panel and more from the voices in the Obama camp, when LARRY KING LIVE continues.
We'll also have with us a former Democratic candidate for president, the former senator, Bill Bradley. He's an Obama supporter. And a big Clinton supporter, the Pennsylvania governor, Ed Rendell.
Please stay with us.
KING: Back with LARRY KING LIVE and our discussion of a dramatic day in the Democratic presidential race. You see it on the banner there, John Edwards jumping into the fray, endorsing Barack Obama. Two Democratic heavy weights with us at the moment. Here in the studio with me in New York, former Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey. He is a Barack Obama supporter. And in Philadelphia, the governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, a prominent Clinton supporter.
Governor, let me start with you. Edwards comes out today and endorses Barack Obama. He does it in Michigan. He's obviously trying to help Obama with the very voters that hurt him in Philadelphia, north of Philadelphia once you get outside of the city, with blue collar workers, union workers, white rural workers.
Is the Edwards endorsement alone enough for you to think, math already was tough, this is it for Senator Clinton?
GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I don't think endorsements, my own included, mean anything. I think people have systematically rejected endorsements, like the people in Massachusetts who went against Caroline Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, the governor, John Kerry, and gave Hillary Clinton the state by 11 or 12 points. You can point to -- Bill Richardson lost his state. You can point to endorsements where people didn't follow them.
So I don't think it matters in terms of what the people out there are thinking. But I want to complement the Obama campaign. David Axelrod's got to be the smartest guy in America. His guy loses by 41 points after a week in which all the media said it's over. West Virginians turn out in near record numbers, give Hillary Clinton a 41- point victory, and the next day, to change the conversation, they get John Edwards' endorsement.
It's a brilliant political move because it changes the dynamic.
KING: It's interesting you say that, because I want to get Senator Bradley's take on this. First, Senator Edwards was right here on this program with Larry a few days ago and he said it wasn't time to endorse just yet. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARDS: What I don't what to do is contribute to the divide. We had a primary in North Carolina where I live. I live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I voted in that primary, so obviously I made a choice in that vote. But at least for this moment, I think the -- the reasonable thing for me to do is let voters make their decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So senator, he says, let voters make their decision, and then a day after voters made the decision decidedly against Barack Obama, he decides to endorse Barack Obama. A little counter- intuitive, one would think. BILL BRADLEY, FORMER SENATOR AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not really, you should listen very clearly; the operative word was now. And it's several days later. And my guess is that he decided to do this for a long time and was waiting for the moment where it could help the Obama campaign the most.
KING: Do you worry, senator -- Obama is having a problem, issue, problem, choose your word, with white working class voters, white rural voters, the people who made George W. Bush president of the United States when he won West Virginia, when he's had success in states like Iowa. Do you worry that the Obama campaign thinks an Edwards endorsement is the tonic or do you think they get it, the work he has to do in those communities?
BRADLEY: Well, I think it helps to have someone in the stature of John Edwards, who has fought for people of lower economic means with great sincerity and effectiveness. I think that endorsement helps. Ed Rendell's endorsement of Senator Clinton in Pennsylvania helped. So I think there are some endorsements that help, and some that don't, and John Edwards helps.
In terms of the working class, there's an interesting "Washington Post" poll that came out that shows that 81 percent of Democrats would vote for Barack Obama against John McCain. That's roughly the same number of Democrats who voted for Bill Clinton in 1996. And it also shows that more Republicans would vote for Obama than Democrats would vote for McCain.
So I think that you've got to see that picture. It's not simply this slice of a democratic -- of the demography. But in addition to that, there's the substance. When people learn what Barack Obama is proposing, that anybody who earns under 50,000 dollars and is on Social Security doesn't have to pay income tax, that people will get a 1,000 dollar income tax cut, that health care will be available for all Americans, that it will be easier to send your kids to college, that he's concerned and has ideas about how we can secure pensions for people -- I think it's that group of Americans who are having tough times now that will be most helped by the Obama platform.
KING: Now, governor, I know you're hoping your candidate can still pull this off. If she does not, is Senator Bradley right, and Senator Obama can heal the wounds or the bruises, the problems in this community, or does he need somebody, say, like Senator Clinton on the ticket with him to get that job done?
RENDELL: Well, the answer is Bill's right. There's a great opportunity if Senator Obama becomes our candidate to get out there and demonstrate by talking to people and listening to people that he really cares. The shocking thing about what Bill says is we're about a year and a half into this campaign and Bill says that people don't understand what Senator Obama's plans are. That's very instructive.
I think one of the reasons they don't understand is he's talked about lofty goals, but hasn't talked about specifics that the American people want to hear. Senator Clinton has done that. The people know that she's going to fight for them in so many different ways and address all of the things that are making their lives very difficult right now, and address them aggressively as a fighter who doesn't quit.
But the answer is if Senator Obama's our candidate, I think we're all going to fall in behind him, all work very hard to bring that message across. I know if Senator Clinton doesn't prevail, I'm going to tell Pennsylvanians, hey, wait, listen. Listen to what Barack Obama wants to do. Compare it to what John McCain wants to do, and you really have no choice.
And I think if we can get voters to focus on the programs and the -- that each candidate wants to do, I think Senator Obama can prevail in Pennsylvania.
But having said that, John, I have no question -- you can stick me with Sodium Pentothal, Hillary Clinton is a far better general election candidate for the Democrats than Barack Obama, and super delegates ought to know that. And if they didn't know that before West Virginia, if Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Michigan didn't convince them, West Virginia sent a resounding loud and clear message.
BRADLEY: Interesting point there. In the last week, Barack Obama has won more super delegates than Hillary Clinton got in West Virginia last night.
KING: Not to be disrespectful, some would argue Democratic elite or elected officials often misunderstand middle America, which is why George W. Bush is president. Do you agree?
BRADLEY: I think these are elected officials. You don't get elected if you ignore the broad base of the American electorate in your district. Of course they understand. And they made their judgment. In increasing numbers they've made their judgment. And I think Obama has succeed because he's had the same narrative through the whole campaign. And that is, we can do great things again as Americans. But we have to change the culture of Washington, and I need the people to help me change the culture of Washington.
The vote is the first step and helping in the long run, in office, is the way we actually get health care for all Americans, the way we protect pensions, the way we make sure that we have schools that work in America.
KING: Got to sneak in a break here. Our conversation about the campaign will continue in just a minute. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: Back now for more of our discussion of the presidential campaign and today's dramatic endorsement of Barack Obama by John Edwards. We have some newcomers here. Kevin Madden, former spokesman for Mitt Romney, joins us in Washington, D.C. Paul Begala is still with us. He's in Washington, D.C. as well. Here in New York with me here, Kellyanne Conway, a Republican strategist. And in San Francisco, Kamala Harris, a San Francisco district attorney and a Barack Obama supporter.
We've been discussing the John Edwards endorsement much of the night. Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Clinton campaign, offered some reaction just a few moments ago. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Hillary Clinton is going one place. She is going to Denver as the nominee of the Democratic party. We're -- we had a strategy meeting today. We're planning for the remaining states upcoming. We're excited. We had a 41-point win yesterday. People are going to endorse and come out. But I think more importantly than anybody endorsing is what happened last night in West Virginia when Hillary Clinton won, as I say, the biggest turnout in West Virginia history, and she won by 41 points.
That is the voters making the determination of who should be the nominee of the Democratic party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Kevin Madden, you're a Republican, but you worked for a candidate who was standing out there, or you were standing out there for him for a long time, saying, it doesn't matter what's happening in this state or that state, my guy is going to be the nominee or I'm going to be the nominee. How hard is it? From your perspective, is the math for Clinton impossible, number one? And how hard is it in a campaign when the candidate and the staff invest so much time, so much personal effort, your supporters have invested so much money or so much of their own energy? How hard is it to process the math?
KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think the biggest thing about yesterday's vote is that from Monday, the arithmetic didn't change, and all the same dynamics of the race, the contours of the race, were also unaltered. We're sitting here on a Wednesday, and the Clinton campaign has to deliver some sort of new twist or angle in order to make their case to the -- to two audiences, the people in the upcoming contest and also the super delegates.
But again, the biggest problem here is that Hillary Clinton does feel -- and there's a very human element here -- Hillary Clinton and all of her supporters do feel like they have to continue, because it's not exactly like this race is a blowout. They have a very close race on the super delegates. They have a close race, no matter how you make the arguments on Michigan and Florida, on the popular vote, and they feel like they owe it to these millions of people to at least stay in until the end of the race.
KING: Kamala Harris, out in San Francisco, from your perspective, is this hurting the Democratic party? Terry McAuliffe not only saying they're staying in, but still saying they will be the nominee. Have we crossed the line where it hurts the Democratic party and its chances in November? Or do you think she should stay in? HARRIS: John, I think part of the issue we have here is that we as Democrats faced almost an embarrassment of riches this presidential cycle. We had so many phenomenal candidates and now we're down to two outstanding individuals. But you can't argue the math and I'm not going to argue the math. The math speaks for itself.
I think going forward what we'll have to do is do exactly what Senator Bradley and Governor Dukakis and Paul talked about, which is look at what our strategy has to be to go into the general in the way we will elect a Democrat the next president. Clearly we'll see that there are Republicans that will vote for Barack Obama in numbers that will not match -- or will be over the number of Democrats that would think about voting for John McCain.
You know, Chris Lahane (ph), a friend, said it well, I think. He's been talking about just the fact that Barack Obama has really changed the paradigm of electoral politics in this country in a way that people who before were thought to be blue or red are actually purple. And I think that's what's exciting and that's what's going to lead Barack Obama into the White House.
He's going to do what he has done, which is win states like Colorado and Wisconsin and Iowa that Bush won in '04, because he's a new kind of candidate, who is really changing the electoral map in this country.
KING: Talking about blue, red and purple. Kellyanne Conway has been sitting patiently here in her yellow. We need to work in a quick break. We'll get Kellyanne's perspective when we come back in just a minute.
KING: Back to our political discussion now. Kellyanne, you've been waiting quite patiently here. As you watch this Democratic race unfold and you see something like the results last night in West Virginia, an overwhelming Clinton win, and yet the expectation is Obama will be the nominee; what are the Republicans learning about this in terms of how to run against Barack Obama?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: We're learning several things. We're learning that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have both amassed a significant delegate lead and have both amassed a significant popular vote, but not enough against each other to really make the case that they can bring together a number of the coalitions and the constituencies that one mist bring to win the presidency.
I think the bigger lesson for Republicans last night came in Mississippi though. For the third consecutive loss, what they should have learned, John, from last night in Mississippi is the way not to beat Barack Obama in the fall is by tying him to Jeremiah Wright nationwide. I think that when you have nothing good to say about yourself and your own record, you need to say something bad about someone else. People have already made their decision about Reverend Wright and Barack Obama, the way they made their decision about Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton in '98. The Republicans made the same mistake when they ran the ads with Monica Lewinsky leading up to the midterm elections.
The Republicans lost five seats, where the party out of power usually gains seats. Speaker Gingrich resigned. The Republicans should learn from Speaker Gingrich's most recent memo, where he says you've got to add bold colors. I think John McCain is not the type who will run ads connecting Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama, so much as to show the contrast in Barack Obama's voting record in the Senate to John McCain's, on tax, on regulation, on the war in Iraq, and even on a number of issues which people consider to be more blue than red, like climate change, which Senator McCain addressed just this week.
KING: So Paul, if the Republicans have lost three straight special elections, at least two of those in districts where people say, you should have won those. In a normal year, Republicans would win those. The overwhelming tide is against the Republicans. How and why is John McCain running pretty competitive right now in national polls?
BEGALA: First of all, you have to give McCain his due. He's got real appeal, much more than the Republican brand. He has appeal among disaffected Democrats. He has appeal among independents. He has appeal among senior citizens. My goodness, he is one. I think he'll be 93 when the election comes around. He went to high school with my great, great grandfather. No, he does have real appeal.
Democrats, to quote President Bush, ought not mis-underestimate him. He is the most formidable -- with all respect to Kevin's guy, Mitt Romney, who I really liked watching perform, John McCain is the most formidable Republican that the party could put up. I don't think either Hillary or Barack underestimates him for a minute. They'll have their hands full, even though it's a Democratic year.
KING: Kamala Harris, are you worried that as the race goes on, the Republicans are learning things about Barack Obama, assuming your candidate is the nominee, that they will successfully be able to use against him, learning from Senator Clinton's successes in places like West Virginia?
HARRIS: Barack Obama has been candid and open about who he is from the beginning, from the time he wrote his first book. I don't think he has much to hide. And certainly it is important for the voters and for the people who are going to choose the next president of the United States to know exactly who that person is. So I think it's good that these issues have come out, that they've been discussed, that Barack has had an opportunity to talk about where he stands on all issues that I think are important to Americans.
You know, when we line up Barack Obama against John McCain, I think that the choice is going to be clear. There's no question that John McCain is a war hero. He is someone who has served the country well. But we really are making a decision in November about the future of our country and what we want to do in terms of the war. Barack Obama has been consistent in his opposition to that. What we want in terms of health care for working people in this country. And Barack has been consistent about that, and consistent about bringing the country together in a way that we can really face not only our domestic tick challenges, but the challenge we face in the international community.
The day we elect Barack Obama president of the United States, we will send a very strong signal to our international neighbors about who we are as Americans and what we want in terms of a community internationally and domestically that is unified around peace and around sound strategy.
KING: Big day in the Democratic campaign. John Edwards endorsing Barack Obama. Tomorrow will be a significant day in the Republican campaign. John McCain will lay out his threshold, his benchmarks for a first McCain term, if there is one. We'll discuss the Republican race for president when we come back in just a minute. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: Just a few minutes left here on LARRY KING LIVE. Want to get our panel's thoughts on a major speech John McCain will give tomorrow, laying out in Ohio, I believe, benchmarks for his first term. CNN's Dana Bash's information tonight says senior advisers tell her one the things McCain will do is say he intends to have the majority of troops out of Iraq by the end of his first term, leaving only non-combat troops behind. Kevin Madden, is that a candidate who is saying that from a position of strength, or candidate who understands the opposition to the war in the country is pretty strong and he needs to modify his position?
MADDEN: John, it's a good point. I think it's a candidate who's looking at the big middle as the most important calculus for him to win in November. He has to get these conservative-minded Democrats, people who are disaffected with the way the war was administered. But they do necessarily agree that we need a robust national security posture.
He does recognize also that independents are very unhappy with the way the war has been conducted, and they want to see John McCain instill some confidence, some benchmarks, some measures of what he's going to do as president. He's going after the big middle of voters.
KING: Kellyanne Conway, another thing we're told, Dana Bash reports John McCain will do, say he intends to go before the Congress and answer questions like the British parliament system. Is he crazy?
CONWAY: No, he's absolutely right. One of the chief criticisms the Republican-controlled Congress had of George W. Bush is that he showed up once every couple of years for lunch and a pep talk. It's very important for Pennsylvania Avenue and Capitol Hill to meet more often to show that the Executive and Legislative Branches are going together.
I also think the reason John McCain's saying what he's saying tomorrow about pulling the troops out of Iraq by the end of his first term, John, is because one of the things he keeps having to push back against, particularly in the face of the media, are questions about his comments that I'd have troops there for the next 100 years. Of course, he meant in peace-keeping times, but I think goes -- this is a frontal assault exactly against that, so that will put to rest exactly what he meant.
KING: Paul Begala, the Democratic prebuttal to those proposals would be?
BEGALA: It's not going to be McCain's first term. It's going to be Bush's third term. He wants to the make Bush occupation of Iraq permanent. He does want permanent troops, 100 years he has said, in Iraq. He wants to make the Bush economic policy permanent. He voted against those tax cuts being temporary. Now he wants them to permanent. That's like marrying a girl you didn't want to date. It's incoherent. But it's all Bush all the time. That's what McCain's going to give us if he ever gets in there.
KING: Kamala Harris, we only have a few seconds left. Both of these candidates have talked about the possibility of actually traveling the country together, Barack Obama and John McCain, having joint town halls. Do you see any possibility that would happen?
HARRIS: I think it's possible. Certainly, we know Barack will go throughout this country and go to all the places that need to hear him and want to hear from him. Whether McCain, after the first couple debates, will want to really allow people to see the contrast, that's another question.
KING: I need to jump in on that. My apologies. Keep up the latest on LARRY KING LIVE. Go to CNN.com/LarryKing. And if you like "American Idol," you'll love LARRY KING LIVE tomorrow night. Ryan Seacrest is Larry's guest.
Time now for the top of the hour, Anderson Cooper and "AC 360" -- Anderson?