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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

The Democratic Primaries in Kentucky and Oregon

Aired May 20, 2008 - 21:00   ET

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


BLITZER: All right, Campbell.
Thank you.

I want to update our viewers on what we know right now, because the night is going on, at least in Kentucky, very much in Hillary Clinton's favor. Ninety-two percent of the precincts in Kentucky have reported. A very impressive, decisive win for Hillary Clinton -- 65 percent of the vote so far, to 30 percent for Barack Obama. Seven percent of the precincts have not yet reported.

Let's take a look at the hard numbers in Kentucky right now for this 35-point advantage for Hillary Clinton -- 413,500 votes for Hillary Clinton, 189,312 votes for Barack Obama. A decisive win for Hillary Clinton in Kentucky, as expected. But 35 points perhaps more than some people thought.

The polls will be closing in Oregon in less than two hours. That could be a very different picture tonight. Barack Obama very popular in Oregon. And we'll see what happens once the polls in Oregon close.

An interesting feature about Oregon is the fact that all of the ballots in Oregon are mail-in ballots. They do them all by mail. And, as a result, they get a high turnout -- John King -- in Oregon. They're pretty sophisticated out there. They know what they're doing.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They've been at this for some time and they're very good at doing it. They say it increases participation and turnout because it's easier for the people at home to do a mail-in ballot. And so I think anything to increase the turnout, they would argue, is a good thing for democracy. And they have been very, very efficient. So we'll see when the polls close. But expect a quick count, at least a decent number to come in very fast.

BLITZER: It's going to be a record turnout in Oregon, a record turnout in Kentucky. We've seen these huge turnouts for the Democratic contest all over the country.

KING: And the panel was just talking about how the Democratic fundraising shows the energy in the Democratic Party. The turnout does, as well. And the Republicans are taking notice of this. They think they still have a remarkable -- surprising, almost chance -- that John McCain is competitive, given all the fundamentals against the Republicans. But right now, if you ask the Republicans, they say what they're worried about -- especially if Barack Obama is the nominee -- is not only that the fundamentals of the election favor the Democrats, but that he has proven to be an extraordinary fundraiser. And make no mistake, the Republicans are worried about that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He's breaking all records. All of them are breaking records, but he's breaking the most records.

KING: He's shattering them.

BLITZER: All right. Let's to go Kentucky right now and see how she managed to do it tonight.

KING: This is a thumping. And we've seen this throughout this neighborhood, if you will. Ohio over here, West Virginia over here to Tennessee down here -- all states where Senator Clinton has won big and won very big by just sweeping across the small town America. And this is her argument to the superdelegates, Wolf. We've talked about this a lot. She says, my husband won this state, you know, he -- this is how a Democrat gets elected to the White House -- he has to win either Kentucky or West Virginia or Iowa -- places where small town, rural voters decide who gets to be president of the United States. That is her argument.

And, again, if you go back in time and you look at this state in 2004, that's George W. Bush winning almost all of those areas where Senator Clinton -- now, the primary and the general election are very different beasts so -- but what she is arguing is that she can be more competitive in the areas where Republicans run up their margins to take these states statewide. That is her argument.

But the thing working against her, Wolf, as you look at a very, very, very impressive win for Senator Clinton in the State of Kentucky, no doubt about it.

The thing working against her is this map here. Barack Obama is beginning to get closer and closer to the finish line -- the existing finish line in the delegate race, getting a small amount of delegates out of Kentucky, waiting for Oregon tonight.

He is expected tonight to cross 1,627. That would be a majority of the pledged delegates in this race so far. And a more telling way to look at it -- excuse my arm coming across your screen -- is this right here. Under the existing map, Wolf, here's your finish line. Senator Clinton is this distance from the finish line, Senator Obama just that distance -- fewer than 100 delegates -- down around 96 or 97 delegates from the finish line under the existing rules.

Barack Obama needs to win fewer than three in 10. He can win about 70 -- he can win about 28, 29 percent of the remaining delegates and he will be the Democratic nominee under the existing rules.

And for Senator Clinton, who needs a much higher number of delegates, you're looking at only 380 delegates left to be decided. This pot, of course, includes Oregon and a few of the Kentucky delegates we have yet to allocate. So the math -- I mean this tells it all. You don't need to do the math to just see the proximity of Obama to the finish line and how much further Senator Clinton is from the finish line. And you were discussing this earlier, if you go back to what the Clinton campaign wants -- bring in Michigan and Florida -- it does move the finish line further out. And certainly it would make Senator Obama more distant from the finish line. But Senator Clinton still has a long way to go to the finish line, too. The math here is somewhat more favorable to her than it is under the scenario I just showed you, but still very daunting, even if she gets what she wants out of the Democratic National Committee's Rule Committee.

BLITZER: And that meeting -- that big meeting May 31st in Washington. We'll see what they decide, because you heard Howard Wolfson say they've got to decide to seat those delegates from Michigan and Florida the way they voted. That's something the Hillary Clinton campaign would desperately like. But it's something the Barack Obama campaign, assuming it's not over with by May 31st, would desperately oppose.

So there could be a big fight going on with the Democratic Party. And Wolfson didn't rule out the possibility, although he says it's unlikely, he doesn't want it to happen, this going on until the end of August and the Democratic convention in Denver.

All right, John, stand by, because I want to continue this conversation.

Michigan and Florida -- we're going to go to Florida in a moment and see what's going on over there. Jessica Yellin is on the scene for us. She's covering the John McCain campaign.

A lot more to talk about. CNN/politics is where you can see these numbers coming in county by county and get a lot of other useful information, as well.

We're standing by to see what happens in Oregon after this impressive victory for Hillary Clinton in Kentucky.

Stay with us.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center.

We'll get back to what's happening tonight in just a second.

It's my sad duty, though, to report to you the sad news that Hamilton Jordan, who was Jimmy Carter's chief of staff in the White House, has passed away -- 63 years old. This according to the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Hamilton Jordan was a powerful figure during the Carter administration. That's when I first got to know him -- a strong, strong strategic adviser for then President Jimmy Carter. He then went on to do all sorts of charitable work. He had been struggling with cancer for many years. He had two bouts of cancer. Unfortunately, he passed away today. Hamilton Jordan dead at 63 years old. Our deepest condolences to his family. Our deepest condolences to Hamilton Jordan's family.

Let's get back to what's happening tonight in Kentucky and Oregon.

The polls in Kentucky are closed. Hillary Clinton with a decisive, very impressive victory there. Ninety-five percent of the precincts have reported. She has 66 percent to Barack Obama's 30 percent. That's a crushing defeat for Barack Obama.

In Kentucky, it probably will be a very different story, though -- very much of a different story in Oregon, where the polls close in about an hour and 49 or so minutes from now, 11:00 p.m. Eastern, 8:00 p.m. Pacific. All the indicators going into Oregon tonight -- the polls going in showed that he was ahead of Hillary Clinton. We'll watch that very closely.

We're also standing by to hear directly from Barack Obama. He's speaking shortly in Des Moines, Iowa. We'll get to his remarks as soon as he starts speaking.

I want to go to Florida right now. This is a major state -- a key battleground state come November.

Jessica Yellin is down there, our correspondent.

She's covering John McCain's campaign in Tampa.

We heard from McCain. He's gearing up for the general election. He's deeply involved. Give us a little sense of what he's up to right now, because he's just released some of his own campaign fundraising figures.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

John McCain has been in this state today, hitting Barack Obama hard on this question of foreign policy and whether Barack Obama has the experience and judgment to be commander-in-chief. He's really framing his campaign and the debate that he'd like to have going into the general election clearly on an area that he feels that he has more credentials and, also, more sort of legitimacy.

And it's a message that Senator Clinton herself tried with Barack Obama, hitting him on experience and judgment. It didn't work out quite as well for Senator Clinton.

But McCain is hoping, obviously, that it will be a much more effective message in a general election. And today, he was in South Florida, talking to Cuban-Americans about Castro and about Barack Obama's message that he would be willing to sit down with Fidel Castro's successor and talk, negotiate, perhaps, to open up some sort of arrangements. These things, Barack Obama says, would be conditional. John McCain says any kind of discussion is inappropriate and speaks to his lack of experience and knowledge of how this sort of foreign relations should be negotiated.

Now, Obama says McCain has flip-flopped. There's the usual kind of back and forth you would expect in a campaign season. But what we should really take away from this is that Florida is a key battleground state in the general election. All the candidates are actually coming here this week to campaign aggressively in the state.

And John McCain is trying to immediately hit home with Cuban- Americans, who make up a very vocal minority of the electorate here, on an issue that will resonate with them and trying again to frame this debate ahead of the general election and put Barack Obama on the defensive. And, as you know, you interviewed Barack Obama on this issue today. He found himself responding to John McCain's attacks for the last two days -- yesterday on Iran, today on Cuba -- on this issue of foreign policy.

So McCain has used his running start quite effectively to define the issues that he wants to debate Barack Obama on if he should be the nominee in a general election -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And John McCain certainly welcomes the debate on national security issues, by all accounts. He feels very comfortable discussing those issues, maybe not as comfortable talking about some of the economic, domestic issues.

Jessica, thanks very much.

I want to get back to you shortly.

I want to walk over to John King, though -- Florida, John, we're going to see Hillary Clinton there this week. We're going to see Barack Obama there this week. All of us remember what happened in the year 2000 in Florida. McCain is spending a lot of time there.

This is a battleground and you heard Hillary Clinton say in her remarks tonight -- we just saw them coming in from Kentucky -- she is better positioned to win the Electoral College map than Barack Obama.

KING: She argues she is. And let's quickly, before we look at the electoral map, you just talked to Jessica. She's in Tampa. Wolf, 40 percent of the voters in the State of Florida are right there along the I-4 Corridor, about 14 counties from over here in Tampa all the way over to Daytona Beach, Orlando in the middle. About 40 percent of the vote of the state is right in that belt right there. And the key swing Independent voters right in that area -- that's why you're going to see a lot of the candidates between now and November up in the I-4 Corridor.

Now, let's look more closely at the electoral map and at Senator Clinton's argument.

This is -- and I'll put up a Clinton/McCain -- put up a Clinton/McCain match-up just as a hypothetical scenario. These numbers start where George W. Bush won in 2004. John Kerry won in 2004. The map will change a bit, but you always start your calculation based on the last election.

Hillary Clinton's big argument is not only based on her Florida win down there, which the Obama campaign says doesn't count, was voted outside the rules. But look at this map right now. This is -- again, George W. Bush's number last time.

If you take Florida away from the Republicans and those 27 votes, John McCain would fall short just on that one flip right there. If the Democrats had taken that state away last time from George W. Bush, you would have had a different result.

So Senator Clinton's argument is Barack Obama is losing among white, working class voters. There are a lot of those up in here in Florida. He's losing among older voters. There are a lot of those, especially along the coast in Florida, as you know very well. And Hillary Clinton's argument is just that one state alone, I'm a stronger general election candidate. I could flip this state from red to blue and change the electoral map right there on that calculation.

That is one of the arguments she is making, Wolf, to the superdelegates. Again, nominations are decided based on the pledged delegates in the primaries and wherever the superdelegates go is not always based on who would be a stronger candidate in the November general election. But that is her biggest argument. She says, I can hold onto Pennsylvania and those 20 electoral votes. I think I could come over here, maybe even take Ohio away from the Republicans. West Virginia, she won it big.

Could she get those?

Kentucky more of a red state, but Bill Clinton did win it. Maybe she could take that.

Not that she would ever win all these, but her argument is look at how many more states I could put in play than John Kerry did, even than Al Gore did -- and she thinks Barack Obama could -- and that she would have a more competitive map.

Barack Obama comes back with a map of his own. And we can go through it and I'm sure we will some time tonight. He has an argument of his own.

But in the big states, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and in Florida, even many Democrats who support Barack Obama say today -- today, a month before the general election, Hillary Clinton is right. Based on the polling, based on the primary results, she is a stronger candidate in many of those states now against John McCain. What they argue is Barack Obama has time to deal with his issues -- some would say problems -- between now and November. But that is the big debate to the Democratic superdelegates.

BLITZER: And, briefly, just show us his map, because he has some states, especially out West, where he thinks he could turn those states from red to blue.

KING: Absolutely. Now, the Obama campaign insists that it will hold Pennsylvania. But lets do a scenario in which the McCain campaign and the Clinton campaign are right and John McCain switches Pennsylvania over. What Barack Obama says is that won't happen, but even if it does, I'll come down here to Virginia and I will put those 13 in our column. I will, perhaps, because of increased African- American turnout, maybe I can come down here and get Georgia. He especially believes Colorado -- new voters out here in the Mountain West. The Democrats are growing. He believes he can do that. He believes he can also take New Mexico away.

He's in Iowa tonight, Wolf, for good reason. Barack Obama knows this is a swing state in November. He thinks he could take that away.

Now, with those states, Barack Obama is now winning. He also thinks Missouri, although most people would debate that point, at least at this point in the campaign. But just on the switches I just made, Barack Obama would win the election -- again, put in play a fewer number of states, especially big electoral prizes, than Hillary Clinton would. But he says even if you concede the point up here -- which he does not -- that he's quite competitive, as well. This is, again, the argument -- the facts is the data, the polling data, the maps that all the Democratic superdelegates are getting as both campaigns bombard them to make a decision.

BLITZER: And the magic number for the Electoral College, as everybody remembers, is 270.

KING: Two hundred and seventy.

BLITZER: All right, we've got some breaking news.

We've just given -- not we. Kentucky has given Barack Obama two more delegates, even though he's losing a landslide to Hillary Clinton and Kentucky. They do, according to the Democratic rules, have a proportionate distribution of those delegates. And by getting these two additional delegates right now, by our estimate, he has gone above and beyond the magic number in terms of the majority of elected or pledged delegates.

This is what he wanted to achieve tonight. This is what he wants to talk about in his speech that's coming up in Iowa later tonight.

Let's bring back John King and talk a little about why this is such an important number for Barack Obama and his supporters.

KING: You still need 2,025 to win the nomination under the existing rules. But that is a calculation that puts the superdelegates into the mix.

This is the number that Barack Obama thinks is a critical moral threshold -- 1,627. He makes the case, if you win a majority, the delegates who are decided on election day by Democratic primary and caucus voters, if you win a majority of those, how could the party "take" the nomination away from him, the superdelegates take it away from him?

BLITZER: Some say steal it away from him.

KING: Some say steal. Others would say the superdelegates, that's their vote, too, they have every right to do it.

But he thinks it's a powerful not only mathematical argument, but moral argument. And there you have it. With these extra delegates, he has won -- based on the proportions in Kentucky, Barack Obama has now passed 1,627, which is a majority, again, of the pledged delegates. Those are the delegates the voters decide as they vote across the country.

And so, as a moral argument, his argument to the superdelegates now is I have won the majority of the delegates. He says -- again because in his math -- he does not count here and here. He says he is winning in the popular vote. He says he has won more states. And, as of now, Wolf -- let me clear this and bring it up in different form. He says that he has also won more -- he also is leading right now in the superdelegates over Senator Clinton.

So his mathematical argument is -- and look what we gave him. We gave him those extra delegates, which gets him all closer out here, at 1,933 or so. He only needs 20 or 25.

His argument is he's winning where you're supposed to win to get the nomination, he's winning in pledged delegates, now leading in superdelegates, how could the party turn on him now?

What Senator Clinton says is there's still a pool left, especially those superdelegates, it's not over. She's into a fight. And we're getting more indications tonight -- and not only from her -- that she's going on, at least through the remaining contests.

be only from her that she's getting on. Not just the remaining contests.

But that 1,627 number -- again, 1,627 is a majority of the pledged delegates. Barack Obama has now passed it. They think that gives them a very powerful case to Democratic superdelegates that we are the Democratic Party, I'm winning more votes, let's be democratic.

BLITZER: And that's what he's going to be talking about when he speaks shortly in Iowa. We're going to hear from him not -- in the not too distant future. That's coming up.

Also, we're going to be speaking shortly to Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut. He's a major supporter of Barack Obama, himself a former Democratic presidential candidate.

We'll take a quick break. Remember, CNNPolitics.com -- that's where you want to be if you want to get all these numbers coming in county by county in Kentucky, later in Oregon.

Much more of our coverage from the CNN Election Center right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN Election Center.

I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

A big night for Hillary Clinton in Kentucky. A decisive, impressive win. Almost 100 percent of the precincts have reported. She's got 65 percent to Barack Obama's 30 percent. But we're still waiting for the results to start coming in from Oregon. The polls there close in just a little bit more than an hour-and-a-half. It could be a very different story in Oregon.

I want to go to Washington right now.

Joining us, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, a former presidential candidate, a major supporter of Barack Obama right now.

I want to talk politics in a moment, Senator Dodd.

But I know that Senator Kennedy, for many years, has been one of your closest -- if not your closest -- friend in the U.S. Senate. And I want to know what's going through your mind right now, as we learned earlier today this horrible news that he's suffering from a malignant brain tumor.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Wolf, this is a -- I don't know a better fighter I've ever met in my life, in or out of public life. I think of the causes he has championed over the years and the battles he's been through, the tremendous courage he has shown throughout his public life and on so many issues on so many occasions.

Having been through as much as he has in his family, I get a little worried that people are starting talking about he's no longer with us. This is a tough guy who knows how to fight. He's demonstrated that on so many occasions. And I'll tell you, I've spoken to him now a couple of times. He sounds terrific. He's got a positive attitude. He's got great doctors. He's got a great family. His wife Vicky couldn't be a stronger champion to have in your corner under any circumstances. And he's a positive individual. He always believes that no fight is ever lost, you keep on fighting.

And so I feel, you know, that this guy -- if I -- I would be disturbed if I were that tumor. That tumor is in for deep trouble, in my judgment.

BLITZER: We only hope and pray to God that it is. We only want to wish him the best -- our best wishes and all of our prayers are going out to him.

DODD: He was just -- I'll just tell you, Wolf, just to -- we were here in the building here, The Russell Building. And about four or five days ago, my 6-year-old and 3-year-old were up here, who love Teddy. And they went out to play with Splash and Sunny, his dogs. We were sitting here throwing tennis balls in the park to the dogs and playing with my daughters.

This is a strong, vibrant guy. And I just want to tell you and anyone out there listening, this guy is going to be back and fighting again. Count on it.

BLITZER: We certainly hope so. And we're praying for him.

Thank you on that.

Let's talk a little about politics. A big win for Hillary Clinton in Kentucky tonight. But given the way they divide up delegates, by our estimate right now, Senator Dodd, Senator Obama has crossed this threshold of having a majority of the elected or pledged delegates. He doesn't have enough to declare a victory, but it is a threshold that he'll talk about later in Iowa.

Why is this important?

DODD: Well, because they're pledged delegates. These are the delegates that are chosen in caucuses and primaries through the electoral process. It's -- these are the contests that I was competing in back a number of months ago.

And when you get that 627, I think, is the number to get you over that threshold, while still superdelegates, obviously, have a say here, most superdelegates are not going to decide to run counter to what elected delegates have already proven here. There is a very major point, obviously. Obviously, the superdelegates have the right to decide any way they wish. But I think most of them here will decide that the Democratic Party, through a democratic process, has spoken. And they're not about to, in my view, reject that conclusion.

BLITZER: So from your perspective, Senator Dodd, is it over?

DODD: Well, I think it has been. And I say that respectfully, because I also believe that Mrs. Clinton has the right to carry this on to its final conclusion, with the remaining primaries that we have over the next week or so. And she's doing it in a way that I think the tone is good. This hasn't been, as it was a while back, where they're sort of tearing into Barack Obama, but, rather, I think respecting him, respecting what he stands for.

And Barack -- I've known Hillary Clinton for a long time. I've known her husband for almost 40 years. These are great -- not only great Democrats, they're great American. And they care deeply about this country, passionately about this country.

And the last thing you're going to find from Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton is they want an opportunity to see George Bush have another four to eight years in the presidency. They're going to be standing with Barack Obama. Believe me when I tell you this with absolute certainty and conviction and passion, this will be a very united party in a matter of days.

BLITZER: What happens if, on May 31, when the Democratic National Committee's Rules Committee meets and they do what the Clinton campaign wants them to do to, determine that Michigan and Florida are part of the process, even though they moved up their primaries against DNC rules, and that magic numbering up by a couple hundred?

DODD: Well, again, that's a hypothetical. I don't know how to answer that because I think what's going to happen is we're going to seat the delegations from Florida and Michigan.

But my guess is -- it's what I suggested weeks ago, and that is they'll probably have an even split.

In Michigan -- the only person that Hillary Clinton beat in Michigan was me. I was the only person whose name was on that ballot other than uncommitted delegates -- uncommitted voters. So when she says she won the race in Michigan, it's true. But the person she beat was not Barack Obama. She beat Chris Dodd of Connecticut.

And in Florida, of course, Barack Obama hardly competed at all. And I think the fact that we were asked not to be there -- my name stayed on the ballot, really, because I didn't want to pay the extra fees to take it off. But we respected the fact that we shouldn't campaign in that state.

I don't think Americans believe they ought to reward those delegates to a -- in a contest here where the candidates didn't compete for them.

So I think it will be an even split and the result would be, as I predict a minute ago. I think the race is basically over with and this party is going to come together.

BLITZER: So, very quickly, because we're out of time...

DODD: Right.

BLITZER: ...are you saying that for the good of the party, for -- to increase the chances of beating McCain in November, you would like to see Hillary Clinton drop out right now?

DODD: No. I didn't say that. I said she has the right to continue this effort through the remaining primaries. She wants to do that. She should be able to do that. It's the tone of it, I think, that she's that I admire how she's doing this. This is not a negative tone. And she has every right in the world to continue this process over the next few weeks.

I think Barack Obama respects that. And I'm also telling you that I believe at end of that, she will stand with Barack Obama as a united party, asking people to support this ticket to get this country back on its feet in January.

BLITZER: Senator Dodd, thanks very much for spending a few moments with us.

DODD: You bet, Wolf.

Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you. Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut. Anderson Cooper is here with us as well. I know our panelists are waiting to weigh in. We spoke earlier with Howard Wolfson, got a different story from Chris Dodd. Let's hear what our analysts have to say.

COOPER: A different story indeed. Obviously, we're waiting to hear from Barack Obama any moment now. We anticipate him speaking sometime in probably the next, sometime around 10:00 or so. What do you A, anticipate him saying. He has got to walk the fine line without declaring victory. He now has the majority of pledged delegates as we just reported in breaking news. What did he have to say tonight?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN ANALYST: I think he has got to look like the winner but not claim to be the winner. If I can just say one word about this category of being ahead in pledged delegates or now have a majority. We've accused Hillary Clinton a lot over the last few weeks of making up categories. The popular vote category. The electoral votes of the states you won category. I think this pledged delegate category that the Obama people are talking about is equally bogus.

COOPER: How so?

TOOBIN: It is not a category recognized that leads to the nomination. There is only one number that matters. Which is now, 2026.

COOPER: And pledged delegates are the same as superdelegates in terms of how they counts.

TOOBIN: Exactly. So I don't think he gets any bragging rights as a result of this.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR: But it is a milestone in the sense that it is now impossible to pass him in pledged delegates. Once he gets the majority, it is impossible for her to pass him. That was not true yesterday. It was mathematically possible for her to pass him.

COOPER: Isn't this just one of those other metrics to use a word that everyone seems to be latching on to?

GERGEN: She is down to her last metric. That's the point. There are not many metrics left.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN ANALYST: But he is using this as a way to say it is not the end but the beginning of the end.

And so we're almost through this. And so while he can't claim victory, this is the way for him to say, this is almost over. I have a majority of the pledged delegates.

COOPER: But at the same time he has to be careful not to alienate Hillary Clinton or her core supporter.

BORGER: I'm sure he'll be very gracious about Hillary Clinton and her role in this campaign. And he will say, we're going to continue on to Puerto Rico and Montana and South Dakota. And every one should vote but nonetheless, I have passed a landmark tonight that's really important to Barack Obama's campaign. That's what he'll say. GERGEN: It is pretty clear, he was going down a different track. I don't think he would have gone to Iowa unless he thought originally, he was going to declare it is over tonight. And now I think the blow- back from her side has been such that he has to walk there fine line.

COOPER: There had been talk of him actually declaring victory in Iowa.

GERGEN: There were signs this was going back to where it started declaring victory in Iowa, of course. The swing state in the fall. It was symbolically very important to go back to Iowa. Now the symbolism of going to Iowa tonight, what is he doing in Iowa? Slow down, don't you think?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: They put him on to the path of the White House 20 weeks ago. I think they are going back because Barack and Michelle have fond memories of that state. And clearly this is going to be an important swing state. And he wants to lay a marker. George Bush won Iowa in 2004, Barack Obama would like to carry the state.

COOPER: Do you disagree with Jeff about the pledge delegates is a made up category?

BRAZILE: I'm a superdelegate so I am not going to pick on the pledged delegates. All delegates are the same. It is a matter of conference. Clearly, it is a very important milestone that he has reached the majority of pledged delegates but he has not reached the majority of delegates needed to win the nomination yet.

TOOBIN: I can say this because I am as far from a superdelegate as you can possibly be.

COOPER: For those who haven't been following this as closely as you have, why do you say the popular vote is a made-up category? Because it is impossible to actually measure?

TOOBIN: Because the Democratic Party has a rule. Like the Republican Party. The nominee is decided by delegates. That this is not a democracy where the most votes wins. This is like the U.S. Senate where there are certain numbers ...

COOPER: We actually don't know the number of people voting.

TOOBIN: Right. What makes that claim by the Clinton campaign especially ridiculous, frankly, is that there is no number of votes that we know were cast in the Iowa caucuses, for example. Because the Democratic Party never releases that number. It is delegate equivalence. It is fractions. It is not a popular vote. When Hillary Clinton says she is ahead in the popular vote, it has to be wrong because there is no accurate number for the popular vote.

BORGER: This is just part of the case that Barack Obama is making to people like Donna Brazile. Those uncommitted superdelegates. I have a majority of the pledged delegates. Now that I have a majority of the pledged delegates, don't you think it is time to get off the fence and come my way?

GERGEN: Jeffrey, you've been studying the law so much. You've been such a wonderful writer about the law. These are somewhat legal arguments if I may say so. I think in term of the raw politics of it when a candidate can say, I have a majority of the pledged delegates, I have a majority of the votes, I have a majority of the states, it become very, very hard for the opposition candidate to say, but I still should just win.

BORGER: The popular vote ...

TOOBIN: I am not suggesting that Hillary Clinton has much chance at all of being the nominee, I just think the manufacturing of categories to say you're ahead, we should, when we call out Hillary Clinton for saying it, we should do the same.

BORGER: But it's called making your case. They're both making their case. This is part of his case.

COOPER: I want to go over to our back row over here. On a different subject I want to talk a little bit about the general election which some would argue is already under way between Barack Obama and John McCain. What do you make of how Barack Obama, your candidate, has been doing against John McCain in this tit for tat battle, today over Cuba, the last several days it's been over Iran and foreign policy in general.

JAMAL SIMMONS, OBAMA SUPPORTER: One of the things you've heard from Democrats, they were concerned that Barack Obama didn't have the get up and go. We're watching now, sneaking to watch a little bit of this Piston-Celtics game in the Eastern Finals.

COOPER: You're now banished.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really, you and Paul.

SIMMONS: You know, that's a tough contest. A close contest. This isn't that close. What I think we're finding with Barack Obama is that he is not sort of this Grant Hill kind of player where as he good player but he is not very tough. We're finding that he actually is pretty tough and he is hitting back hard. He is hitting back fast against John McCain. And I think that Democrats are feeling a little more comfortable. They hear someone who will take the positions and fight back.

COOPER: It does seem that John McCain is setting the agenda, criticizing Barack Obama. And Barack Obama responding off it.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Barack Obama contesting John McCain on foreign policy and on strength. I think that's John McCain's turf.

Look. Barack Obama is running a general election campaign. He is talking about the economy, he is talking about foreign policy and even about his faith. He is clearly moving to a general election campaign. And guess what? It is not helping him in Kentucky. That Reagan Democrat that he needs in Kentucky, he is getting fewer of those than he did weeks ago.

COOPER: In the latest Gallup poll nationwide, he is way up vis- a-vis Hillary Clinton.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: If you ask Republican and Democratic pollsters, they'll tell you once the Democrats have a nominee, you'll see a ten-point surge. But it will balance out. It goes back to that point. The white working class voters, the Democratic elite, the thinkers of the party say they have to come back in for democrats to win the presidency. Bush gained momentum from 2000, 2004 with these voter. And Democrats are going to have a hard time pulling them back with Barack Obama. That's what you're seeing so far.

COOPER: While we are hearing from our panel, I want to remind viewers that we're waiting for Barack Obama to speak. I just want to show you a picture of Des Moines, Iowa, the hall where Barack Obama will be speaking. They are eagerly waiting, as are we.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN SPEAKER: If you're Obama, you want to go toe to toe with John McCain on the national security issue right now. That is his strength. And if you are able to show that you are doing well against him, countering the argument, that's good. We do know that McCain is weak on the economy. When it comes to those rural voters, that when Democrats will be able to say, look. It is time to vote your interest. So it makes sense right now that if you have a weakness, you begin to shore up that weakness. Show people that I can stand up and say something. Watch McCain do the exact same thing. When it comes to the economy, Obama will take the lead. McCain is going to respond. And he will have to show that I'm strong in this area as well.

This is strength and weaknesses.

SANCHEZ: There is a great example of that with Cuba. You're looking at the fact that Barack Obama saying I would have unconditional meetings with Raul and Fidel Castro. Even Senator Daschle is moving away from that, saying ...

He didn't say it would be unconditional. Preparation in advance. But even Senator Daschle ...

CASTELLANOS: He said when he spoke earlier about normalization, he said only if there were guarantees of freedom. It was not unconditional let's sit down at the table and talk.

COOPER: I want to bring in Paul Begala because he hasn't had a chance.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN ANALYST: The problem with this is who is setting the agenda in the general election? And Senator Obama, I think, pretty ably counter punched. I give his interview with him a b. It was demonstrably a true that Senator McCain has flip-flopped on Cuba. He did say he would normalize relations with Cuba the same way he supported normalization with Vietnam which is not a fully free country at all. Not a free country. So I would score him some points with that. But fundamentally, a campaign is not won by counterattacking. It is won by attacking.

COOPER: And Barack Obama right now is counterattacking.

BEGALA: He is hemmed in. He is fighting two at once. I feel for him. This is what I want to see as a Democrat moving forward should he be the Democratic Party's nominee. I'm a George S. Patton Democrat. He said the purpose of war is not to die for your country. It is to flake other guy die for his country. The purpose of a campaign is not to answer attacks and counterattack. It's to launch some of your own. And Senator Obama is like that mosquito in the nudist colony. When he looks at the Bush-McCain record, anywhere he lands, he has got fertile territory.

COOPER: Like a mosquito in nudist colonist. All right. I am going to let our viewers digest that one at home or visualize that a little bit as we go to break. Again, we're waiting for Barack Obama to speak. We're at the hall in Des Moines, Iowa where he is expected to speak. Our coverage continues of course online, cnnpolitics.com. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Big win for Hillary Clinton in Kentucky tonight. The results, almost all the precincts have now reported. Ninety seven percent of the precincts are in. Sixty-five percent of the vote for Hillary Clinton. Thirty percent for Barack Obama. Let's look at the hard numbers as they come in to the CNN ELECTION CENTER. Four hundred and forty four thousand, nine hundred thirty one for Clinton, 204,125 for Barack Obama.

A 35-point spread in Kentucky right now. A big win for Hillary Clinton in Kentucky. The polls will be closing in Oregon in one hour and fifteen minutes or so from now. A pretty different story we're expecting from Oregon where the polls have suggested Barack Obama is in a stronger position. Let's go out to Iowa right now. Why Iowa? Because that's where Barack Obama is standing by. He is going to be speaking to his supporters in Des Moines. Pretty soon, Suzanne Malveaux is on the scene for us. He picked Iowa because that is effectively where he got launched when he won the caucuses. He has now by our estimate gone beyond the majority of pledged or elected delegates. And Suzanne, he is going to be discussing that tonight. But he has to walk sort of a delicate line. Tell our viewers what he is going to do.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is fair to say that there is a lot of excitement, a lot of enthusiasm. This is one of those very rare, rare however, outdoor rallies in Iowa. You may recall in the beginning months it was very cold, 10 degrees below zero when he first started here. But this is really where he first got that incredible successful win. And it really trying to put him in the front runner status for the remainder of the contests.

He really made this a competition between the two. Barack Obama is not going to say this is the end of the competition but he certainly is framing this by saying to the superdelegates, to the remaining voters. That he is moving beyond the primary season to the general election. He is in Iowa to make that case. Because of the kind of enthusiasm but also because of the demographics there, Wolf. Ninety five percent white. Rural areas, Clinton had captured some of those rural areas. But this is an important swing state. It is also a state where he really was able to get a lot of support across the board. Those demographics. Hillary Clinton coming in third place at that point, in third place in Iowa.

So he is going to be talking about moving ahead. We're also going to hear, Wolf, really, we've been following him, he has been trying to reach out to Senator Clinton. We're going to hear some words that we have not heard before. He really is going to paint a picture of Hillary Clinton talking about how she has been a strong formidable opponent. But also somebody with a lot of character. A lot of integrity. He really is trying to reach out to her. Not only reach out to her but also her supporters. It is so critical at this time to try to win them over.

He is doing all of this to show the superdelegates. Because we know he is not going to get the numbers he needs tonight on pledged delegates alone. But he is going to make the argument to the superdelegates that he is doing everything that needs to be done to get their support.

The majority of the pledged delegates reaching out to Senator Clinton, reaching out to her supporters. And also, doing it so in this back drop. This setting, Wolf, which really says to the superdelegates, he hopes that he can win a cross section of America. And he can also work really, really hard to do so in a critical swing state. Wolf?

BLITZER: In almost all of the recent speeches, Suzanne, as you well know. He has been very generous to Hillary Clinton. Not so generous to John McCain. I assume he will go after John McCain tonight. What are you hearing on that front?

MALVEAUX: He is going to go after him really hard on a number of issues. They'll raise lots of distinctions between the two candidates. He is going to take him on when it comes to national security, specifically when it comes to talking to adversarial leaders. That has been a big debate, a fierce debate has erupted within the last couple of weeks. We know that is going to be central to the general election. Both of those candidates, very obvious that that is something they are taking on. Barack Obama also recognizing that when it comes to John McCain, what makes him a formidable opponent is really the fact that he is a war hero. He is a veteran. He does have years and years of experience. They have been linking John McCain's agenda to George Bush, and that is what you're going to hear this evening when it come to national security. That this is not a man of change. He is not a candidate of change. This is the same old type of Bush administration, Bush policies on the national security front. You'll also going to hear that about the economy, about education, about health care.

He is going to make these distinctions of all these different issues with John McCain. He is really trying to set this up as not between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton but obviously, looking ahead to the general election. This will be a pivotal night for this campaign. They put up the glass plates for the teleprompter. That means that is something that he takes a certain sense of import here tonight because he is going to be giving this kind of speech.

BLITZER: He does that very well when he reads the speeches from teleprompters. Most viewers out there have no idea he is actually reading a speech. He is very good at that. All right, Suzanne, stand by. Momentarily, he is going to be walk out to that podium where you are. Once he starts speaking, we'll go there live.

Also, you can watch this rally, by the way, right now if you want to watch it of the what's going on where Suzanne is. Cnn.politics.com. You can go there. Get a lot of other useful information as well. Cnnpolitics.com.

We'll go to Barack Obama's speech and much more of our coverage. We're just a little bit more than an hour away from the polls closing in Oregon. We'll tell you what we know on that front. Much more coming up from the CNN Election Center right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A little more than an hour, hour and six minutes or so until the poll close in Oregon. A major victory for Hillary Clinton in Kentucky. Sixty five percent for Hillary Clinton. Thirty percent for Barack Obama. We of course are waiting for the polls to close in Oregon to report the results of that. We're also waiting for Barack Obama to be speaking in Des Moines, Iowa tonight. A live shot of the crowd who is clearly eagerly awaiting their candidate in the State of Iowa. A state which obviously has a central role in the history of Barack Obama in this campaign, at least.

Let's talk a little about the vice-presidential race. And there is a lot of speculation. A lot of talk. What are you hearing, David. There is polling out of Kentucky.

GERGEN: What I found really interesting out of Kentucky, the exit polls. Is that about 60 percent of her voters think she would make a good vice president and be happy to see that happen. About 60 percent of his voters don't want her as vice president. I think what that reflects and what we've been watching is hardening up that's been going on on both sides. The animosity that has grown. He may find even if he wanted to go to her, he may get a lot of blowback.

Because I know when he started looking at the idea of helping her raise money, there was a lot of blowback on his finance people do not to do that. We don't want to go down that track. We don't want to help her. There is an anger on his side ...

COOPER: They were saying they don't want to help her because of the anger?

GERGEN: Because of the anger. And he may want to do some things for her to help heal the party. And I think we'll hear the rhetoric tonight that is very healing in that sense. But underneath that, there is a lot of anger on his side and underneath Hillary, there is a lot of anger against Barack.

COOPER: In the past, there have been plenty of presidential candidates who have suck it up and picked a vice-president deposition choice who they didn't necessarily personally like.

TOOBIN: That's probably more often the case than not. Whether it is Kennedy-Johnson or Reagan-Bush. That is -- I don't think they worry too much about liking each other. It is winning the election. And I think the question that Obama has to ask himself, does he want the electoral choice? Someone who will bring a state, Bill Richardson, New Mexico, or does he want to do maybe a Cheney-type choice. And I mean that someone not like Dick Cheney but someone who is not picked for a single state but someone like Joe Biden who will show a concern about the nation as a whole, an idea of positioning Barack Obama differently.

COOPER: Those who would support Joe Biden would say he is strong on foreign policy and that there is a perceived weakness of Barack Obama on foreign policy, that might help will.

BORGER: Or maybe you go for a governor of the state like a governor for the state of Ohio. There are lots of people I talked to say it isn't so important for him to pick Hillary Clinton. While she has done very well in this campaign, she does carry baggage. It could be polarizing. Maybe what he ought to do is pick a very prominent Hillary Clinton supporter. Somebody like the governor of Ohio, someone like Evan Bayh of Indiana.

GERGEN: There are going to be a lot of names that come out. What I think at the moment what is really, really interesting, how much hardening has occurred. Also we saw in Kentucky tonight, higher than in West Virginia. The number of people who vote for Hillary Clinton have said they would not vote for Barack Obama if he were the nominee. That number has been going steadily up.

BORGER: He is getting only a third of the voters.

COOPER: How do you reconcile that with the Gallup poll which is showing nationwide, not only the distance between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton extending. He is now farther ahead of her than he has ever been before nationally, in all these areas that she has traditionally led, they are nearly even, among Hispanic voters. I think even among women, they're nearly even.

BRAZILE: Senator Obama, Senator Clinton wants the nomination. Will have to sit down, break bread, dip it in olive oil and some dipping sauce.

GERGEN: No mosquitoes around.

BRAZILE: No mosquitoes.

And find a way to bring the party together. This is a big party. I've seen Democrats fight before. I know some major battles. They will find a way to come together. Once we have the nominee, that moment will come. We make a lot of -- we talk a lot about all the divisions. This is a big party. And it will come back together.

TOOBIN: You know who will have a very prominent role, I predict, in the Barack Obama campaign, assuming he is the nominee? Chelsea Clinton. If he embraces Chelsea Clinton as a symbol, a surrogate, as someone whom he embraces as a symbol of unity, I think Chelsea Clinton could be a huge asset to Barack Obama in the fall.

GERGEN: Do you see any evidence of that?

TOOBIN: I think he'll just ask her.

COOPER: Ask her what? To be on the campaign trail?

TOOBIN: To be on the campaign trail.

COOPER: Which she has been doing for her mom. Though she doesn't take reporters' questions, she does take questions from students around the country.

TOOBIN: And he is going to start a big voter registration effort. He has already started it. 50 states. Why not make her co- chairman.

BORGER: Why not?

TOOBIN: Why not? Seriously. I think it would be a very good idea.

COOPER: Doesn't she have an actual job. Seriously, wasn't she ...

TOOBIN: She had time off.

COOPER: She gets time off?

TOOBIN: If Barack Obama wrote a float to her boss, I think she would do that.

BRAZILE: I wanted to say that Senator Clinton's supporters are very passionate. They believe in their candidate. And they are right now tied to her. They see in Senator Clinton not only their hopes and aspirations but someone who is speaking to their pain, to their fears and someone who they believe will champion what they believe is right about America. So I think we shouldn't dismiss her supporters. They are out there, they're going to work their hearts out over the next couple of weeks and hopefully Senator Obama and everyone else will be able to bring them back into the fold if he's the nominee.

GERGEN: She has to help him. He needs her help on this. And don't you think older women especially are going to be much more influenced by her?

BRAZILE: Speaking as older women, if Obama is the nominee, he'll become the first president in my lifetime that is younger than me. BORGER: She will. I was listening with interest to Senator Chris Dodd who said that she will go out there and campaign her heart out. And I believe that to be the truth.

COOPER: We are waiting to hear from Barack Obama, really any moment now. We anticipate that live event in Des Moines, Iowa, that is where the senator has chose on the speak tonight. Coming up at the top of the hour, a large crowd assembled there, very of course, eager to hear what he has to say.

Let's take a look at this picture for one moment.

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