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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Clinton Takes Kentucky; Obama Takes Oregon
Aired May 21, 2008 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, by the way, if you're just joining us for this special midnight edition of LARRY KING LIVE, another big political night, Barack Obama is the projected winner in Oregon, and Hillary Clinton has a huge margin of victory in Kentucky.
And the big news for Obama tonight, he now has won a majority of the pledged delegates in the race for the Democratic nomination. As usual, the best political team in television is standing by. We're going to begin with Suzanne Malveaux in Des Moines. She was with that Obama group tonight. She watched.
What was that speech like for the crowd, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Larry, it was really exciting. It was electric for the crowd. They really got a sense that these were the folks who were standing out in the snow, the 10 degrees below zero, really putting in the kind of time and effort.
They were the ones initially who gave him that kind of stunning win that put him as the frontrunner to beat from the very beginning. So you got a sense that they were really grateful, that they were proud, they were looking for Barack Obama to move forward.
And he obviously was giving them something as well, saying this is where it all started. The message to the superdelegates, I'm the one who can win in a swing state like Iowa. I'm also the candidate too who can win in a predominantly white state, 95 percent white, swing state. A lot of different types of folks here.
This is really where it set the stage for Barack Obama. Obviously both of them, he feeling grateful, if you will, but also setting the stage for superdelegates and the voters to come, saying, look, I am the person who can win that broad perspective of voters. So put your lot in me, go ahead and cast your vote for me the next couple of weeks. Let's not wait for Florida or Michigan.
KING: Is he saying, Suzanne, that he is the nominee?
MALVEAUX: He is saying, Larry, as close as he can come to it that he is the nominee. He says that -- in his words at least, that we're within reach of the Democratic nomination. I talked to David Axlerod, his chief strategist, did they back away a little, did they ever plan on going full force, saying, I'm the victor tonight?
He said, well, that wouldn't have worked necessarily. They had to show some deference, respect to Senator Clinton. And we did hear some things we hadn't heard from Barack Obama, essentially saying she had shattered the barriers and the myths that this paved the way for his own daughters.
And that was really something, a way to reach out to her in a very, very personal way. We saw him with his family, with his daughters. Obviously he's trying to reach out to her and to her supporters.
KING: Thanks, Suzanne. Candy Crowley is with the Clinton group in Louisville, Kentucky.
Candy, has she commented since the Obama victory in Oregon?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No. She won the victory in Kentucky by a very large margin, far earlier than he won in Oregon simply because of the time difference. So she came out, accepted her victory, talked about moving on to Montana, South Dakota, Puerto Rico. But she was gone before those Oregon results began to come in.
KING: And where is she going?
CROWLEY: Florida. Tomorrow she'll be in Florida, which is a part of the Clinton strategy to say I can win enough delegates to win this nomination. She is, in fact, going to go down to Florida and make her case that the delegates in Florida should be seated.
They are not being seated, as you know, along with Michigan, because both those states held their primaries in defiance of when the Democratic National Committee said they could. So at the moment, none of their delegates count.
Now, Democratic Party officials will be meeting at the end of this month to try to figure out a way to seat both Michigan and Florida. What the Clinton campaign obviously is hoping is that they would love to have them seated in the way both those states came in because she won both of them.
That's not going to happen, Larry, but nonetheless, she has made it one of her goals as this campaign winds down to get Florida and Michigan seated. And she would also like to be able, just in terms of bragging rights, to claim the popular vote in both those states, because as you know, that's one of her arguments to superdelegates because she wants to be able to say I've won the popular vote.
KING: All right. Candy, you stay with us, because you're going to be on our panel in segments two and three in this half hour. Let's go to Wolf Blitzer, the anchor of CNN's "SITUATION ROOM," the host of our election results tonight. And the host of "LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER" every Sunday.
No surprises tonight, Wolf. Did you see any?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: No. This was exactly as projected. I thought maybe her win in Kentucky was more massive, about a 35 point spread, than some of the polls had suggested, very impressive win for her in Kentucky.
He's having an impressive win in Oregon right now. So both of them are doing well. You know, it's interesting, Larry, both of these states very, very white states, yet very different results for Hillary Clinton in Kentucky, for Barack Obama in Oregon.
KING: John King, I know he tracks the numbers for us, he'll be doing that later in his own segment on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. But from your standpoint, does Hillary have a shot?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She does not have a shot under any traditional math, Larry. Her only shot right now is to convince the Democratic National Committee to rewrite the rules, change the rules, bring Michigan and Florida back into play and hope somehow that convinces the small pool of superdelegates left to say, hey, wait a minute, let's carry this on.
It is not impossible, it is certainly improbable. The math is overwhelmingly stacked in Senator Obama's favor. I know we're going to look at this much more closely later. But I just want to show you this one graph right here, you don't have to do the math, Larry, it's just a simple look.
Here's Senator Obama's distance to the finish line. It's a very short line. Here's Senator Clinton's distance to the finish line. It's a much longer line. And there is a much smaller pool of delegates available to get it. Barack Obama can win 28 percent, even smaller than that. Tonight it was 28 percent coming in. He could probably win 25, 26 percent of the remaining delegates, he's the nominee.
Senator Clinton, unless they change the rules and move this line where she wants it, she has to win about 80 percent of the remaining delegates. So the math is simply overwhelmingly in Obama's favor.
KING: Wolf Blitzer, what happens coverage-wise between June 3rd and the Democratic Convention in August?
BLITZER: Well, unless the Hillary Clinton campaign decides that it's not over and they don't have the math and no one has that magic number, depending on what the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, does with Michigan and Florida, these two disputed primaries, there's still a small chance it will go all the way to the end of August, the Denver convention, on the convention floor.
They'll come up with some sort of floor fight. It's unlikely I would say given the math at this point. It looks like it's going to be resolved shortly after June 3rd. But this has been such an unpredictable campaign. Who would have thought back in early January that the Democrats would still be fighting it out six months later?
So I'm reluctant at this point, Larry, to make a hard and fast prediction.
KING: Another great job tonight, Wolf. Thanks for joining us.
BLITZER: Thank you.
KING: When we come back, John King, Candy Crowley, Paul Begala, and Jamal Simmons will constitute our panel. We'll get into it with them and you can watch. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... the help of those who stood up from Portland to Louisville. We have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: ... elected by the American people, and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: One of the strongest speeches in support of Barack Obama's campaign was delivered a while back by Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. He now lies in a bed, Massachusetts General Hospital, with a brain tumor. So with the panel, before we talk about politics tonight, I think that news overrode everything today.
Here's what the candidates had to say about the senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: He's not just a great senator, he is a great friend. He is beloved by me and beloved by my colleagues. And so we're going to do everything we can to support his family during this difficult time.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We hope, pray that they will be able to treat it and that he will experience a full recovery.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I know he's going to fight with all of his legendary might, supported by his wonderful wife, Vicki, and his entire family against this latest challenge, and we wish him well and send our thoughts and prayers to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Paul Begala, it has been said by historians that Senator Kennedy, no matter what your political belief, will go down in history as one of the five to 10 greatest members ever of the United States Senate. Would you say yes to that?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think to that question, I think the only -- not only senator, the only American who has probably affected as many Americans' lives for the good is Franklin Roosevelt in the last century. I mean, think about this, I'm no longer a young man. I'm 47. For pretty much my entire life, Senator Kennedy has been in the Senate.
And here's who he has helped. If you cast a vote, he has helped you to do that. If you have a job, he has helped you to do that. If you have a child, he has helped you get health care for that child or student loans that guys like me went on college on.
It's just almost beyond description how broad and how deep this man's commitment has been. And then on top of that, there's the guy. I have been privileged, and I don't want to overstep, but to call him a friend, he has been a hero of mine and an enormous help to me and to my family when we've had our own troubles and crises.
And all across America, there are millions who are lifting him up in prayer. I went to St. Patrick's Cathedral today, at the cathedral of the patron saint of the Irish, I lit a candle for Teddy Kennedy.
And don't count him out. You know, his mother, Rose, she used to say that God doesn't give us a cross that is too heavy for us to bear, and she lived to be over 100. So don't bet against Ted Kennedy.
KING: Jamal, it's fairly obvious that if he has any kind of road to recovery, he will not be able to campaign. How will he be missed in that regard?
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, before we get there, you know, when I first got to Washington as a 21-year-old working in the Clinton administration, I remember seeing Teddy Kennedy the first time and realizing, wow, I really am here, you know?
This is a symbol of what Washington was. For Barack Obama, I think that Ted Kennedy's big impact was with the superdelegates. Because Ted Kennedy came out for Barack Obama very early, he sort of signaled to everyone that it's OK to be with this fresh-faced young senator who reminded him a lot of his brother.
So I think, you know, how it goes forward, everybody is going to rally around the Kennedy family. But the political impact of Ted Kennedy on the Obama campaign has been felt for the last couple of months as we've seen all of these superdelegates come to his side.
KING: John King, as a reporter, reportorially, what does Ted Kennedy mean?
J. KING: Well, Larry, as Paul said, he has been a giant in Washington, a giant in the Democratic Party, a giant in the Bush administration improving in a time when where we are polarized in Washington and not much gets done on big things, that it's not a crime and it's not a shame and it's not abandoning your principles and beliefs to reach across the aisle and work with a guy who you might disagree with most of the time, but if the issue is big enough, let's see what we can agree on and get things done.
That is my perspective on Senator Kennedy as a reporter. I can tell you, Larry, as a kid who grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in an Irish Catholic neighborhood, you learned mom, dad, milk, maybe no, and then the Kennedys. You know, the Kennedys were part of your life from a very young child. And he has had a huge impact on the state of Massachusetts, obviously. And the thing that strikes you at a time like this is he is in the hospital and unable to speak for himself publicly at the moment, although he is making phone calls to people. And we should be very careful.
He is a fighter, and by all accounts, he says he wants to try to fight at this very difficult time. Remember all the tragedies in this family. His two brothers gunned down. Remember JFK Jr., his nephew, died in the tragic plane crash. In all of the moments of tragedy and trial in the Kennedy family, it has almost always been Ted Kennedy who pulled them together, who delivered the eulogies, who was the glue in the family.
Now it is him who is in a moment of crisis. So it is a remarkable generational reminder, if you will, of the brothers Kennedy, the famous political brothers Kennedy. We never saw one of them get so old.
KING: Well put. Now Candy Crowley, he's the patriarch of the whole family, isn't he?
CROWLEY: Oh, he absolutely is. I mean, as John just said, he was the face of the Kennedys. Listen, that is a platinum name, just not in Democratic circles, but in political circles everywhere.
You know, just a quick story. When he -- Teddy Kennedy ran against Mitt Romney many years ago for the Senate, gave him a brief scare, as a matter of fact, Romney looked like he'd be a very strong candidate. Kennedy obviously won.
But we went to a fairground with Kennedy, and he was just swarmed by people in Massachusetts, you know, who wanted his autograph, who wanted to talk to him. And kind of in the middle of this, a little boy, probably 6 or 7 years old, walked straight up to him, and he looked up at the senator and said, are you Kennedy? And the senator looked down at him and said, yes, I'm Kennedy.
And it just struck me that now over three generations, that name still rings down. It was kind of amazing. And I think it just shows you the power of what that family has been in politics.
KING: Yes, his eulogy at the Robert Kennedy funeral at St. Patrick's in New York was one of the most eloquent, beautiful speeches ever rendered. He broke down a number of times giving it.
We'll come back with the panel and get back to the political scene. We thought we should devote some time, and we wish him the very best. To the saga that is Ted Kennedy. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I'm going to keep making our case until we have a nominee, whoever she may be.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Our panel, by the way, will be remaining throughout. The only change, Candy Crowley, at the bottom of the hour, will be leaving us, and Reed Dickens, the former White House assistant press secretary, will be joining us.
Paul Begala, before I get your comment on the Clinton and Kentucky and the like, if Ted Kennedy can't go as a superdelegate, does someone replace him at the convention?
BEGALA: I think the party rules allow for that, Larry. I'm not exactly the expert on party rules, but yes, I think so. And again, though I'm hearing from members of his staff tonight, while we were on the air covering election returns, and they're saying don't count him out.
They of course appreciate all the nice things everybody is saying about Senator Kennedy, but they're also saying, keep in mind, he's watching his Celtics who beat the Pistons tonight, and he's also not wanting anybody to count him out in this. I expect to see him in Denver.
KING: You do?
KING: All right. Back to the political scene.
BEGALA: He's a tough old bird. Wait until -- you watch and see, Larry.
KING: Is your lady done, Paul? Is Hillary -- is this all over but the shouting?
BEGALA: You know, it's quite astonishing that we have a system in which she wins by, what, 35 points and we wonder if she's done. That's the nature, I guess, of the Democratic Party, or the process that we have.
But, you know, she won West Virginia by 41 points. Now she wins Kentucky by 35 points. Likely to lose a fairly substantial margin, nothing like 30 points, but losing in Oregon. But I don't think this is over.
I was struck tonight that her speech seemed mostly directed at those superdelegates, those elected officials and professional activist democrats who are going to have to decide this, whereas Senator Obama's speech seemed very much focused on swing voters in the general election. And I think that each points to where they think the greatest struggle is.
KING: Yes. Jamal, as a strong supporter of Barack Obama, are you at all concerned?
SIMMONS: I'm not sure what there is to be concerned about. Barack Obama is winning tonight in Oregon. He has crossed the threshold of having the most number of delegates. A lot of superdelegates have said over the past that the person who gets the most pledged delegates will be the person that they go with in the nomination fight.
So if that's the case, then Barack Obama is fully on course to be the Democratic nominee for president, which is, you know, exactly where he wanted to be. By being in Iowa today, I think he has signaled that he is taking seriously one of these very big swing states that was very key for him with voters across all demographics who all went for him.
He's going to go to Florida, I think, tomorrow and the next couple of days. He'll be in Tampa, he'll be in Orlando, he'll be in Miami. So he's focusing on Florida. He was just in Missouri last week and in Michigan. So, you know, he is paying attention to the states where people think he may have some trouble. And he's focused on this general election message.
KING: John King, later we'll have you at your most famous map where you are, of course, chairman of the board. But now as pure analysis, do you see any way that Hillary can change this around?
J. KING: It is near impossible, Larry. It is not mathematically impossible, it is certainly mathematically and politically improbable. But she has said she wanted to stay in. We're going to get more in detail on the map later.
But if you just look now, one of the reasons I would point it out is, there are only two states left in the continental United States left to vote for the Democratic contest, Montana and South Dakota. And then Puerto Rico down here.
So one of the reasons she's talking to the superdelegates is that there are so few delegates still to be decided in this race. Her only hope, Larry, is to get the party to reopen the Michigan and Florida situation in a way that works overwhelmingly to her favor which almost everyone says is unlikely, and then to convince a giant pool of the superdelegates that Barack Obama is a fundamentally flawed general election candidate.
So ignore what Jamal just said. Ignore that he has the most pledged delegates, ignore that he has won the most states, ignore that he runs a little better than Hillary Clinton does right now in national polls against John McCain. She does better in some of the individual key swing states in the general election.
So she just has a very difficult argument. Does she have some compelling points to make? Absolutely. But -- and how you pick nominees is based on winning delegates. And Barack Obama is winning that fight, and at the moment, with a pretty big lead.
KING: Candy Crowley, you've covered her and know her extensively. What keeps Hillary Clinton going?
CROWLEY: Well, look, here's what I'm told. A couple of things. First, and I think you heard her say this tonight, she has something like 17 million people who have voted for her. And her campaign says, look, do you want to know where she gets this energy? You want to know why she keeps going? It's those people on the rope lines who say to her, as they do, I'm proud of you, please keep going.
They believe she still has a point to make. They still believe in her. And secondly, they will tell you that there is a history to this, that she's well aware of the many women that have come to her campaign looking for a breakthrough, a first woman president.
And she feels the need to kind of have some graceful, some meaningful end to that if it is to be the end. And I will tell you the third thing is that I have been told, that she still really believes that there is a chance, an outside chance, mind you.
They said, look, she's a realist, she understands this, but there's still an outside chance it would add to Michigan and Florida coming into play, as John just mentioned, as one of her best hopes. The fact of the matter is that there is always the chance -- and her best chance, frankly, would be if something came out about Barack Obama obviously, that moves the superdelegates.
But that really, at this moment, looks like the only thing that could really sway those superdelegates, many of whom have told me that they're simply waiting for the end of this process to give her that respect, follow this through, but who have every intention on supporting Barack Obama. So it is a grim picture for her on most counts.
KING: Candy, would you say in your heart or your mind that she's going to Denver?
CROWLEY: I don't think so. And I'll tell you why. I think, you know, first of all, because I think that the superdelegates who don't want this to go to Denver will come out, will look at who has the most pledged votes, by and large, most of them at least will look at that and will fall in line for Barack Obama.
She has always said I'm in this until somebody has the delegates. Well, superdelegates are delegates. I think also -- and I was told this by someone inside the Clinton campaign, she doesn't want to wreck the party.
She is well aware of her place in the party. She wants to have a place in this party. She is not going to rip it apart. So they saw no realistic scenario under which she would go to the convention.
KING: Candy, thanks for noble work. You did a great job, as usual, all night.
KING: See you along the trail, Candy Crowley. Remaining with us will be Paul Begala, Jamal Simmons, John King, and we'll be joined by Reed Dickens, former White House assistant press secretary for President Bush.
Our quick vote question tonight, should the Democrats pick their candidate already? Go to cnn.com, cast your ballot. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Change is a tax code that rewards work instead of wealth by cutting taxes for middle-class families and senior citizens and struggling homeowners, a tax code that rewards businesses that create good jobs here in America instead of the corporations that ship them overseas. That's what change is.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Reed Dickens, the former assistant White House press secretary for President Bush, joins us. Before we get your political read on this, were you at the White House when that love (ph) -- relationship took place between Bush and Kennedy?
REED DICKENS, FMR. G.W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE ASST. PRESS SECY.: I was, I was. Early on we traveled to Massachusetts when they signed No Child Left Behind. Those were wonderful days early on when things seemed like they were going to be bipartisan.
KING: And I'm told that the president still remains a strong admirer of the senator.
DICKENS: He respects him and has a deep personal affection for him.
KING: OK. What is the effect of all this on McCain?
DICKENS: Well, you know, this is - you know, Barack Obama gave an amazing speech tonight. And I think it's been well noted, the contrast that you're going to see in November. I think what you're going to see is McCain does not have a very energized base. Barack Obama clearly has holes in his base. If you look at Hillary Clinton's poll numbers in Kentucky. So I think you're going to see a great contrast. And things are lining up to be a good debate in November.
KING: Paul Begala, I know you're a supporter of Hillary's, but is Barack Obama the most eloquent political speaker you've seen?
BEGALA: He's not bad, is he? I loved that speech. Again, I say that as a guy who voted for Hillary, and I love Hillary, and I donated to her campaign. You know, I used to tease Bill Clinton back when I was working for him that he could talk a dog off a meat wagon. And I believe that Barack today probably rose to sort of those Clintonian standards. I don't know if we're going to have another Bill Clinton in my party, the breadths of his ability, both one on one and in large groups, in interviews, extemporaneous. Barack is just starting out, though. And he is already drawing crowds. He drew 75,000 people in Oregon, and then tonight in Iowa. It's as good a speech as he's given. Not only eloquent, which we've come to expect from him but this time, and I think Reed is right, he's setting himself up for the general election now.
He's running on an economic change message, contrasting Senator McCain's saying that he's part of the past. He mentioned President Bush five times in his speech, just trying to keep the notion afloat that McCain would be a third term for Bush and that Barack equals change. So I just thought it was an outstanding speech. And I think it's the kind of thing, if we hear more of that in the general election, democrats just might win this thing.
DICKENS: I think he did a couple of important things tonight. You heard him reach out to Clinton supporters. You heard him use lines that republican candidates have used, someone was noting that on "Anderson Cooper" earlier. I think it was a speech that look forward to the general election. He reached out to several different constituencies and he didn't dip down into this process argument.
KING: We'll ask John King's thoughts on a portion of that speech. We'll play it for you. Here's Obama talking about Hillary. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No matter how this primary ends, Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and your daughters will come of age. And for that, we are grateful to her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: John King, no matter what your political thoughts, he's really special, isn't he?
J. KING: He's a very gifted communicator, Larry and the republicans get that. What he was trying to do that -- and some in the Clinton campaign found that patronizing. But he's not so much talking to Senator Clinton as he's trying to talk to her supporters, especially in this part of the country where he did have trouble with white working-class voters, with white rural voters. And what do they not know about Barack Obama? They don't know his family narrative. What they've heard about is Jeremiah Wright and some of the controversies in his campaign. So, what does he do? He reaches out to Senator Clinton and also mentions his daughter. So, he's doing trying to conciliatory, reaching out to Clinton supporters and filling in his own personal narrative, which Larry, both democrats and republicans tell you is critical to Barack Obama. He has a hole in his support right here. Democrats don't win the white vote in presidential elections, but he needs to get a bigger slice of it to be competitive. He's also hurting with older voters, which means in Pennsylvania and Florida, if he doesn't improve his numbers, we would have a big problem. So, this is a beginning step but a step that many democrats think that he needs to take, not only put more policy out there, but be more personal, tell people who he is.
KING: Jamal, is that speech tonight one of the things that drew you to him?
SIMMONS: Well, obviously --
KING: I mean, that kind of speech?
SIMMONS: Yes. You know, I had two good fortunate moments. One, I was on the stage the night he gave the speech at the 2004 democratic convention. So I saw him, you know, right up close give that speech and watch the crowd. It was a John Kerry crowd, but I watched them turn into a Barack Obama crowd that night. Then I stood in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2006 when he came to campaign for Harold Ford. And that was the day I sat there and I watched the crowd commend this former confederate state. And there was a majority white crowd that chanted for him, that screamed for him. People paid $2 apiece for Obama 2008 buttons. And I thought, you know what? There might be something to this. And over the course of time, as I saw the campaign unfold, I think Barack Obama just really showed how special he was and how much of a change agent he was really trying to be for the country.
KING: Reed, are the republicans fully cognizant of how tough a November this is going to be? I mean, viewing the condition of the country, the feelings about Iraq, the economy and this kind of opponent?
DICKENS: Yes, absolutely. I don't think there are any naive notions on the republican side of what kind of climate this is. I mean, but you have to keep in mind, the climate was not conducive to re-election in '04. You had populated below 50 percent and an unpopular Iraq war and a slowing economy. And democrats, as I said, all the time, when you show, Larry, have a bad habit of losing election, they should win. So, I think what's important is the climate is absolutely favoring the democrats. Of course, the climate can change. But what happens is, can the democrats make a lay-up?
KING: It doesn't look good for you congressionally, though.
DICKENS: No. Things are looking tougher every election.
KING: Let's take a call from Miami. Hello.
CALL FROM MIAMI: Hi. I'd like to ask the panelists whether or not they believe that Hillary has already begun to damage the Clinton brand by staying in this race as long as she has?
BEGALA: No. My goodness. Again, she wins a primary by 35 points, it's hard to say that you're damaged. She's gotten 17 million people to vote for her. Keep in mind, her husband is the first two- term democrat since Franklin Roosevelt. So that's a legacy that is secure. And most people think he did quite a good job, peace and prosperity, what was not to like? But you know, women have been running for president in this country since 1872. Victoria Woodhulls, first woman to run for president on the equal rights party. But only one woman has won ever even won a primary, and that's Hillary Rodham Clinton. And she has won more than won. She has won a whole bunch of them. So I think she's making history here. It's one of the reasons I think she wants to play this all the way out, until every single state has voted. So she sets the bar as high as she can for herself and also for the next woman who might run.
KING: Reed, quickly.
DICKENS: Keep in mind, this has not been a tough -- they are not attacking each other. They are not making substantive policy jabs at each other. Hillary's talking about process and Obama's talking about the general election.
KING: It's a primary race among democrats.
KING: OK. We're going to take a break and when we come back the stage will be set for John King alone and his magical map. And John and I will go at it and then the panel will return. We'll be right back with John King. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are in this race because we believe America is worth fighting for. This continues to be a tough fight. And I have fought it the only way I know how. With determination, by never giving up and never giving in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: OK. The stage is set with John King, CNN's chief national correspondent. And we'll get right into it. John, update us on the delegate math. Is it over? What if Florida and Michigan get counted?
J. KING: Well, Larry, if Florida and Michigan get counted, let me show you the difference. This is where we are tonight. We're still allocating some of the delegates out of Oregon. We're done allocating in Kentucky. But right now, look how close, under the existing rules, look how close Barack Obama is to the finish line. Senator Clinton way back here. Barack Obama is now, needs fewer than 100 delegates to get to the finish line. Now, here's what will happen if they switched. If they switched, Larry, and you want to put Michigan and Florida into play, that moves the finish line out to 2,210 which moves everybody back a little bit further for the finish line. Barack Obama still in the lead, he's here. Senator Clinton would have a much longer way to go. But Barack Obama obviously would need more of the remaining delegates because then it put in play the delegates from those states. This would include the delegates from Michigan and Florida.
The question would be, how do you proportion them? Do you proportion them based on what happened in those states? That's what Hillary Clinton wants. The Obama campaign says wait a minute. We didn't campaign there. We weren't on the ballot in Michigan. You can't do that. So, what the democratic national rules committee does at the end of May, the 31st is the meeting, I believe, will go a long way in determining how a big chunk of these get out. But in the end, either way, Larry, either way, these are the people who are going to decide who the democratic nominee is. Whether you accept the Clinton math and you move the finish line out to 2,210 with Michigan and Florida or you go back to, without Michigan and Florida, and go under the current map. Under the current map, this is why I say it's not impossible, but it's usually improbable under the current rules, look how close Barack Obama is to the finish line. He doesn't need much at all, Larry, and he's the democratic nominee.
KING: We have a call for John from Lake Wells, Florida. Go ahead.
CALL FROM LAKE WELLS: Yes, John King, I wanted to know if Ralph Nader comes on the scene during the general election, who would that affect more? If it would be Hillary Clinton be the nominee or Barack Obama?
J. KING: Well, it's an interesting question you ask. Let me go to our electoral map to take the question. The simple answer is we don't know. Because it might not only be Ralph Nader who will be running but also the libertarian, that could be former Congressman Bob Barr. If he wins the libertarian nomination, so you could have a republican/conservative like Bob Barr, somebody like Ralph Nader who has come in. Would Ralph Nader hurt the democrats more if it were Clinton versus Obama? That's a tough question to answer.
One of the things we do know is that Ralph Nader would go on. He has an anti-corporate message. He tends to run a more populous anti- corporate, anti-special interest message. It's a place where he could get, much like what Ross Perot did back in 1992, small but significant percentage of the vote in a place like Ohio. I remember back when he ran a few cycles back. He had a good - he went after Chrysler at one point, the Jeep plant out there. And he had a good band of organization out in Toledo. So, it doesn't take much in presidential politics if it's real close to make a difference. I see no evidence at the moment that Ralph Nader would be a factor in this race. But if he got in, if he campaigned vigorously, again, in some states it would only take a point of two, a percentage or two maybe three percent is going to have an influence but too early to answer that question. But if you're going to see where it would have an influence, it would most likely be out here, if at all.
KING: Hillary's arguments for the superdelegates will be based on how well she's done. Like give us a quick synopsis of what she did in Kentucky tonight.
J. KING: Well, in Kentucky, Larry, let me come back out to our election map. What she did was very impressive. She is winning 65 percent of the vote, holding Obama to 30 percent f the vote. That's where 100 percent in. and you can tell by the map, the light blue is Senator Clinton. He did well and carried this one county here, Jefferson County, which is where Kentucky has a very modest African- American population to the degree it has black voters. They are largely concentrated right here. But if you look across the state, what did she do? She swept through rural and small-town Kentucky. And I want to zoom back to the national map because this is her argument, Larry, to the superdelegates. Circle Pennsylvania, all the way Indiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, circle this area right here. What I want to do is stretch it out even a little bit for you. And then come over here. Why does this matter? What Hillary Clinton says of the superdelegates is this matters because of this. That these are the small towns in America that made George W. Bush president and re- elected George W. Bush.
Now, this is a primary tonight. There's no reason to believe she could turn all of these blue. But what she would say, I would be more competitive in small town America, rural America than Barack Obama would be. Therefore you want me to go up against John McCain, not Barack Obama. That's a compelling argument, but that is her argument. Barack Obama, of course, can say I have a majority now of the pledged delegates. I've won more states. If you don't count Florida and Michigan, he believes at the end of the process, he'll have the popular vote. So, both have compelling arguments, Larry, but the rules say the person who has the most delegates gets the nomination. And right now that is an argument Barack Obama is winning.
KING: Thanks, John King, superb as always. We'll take more of your calls. John will remain with us and with the panel next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's what I saw all those years ago on the streets of Chicago when I worked as an organizer. That in the face of joblessness and hopelessness and despair, a better day is still possible, if there are people who are willing to work for it and fight for it and believe in it, that's what I've seen here in Iowa. That's what is happening in America. Our journey may be long. Our work will be great, but we know in our hearts, we are ready for change. We are ready to come together. And in this election, we are ready to believe again. Thank you, Iowa, and god bless you. God bless America. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: OK. Reed Dickens, what's it going to be like for John McCain, debating him?
DICKESN: Oh, it's going to be tough. I think he's - they both have to stick to their strengths. John McCain has really got tough problems. I mean, Senator McCain, you know, the old country song that's become a cliche, "I'm - if I've become the man you fell in love with. If I've become the man you want me to be, I won't be the man you fell in love with."
KING: Well, I'm hearing McCain's too high, I can't hear the guest.
DICKENS: Yes, and so if he becomes the man that we want him to be, he wont he the man we fell in love with. He's kind of the darned if you do, darned if you don't. I think we're watching a fascinating process play out which is that neither candidate really has their base logged down. You know, the democrats are a cult of personality, and the republicans are a cult of ideas. Bill Clinton passed welfare reform tougher than Ronald Reagan, and everyone re-elected him. George Bush Sr. raised taxes and the party threw him out on his ears. So, you're watching that dynamic play out, and I think that everyone talks about the independents. Everyone loves to talk about the fringe constituencies, but neither candidate has their base locked down.
KING: Jamal Simmons, will the debates be very important?
SIMMONS: Yes, the debates will be important. But you know what's more important? What's more important is the war in Iraq, where people are dying, we're still struggling to figure out how to explain it. What's more important are people who want health care and McCain doesn't want to give it to him. What's more important, John McCain saying he wants to extend the Bush tax cuts. People are hungry for change, and it's very clear that Barack Obama is that change agent. The question is whether or not John McCain can maintain his maverick status even though he's sort of been flip-flopping and back and forth all over what he is.
From 2000, which was sort of a mirage that he was this maverick, to today, where he find out that he really is kind of George Bush in John McCain's clothing.
DICKENS: Let's be fair here. Senator Obama is brilliant. He is inspiring. He's talented. He's savvy. And I think in about 15 years he'll be ready to be president. And if you look at this, the two strategic pillars he ran on, I'm a post-racial, post-partisan candidate. We clearly found out through his mentor and other things that he had some vulnerability there at a minimum. And then he's a bipartisan uniter, and his record is very thin on uniting activity in the Senate. So I don't think Senator Obama is as strong as people make it sound.
KING: Let's take a call, Dallas. Yes, hello.
CALL FROM DALLAS: My question is this. If Senator Obama and Senator Clinton's positions were reversed in the delegate count, does the panel believe that he would receive the same level of patience that she is currently receiving in exiting the race?
BEGALA: Oh, absolutely. Are you kidding? Both of them have about half of the party. Senator Obama, a little bit more than half, Senator Clinton, a little bit less than half. But, absolutely. Are you kidding me? The party does not want to alienate those 17 million people who voted for Hillary. They certainly don't want to alienate the 17.5 million people who voted for Barack. I think probably more people voted for Hillary than for Barack. But yes, the short answer, absolutely. It's not like some vast feminist conspiracy or something, advantage, Hillary, over Barack.
KING: John, is Barack Obama -- is he the best fund-raiser in the democratic party presidential history?
J. KING: Without a doubt, based on the numbers. Bill Clinton certainly helped reversed what had been a longtime republican trend of dominating the democrats when it came to fund-raising, but the democrats have only eclipsed the republicans in presidential fund- raising and in other fund-raising barometers in the past couple years in part because of the fervent energy in the democratic party against the war in Iraq. That has - remember Howard Dean in the last campaign cycle, John Kerry won the nomination in the end, but Howard Dean was a pioneer in online fund-raising. Barack Obama has taken that to a new level. Senator Clinton has done fine work herself in that regard. And had it not been for Barack Obama, everyone said, look, Senator Clinton has grown dramatically. But Barack Obama has just shattered the records both in terms of the old-fashioned way, getting some people around the country who can raise a lot of money at big events, and the new way, which is use of technology, to get people to give you $20, $50, $100, $200, and he is rewriting the rules, Larry. And that is one of the republican worries going into the election. If they do not agree to accept the public financing model, there is no doubt that on the republican side that this will be - many republicans have never lived through something like this. This will be a presidential cycle where the democrats have more money and perhaps much more money.
KING: We'll give Jamal a chance to respond to Reed's comments when we come back.
KING: OK. Jamal, you were so rudely interrupted by another speech and me cutting in. Whatever. You have a chance to respond to Reed.
SIMMONS: All I'd say to Reed is he makes these arguments about Barack Obama, but the two things that people think they know about John McCain, is one, he's a maverick. You know, that's not true because he's in lockstep with George Bush on the war and the economy. And all the thing that people are concerned with about in this change year. And two, they say he's a reformer. And yet there are 115 lobbyists that are in the McCain campaign. If he walked in the door and say is there a Washington-influenced peddler in here? 115 people would turn around and raise their hands. So, we know, we've got these two things about John McCain we think we know, we've got to find out, we really don't know. And change, I think, is on the way, as Barack Obama would say.
KING: You want to respond, Reed?
DICKENS: Well, I think --
KING: What about all the lobbying?
DICKENS: Obviously, Senator McCain has set himself up as the reformer and the maverick. He's got to hold himself accountable to those standards. And I completely will concede to Jamal, that's a tough issue from Senator McCain. The difference is, he spent an entire career working on a national level and has a lot of experience. Barack Obama, my favorite youtube clip in 2004, he was asked why will he not seek national office? He said because I believe that a candidate -- someone should know what they're doing before they apply for a job. If I ran for national office, I would have only been in the senate for a couple weeks. I couldn't say it better myself.
KING: Let's get a call. Laurel, Maryland, hello.
CALL FROM MARYLAND: Yes, Larry, what I see shaping up right now is the similarity to the '68 elections that had occurred with President Nixon sitting back while the democrats fought it out. The democrats for McCain movement gets started in the next couple of weeks and continues into the general election, will that be enough to push John McCain over the top by about five percent of the vote to win the election in November?
KING: That's true, and there was an organization called Democrats for Nixon. Paul Begala, you want to comment?
BEGALA: Yes, I think Reed made the point at the top of the hour, Larry, that Senator McCain's having a hard enough time getting republicans. I mean, he today -- you know, Hillary Clinton got 65 percent today in Kentucky. McCain got only about 72 or 75, and he was unopposed. So, he's got enormous problems. I think he does have real appeal among democrats. I don't want to discount that. But he's also got a real hard time shoring up his base. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the other hand, I think are running very strongly with the democrats. They'd have to reach out to bring republicans over. So, they each have, I think, mirror-image, opposite problems.
KING: John King, you are going to have a ball with that map, aren't you, in that general election?
J. KING: Well, Larry, I think we forget -
KING: You'll be frozen to it.
J. KING: Well, you know, I hope I'm not frozen to it. I want to get out to many of these states that we show you on the map and see people and meet people and do other things. But one point I'd like to make quickly. I know our time is short. Remember how close, now George W. Bush won a majority of the vote last time. That hasn't happened since his father in 1988. But look, if one state, if you start with the map from last time and the democrats can turn Ohio, well, they would have the majority. Or if democrats can turn Florida, well they would have made it.
Remember, John Kerry only had to win one of those states and he would have been president of the United States. So, we start, the map will be somewhat different. McCain and Obama are different than Bush and Kerry. But it will be very competitive, at least at this point it looks like we'll have another election where at the end, Larry, we are looking at eight or ten states like this and saying, wow.
KING: The next three primaries, we only have about a minute, you see anything, Paul Begala, anything important happening in the Dakotas?
BEGALA: In the Dakotas, Barack has always run strong in the mountain west. I think that's very encouraging to democrats who think that they could turn some of those red states blue there. Let's watch and see how Barack Obama does in Puerto Rico. He has not run well with Latinos in California or some of the other states. So, let's see how he does in Puerto Rico. Hillary Clinton has got a lot of friends in Puerto Rico and so I Bill Clinton. So, it's tough. I don't expect Barack Obama to win but let's see how he does better among Latinos.
KING: Although they don't vote for president in Puerto Rico.
BEGALA: Not is Puerto Rico. It's you know, it's unfair. I think we ought to make them a state but you know nobody's asked me.
KING: Quickly, Reed.
DICKENS: I think it's very important to watch. I think pundits are dismissing the number too quickly about Hillary Clinton. If you look at exit polls in Kentucky, there are a lot of Hillary Clinton supporters that will not vote for Barack Obama. And I think they have to be very careful about that number.
KING: We're out of time. Don't forget our "Quick vote" question tonight, should the democrats pick their candidate already? Go to cnn.com/larryking, cast your ballot. And while you're there, download our latest podcast. It's Barbara Walters. And check out our new feature "about last night." More election coverage and news coming you way.
Here's my man, Wolf Blitzer, at the "Election Center" in New York. Wolf.