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Continuing Coverage of the Democratic Hearing on Florida and Michigan Delegates.

Aired May 31, 2008 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're watching a very important meeting that's taking place in Washington, DC right now. The Democrat National Committee, its Rules Committee has been convened earlier today. They heard statements from the Florida and Michigan delegations, Florida and Michigan, the disputed delegates in those two states, the two states they want those Democratic delegates seated at the Democratic convention in Denver at the end of the summer.
Right now the rules say Florida and Michigan Democrats will have no say in determining who the presidential nominee is because the two states moved up their primaries in violation of DNC rules.

They are in a break right now. A so-called lunch break. They met for a lot longer than earlier scheduled. They are about to wrap up the lunch break and then the hard work for the 30 members of the Rules Committee will begin to determine whether all of the delegates, none of the delegates, some of the delegates should be seated from Florida and Michigan.

We've got extensive coverage coming up. We're not going away from this story because the political ramifications could be significant for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in this the final days of this primary season. Tom Foreman is over at the hotel, the Marriott Wardman Hotel in Washington. Tom, you've been watching all of this, speaking to people in the hallways, what's your sense, what's going on?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the simple true is this is in many ways what conventions theoretically are supposed to be. It's quite clear from Clinton and Obama supporters that they think the decision that come down here in the next few hours depending on how things go, very well could be the decisive factor in producing a nominee.

They don't know any candidate is going to drop out right now but it could simply set the stage that way so that it's undeniable a nominee has been picked. This we do know, the Clinton people were saying to us a short while ago here that they still do not want to accept any kind of compromise on this simply because they know she needs all of delegates. Their belief they keep insisting on, they want 100 percent count of everybody who voted in Florida and in Michigan and wants the delegates fully seated to handle that.

When you push them on that in private, some of them will say they realize that may not happen. But at least publicly they are saying they still do not want to walk away from here with anything but a 100 percent solution. And that is setting up tremendous fireworks when they reconvene here in the next 15 minutes or so, Wolf.

BLITZER: And it's interesting and correct me if I'm wrong, because you've been listening very carefully as well. It doesn't look like the Clinton campaign representatives in Florida and Michigan may necessarily be in complete agreement with the national Clinton campaign representatives there, referring specifically to Harold Ickes, who is a member of the Rules Committee and a superdelegate himself. He is also one of the top strategists for Hillary Clinton's campaign. I'm not necessarily convinced he's ready to accept what the Clinton campaign in Florida and Michigan seem ready to accept. Maybe you have a different assessment, Tom.

FOREMAN: No, I think you're absolutely right, Wolf.

One of things that people have to remember here is that there are three different issues at stake here. One is how you settle Florida, where people were on the ballot but they did not campaign, which created one type of result, how you settle Michigan, where only Hillary Clinton was on the ballot got 60 percent of the vote, 40 percent went to uncommitted and how you solve this with the campaigns themselves. What may fly in Florida with voters there and what may fly in Michigan with voters there may not fly with these campaigns and that's why it's so hard for this committee right now.

And Harold Ickes is a good example, making it very clear, that he needs and will fight for the right result for Hillary Clinton to make this thing play out right. There are other people here. Plenty of Democrats here and even Democrats who are supporting Hillary Clinton who are saying, we may have to accept a compromise in the name of the party, in the name of moving forward. There is a division there Wolf, and heaven knows how it will play out when it gets back to the floor. We've seen some of the sparks of that already. I'll bet we're going to see a lot more.

BLITZER: And it was pointed a couple or three times Harold Ickes in his questioning of some of these witnesses from Florida and Michigan referred to the Credentials Committee which is supposed to convene in July and then at the convention at the end of August, the Credentials Committee, which would seem to be, even if they work out an agreement among the 30 members of the Rules Committee, the Hillary Clinton campaign could challenge that going forward, which would drag on this process, something a lot of top Democratic Party leaders certainly don't want to see.

I also know and want to point out to viewers that our correspondent from CNN Espanol, Juan Carlos Lopez had a chance to speak with Hillary Clinton a little while ago and she spoke about what's going on. We're going to be playing that interview for you a little bit later, what Hillary Clinton is saying in Puerto Rico today because it could send some signals about her intentions beyond the coming days. Puerto Rico holds its primary tomorrow and on Tuesday the last two contests and South Dakota and Montana.

All right. We're going to go -- we're going to make sure that we have that interview with Hillary Clinton. We'll play it for you, at least part of it, that's coming up. I also want to alert our viewers that we're watching another story out of Florida, Cape Canaveral, Florida. In less than an hour, the Discovery space shuttle will take off to send supplies up to the International Space Station. We're going to be carrying it live. Miles O'Brien is on the scene for us.

You're not going to miss it. You're going to see the Space Shuttle Discovery take off from Cape Canaveral scheduled for 5:02 Eastern Time. A little bit more than an hour from now. We'll have that for you as well.

Campbell Brown is here with the best political team on television watching the drama unfold and as dramatic and as impassioned as it was earlier today, Campbell, I think it's going to get more heated now.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN HOST: I think you're absolutely right, Wolf.

And we want to talk about that with our panel now. Suzanne Malveaux of CNN along with Jeff Toobin, CNN analyst, Ron Kirk, former mayor of Dallas, Texas and a supporter of Barack Obama and Robert Zimmerman, a supporter of Hillary Clinton and Democratic strategist. And give me your take, all of you, on given what we saw this morning, how intense and passionate many of the discussion and debate was, what do you expect to see this afternoon?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANALYST: I think what's going to be really difficult is Michigan. What they are trying to make the case, the Obama camp, is 60/40 is a good equation. He'll walk away with that 40 percent of uncommitted.

What really is debatable here is that, where do the votes go? Did they go for Obama, were they with Biden, Richardson, Edwards? We've already heard from some of the other campaigns, the candidates saying we don't mind if you go ahead and take those votes and apply them to Obama. That seems to be a fair, rational solution here.

You are hearing two different folks. The Clinton folks are talking about democracy and women suffrage and voting rights. They really want to extend the process and play that out as long as possible. The Obama folks really want to move beyond this. They're quite tired of it. They feel we're compromising here and giving what's good enough. We want to wrap the thing up and move on and fight McCain.

BROWN: And it doesn't look like that's going to happen. At least not yet.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I actually think they are closer than it might appear. There was posturing going on and playing to the crowd and it is entertaining to see there are clear partisans in the audience, but Florida looks like pretty much a done deal. They are going to divide the delegates more or less in line with how the state vote and each delegate will have half a vote. Which means Hillary Clinton will net 19 delegates. That looks like that is close to an agreement.

On Michigan, Obama's official position is divide them 50/50. He seems to be maybe agreeing.

BROWN: Willing.

TOOBIN: Willing to go for 60/40. Clinton's people want somewhat more than that. That is a number that can be compromised and it seems to me that the Michigan authorities, maybe not necessarily Clinton, want to see a compromise, they don't want to see this thing fought on. So it seems to me Michigan could be dealt with this afternoon, but it will be ugly to watch.

BROWN: But before I go to you Ron, let me get Robert's take on this. Because is that what the Clinton campaign really does want is compromise or ...

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, CLINTON SUPPORTER: A lot of what we're witnessing right now is posturing, it's negotiating. But I think of course it really is unprecedented to see really in the essence of back room politics, granted it's smoke free because we're Democrats but this is gavel to gavel coverage life of truly unprecedented back room negotiations, but I think what we'll see evolve out of this is not just a negotiation about how many delegates go to Obama and to Clinton, but remember, when those two states are seated it also has the number of delegates need to qualify for the nomination perhaps by 90 or 100. And that changes the framework dramatically.

BROWN: Because that gives additional time to Senator Clinton.

ZIMMERMAN: Ultimately we could have a situation evolve on Wednesday morning where both Barack Obama might have a delegate lead over 100 not enough for the nomination and Hillary Clinton can claim neither one of us has enough for the nomination but I have won the popular vote.

BROWN: And so she is staying in the race. Now, that's not exactly what the Obama campaign wants. That's not how they want this to play out.

RON KIRK, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Today, to me it's fascinating on a whole other level. Most of the campaign, you all have done a good job about educating voters. It's about the delegates. The popular vote is important but in the end it's about the delegate count.

Well, the most important today, it's about those handful of members on the Rules and Resolutions Committee (sic) of the DNC. And I think to some degree some of the advocates for Senator Clinton have made the mistake of sort of demonizing the very group they need to go in the room and say, what do you want to do? Because all of the talk about disenfranchisement and others they are trying to create the impression that the Democrat Party is bad, we're not counting your votes and with the exception of Clinton and Obama, everybody else in the room is saying we're from one of other 48 states that played by the rules and we didn't get out of line and we didn't do anything and we really are not happy we've been put in this position now because of Michigan's mess and in particular kind of how to clean up your mess and you sit here and publicly say what you have to say so your voters don't really turn around and begin say, why did you do this in first place. Don't lose sight of the fact that those people that are going to deliberate I think are going to be very, very proprietary about upholding the rules of the Democratic Party.

BROWN: Hold your thought, Suzanne. I want to go to that Hillary interview that we heard. We've got about 30 seconds here. Let's listen to what she had to say.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No one has the nomination yet. My opponent keeps claiming victory but doesn't have the number of delegates that are necessary to achieve the nomination. I will have won the popular vote by Wednesday. More people will have voted for me than for my opponent. He will have a slight lead in delegates. It will be up to everyone who has a vote at the convention to decide who they will choose and we'll wait to see what the decision is.


BROWN: Now, do you think she's going to have won the popular vote by Wednesday, Robert?

ZIMMERMAN: If you just focus on the states that have voted and exclude Michigan and include Florida, work with me on this. She's 0.5 percent behind. That's why Puerto Rico tomorrow is critical. It's a "state" with 2 million registered voters, we don't know what the turnout will be she's running well in the polls and a strong turnout with the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee ratifying Michigan and Florida could certainly put her over the top with Puerto Rico.

BROWN: Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Just the fact the Obama campaign is ready to negotiate on Michigan, it speaks volumes because what it says is it comes down to the superdelegates, they are confident they are going to get the superdelegates needed to put them over the top even if the number does change today.

TOOBIN: The idea the Clinton campaign keeps talking about that the popular entitles you to something, it doesn't. Especially when it's this close and you have to calculate, excluding this state, including that state. Keep in mind my favorite fact about this whole process is that four of the caucus states don't even release the popular vote numbers. So it is an estimate at best.

ZIMMERMAN: That says a lot about the credibility of the caucus states ...

KIRK: If I may.

BROWN: We got to go to a quick break.

KIRK: The thing about the Clinton campaign is as long as you allow them to determine what the rules are, they win. I love telling my wife all of time on average Shaquille O'Neal and I are 6'5".

ZIMMERMAN: I would rather take on Shaquille O'Neal than you any day. Let me tell you why, Jeffrey, I disagree with you because of the 286 delegates that haven't been chosen, popular vote matters because it means electability and that's the goal.

BROWN: That's the argument she's been making all along. OK, guys. We've got to take a quick break. When we come back we'll have John Roberts over at the magic wall who will actually tell us whose being realistic here and who's not as we walk through the scenarios, and we are waiting for this meeting to resume, the DNC Rules Committee, going to be a heated discussion this afternoon. Stick around.


BLITZER: The Rules Committee is about to reconvene and begin the difficult part of what they've been scheduled to do, to try to wrap this up and determine once and for all, what about the fate of Michigan and Florida and those disputed delegates. As soon as that commit hearing starts we'll go there. But let's bring back John Roberts right now, he is here with us at the magic wall.

The scenarios are endless, I think. But right now I think there's a wildly held assessment widely held assessment that half of the delegates will be counted in Michigan and half will be counted in Florida and they're going to have to allocate them to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in some still to be determined way.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judging by what we saw in the meeting so far. It could be a wildly held assessment. If we hear counting half of the delegates in Florida, both the pledge and supers, we've heard count half of the pledged delegates and all supers and all of the delegates in Michigan. Just for argument sake so we can kind of give ourselves an interesting look at projection here. Let's say you count half of the delegates pledged and supers. Here's where we are right now under the current DNC rules, 2026.

BLITZER: That's the magic number need to clinch the nomination.

ROBERTS: Needed to clinch the nomination right now.

So let's bring in this scenario of a 50/50 split.

BLITZER: This changes the number.

ROBERT: The finish line is at 2,118 delegates. Here's Barack Obama here and here is Hillary Clinton here. Let's go to the map now and we'll start to manipulate the numbers. If you count half of the delegates in Florida and that would give Hillary Clinton about 47, so let's bring 47 up here. And that would give Barack Obama about 32.

This swath in here, John Edwards got 14 percent of the vote, he has a number of delegates that haven't been allocated yet. He may encourage them to go to Barack Obama, they may decide to do whatever they want to do. Up here in Michigan, they wee talking about a 69/59 split, what Carl Levin was talking about. Hillary Clinton wants a 73-55 split. Barack Obama looking for an even 50/50 split which would give each candidate 64. If you only take half of the number of delegates and apply the Carl Levin formula would give Hillary Clinton 35, half of the 69, actually 70, and give Barack Obama 30 delegates then let's come down here to Puerto rice and Hillary Clinton is leading fairly substantially, let's give her 60 percent of the vote. There's 55 delegates, giving her 33 delegates to Barack Obama's 22. Now, just for argument sake let's go to the final two here and we'll make that 50 percent for each one, so 11 and 11, tie there. And we'll tie up this one as well. Just for argument's sake, give one extra one to Barack Obama.

What does that do with our graph here? We've moved everything forward but the split is still pretty much the same. So what does it say for Hillary Clinton? Let's go to the big map and we'll apply the results we've put on so far, 2,118 needed to clinch, Barack Obama at 2,082. He's just a little less than 40 away, 29 delegates left, those are the John Edwards delegates from Florida, Dennis Kucinich and Chris Dodd's delegates from Michigan which haven't been all located let's split half of those up, let's see if I can grab about 15 of those, 12. We'll give a few more to Hillary Clinton for argument sake. Here's Barack Obama now with 2,094. 2118. A little more than 20 away he just needs a few of the remaining superdelegates, that's even too much. Let's give him a few of those and 20 of those and so close to the finish line, 23. What does he need? Twenty-three and another four. And 27 and he's across the finish line. Hillary Clinton would need to appeal to almost all of the superdelegates who are left, wolf to be able to get herself across the finish line.

So you can see Barack Obama has a much shorter race to run to get across the line.

BLITZER: The question is, will she accept whatever the DNC Rules Committee decides and say, that's it and it's a done deal? Or will she decide, you know what, there's going to be a Credentials Committee hearing in July and a credentials floor fight at the end of August and she is going to prolong it. Come under a lot of criticism by the party big shots.

ROBERTS: In the rules the Rules Committee has until the end of June to make a decision because the Credentials Committee won't even be struck until then. We may not have a decision today. Will this go all the way to the convention? Would she risk what many people will call a scorched earth policy. There are a lot of people who would blame her if she took this all the way to the convention if the Democratic Party were divided going into the convention and John McCain won the election.

BLITZER: You'd see a lot of acid reflux on the part of those party leaders.

ROBERTS: More than that. But there's no question, the math is very difficult for her. Which is why she needs to squeeze every delegate she can out of this and why also in Florida they are looking at all of superdelegates just to increase the pool. She's got a little more to draw from. She's going to have to make a very, very compelling argument to those superdelegates, can she make it by staying I can win in states like Ohio, I can win in states like Florida and West Virginia and I have the popular vote with me? It hasn't worked so far. Will things turn in the next few days? We'll have to see.

BLITZER: More than drawing the inside straight. She's going to need all of superdelegates to come around. Stand by, John.

Momentarily the committee is about to reconvene. We're going to go there live over at the Marriott Wardman Hotel and see what they actually do. They could be lively in terms of deciding the face of Florida and Michigan. Much more coming up from the CNN Election Center. Don't forget where you can watch the hearing uninterrupted and get a lot more information as well. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: The Democratic National Committee is about to reconvene its Rules Committee over at a hotel in Washington, DC. This could be lively right now. We'll see what they decide to do about Michigan and Florida. Let's go to Florida as we await the 30 members of the Rules Committee to come back from a late lunch.

John Zarrella is in Davie, Florida, that is in Broward County, not far from Ft. Lauderdale, lot of Democrats down there. We've invited some of them, John, to join you to watch what's going on and get a sense of how they are reacting to all of excitement in Washington.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know the key point from all of the Democrats we've talked to, some we've invited and others we haven't, they want it resolved and they want it over with, they want to move on of the a lot of the kids here, little league baseball team from Plantation, Florida having their end of the season party. We asked Leslie Keelan for her opinion. Leslie, the primary was held in January, Florida violated the rules, that's why it was penalized. Do you think that was a fair primary, everybody was on the ballot?

LESLIE KEELAN, FLORIDA VOTER: Here's the problem. Everybody voted but not everybody came out that would have normally come out because they knew the votes weren't going to count.

ZARRELLA: They had already been told your vote is not going to count.

KEELAN: Right. So if now we were to count those votes, I'm not sure it would be a true representation of the voters of Florida.

ZARRELLA: Do you think there would be a different outcome now?

KEELAN: I do. I do.

ZARRELLA: Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Brian, I was going to ask you, we invited you folks out here. Let me ask you about how you feel the party has done, has this been -- have they botched the thing, the way it was handled the last couple months.

BRIAN RICK, FLORIDA VOTER: I feel this has been divisive and distraction from the issues we really need to be focusing on, rising fuel costs, foreclosures taking place in the housing market as well as jobs outsourced over seas. These are the real nuts and bolts, bread and butter issues we ought to be focusing on and we're not.

ZARRELLA: You were telling me originally you were a John Edwards supporter, right? Where do you stand right now?

RICK: Right now I lean towards Obama. Actually you'll find when you talk to a lot of former Edwards supporters many of us have migrated to Barack Obama because he is most in line with where Edwards stood. And of course Edwards endorsed him.

ZARRELLA: Are you going to vote Democratic in November? Has this whole thing turned you off?

RICK: It hasn't turned me off. I'm going to vote Democratic no matter what.

ZARRELLA: Leslie, how about you, where do you stand on that? Who do you support? Have somebody you're supporting right now?

KEELAN: Barack Obama.

ZARRELLA: And it hasn't turned you off, the whole process, you're still going to vote obviously in November?

KEELAN: I want to vote for who I think is the best candidate. And I think Barack Obama is the best candidate.

ZARRELLA: You would be happy with either democrat though and go ahead and still vote whether it was Barack or Hillary? Don't know?

KEELAN: Well because Barack will be the Democratic candidate, I'll be voting for Barack Obama.

ZARRELLA: The bottom line on this, Wolf, on all this, as we've been hearing from the folks we've invited and other folks is that they just want to move on. They want to get them behind them. Most of the people we've talked to, whether Democratic Party officials or just the ordinary folks, don't think it's going to hurt in November.

They think that once this is out of the way, no matter how it is cut up, the pie is sliced, how many delegates are seated, a half a vote, a full vote, that they are still going to have a great turnout in Florida and the folks here still believe that the Democrats can win the State of Florida in November.

BLITZER: If they do, they will go a long way toward capturing the White House because Florida could be decisive as all of us know from recent political experience. All right, John, thanks very much.

Elsewhere in Florida, by the way, they are getting ready for the space shuttle Discovery to take off in a half hour or so. Miles O'Brien is on the scene for us. We're going to show you that launch when it happens shortly after 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't go away for that.

We're not going away from this hearing, this committee meeting at the hotel in Washington, DC. They are about to reconvene and determine, maybe in the coming hours, what to do with Michigan and Florida. has continuous live coverage as well plus a lot of other information. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back, we're getting ready for the reconvening of the Democratic National Committee's Rules Committee to determine the fate of those disputed delegates in Michigan and Florida. These 30 members of the Rules Committee, they met for about five-and-a-half hours last night behind closed doors over dinner, failed to reach a compromise agreement. Now with the doors wide, wide open and lots of television cameras inside, we're about to hear the arguments go back and forth to determine what they should do about seating these delegates from Michigan and Florida.

We're staying on top of the story. We're not going anywhere. Remember, tomorrow the primary takes place in Puerto Rico. We'll have extensive coverage of that tomorrow morning beginning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern with "LATE EDITION." And then on Tuesday, South Dakota and Montana, the two last contests of this race. We'll see what happens after that.

But right now all eyes on Michigan and Florida as this debate unfolds over at the Rules Committee of the DNC. Campbell Brown is watching this with the best political team on television -- Campbell.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. I've got the panel here with me, Wolf. And I want to do a little bit of a look ahead first to next week and then much further ahead into the general election, if we can. But you know, we have got a lot of scenarios, regardless of what happens here today, that could play out next week.

The Puerto Rico numbers will be coming in tomorrow night. And then we look ahead to Tuesday, Suzanne, how do you think next week is going to play out?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were just talking about this. We were debating on what happens in Puerto Rico if this spread isn't as wide as they think it's going to be. What happens if she doesn't get the popular vote? That's going to be quite conclusive, I think.

So she spent a lot of time there, a lot of investment is there just for a couple of days, but, you know, Bill Clinton, Chelsea, all of them there, that's really, really important. I think what happens tomorrow is really going to set the stage for Monday and Tuesday and what she decides on Wednesday.

BROWN: Because it undermines her whole argument really if she doesn't have a huge victory in Puerto Rico.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Respectfully, I don't think it matters much what happens in Puerto Rico one way or another.

BROWN: Perceptually, though.

TOOBIN: Well, but you know, we're gone from the days of perception. Perception doesn't matter. Delegates matter. She's 200 delegates behind and there are only three states left, if you count Puerto Rico as a state. It's just the numbers aren't there for her. I think the superdelegates are all being badgered now by Nancy Pelosi, by Harry Reid. Make up your mind. How many of them are really going to go for Hillary Clinton at this point? It's very...

BROWN: Are we going to see this flood of superdelegates on Wednesday?

TOOBIN: I think we're going to see a lot of them. I think, you know, politicians being what they are, they are going to be cautious. They are going to wait for the last minute. They don't want to put their necks on the line. But I think most of them are going to go for Obama.


ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Ron and I can attest to this, superdelegates or elected officials would love to have everyone else make the decision for them.

BROWN: Right.

ZIMMERMAN: I've never seen an issue too profound a legislator couldn't run away from.



ZIMMERMAN: This mayor takes them all on. But besides that, so obviously superdelegates, and that's why I believe they're going to be watching this popular vote issue very, very carefully in terms of their final deliberations, but I think we could see a quick resolution based upon the popular vote and based upon what happens on Tuesday.


RON KIRK, FMR. DALLAS MAYOR: I love -- Robert can be so thoughtful until he has to get back to the Clintons (INAUDIBLE) -- which I give you all great credit from...


BROWN: ... He's a Clinton supporter, what do you want him to do?

KIRK: But you know, I love the fact that they (INAUDIBLE) for months have been telling us, only the big states matter that are going to be important in November. And now it's Puerto Rico doesn't even get a vote in November. And now it's Puerto Rico, that doesn't even get a vote in November, and now they are going to matter. And at first it was these states. My friends, Mr. Toobin is right, it isn't going to matter. Barack has an insurmountable lead. I am sympathetic to the superdelegates, because look, put yourself in their position.

The staples of the Democratic Party are African-American voters who 90 percent vote Democratic, and women. Which of those do you want to make angry? And if you're a superdelegate, you don't want to have to make that choice if you don't have to.

BROWN: So, Ron, the Obama campaign announced that he is going to be holding his rally in Minneapolis, the site of the Republican Convention, on Tuesday night.

KIRK: Really?

BROWN: Yes. That's not some subtle sort of signal we're ready to move on?


KIRK: ... great new (INAUDIBLE) museum there, and he loves...


KIRK: So that's probably why.

ZIMMERMAN: You know something, well, it is a very pivotal swing state. We all forget as many of these blue states that went blue in the past few elections, like Minnesota or Wisconsin or Michigan, these are states that went blue by a very small 2, 3 percent. They're critical swing states, I think obviously is going to be a major focal point for both candidates, whoever the nominee is.

But I think going back to Ron's analysis, and I may need a little Dramamine to go with that spin, Ron, but the point simply is, when we talk about electability, we're looking at states like Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida, they are critical for any Democrat to find a path to the White House, and that's Hillary Clinton's strength.

KIRK: Yes, but that's also going to be Barack Obama -- look, Jeff said one thing that's important, right now it's all about the delegates, but the other thing, it's about the economy. Poll after poll showing, for the first time in history, 82 percent of Americans think we're headed in the wrong direction.

Gas, if we're lucky, won't be $5 a gallon at the pump by the time we go to the polls in September. The macro environment for either of the candidates is going to be incredibly favorable for the Democratic candidate. And I think it just takes a stretch to argue the only person that can take advantage of that is Senator Clinton. Barack Obama has run a masterful campaign. This election was Senator Hillary Clinton's to lose. And Barack Obama has come in and won it.

BROWN: Guys, we have got to take a quick break. Now we're watching that room fill up, we're rating on the DNC Rules Committee to resume. That should be happening shortly. Stay with us, we'll be back, a lot more ahead.


BLITZER: Welcome back. The hearing room over at a hotel in Washington is beginning to fill up. But the 30 members of the Rules Committee that will be sitting around that table, they have not yet returned from their late lunch. As soon as they do and they gavel this next session into order, we'll go there live. At stake, the fates of Michigan and Florida and their disputed delegates. That should be starting very, very soon.

There's another story, an important story we're watching right now down in Florida. Nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with the election, the Space Shuttle Discovery about to launch another mission into the International Space Station. Our man Miles O'Brien is on the scene for us, as he always is with these kinds of launches.

What's this one all about, Miles?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is all about expanding the International Space Station. The Space Shuttle Discovery, which you see there in a beautiful high definition picture here at the Kennedy Space Center, now about 20 minutes or so away from launch to the International Space Station, weather not a factor.

The orbiter doing just fine, carrying in its cargo hold a school bus- sized laboratory built by the Japanese called Kibo. Now that laboratory will greatly enhance the scientific potential for the space station. Up to this point, there has been a U.S. laboratory and a three-person -- and for a short time after the Columbia accident, a two-person crew on the International Space Station.

It takes two people just to run this 900,000-pound craft in low Earth orbit. And so having this additional module will make it possible for them to add three more crew members about a year from now. And that means you have two people running the station and four people that can actually conduct science.

That's what this whole station idea was all about in the first place. The seven person crew will go up, dock with the International Space Station on Monday if all goes according to plan, and using some of the robotic arms that you've become familiar with over the years, attach this piece, kind of Tinker Toy-style to the International Space Station, latch it on, and start laying the groundwork for the scientific capability of this mission.

There's also a very important secondary mission on all of this, and some might say this has become the number one issue, if you will, as they are carrying a 35-pound pump for the one and only toilet on the International Space Station which has been on the fritz for more than a week.

The crew had two spares on board, they put them on and in each case they failed. So the Russian-made pump was flown from Moscow to Orlando, driven here, loaded onto the shuttle at the last minute on Thursday. And the hope is -- it has been tested and retested, it's a different manufacturer's lot number, the hope is that this one will do the trick.

In the meantime, the crew has come up with a sort of manual workaround, they're to use the facilities, as it were, as long as they wash it out, rinse it out with water every third use. It's inconvenient, but it's not a health issue.

Nevertheless, when they get there, the Russian cosmonauts will get right to work on putting that pump on that toilet and getting that thing it operative again. A lot of people, you know, sort of snicker about this, but it is obviously a very important thing for the long- term health and well-being of the crew to have that operative.

And eventually when they get the six-person crew on board there, Wolf, there will be a second toilet facility, a $19 million toilet which the Russians have built and will be put on the U.S. side of the station.

For now everything looks good for this launch. It's a picture perfect day, as you can see from that wonderful picture in high definition from the Kennedy Space Center, Wolf. And in about 17 or 18 minutes, we will -- that narrow window of opportunity to rendezvous with the space station will open up and if all continues going as well, we'll see them, as they say, light the candle -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it looks like everything is all systems go at this point, Miles?

O'BRIEN: Yes. Everything is looking good. This has been a virtually flawless countdown, Wolf. They had some difficulty closing the hatch seal that sometimes causes some problems but it has been sealed up just fine. The crew is good, the orbiter is good, and this important mission.

You know, in all of years of covering Space Shuttles, Wolf, we have never had a case where they were a plumbing supply delivery service. But that's part of what they are doing on this mission.

BLITZER: Must have a lot of marble in that $19 million toilet that they're going to be upgrading that International Space Station with. That's not a cheap toilet, Miles, by any means. All right. Let's hope they fix the plumbing...

O'BRIEN: Gold-plated.

BLITZER: Yes, whatever. Let's hope they fix the plumbing up there, very important issue for the men and women aboard the International Space Station. Only about 15 minutes away from the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery. We'll go back to miles and we'll watch this on high definition. If you have that capability, it's majestic, a beautiful sight, you're going to want to see it, even if you don't have HD.

We're waiting for the resumption of the DNC Rules Committee meeting, that is supposed to begin any minute now. At issue once again, Michigan and Florida. We'll see what's going on, we'll take another quick break. where you can watch all of this unfold uninterrupted and get a lot more information as well. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: They were supposed to reconvene a half an hour ago, after a late lunch. They still have not reconvened. The Rules Committee of the DNC, which raises an intriguing question, what's going on? Are they meeting amongst themselves behind closed doors, trying to come up with some sort of compromise before they come up in front of the cameras, in front of all of us and debate what they should do with Michigan and Florida?

We don't know what's going on. That's the bottom line. But we're watching it very closely. John Roberts is here with us at our magic wall.

John, what would be the bad, the downside for Barack Obama's campaign? You know what, they're so -- they're about 200 delegates ahead right now, they're close to the finish line, if they said, you know what, you can have, Hillary Clinton, what you won in Florida and Michigan, but even if you get that, we're still going to win?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: By the numbers it doesn't look like there would be that much of a downside. But there is always a trust factor as well in there. We've given...

BLITZER: In other words, the Obama people don't trust the Clintons.

ROBERTS: Exactly. We've given, in this scenario, Hillary Clinton pretty much everything that she wants. Now we're only counting half of Florida because the Florida delegation said it would be willing to take half, even Bill Nelson said willing to take half.

Harold Ickes is wanting to count everything. But half, at least according to the DNC rules, looks like what might happen. But we're also going to give her everything that she wants in Michigan. So I pumped in the scenario here.

So she gets 47 delegates versus Barack Obama's 32 in Florida. We came along to the Puerto Rico calculation, I gave her 60 percent of the vote there. She's leading. And here...

BLITZER: Because the polls show she could win there.

ROBERTS: Right. And here in Montana, I gave her a 50/50, split even though...

BLITZER: He's ahead.

ROBERTS: ... Barack Obama is ahead, and here in South Dakota as well, I gave him one extra delegate. He's ahead there as well. So let's go to Michigan, because here is the linchpin. She wants 73 of the 128 pledged delegates available, she wants 73 of those. So let's give her that 73. And she wants to give him 55. So we'll give him 55 here.

All right. So we've got all of the numbers punched in here. Now let's take it, and we'll graph it out on a line here and we'll apply the formulae to our graph here. You can see that here's where she is. And here's where he is. There's a substantial gap in there. So we've got 32 delegates left over.

These are the John Edwards delegates, John Edwards is supporting Barack Obama and a good chance a lot of those will go to him. There's also a few delegates left in Michigan from Christopher Dodd and Dennis Kucinich who got 5 percent of the vote. So let's split those in half.

Even though more may go to -- yes, let's get a little bit more here. Even though more may go to Barack Obama, we'll actually give her more of those. All right. So we'll give her that. So Barack Obama, 2,121 delegates with 2,152 under this 50 percent Florida, full Michigan scenario, he's only 31 away.

So all he needs out of the 218 remaining superdelegates is that much and he's over the line. But watch this. There's a chance that she could get very close as well. And if you took away a couple of those from him and gave them to her, whoa, you have got a virtual tie here.

So perhaps under that scenario this is why they want to be sure that they get the delegates allocated...

BLITZER: And one of the wildcards...

ROBERTS: ... the way that they want them. Because if you ended up with a tie here, then it would definitely go to the...


BLITZER: One of wildcards is the superdelegates, they could change their minds at any time. The superdelegates are...

ROBERTS: She would like to peel off...

BLITZER: ... supposed to go the way they were pledged or elected at least in the first ballot, but the superdelegates, they can do whatever they want.

ROBERTS: She would like to peel off a bunch of these if she could by arguing that in the big swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida that she is stronger. And when you look at the county by county map that we've brought up in the past, she wins a lot of that rural vote, those white blue collar workers that Barack Obama has not been able to win in the primary.

And she says, when you put me up against a Republican, I'm the stronger of the two candidates. But there's just -- when you look at -- come back here to the map match here, and you look at how far she has to go versus how far he has to go, she has got to make a pretty compelling arguments to those remaining superdelegates because she would need the overwhelming majority, the overwhelming majority of those to beat him, so.

BLITZER: And she gave our Juan Carlos Lopez from CNN Espanol in Puerto Rico today absolutely no indication she's even thinking about ending this next Wednesday or Thursday or anything soon, despite these numbers which show she's in a difficult, very difficult situation.

All right. Take a look at the room over at the hotel in Washington. You see a lot of people in there but around that table with the white table cloth, the 30 representatives from the Rules Committee, they have still not returned. We're waiting for them to return and get the session under way.

What's going on? Why aren't they back? We'll try to find out and continue our coverage right after this.