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CNN ELECTION CENTER

Democratic Primary in Puerto Rico

Aired June 1, 2008 - 14:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The polls now close in Puerto Rico in less than one hour and less than one hour the people, the Democrats at least in Puerto Rico will have spoken. Will they go with Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama? We're watching this race very closely; 55 delegates are at stake.
Perhaps even more important as far as the Clinton campaign is concerned, will there be a huge voter turnout which will allow her to claim that she has received more popular votes throughout these months of this primary campaign.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer of the CNN Election Center.

All eyes on Puerto Rico right now. Tuesday eyes will be on the final two contests, Montana and South Dakota.

We have correspondents on the scene covering the candidates for us. Jessica Yellin is in San Juan right now. We're going to her shortly. Jim Acosta is in Mitchell, South Dakota. He's covering Barack Obama's campaign. We'll go to him shortly as well.

We have some exclusive exit poll numbers that we have been dealing with in Puerto Rico and Bill Schneider our senior political analyst will share some of the thoughts. What's on the minds of voters in Puerto Rico, Bill?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're finding Wolf is they're more or less like Democrats across the country. They're Americans, they're voting in the Democratic primary. The issues on their minds like other Democrats -- the number one issue, the economy.

Sixty percent of the voters in Puerto Rico told us today the economy is the top issue. Far overshadowing the number two issue, Iraq which is also number two with Democrats on the mainland United States. Number three issue was health care. So no big difference between the Democrats voting in Puerto Rico and elsewhere.

And here's another interesting finding in Puerto Rico. We asked them how they feel about the war in Iraq. Puerto Ricans serve in the military in disproportionate numbers but they are members of the American military.

82 percent of those voting today in the Democratic primary in Puerto Rico, 82 percent said they disapprove of the war in Iraq. That is right in line with Democratic voters in the mainland United States.

What's interesting in Puerto Rico is they're not formally Democrats. Anyone can vote in the primary. They don't really have an organized Republican and Democratic Party. They have their own political parties but interestingly, the voters in Puerto Rico very much like in Democratic primaries in the mainland United States.

BLITZER: They can have a say in selecting this Democratic nominee. They won't have a say, though, come November in the general election. They can't vote then.

SCHNEIDER: They cannot vote not because they are not Americans, they are but because Puerto Rico is not a state. If they lived in New York or California or Florida or any other state, they can vote because then they live in a state.

BLITZER: Good point. We're going to have much more of our exclusive exit poll results coming in, Bill. Stand by for that.

I want to go to our correspondents on the scene right now. Jessica Yellin let me start with you. You are in San Juan right now and the stakes for Hillary Clinton at least from her perspective are significant.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're enormous, Wolf. Senator Clinton, as you've said, is counting on Puerto Rico to bolster her argument that she will be the winner of the popular vote in this Democratic contest. She wants to take that to the superdelegates to encourage them to give her the nomination.

A huge turnout here today would put her over but she needs at least 2 million people to turn out. State election officials have told us that they only printed 1.5 million ballots, that's fewer than the number Clinton needs and that projecting far fewer will turn out today. From our own walk around, it looks like it's not near the kind of turnout you would get in say, a local election voting where they're voting local officials because those are very heated affairs and this one is not drawing, surprisingly, the same interest as local elections.

We're told that's primarily, because many Puerto Ricans are frustrated they can't vote in the general election so the sense is why would we vote now? That's among some of them.

I'll tell you, we hear on the campaign trail all those issues that Bill Schneider talked about especially the economy. They're talking a lot about helping folks here with gas prices. Sounds very familiar -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Jessica, we know the drill on these primary days. I assume Hillary Clinton is going to be making an address to her supporters. She is there on the island with you today. Where will she be speaking and about what time? Do we know?

YELLIN: She is speaking in an area right near me in San Juan at a convention hall. And it's supposed to be sometime between 4:00 and 6:00. Same time here as an East Coast time. And we expect that the polls -- we're told local election officials are expected to tally the vote quickly after the polls close at 3:00. And she usually speaks after there's a sense of how she's done in the election. Shortly after 4:00.

BLITZER: And she's assuming she's going to win, that's why she is there. 55 minutes until the polls close there in Puerto Rico.

Let's head out to Jim Acosta. He's in Mitchell, South Dakota, where Barack Obama has been campaigning. All right, same question to you. What's going on with Barack Obama's schedule today?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he's keeping a very busy campaign schedule in South Dakota this morning. He hit Mt. Rushmore yesterday and with his tongue in cheek he was asked whether or not he sees his face up there on the national monument some day and responded that his ears are too big.

This morning in (inaudible) South Dakota, he had a campaign breakfast with folks there in that part of the state and he comes here to Mitchell, South Dakota.

We'll be standing outside of the Mitchell's Corn Palace, Wolf. It is a museum that on the front of the museum you can see actual cobs of corn in the form of pictures of soldiers and children in classrooms and so forth. This is the National Lampoon's vacation part of Barack Obama's campaign schedule.

But he knows very importantly that the last two states here, Montana and South Dakota, are very much the finish line. They're the end of this primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And he doesn't want to stumble at the end of this campaign at the finish line so he's fighting hard in both of these states.

He has the endorsements of some pretty significant superdelegates in this state notably Senator Tim Johnson here in South Dakota. He's also picked up the endorsement of the former senate majority leader Tom Daschle.

Hillary Clinton is still campaigning as if this nomination is still within her grasp. She is campaigning with gusto. She is working her own trip to Mt. Rushmore; has also visited American Indian reservations knowing full well that here in South Dakota, Wolf, 8 percent of the vote is Native American.

BLITZER: All right, we'll stand by to hear from Barack Obama later today, as well. Jim Acosta's in Mitchell, South Dakota, for us.

Fifty-three minutes or so until the polls close in Puerto Rico. We'll go there as soon as they close. We're going to get more exit poll numbers as well. In the meantime let's check in with Anderson. He's got the best political team on television.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Thank you very much.

Suzanne Malveaux, what does Hillary Clinton want to get out of today? Is the popular vote -- bolstering her popular vote argument -- is that the main point?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The popular vote is very important but what she really wants to show is that she hasn't gotten out of the race; that she hasn't quit.

I mean, she's going to be releasing two new television ads talking about 17 million, that is 17 million voters in the primaries that have gone her way. And that's what she is trying to make the case here, that she has made history in some sort of significant way by getting 17 million voters. So if she has the popular vote, the lead in the popular vote, she can make the argument to the superdelegates, "I'm the one to choose. I'm the one who's gotten all of this support here and I'm the stronger candidate so don't rule me out."

Tuesday or Wednesday we'll know.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, is that as much for a vice presidential role as it is for a presidential role?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It might be. I don't claim insight into the psychology of the Clinton family on the issue of vice presidency. I think it's very complicated. I don't think anyone really knows what both Bill and Hillary Clinton want on that issue.

But, you know, she is -- has amassed an enormous amount of support in this race. This is the closest race in the history of presidential primaries. There really have only been primaries since the 1960s in a sustained way and there's never been one this close.

The problem is Obama now has what seems to me an insurmountable lead in delegates. So close as it is, she's still in second place.

COOPER: And the popular vote argument, how much of this is still that popular vote argument which is, not including caucus states and not including the 40 percent of undecideds in Michigan?

TOOBIN: That's all she's got.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: The delegate count is not stacking up for her. The superdelegates would have to go to her en masse and the only sign that they're going en masse is in the opposite direction, to Obama.

She's pushing this popular vote argument but that is not how the race is tabulated and that's why it's a big problem for her.

COOPER: Donna Brazile?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I have to agree with both my colleagues. I think Senator Clinton would like to get out a strong vote today. She will also like pick up more delegates.

Look. Yesterday, we gave Senator Clinton a net of 23, 24 delegates. Perhaps it wasn't enough to satisfy, her prospects of winning the nomination but today she has an opportunity to make a new argument; a new case. But the bottom line is, unless you're leading in delegates, you will not get the nomination.

COOPER: You now had time to sleep on what happened yesterday. You obviously had a very interesting day yesterday. Said it at least -- as you look back now, how do you feel about what happened?

BRAZILE: Well, Anderson I've had four hours of sleep compared to the night before where I had three hours. I think once I get eight hours I might be able to become a little bit more intelligent.

I thought it was a good process. We had an opportunity to, you know, hear from the campaigns. They made the arguments. Thirteen superdelegates were in that room who went in there backing Senator Clinton. Of course, Senator Obama had eight or nine superdelegates or many of us undeclared and yet we all -- we listened to all of the arguments and you saw the votes.

27-0 on the Florida compromise; 19-8 on the Michigan compromise. It was a win-win for everyone. No one received 100 percent of everything they wanted.

COOPER: All right. The popular vote argument obviously is going to be a big one today. Let's go back to Wolf as we're following the popular vote.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Anderson, very much.

Want to show our viewers our estimates of what the popular votes have been. We have three different scenarios how we have calculated these numbers.

Interestingly, right now, all three of our scenarios show that Hillary Clinton is, in fact, ahead in the popular vote now that Michigan and Florida have been brought into the equation by the rules committee and the Democratic National Committee.

These numbers do not include Puerto Rico yet. Puerto Rico hasn't started counting. They will do that in less than an hour from now.

Let me walk through these scenarios. Popular vote scenario Number one, we're calling it number one. Here's the numbers; 48-48 percent. But look at this, specifically, Hillary Clinton under this scenario has 17,271,911 million to 17,155,899.

If we take a look, how did we come up these numbers? These are all the primary results, all the Florida votes as cast. Hillary Clinton gets all of the Michigan votes cast for her. Her name was on the ballot.

Barack Obama under this scenario, we gave him all the uncommitted Michigan votes even though his name was not on the ballot. Zero caucus results. None of the caucus estimates are included in popular vote scenario number one. Some of those caucuses, they never gave us any official tabulation either. She is slightly ahead under this scenario number one.

Now, we have a different scenario number two. Here's what we did. We've added our estimates, scenario number one plus we have added our own estimates of the caucuses based on the results that were determined.

And under this scenario number two, take a look at this, Obama 17,839,000. He's actually slightly ahead in this one than Hillary Clinton when you add the caucuses. Hillary Clinton, 17,653,000. Less than 200,000 difference in this popular vote scenario number two; 186,000 to be specific. He's slightly ahead when you include the caucus estimates.

Let's walk over to scenario number three right now. Right now, we took away -- in popular vote scenario number three -- we took away Michigan the uncommitted votes that we had given him in the first scenario. You get zero votes in Michigan because his name was not on the ballot. And we do include the caucus estimates here. Hillary Clinton has 16 -- excuse me, 17,653,000 to Barack Obama 17,601,000; advantage for Hillary Clinton under popular vote scenario number three.

Remember, these numbers are about to change once the Puerto Rico numbers start coming in and we'll be able to update these scenarios. It is a very important talking point. I don't know if it's much more than a talking point but it's a talking point, a boast for Hillary Clinton, if after today she can say to the American people, more importantly perhaps to those undeclared superdelegates, you know what? I have the most popular votes in all of these months of these primaries. I can do better come November.

She'll be making that argument presumably if she does well as we expect in Puerto Rico. Cnn politics.com is where you could go to get much more information.

The polls closing in 46 minutes or so. You can watch it there, as well; Bill Schneider will have extensive commentary, running commentary there.

We're going to go to Bill Schneider when we come back. He's getting new, exclusive exit poll results coming in for Puerto Rico. We'll check in with Bill and get much more on the important day when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Only about 42 minutes until the polls close in Puerto Rico. We'll start getting results at the top of the hour. Stay tuned for that. We're watching these results. We are also getting exclusive exit poll results coming in from voters in Puerto Rico.

Bill Schneider is crunching the numbers. We are the only news organization, Bill, that's gone ahead and done these, conducted these exit polls in Puerto Rico because we are interested to know what these voters actually thought today.

SCHNEIDER: And one of the things we wanted to find out is how they feel about the current President Bush and the former president Bill Clinton. We asked them, do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of President Bush? These are voters in the Democratic primary. We don't call them Democrats because they're not Democrats. They are voters who choose to participate in the Democratic primary. And their view of president bush is negative; 59 percent unfavorable.

Not quite as negative as you would find among mainland Democratic primary voters where it's about 80 percent or 90 percent unfavorable. Remember one thing about President Bush. The bombing of (inaudible) a very controversial issue in Puerto Rico stopped under this President Bush.

They still don't care for him, 59 percent unfavorable. There's the thanks of a grateful commonwealth but he's a little bit more favorably regarded than he is among Democrats in the mainland United States.

The opinion of Bill Clinton, how do they feel about him? A lot of Democrats have been critical of Bill Clinton but not in Puerto Rico. Democratic primary voters in Puerto Rico had an overwhelmingly favorable view, 83 percent favorable towards Bill Clinton; 15 percent unfavorable. And this is one reason why Hillary Clinton is expected to do well in Puerto Rico because her husband still retains among the voters at least a very strongly positive image there.

BLITZER: The favorable rating for President Bush, among these Democrats who are voting in Puerto Rico today is a lot better than the favorable rating he gets here on the mainland.

SCHNEIDER: That's right; it was 39 percent favorable. Among all mainland Americans, he is getting about 28 percent favorable. Remember these are Democratic primary voters so there could be some residual effect of the decision to end the bombing of Viecas (ph).

BLITZER: And when you say the bombing -- you mean the training exercise where they used live ammunition which was bitterly opposed by so many people in Puerto Rico.

SCHNEIDER: And person was actually killed.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, thanks very much, Bill. We're going to get back to you because I know you are working these numbers and we'll get some more. We're going to get some more.

John Roberts here with the magic wall for us. Taking a look at where we stand right now and it's fascinating. What's going on?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What do you want to know; where they stand in terms of the popular vote or where we're going in terms of what will happen in Puerto Rico?

BLITZER: I want to know all of the above. All of the above.

ROBERTS: Well let's start with where we are in terms of the popular vote. This is where they -- oops. You know what? That's wrong. Boom. Let's put it back. Hillary Clinton is 241 away from the finish line; and it's a brand new finish line after what the DNC rules committee did yesterday -- the new finish 2,118 delegates. That's what you have to get to clinch the nomination. Remember it was 2,026 prior to yesterday's meeting.

Hillary Clinton right now, 241 away. Barack Obama is 67 away. We've got a couple of contests left. We have Puerto Rico today. There's Montana and South Dakota; they're coming up on Tuesday.

Let's lay out a scenario here to see just how far away each one of them is after all of these contests are over. Hillary Clinton has been polling very well in Puerto Rico. So let's just for purposes of this demonstration give her a 65/35 split for Puerto Rico. So we'll assign that. She gets 40 delegates to his 21.

Barack Obama is ahead in both Montana and South Dakota. Let's make this a 55/45 split for Barack Obama. And assign those two states to him. So that's what we got.

BLITZER: Those primaries are Tuesday.

ROBERTS: Those primaries are Tuesday. You will be here in the Election Center.

BLITZER: We all will -- all of us will be.

ROBERTS: So let's plot that now on the linear graph and add in the new states. You can see that the line moves. Barack Obama's that much closer to the red line, the finish line. Hillary Clinton still a long way away.

These are nine delegates left over that John Edwards earned in the course of the primary. Most of those we might think goes to Barack Obama because of the fact that John Edwards has thrown his support behind Barack Obama but let's split them pretty much evenly.

Barack Obama is now 26 away from that finish line. 207 superdelegates left. So all he needs 26 -- let's give him 30 of those and he's across the finish line. Hillary Clinton would need 90 percent of those remaining delegates to get herself across the finish line. So the math very much more in his favor at this point than it is in hers.

If you've got that many superdelegates left, 207, and you only need a slice of about 25 maximum 30 of those after these contests are over, that -- I don't want to say it's a lock because obviously not a lock. A lock could change but definitely the math very much in his favor.

BLITZER: And she would need almost 90 percent if not more to get that. All right, stand by because I want to take a close look at Puerto Rico shortly but we are going to continue this close look at when's going on.

Remember, cnnpolitics.com. You can get the information that we are getting. Look at the exit polls that we are getting. You can also go there and get ready to see the actual tally come in. Polls closing at the top of the hour. We'll go live to San Juan for that. Much more of our coverage from the CNN Election Center coming up right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And our coverage continues; polls closing 34 minutes from now. Let's check in with some of the best political team on television: Republican strategist, Alex Castellanos.

Today what are you going to be watching as the polls come in? Does any of this really matter?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it matters quite a bit. Hillary Clinton's trying to make the case that she is a better general election candidate than Barack Obama. Here's an island that is in serious economic trouble; unemployment approaching 15 percent. Recession and the candidate of change here is not Barack Obama. It's Hillary Clinton.

COOPER: Hillary Rosen, to Hillary Clinton's point about this will put her over possibly in the popular vote by her calculation, these are votes which -- if this is the popular vote which will help me in the general election, that's not true because these voters in Puerto Rico cannot vote in the general election.

HILLARY ROSEN, CLINTON SUPPORTER: They can't. But remember Democrats have always actually stood for statehood for Puerto Rico and have always been supportive of it. And so -- No Democrat can really afford to dismiss the island of Puerto Rico of not being relevant.

And so, you know, Senator Clinton saying that we've always said that the popular vote matters. It has been our mantra for years and this is her final couple of days to make that case.

COOPER: How much about today in your opinion for Hillary Clinton is about the vice president's seat?

ROSEN: I actually don't think much of it as about the vice presidency. I think it's really about the legacy of the campaign, the leadership she's shown. She has been speaking to a group of voters who have heretofore been disenfranchised who have not had necessarily a sense that they were being listened to. She's got those votes.

It remains to be seen how much longer she holds on to them or what she wants to do with them. But I don't think she's calculating for the vice president. You can't leverage that. That's a decision that the nominee makes and she knows that. There's no opportunity here for her there.

CASTELLANOS: Hillary Clinton's got a very strong case to make. It is a momentum case. Look, I'm winning primaries. I'm picking up more popular vote. I have 500,000 more votes than Barack Obama has since March. And her case boils down to this.

He is a seriously politically ill if not terminally ill general election candidate. He has a problem getting Reagan Democrats. And if that's the case she is making, you know, Ted Kennedy went into the convention 700 electoral votes behind Jimmy Carter but he got to all the way.

Why can't Hillary Clinton say, "Ok maybe he's got enough votes; the election is not tomorrow. The election's in three months. The delegates will have a chance to see."

ROSEN: It is not about the convention.

COOPER: Jamal Simmons, you're an, Obama supporter, is your candidate terminally ill?

JAMAL SIMMONS: I think Alex is sort getting into the dream scenario about how the rest of this campaign is going to go forward. The reality is most Democrats --

CASTELLANOS: I would just love to see it go forward. I just love the drama.

SIMMONS: The good news is the Democratic race is just about over. I know the Clinton campaign is having some transition getting that point but everybody else in the party is ready to make that transition.

Hillary Clinton's run a good, very momentous campaign. There are a lot of people who are very supportive of her campaign. I saw a bunch of supporters yesterday. Some of them had some things to say to me outside of the hotel during the Florida/Michigan conversation so I've heard directly from those voters. They're excited about Hillary Clinton.

COOPER: Did you have security yesterday, by the way?

SIMMON: No. I was looking around for them at one point. But I think at the end of the day that by the time they get to Wednesday, I think we'll all be comfortable that Barack Obama will be either the nominee or as close as one can be to be the nominee. And we'll be focused on John McCain and his record of bad health care policy and --

COOPER: To Jamal's point, Hillary Rosen, what about -- I mean Harold Ickes saying they reserve the right to take this to convention? Is it going to over by Wednesday?

ROSEN: You know, Harold had a long several days and I think he was incredibly passionate. And I the senator just procedurally is reserving the rights but I really believe that intellectually and emotionally, they're focused now on making this case to the superdelegates.

They know that that's where the primary is going to be won or lost. There's a couple of days to do that. And that's why they're focusing on electability.

That's why there's frustration in the Clinton Camp that she's hit her stride much too late in this campaign. She's actually won a majority of the primaries in the last couple of months. COOPER: So you think it does boil down to a couple of days to make that argument to the superdelegates?

ROSEN: I don't know, but I know she is not going to bring this to the convention for a fight.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that is wishful thinking on the Democrats part. If you listen to Harold Ickes, today, he's using rhetoric like their hijacking these votes. He's making the case and building. And it's not a coincidence that in 1980, he was the one that was politically maneuvering these delegates and basically took the vote to the floor.

I think a lot of people are suspecting that maybe what they're lining up with Hillary Clinton now. Maybe she just suspends her campaign. Comes back, you know, just has a fierce fighting team. And sees -- what does happen? Does the other shoe drop on Barack Obama? He's losing with women; 13 points, in a new poll. He's losing with working-class voters.

COOPER: You raise an interesting point, which is what Hillary Clinton do after Tuesday? I mean, does -- if she wants to continue, does she start a general election campaign?

SANCHEZ: No. I think we should hold her at her word.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, no, what she does is she a watches the tumble of superdelegates that come down the hill toward Barack Obama. I was talking to a gentleman yesterday, we were at this hotel, working there. And what he said to me was, Hillary Clinton's been out coached. What we saw was a good very candidate versus another good candidate and one of them lost. One of them lost because they planned the whole season wrong. They planned for two quarters instead of four.

And she did a very good job of recovering and trying to get back in the game and she got back in the game too late. Now what we know is that Barack Obama is less than -- what is it? Less than 65 delegates away of becoming the Democratic nominee and should be there by the middle or end of next week.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: On a serious note, we have seen that Barack Obama has a growing problem, you know, with the cultural vote or the Reagan Democrat vote, or the white working class vote. There's been a serious deterioration there. And Hillary Clinton is making that case that that's a problem for Democrat in the general election when you look at the electoral map.

You know, if Barack Obama is not the best candidate to carry Ohio, is he the candidate the Democrats want?

(CROSS TALK)

CASTELLANOS: Why would you deny Hillary Clinton the opportunity to go to the convention? SANCHEZ: Interesting point especially when you're talking about swing voters, soft conservatives -- you know, soft Democrats, independent voters. A lot of them are going to be women, a lot of them are the Hispanics; and two areas that he's having tremendous difficulties and with the Catholic vote, you add that on top of it. There's a case to be made. Let's say she doesn't give her endorsement. Something happens, you know, they go to convention. She may have the momentum again to build that case even stronger.

ROSEN: There's -- she's been very, very clear through this entire campaign that through the primary she is going to be make her case and this is essentially an argument within the Democratic Party. What voters are we focusing on? How are we both best going do get those voters? Who is best equipped to bring the majority of those voters to the general election and beat John McCain? But this is not a general election argument. This is not an argument to have within the Democratic Party in July.

She's not said she's going to do that and I think everybody talking about her doing that is really just an attempt to kind of minimize the credibility of what she is saying today and tomorrow. And acting like she's going after a fight, which she's not.

COOPER: Jamal, a final thought before we go.

SIMMONS: Doesn't matter how well you match up in the national championship. You have to get out of the playoffs first. She can't get out of the Democratic playoffs, out of her bracket, in order to play John McCain. So what we are going to see is Barack Obama is going to be the candidate, and a lot of this conversation is very academic. We'll be arguing about it for years in everybody's book, but I think what we'll know is we'll see McCain versus Obama in the fall. And there isn't a lot of question about that.

COOPER: We have another six hours to fill, so we'll be arguing about it.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Or for however many hours. Our coverage continues. We're going to take a short break. You can follow, CNNpolitics.com. See the results come in as we see them come in. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're not very far away from the top of the hour that's when the polls close in Puerto Rico. We'll be able to share with you what we know at that time. We're the only news organization that has conducted an all-day series of exit polls among the voters in Puerto Rico. We're getting new numbers. We'll go back with Bill Schneider are a second.

But I want to learn something about Puerto Rico, right now. John Roberts is here watching this island. Very important island, very closely, an important island all day and especially today.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: You'd like to learn something more other than the fact that it's a fabulous place to go on vacation.

BLITZER: It's wonderful -- we know that. We know that.

ROBERTS: All right. So what we have here the Island of Puerto Rico. It's got 78 municipalities, but for the purposes of election returns, it has been broken down into eight Senate districts. They are San Juan District, Bayamon, Arecibo, Mayaguez, Ponce, Guayama, Umakao (ph) and Carolina. San Juan is the big city here; 450,000 Bayamon and Carolina, you can take that all together, that urban area has about 2 million people in it. Ponce is the second largest city. Mayaguez is the big college town where the university of Puerto Rico is.

Now, local politics, Bill Schneider's been talking about this. They have the are two parties that you really have to know about. The PPD, which is the Popular Democratic Party, which is currently the governing party; and there's the PNP, which is the New Progressive Party. Pedro Rosaio (ph), who is the former governor, he's supporting Hillary Clinton. Governor Acevedo is supporting Barack Obama. He's got some problems, though, because he's under indictment for campaign financing.

BLITZER: That's a big problem.

ROBERTS: Because of irregularities.

BLITZER: Right.

ROBERTS: Now, even though the leaders of these parties have backed individual candidates, it doesn't mean that everybody throughout the party is backing them. Allegiances go back and forth. Some PPD members back Hillary Clinton, some PNP -- that should be PNP, sorry -- some PNP members back Barack Obama.

Just to take a look at the last election. San Juan was a stronghold for the PPD, as was Mayaguez. Ponce a real stronghold for them. In fact, as far as the PNP goes, it was Arecibo, Carolina, Bayamon, in the last general election, the unknowns here are here Umakao and Guayama. It was very close here. less than a percentage, just over 1 percentage point there.

There are 36 regional delegates that are up for grabs. And break down is as follows: There are six here in San Juan, five in Bayamon, five here in Carolina. Now, here's where it gets kind of tricky because there's four in the remaining Senate districts. If one or the other candidate doesn't get 63 percent of the vote, these will split 2-2. You can split most of these districts.

BLITZER: So, they can really divide up those delegates?

ROBERTS: They can really divide them up.

BLITZER: Fifty-five delegates at stake.

ROBERTS: Then there are 17 commonwealth-wide delegates, as well. So these individual ones, in the district, at the district level, in these various Senate districts, you could potentially see a split across the island. So Hillary Clinton has to really hope to pull out a lot of the vote.

(CROSS TALK)

BLITZER: She's done well in other Latino communities, as well.

ROBERTS: She has, although, Puerto Rico is an island unto itself, let's say. This is her big area that she has to focus on. There are probably about 1.4 to 1.5 million registered voters in this area. So she has to try to get as many out to the polls as she possibly can.

Big thing here is name recognition. She is so much better known across Puerto Rico than Barack Obama is. Big issues, the party that's backing her favors statehood. She has gone out to say that she wants to allow Puerto Ricans to vote in the general election. The only way that's possible right now for Puerto Rico to become a state.

And here's the other big issue, as well. This little piece of land off the coast; this is Vieques Island. It was a Navy bombing range up until 2003. There were a lot of protests while Bill Clinton was president. Nothing happened under his administration. It wasn't until George Bush that the Navy left Vieques. Now what's left is the cleanup of the island, a lot of unexploded ordinance, not only on the island but in the surrounding waters. Lingering health affects from people who live on the island that they claim that they have suffered because of this bombing.

And land use, as well. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have vowed that they're going to help clean up Vieques, an address the other lingering problems. So, we'll see who the voters believe.

BLITZER: It's a big issue for the Puerto Ricans, no doubt about that.

ROBERTS: Absolutely.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, John. We'll be checking back with you. I promised our viewers we'd learn something about Puerto Rico. We just learned something about Puerto Rico. In the coming hours we'll be learning a lot more.

I want to check back with Bill Schneider, because he's been learning about these exit polls, these exclusive exit polls that we have been doing. And you'll want to share some more on what the voters in Puerto Rico had on their minds today.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: The voters in Puerto Rico, Wolf, very excited about the fact that the primary matters. The candidates paid attention. They came to Puerto Rico. This hasn't happened in a long time.

How important were the candidates' visits to Puerto Rico in their decision -- the voter's decisions how to vote? Well, almost 80 percent said that was a very important factor in how they decided how to vote. And 78 percent, very important, 14 percent somewhat important. The voters in Puerto Rico were thrilled to see the candidates. They marched in parades and had a chance to touch them and to listen to them and to see them in person. Did that pay off in the vote? You betcha. Let's take a look at those who said they decided in the last week. Now what's happened in the last week? Hillary Clinton has spent six days -- six days since Memorial Day weekend -- starting with Memorial Day weekend in Puerto Rico. Barack Obama has been there, as well. He spent one day.

Let's take look at those voters who made up their minds in the last week. They voted 2-1 for Clinton over Obama. So the visits were important. Clinton spent a lot more time in the last week than Obama did and it seems to be paying off in her support among those who decided in the last week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I remember originally Puerto Rico was supposed to have their primary -- it was going to be a caucus two days later. They asked the DNC for permission to move it up to today and to make it a full- pledged primary thinking they'd get the publicity. Guess what?

SCHNEIDER: They did.

BLITZER: They certainly did. All right. Bill Schneider is going to be at CNNpolitics.com with running commentary. You are going to want to go there, also get the numbers as we get them. As we get them, you'll see them as well. CNNpolitics.com, watch us, but have a laptop, you can get some other useful information there, as well.

Much more of our coverage coming up. The polls getting ready to close at the top of the hour. We will we be able to project a winner in Puerto Rico? Stay tuned. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. We are only 13 minutes away from the top of the hour when the polls will be closed on the Island of Puerto Rico, the commonwealth. It's a commonwealth of the United States. They can vote for the primaries for this election of the Democratic presidential nominee. They can't vote, Puerto Ricans, are U.S. citizens but they can't vote in the general election if they live in Puerto Rico itself. If they move, live in New York or California or anyplace else, they certainly can vote. But they can't vote if they live in Puerto Rico.

We're watching this story very closely because 63 delegates are allotted to Puerto Rico. And 55 of them will be determined by the election today. The pledged or elected delegates, eight superdelegates in Puerto Rico, as well. Let's get some more analysis of what's going on with Anderson and his team -- Anderson.

COOPER: Wolf, thanks very much.

Do we know -- I mean, to the point we were talking about before, with the other panel, what does Hillary Clinton do come Wednesday, Thursday? Does she continue in campaign mode?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the things she's trying to do -- or her team trying to do -- is what kind of role that she would play. And one thing that people keep coming back to is that the Obama campaign needs to really reach out, specifically to those female voters that we were talking about before, because there is a lot of bad blood right now. And that is something that they have to actively do.

There's some people who say nothing shy of at least offering, make a gesture to be on his ticket would be acceptable. We're not at that point yet, but a lot of people believe that even if she said, I don't want it, I don't accept it, that at least a gesture would show some sort of respect. That she was an equal and that would somehow help her make a transition.

COOPER: But I mean, come Wednesday morning, the campaign is faced with very real questions about what do we do, how do we move forward? And just in terms of her physical location -- I mean, do they continue to campaign? Do we know?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: The one thing we always know about Hillary Clinton is that she will work hard. And I think she'll continue to work hard. I expect she may go to Michigan to campaign a little to keep that issue percolating. She may go to Florida. She may act the way Obama is acting, as a general election candidate, so go to swing states the way Obama has. I think it will be -- to a certain extent -- a Potemkin campaign given the situation with delegates, but I think she will be out there campaigning.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: She is also a professional and she's a party leader and I'm sure at some point over the next 72 hours, Senator Clinton will sit down with former President Clinton, her team, her advisors, Campaign Chairman Terry McAuliffe, and take a look at the map, take a look at the delegate map.

Senator Obama may be able to clinch the nomination on Tuesday night, he may not be able to clinch the nomination, which case I would jump on a plane to Washington, D.C. and start cooking with grease because clearly you have a great number of members of Congress that are still undeclared, and I don't know. Throw a barbecue. Go up and talk to them. But clearly I think Senator Clinton deserves the respect to wait and talk to her advisors, talk to the former president, and go up and talk to those superdelegates.

COOPER: Does Barack Obama in the several days try so have a big roll out of superdelegates?

TOOBIN: I think, certainly. I think he is definitely going to do that. Plus, I think he has a very clever idea, frankly, of holding a big rally on the night of -- on Tuesday night in St. Paul, Minnesota, where in precisely the location where the Minnesota Wild hockey team plays, where the Republican convention will take place, in the very same arena. I think that is going to be a symbol of the general election campaign starting even if he doesn't formally declare victory.

COOPER: Talk about superdelegates declaring, I just -- let me put you on the spot for just a second, Donna, when -- I know you only got four hours sleep -- but when will you declare?

BRAZILE: Yvonne Gates, first of all, Yvonne Gates, who is my colleague on the Rules Committee announced today that she will endorse Senator Obama. She's from Las Vegas. That's a big catch for Senator Obama.

TOOBIN: That wasn't an answer to his question.

COOPER: Yeah, I just thought that.

BRAZILE: I'm trying to give my colleague some love.

(CROSS TALK)

TOOBIN: You've been ducking for so long.

(CROSS TALK)

BRAZILE: I don't have a fixed timetable. I said I would support the nominee.

COOPER: Have you not read their websites? You don't know their positions? What's the delay?

BRAZILE: Well, you know. I'm waiting for Jamal to invite me out for dinner and since Hillary is here she also can pick up the tab, too.

No. I know exactly what I plan to do, but first I want to give both candidates an opportunity to close out their races.

COOPER: So, you've made up your mind, it's just a question of announcing?

BRAZILE: Of course. I want to support the nominee and I would like to unify the party. I'm not going to go out there and say I'm for this one and against this one. I like them both and I will continue to hold that position until Wednesday.

MALVEAUX: One of the reasons why Donna's being so coy is because the Obama folks, they know. They actually know that they have the kind of numbers they need to put them over the top. It is not a matter of whether or not you're going to make up your mind. It is a matter of when you are going to actually make the announcement. And a lot of people have told them privately that will happen on Tuesday.

COOPER: Did you say Wednesday?

BRAZILE: Wednesday. I mean, Wednesday is a new day.

COOPER: So, Wednesday you will make an announcement?

BRAZILE: Wednesday is a new day, Anderson.

TOOBIN: Wednesday is a new day.

BRAZILE: Monday is not a new day.

TOOBIN: Monday is not, but Wednesday is.

(CROSS TALK)

BRAZILE: Tuesday is not, Wednesday is.

(CROSS TALK)

COOPER: Wolf has a couple of programs that you could come on.

You'll both be on the air on Wednesday, won't you?

TOOBIN: Yes.

BRAZILE: That's the end of the process. Wolf knows this back on February 6th, I believe. I said it publicly that I would like to see all of the states participate. I would like to see the voters in the states, before my vote as a superdelegate is cast one way or another. So, that's my vote. I only have one vote. You want to borrow it?

TOOBIN: This has gone on so long we've now run out of states. We are now doing territories and so --

COOPER: Soon, we'll get down to high schools and middle schools.

TOOBIN: Right.

COOPER: Your kids' high school is voting.

TOOBIN: I'm ready.

COOPER: We're going to starting cover every Tuesday night. That's where we're going to be, we're not giving up.

So -- so seven minutes from now polls close in San Juan. Do we know how quickly -- in San Juan -- in Puerto Rico. Do we know how quickly we'll get results?

MALVEAUX: I think it will come fairly quickly. I think we'll have a good sense of that and break down, as well. It will be interesting to see how does it fare? I was down in Puerto Rico, with both Clinton and Obama, and they kind of had this bariqua (ph) style, it was a lot of music and drums and enthusiasm. And I think a lot of people really felt for Obama. I think it's probably going to be a little bit closer than what our polls, what our numbers have been actually been hinting at. There's a lot of support for Obama there, as well.

COOPER: How big of a deal do you think it was for Barack Obama yesterday? I mean, obviously, personally it seems like a big deal for him to have left his church. Politically, was it, you know, was it too late? Was it -- should it have come a long time ago?

TOOBIN: I think, politically, it was the right move for him. I found it very sad, frankly. As just a human being -- we don't evaluate these people as human beings very often. We see them as sort of robotic cartoons. This church meant a lot to him. He cared a lot about Reverend Wright. This is a man, Barack Obama, who lost his father -- had no father figure growing up. Obviously Jeremiah Wright was a father figure to him. That relationship has been ruptured. I just -- I think it's a sad event and probably the right thing to do politically but I was just sort of sorry to see the whole thing.

BRAZILE: I think, spiritually, it was a very gut-wrenching decision because Senator Obama -- and Michelle -- clearly have deep, deep ties to the church community. Trinity has been a pillar in that community, in feeding homeless, and making sure that young kids have a place to go after school to learn and to do their homework. And for all of those reasons and many, many more, I think this was a very spiritual, personal decision.

He had to make it because clearly every weekend we see another video. I don't know about you. I'm Catholic. I don't like to quote, or even try to dissect what nine Catholics are saying, because it's tough. Here we are spending two, three weeks talking about sermons. And unless you're that close to Christ, and know anything about scripture, and black theologian history, it was tough. So he did it. He cut the ties but I know that his faith will be stronger and that he'll find another place of worship.

MALVEAUX: One of the things that's really tough for him, too, just as the close friends know that loyalty means everything to him. And there are people who felt he should have cut his ties with Reverend Wright a long time ago. There were people who were working on the campaign's behalf, essentially, to keep him quiet for sometime.

You have this other priest that comes along. I mean, it was a difficult decision. Obviously, you know, politically, it was important but also personally and talking with Michelle Obama, before, it was very painful. And that's something that's not an easy thing for him to do, is break any kind of tie when it comes to loyal, loyal friends.

COOPER: We've got just less than five minutes before the polls close. Let's check in with Bill Schneider, who is looking at these exit polls that we have exclusively. In terms of who are, Bill, who are the voters now voting in Puerto Rico today?

SCHNEIDER: Well, they're not the stereotype of Democrats that you sometimes hear. Democrats are sometimes stereotyped as limousine liberal who rarely go to church. They're all very secular. Take a look at what we found out about these voters in Puerto Rico.

How much is their family income? Well, most of them, 53 percent, have a family income of $15,000 or less, actually. Almost half are less than $15,000. There it is. And that is a very low income. Even in Puerto Rico where the cost of living may be a little bit lower than the mainland. They're part of the American economy. These are about half of them are by any standard poor voters.

Do they go to church? They're overwhelmingly Catholic; 47 percent of them told us they go to church every single week. They are not particularly secular voters. Only 10 percent say they never go to church. I think what this does is betrayed the stereotype that Democrats tend to be limousine liberal voters, with high incomes, who rarely go to church, not in Puerto Rico. These voters tend to be relatively poor and very steady churchgoers.

COOPER: All right. Bill Schneider, thanks very much. Just about three minutes until polls close.

Hilary, the question I asked to Alex earlier, does this matter? Does today really matter? And if so, for whom, and how?

ROSEN: Donna was talking about the process and people wanting the primary process to go. Let's go back to the big picture. Democrats have been more energized this primary season than they ever have before. So, I think it matters for that season. Puerto Rico, again, is valuable to the Democratic Party. You know, the last time a presidential candidate actually campaigned in Montana and South Dakota, were so many years ago, this matters for that reason.

I think it matters for another reason because essentially Hillary Clinton is going to finish this campaign one way or another, having established a sort of a leadership base and a place in the party. And, you know, whichever way it comes down, it's a going to be a 51-49 deal here, that these are both huge Democratic leaders in this party. And no matter what happens, will be for a long time to come, so that's why it matters, every single vote for her matters at this point.

COOPER: There are stories circulating around, I saw one in a British paper, I think it was just earlier today, about maybe that Barack Obama would offer her a Cabinet position, or allow her -- offer her the chance to shepherd, you know, insurance issues, health insurance issues. Do you think that would be enough for Hillary Clinton at this point?

ROSEN: I personally think that she'd be a fantastic vice president. I think it would be an amazing story in this party. It would be great for America. And I think that they would do -- have a strong campaign and win in November.

Having said that, I have no idea if she wants to be vice president. She's got a good career in the Senate where she is an independent and important player. If he goes to the White House, he will need her in the Senate. So I think she's got a lot of options. I think there are a lot of Hillary Clinton supporters, though, who would not just like to see her be offered the vice presidency, as if she's owed something, but who actually thinks she has something to bring to the table. She would be a great vice president.

COOPER: Let's check in with Wolf Blitzer, who is watching as the polls get very close to closing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Anderson, thanks very much.

It's getting close to the top of hour. What, we're only a little bit more than a minute away once the polls close in Puerto Rico, we'll be in a better position to assess what's going on. We always wait before we make any projections for all the polls in a contest to be closed. And they will be closed very soon.

Remember, Puerto Rico's important for a variety of reasons. One, 55 pledged delegates are at stake today. They will be divided proportionately, which is the case for all the Democratic contests. We'll see how proportionate, how that split winds up. There are also eight superdelegates in Puerto Rico, as well. A total of 63 delegates in Puerto Rico. They will have a say in who's the Democratic presidential nominee, but the American citizens who live in Puerto Rico will not have a say in the November election, whoever the Democratic candidate is against John McCain because Puerto Rico is not a state and only Americans who live in a state can actually vote.

This contest has been fought aggressively by Hillary Clinton. She and her husband, Bill Clinton, have made several visits to the island.

CNN projects that Hillary Clinton will win the primary in Puerto Rico by a wide margin.