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THE SITUATION ROOM
Obama and Clinton United; McCain's Drive for Democrats; Justice Department to Settle Lawsuit Filed by Former Army Scientist Steven Hatfill; CNN Electoral Map: Two Tossups Now Leaning Democratic
Aired June 27, 2008 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton oozing togetherness and suppressing any lingering tensions. This hour, you'll hear them at length on their Unity tour.
Plus, John McCain tries to keep the Democrats divided.
The CNN electoral map is changing again. By our calculations, two states aren't tossups anymore.
And a startling confrontation over terror. A House Democrat suggests he's glad that al-Qaeda may be watching one of Dick Cheney's top aides.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
They beamed, they hugged, they praised one another, they even wore color-coordinated outfits. The long-awaited Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton Unity event was carefully choreographed. The images and speeches all designed to achieve one goal, returning Democrats to the White House.
Stand by to hear directly from Obama and Clinton at length this hour.
Right now, though, let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's in Unity, New Hampshire -- Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this event was the crescendo to Unity week. She has been talking to her supporters, telling them it is time to get behind Barack Obama. He has been talking to his supporters, saying it is time to honor Hillary Clinton and use her as a very big campaign asset.
So they have been talking the talk. Today they walk the walk.
CROWLEY (voice over): One, two, three. Say cheese. It was their picture-perfect day, unity to the side of them, unity to the back of them, as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama tried to refocus the Democratic story line from a fractious primary to future possibilities.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: What we start here in this field in Unity will end on the steps of the Capitol when Barack Obama takes the oath of office.
CROWLEY: He began the full-throated praise.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She rocks. She rocks. That's the point I'm trying to make.
CROWLEY: And he said the words some of her voters have been waiting to hear, a recognition that sexism still exists, but that she powered through, sending a message to everyone, including his daughters.
OBAMA: They can take for granted that women can do anything that the boys can do. And do it better. And do it in heels. I still don't know how she does it in heels.
CROWLEY: Every public moment shows them in sync, though they said the color-coordinated outfits were accidental. And their messages have melded. The choice is no longer Clinton or Obama. It's Obama and McCain.
OBAMA: We can continue spending $10 billion to $12 billion a month in Iraq and leave our troops there for the next 20 or 50 or 100 years, or we can decide that it's time to be in a responsible, gradual withdrawal from Iraq. That's the choice in this election.
CROWLEY: Behind the chummy photos, there are still issues -- her role at the convention, her debt. And not everyone is onboard, not in the grassroots and not uniformly among party movers and shakers, including some of her fund-raisers. But she's putting money where her mouth is, donating $2,300 to his campaign, the maximum allowed. Also stepping up to the plate with a check for the Obama campaign, the missing man, Bill Clinton.
CROWLEY: This is the only campaign event Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have scheduled together. But they say there will be many more in the future.
Next up on the agenda, Bill Clinton -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Candy Crowley, in Unity, New Hampshire.
John McCain, meanwhile, is trying to convince Hillary Clinton's supporters to forget about party unity and to side with him instead. The Republican campaigning today in the swing state of Ohio.
Dana Bash is covering the McCain campaign for us.
He's going after, Dana, a specific group of voters in Ohio.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's the kind of voter that you and everyone else on election night after election night during the Democratic primaries talked about breaking for Hillary Clinton, the so-called Reagan Democrats.
BASH (voice over): At first glance, this GM plant tour in Ohio is all about John McCain's push for fuel-efficient cars built here. But it's not just about the cars. It's about the workers, blue collar voters, the kind Hillary Clinton won in the Democratic primary and John McCain wants, badly.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The brunt of this incredible increase in the cost of a gallon of oil is being borne by the lowest income Americans. That's not fair.
BASH: In fact, Clinton came to this very plant before she beat Barack Obama in Ohio with the same message McCain is using against him now -- empty words.
CLINTON: Speeches don't fill up your tank. Speeches don't fill your prescription or do anything about that stack of bills that keeps you up at night.
MCCAIN: I do think we are able to attract some of Senator Clinton's supporters, not so much because of any reason that they think that I may serve America best.
BASH: McCain advisers say if they have any chance at winning battleground states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, they need to lure Clinton supporters. A new poll shows they are.
A large percentage of Clinton's Democratic primary voters in Ohio, 25 percent, say they'll vote for John McCain. It's roughly the same in Pennsylvania.
But here's McCain's problem. That's not enough. McCain is trailing Obama in both those pivotal states.
Still, McCain does need to hold on to Clinton supporters leaning his way. Not easy when she's telling them to vote Obama. So when a woman in a Hillary hat asks McCain a question...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are lots of women who feel now disenfranchised.
BASH: ... he says this...
MCCAIN: All of us respect not only Senator Clinton, but the race that she ran. And she inspired millions of Americans. And millions of American women. And women all over the world.
BASH: And McCain aides say they're going to keep pushing very hard to try to lure women voters over to Senator McCain. In fact, Wolf, CNN has learned that McCain adviser and former CEO of eBay, Meg Whitman, is currently working on an economic plan tailored towards small business owners, many whom these days are women. She's apparently going to unveil that maybe in the next couple of weeks.
BLITZER: So they think they can really make some inroads in some of those battleground states.
Did you see that recent Quinnipiac University poll, though, in Pennsylvania, and Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota? He's taking a lead, Obama, in those states. And sometimes a very impressive lead.
BASH: He is taking a lead. And that was clear in the poll I referenced in my story, about the fact that he is definitely leading overall.
But John McCain, with regard to these specific voters, these Hillary voters, he's getting about a quarter of those voters. But you're right, you're exactly right, at this point it's not enough to take those states. And that's what matters in the end.
BLITZER: All right. We'll see. Polls can still change. A long time to go between now and November 4th.
All right, Dana.
Dana Bash watching the McCain campaign for us.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, today's rally with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, up there in Unity, New Hampshire, it was the latest in a series of staged events designed to show that all is forgiven between the two formal rivals for the Democratic nomination. So like a children's fairy-tale, if it doesn't have a happy ending, it won't sell.
Yesterday, Clinton praised Obama in front of two major interest groups that had supported her in the primaries. The Democrats appeared before a group -- both of them appeared before a group of Clinton's top donors last night.
Clinton told supporters that Democrats are a family. A dysfunctional family perhaps -- my words, not hers.
Obama hailed Clinton and her backers for their passion. Both Obama and his wife, Michelle, gave the maximum, $2,300 each to help Hillary Clinton retire her campaign debt. But how close knit is this family really?
The fact is, each is forced to rely on the other as the general election nears. Obama needs Clinton to help convince her supporters to vote for him in November. And Clinton needs Obama to help him pay down her campaign debt. Plus, she wants to know that she'll be treated as a top surrogate throughout the campaign and given a pivotal role at the convention.
That's all fine. But there are sticking points.
Aides describe the relationship as one that's "slowly falling" with a lot of unanswered questions. As we told you yesterday in "The Cafferty File," they're reportedly using a high-powered Washington lawyer to negotiate some of these issues.
And then, of course, there's Bill Clinton. The former president and Barack Obama have not spoken since Obama won the nomination. Wouldn't you think the last sitting Democratic president might want to talk to the party's presumptive nominee?
There may be less here than meets the eye.
Here's the question: How united do you think Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton really are?
Go to CNN.com/cafferty file. And you can post a comment on my blog.
I think it speaks voluming that there hasn't been a single word exchanged between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama since he wrapped up the nomination.
BLITZER: I suspect that will change probably at some point.
CAFFERTY: It better change pretty soon.
BLITZER: Yes. He's overseas right now, but at some point it will change.
CAFFERTY: Do they have phones there?
BLITZER: Yes, they do.
CAFFERTY: Yes. That's what I thought.
BLITZER: They have BlackBerrys, too.
BLITZER: OK. Stand by, Jack.
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are due to -- are doing -- they're doing a lot to try to show unity that Jack was just talking about. We're going to show you some of what they said at length.
And we're only moments away from playing some significant chunks of both of their speeches -- Hillary Clinton's speech followed by Barack Obama's speech. If you didn't hear what they had to say earlier today, you'll want to hear it coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And some critics say Obama is telling voters what they want to hear, taking the easy road down the center.
And the apology after the combustible hearing. A U.S. congressman now says he does not want terrorists to harm a top Dick Cheney aide.
All of that and a big change in the CNN electoral map coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama stood shoulder to shoulder near signs proclaiming, "Unite for Change." That was essentially the message of both Democrats when they spoke today. We'll hear extensively from Senator Obama shortly.
Right now, let's listen to Senator Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Now, I don't think it's at all unknown among this audience that this was a hard-fought primary campaign. We have traversed America making our case to the American people. We have gone toe to toe in this hard-fought primary. But today and every day going forward, we stand shoulder to shoulder for the ideals we share, the values we cherish, and the country we love.
We may have started on separate paths, but today our paths have merged. Today our hearts are set on the same destination for America. Today we are coming together for the same goal: to elect Barack Obama as the next president of the United States.
I was honored to be in this race with Barack, and I am proud that we had a spirited dialogue. That was the nicest way I could think of phrasing it. But it was spirited because we both care so much. And so do our supporters, each and every one of you. And I am so proud and privileged today here in Unity to help bring together the 36 million Americans who supported us to create an unstoppable force for change we can all believe in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Clinton went on to talk about her political career and what's ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: There are no invisible Americans. That the trials and troubles that fall to each of us during a lifetime are ones that are recognized as shared. And that a helping hand is there when it's needed.
This has been my life's work, and it was the purpose of my campaign. And the way to continue that fight, to accomplish the goals that we all care about and stand for, is to take our passion, our energy and our strength and do everything we can to elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States.
AUDIENCE: Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary.
CLINTON: You know -- I have -- I've been involved in politics and public life in one way or another for four decades. Now, this is the moment when someone is supposed to yell, "I don't believe it!"
OBAMA: I don't believe it.
CLINTON: Yes, I don't believe it. Thank you, Barack.
OBAMA: Can't be more than 20.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And then Senator Clinton set her sights directly on John McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Now, Barack and I both have a great deal of respect for Senator McCain and his heroic service to our nation.
But in the end, after eight devastating years under President Bush, Senator McCain is simply offering four years more. He sees right-wing judges appointed to the Supreme Court and says, why not a few more? He sees billions of dollars in corporate tax cuts exploding our deficit and says, why not billions more? He sees five long years in Iraq, and he's willing to stay for years, even decades more.
In the end, Senator McCain and President Bush are like two sides of the same coin, and it doesn't amount to a whole lot of change.
So here's the choice in this election. If you like the direction America's going, then vote for Senator McCain, because you'll definitely get more of the same.
But if you think we need a new course, a new agenda, then vote for Barack Obama and you will get the change that you and we need and deserve!
And to anyone who voted for me and is now considering not voting, or voting for Senator McCain, I strongly urge you to reconsider.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So how did Senator Obama respond to what Hillary Clinton just said? Coming up, we'll be hearing directly from Senator Obama. We'll be playing a significant portion of his speech as well.
We're also getting word of a new development in that lawsuit between the U.S. Justice Department and a person of interest, as he was called in the anthrax attacks back in 2001. We'll tell you what's going on.
And unity? Some Democrats say, what unity? Some die-hard Clinton supporters have taken to the Internet urging others like them to turn their backs on Obama. We'll tell you about that.
And political shift. Two states that we considered tossups are now leaning toward one candidate.
A shift in our electoral college map and a lot more coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The U.S. government is about to spend millions of dollars to pay a man who was accused of being a person of interest in those anthrax letter attacks that occurred back in 2001.
Let's go to Carol. She's watching this story for us.
Just coming in, we're getting details. Explain to our viewers, Carol, what's going on.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the U.S. Justice Department has agreed to pay Dr. Steven Hatfill $2.825 million for releasing information to reporters when it should not have. That was what Steven Hatfill was alleging.
I'm going to read you this thing.
"Hatfill, if you remember, was named as a person of interest in the 2001 anthrax attacks. He then sued the Justice Department, saying it violated his privacy rights by speaking with reporters about the case."
Now, the Justice Department also released a statement. It denies all liability in connection with Dr. Hatfill's claims. But he has agreed to the settlement. And it says it remains resolute in its investigation into these anthrax attacks which killed five individuals and sickened a number of others.
You'll remember those anthrax letters were addressed to people, some on Capitol Hill, and also to NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw. So far, they have no new suspects, at least any who have been named. And Dr. Steven Hatfill gets $2.8 million from the federal government -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Carol. We'll get some more information on this story, but we'll watch it. A lot of us remember that case back in 2001.
A Democratic congressman has a nasty exchange with a Bush administration official, and now Republicans claim what that congressman said paints an al Qaeda target on the back of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. And two states that are tossups are now leaning toward one candidate. There's a potentially major shift in our CNN electoral map. We'll tell you what it is right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, with bold intentions and powerful explosives, it all came crumbling down, a North Korean symbol of nuclear ambition. CNN was allowed unprecedented access. We'll go live to North Korea. Christiane Amanpour standing by.
On lowering gas prices, lawmakers say they should get an "A" for effort, but many of you give them an "F" for execution. Why hasn't Congress done things it's promised?
And Barack Obama is making history right now, but his family says he struggled as a young man. You're going to find out how he dealt with one devastating loss, was heartbroken by another, and what he counts among the things he regrets the most.
Suzanne Malveaux working that story in Hawaii for us.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now, an important change on our CNN electoral map. Two states that were tossups, Minnesota and Wisconsin, now are considered to be leaning toward Barack Obama. Those states changing color to light blue.
Together, Minnesota and Wisconsin have 20 electoral votes that CNN now is allocating to Barack Obama.
Let's turn to Bill Schneider. He's watching this story for us.
Bill, what do these surveys actually show? And as a result of the latest polls in some of these states, we're making shifts in our electoral college map.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what they show, Wolf, is some momentum for the Democrats.
SCHNEIDER (voice over): What's new in the presidential race? Four state polls by Quinnipiac University.
Colorado, Obama leading by five. Still close.
Michigan, Obama leading by six. Still close.
Wisconsin, Obama ahead by 13. It was a tossup, now it leans to Obama.
Minnesota, Obama up by 17. Another state leaning to Obama. Bottom line, 231 electoral votes for Obama, 194 for McCain. Obama ahead, but still shy of the 270 electoral votes needed to win.
Right now, Obama is carrying every state that John Kerry won in 2004, except two, Michigan and New Hampshire, which are both in the tossup category. So far, the map does not show any 2004 Bush state switching to Obama, and it does not show any 2004 Kerry state switching to McCain. But it does show seven Bush states now in the tossup category: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia.
Since he decided not to accept public financing, Obama can raise and spend much more money than McCain. We're hearing big talk about a 50-state strategy.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: He doesn't think he can necessarily win all 50 states, but what he's trying to do is really try to get enthusiasm for his campaign.
SCHNEIDER: McCain is concentrating on the Midwest and Appalachia. But aren't they suffering economically?
PRESTON: They're all in economic distress, but they also have Reagan Democrats. And they -- John McCain thinks that the politics that he's talking about really does appeal to these people, strong defense, yes, you know, tighter spending.
SCHNEIDER: Right now, Obama's running ads in all nine tossup states, plus some Southern states where he sees opportunities, like Georgia and North Carolina, and even in North Dakota, and Montana, and Alaska. Obama's got the dough. He can be aggressive. McCain has to be more selective. But he's still running ads in seven of those nine tossup states -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They will both be spending a lot of money in the coming months -- Bill Schneider reporting.
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton forging a new political partnership today. Whether it will go beyond joint campaign appearances, though, remains to be seen. The all-but-certain Democratic nominee went out of his way to pay tribute to his former rival and appeal to her very enthusiastic supporters.
Let's hear from Senator Obama today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: What has made her one of the finest senators that New York has ever seen, what has made her a historic candidate for president, an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult that fight may be.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: I have admired her as a leader; I have learned from her as a candidate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary rocks!
OBAMA: She rocks.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: She rocks.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: That's the point I'm trying to make.
OBAMA: I am proud to call her a friend, and I know how much we need both Bill and Hillary Clinton as a party and as a country in the months and years to come. They have done so much great work -- I don't think it's been 40 years, you know, maybe for the last couple, you know?
OBAMA: But it's amazing how much they got done in five years' time.
OBAMA: We need them. We need them badly, not just my campaign, but the American people need their service, and their vision, and their wisdom...
OBAMA: ... in the months and years to come, because that's how we're going to bring about unity in the Democratic Party, and that's how we're going to bring about unity in America, and that's how we're going to deliver the American dream in every corner of every state of this great nation that we love.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: Now, Hillary and I may have started with separate goals in this campaign, but we've made history together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Obama went ON to talk about an issue that unites many Democrats. That would be Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: We have to come together not just as Democrats, but also as Americans, united by our understanding that there's no problem we can't solve, no challenge we cannot meet, as one nation, as one people.
Now, the decisions we make in this election and in the next few years on Iraq and climate change, on our economy and making sure that it's working for everybody and not just some, those choices will shape the next generation and possibly the next century.
And on each and every issue, on each and every issue in this campaign, the choice could not be clearer.
It is a choice between moving forward and falling farther behind. It's a choice between more of the same policies that have failed us for eight long years or a new direction for the country we love.
We can continue spending $10 billion to $12 billion a month in Iraq and leave our troops there for the next 20 or 50 or 100 years. We can follow a policy that doesn't change whether violence is up or violence is down, whether the Iraqi government takes responsibility or not.
Or we can decide that it's time to be in a responsible, gradual withdrawal from Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Obama also urged Democrats to unite behind his message of change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We can perpetuate a system in which women are paid less for the same work as men, or you can join Senator Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to start doing something to reverse some of these policies and make sure that equal pay for equal work is a reality all across America. That's the choice in this election.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: No matter where we disagree, these are the issues that have always united Senator Clinton and myself. They're the causes that unite both of us as Democrats and I believe, at this moment, they are the causes that can unite us as Americans.
Because the choice in this election is not between left or right; it's not between liberal or conservative. It's between the past and the future. And it's time for us to move towards that future together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Stand by to hear from Senator Obama's opponent, Senator John McCain. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Also coming up, a tense confrontation pitting a House Democrat against a top aide to the vice president, Dick Cheney -- the threat of al Qaeda looming between them. We will explain what happened.
Some conservatives are demanding John McCain start talking social issues, or else.
And an unprecedented and controversial move to test everyone in the Bronx for the AIDS virus.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A House Democrat says he's sorry, but Republicans still are outraged by his remarks to a top aide to the vice president, Dick Cheney.
Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, who has been working this story.
There are a lot of people out there who are outraged right now.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
We have talked many times about how civility has really broken down in Washington, but White House officials think it reached a new low yesterday. Democrats insist it was all just a big misunderstanding.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: The committee will come to order again.
HENRY (voice-over): It was already rough, Democrats grilling Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, David Addington, about harsh interrogation tactics for terror suspects.
NADLER: If the CIA program is found to be unlawful, would you bear any responsibility for that?
DAVID ADDINGTON, CHIEF OF STAFF AND FORMER COUNSEL TO THE VICE PRESIDENT: If the CIA program is found to be unlawful?
ADDINGTON: Would I bear responsibility for that?
NADLER: Any responsibility.
ADDINGTON: Is that a moral question, a legal question?
HENRY: But it also got nasty, as Democrat Bill Delahunt suggested he was happy about the possibility al Qaeda was watching the hearing and could now identify Addington. Delahunt was pressing on whether waterboarding, a controversial tactic that simulates drowning, was discussed at White House meetings. Addington, who had not testified before, said he could not talk because this was an open hearing.
ADDINGTON: I can't talk to you. Al-Qaeda may watch C-SPAN.
DELAHUNT: Right. Well, I'm sure they are watching and I'm glad they finally have a chance to see you, Mr. Addington.
ADDINGTON: I'm sure you're pleased.
DELAHUNT: Given your pension for being unobtrusive.
HENRY: A Cheney spokeswoman called the comments inappropriate, and a Republican congressman expressed outrage about the potential for Addington to now be targeted.
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: He has family. And he has a home. And this message that Bill Delahunt sent was a chilling thing to think coming from someone on the other side of the aisle.
HENRY: In a phone interview, Delahunt told CNN he was sorry because he had merely phrased his comments inartfully. He meant to say he was glad Addington was finally testifying before the American people about controversial policies.
"Obviously, I wish him no harm at all," said Delahunt. "That was not my intention."
But a former aide to the vice president was not buying that explanation.
SHANNEN COFFIN, FORMER COUNSEL TO VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, words matter. And any time you start a sentence with, "I'm glad al Qaeda," you should probably cut yourself off right there.
HENRY: Well, the congressman told me he would also apologize to David Addington's face if this staffer would come over to his office at a later date. But he said he would also want to talk about some more about these controversial policies.
The bottom line, I don't think David Addington is going to be heading over there anytime soon.
BLITZER: Wow, what a story.
All right, Ed Henry, thank you.
HENRY: Thank you.
BLITZER: In our "Strategy Session": Senator Obama's passion for change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We are not just going to change this country, but we will change the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But the McCain campaign says they have the goods to paint him as the conventional politician. Will it work?
John McCain is committed to reaching out to disaffected Clinton supporters. But how does he do this and keep his base unfazed? Donna Brazile and Kevin Madden, they're standing by -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session" right now.
Joining us, our CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and Republican strategist Kevin Madden, a former spokesman for Mitt Romney when he was running for president.
Guys, thank you very much for coming in.
BLITZER: Intriguing article in Politico.com today from Kenneth Voge, writing, among other things: "Since securing the Democratic presidential nomination, when confronted with a series of thorny issues, the Illinois senator has pursued a conspicuously conventional path, one that falls far short of his soaring rhetoric."
You're hearing that kind of criticism of him. What do you think?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Senator Obama is trying to pivot to the center, where most of the undecided voters are.
Look, his base is strong. They support him. But they understand that in order to win this election, he must not only rally his base, but like John McCain, go to center and reach out to those voters.
BLITZER: But he's arguing, Donna, that he's not a conventional politician, he's a new generation, a different type of politician.
BRAZILE: I think, for a politician to break away from the old Washington ways of sticking with a war plan that has no exit strategy or of sticking with tax cuts that don't provide relief, that's not a conventional politician. So, I think Senator Obama is on the right path. I would caution him to not be too careful, because the country clearly wants change.
BLITZER: He's certainly making inroads in some of those battleground states. We just moved Wisconsin and Minnesota from tossup to leaning Barack Obama based on that Quinnipiac poll. KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: I think a lot of those numbers are a reflection of the coverage that his historic nomination got.
But I think that he -- you know, Barack Obama has shown that it's not pragmatism, but, instead, it's convenience, and that he's every bit like the Washington politician. He's not going to these positions on principle, but, instead, he's going to them because he believes that's where the votes are.
And the McCain campaign has done a very good job of putting this message out there and getting coverage like this about Barack Obama that shows that, when he's ever faced with a very tough decision, Barack Obama takes the easy way out, where the votes are. And he's not this bipartisan and he doesn't have the accomplishments that someone like John McCain does.
BLITZER: And they point, Donna, to that statement, siding with the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court the other day, that 5-4 decision, that said, you can't execute someone for raping a child, only for murder. And he said he disagreed with the liberals on the court, the majority in this particular case, as opposed to the conservatives.
BRAZILE: And perhaps he was speaking as a father of two daughters. Perhaps he was speaking of someone who not only has tried to reform the death penalty system in our country, but somebody who understands that in certain cases the death penalty must apply.
Look, at a time when everybody in the country, including many Democrats, were standing with George Bush on the war in 2002, when every American -- George Bush was at 80 percent -- Barack Obama decided to take a very principled position against the war. So, I don't think he goes by polls. I think this is a man of principle and someone who believes in what he's saying.
BLITZER: John McCain faces a different kind of problem. He is trying to reach out to those independent, centrist voters as well that will make the difference in this upcoming election. But some of his conservative base, they're saying, we're not hearing what we really want to hear from John McCain.
MADDEN: Well, there is. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence out there that conservatives, evangelicals are still somewhat wary of John McCain, because he's never been very passionate, or he's never seemed to be very passionate about their causes.
But, at its core, I think John McCain, he does identify with them on these very important issues, like strengthening marriage, like life. And he has to go out there and identify on those issues. He has to remind these voters that he has been there and had the right votes...
BLITZER: Because what they're saying is, they want to see that in his daily stump speech. They want to see him pounding away on these -- quote -- "moral issues."
And, at its core, I believe, also the question here is enthusiasm. Are these voters going to be enthusiastic about John McCain? A lot of people look at how you identify with individuals on the right movement -- on the movement on the right. But, instead, you have to identify with the issues that they care about. And that's, I believe, how John McCain is going to go out there and generate that enthusiasm that he's going to need to have that base vote.
BLITZER: All right.
Donna, you're a good strategist. How does he do that? What strategy? I mean, he's not going to take your advice, necessarily, but what advice would you give him?
BLITZER: How does he walk that delicate -- that delicate tightrope?
BRAZILE: Be true to thy own self.
Look, John McCain -- and many people like John McCain, independents, because he's not a cheerleader for narrow interests in this country. Instead, he's a man who understands how to put big issues before the country and explain -- explain complicated issues.
So, on this front, I would have to say John McCain should be true to his own self and not try to placate and pander to the far right in this country.
BLITZER: She's giving good advice to all presidential candidates, right?
MADDEN: I would actually agree with that, that he can't look like he's pandering. And I think that's what happens when you associate with just individuals, these leaders in the evangelical leaders.
But, instead, go out there and talk about the issues that you care about, the long history that he has on these issues, and make sure that the people that are in these faith communities in the swing states, where it matters, that they know where John McCain stands.
BLITZER: Kevin and Donna....
BRAZILE: On the other hand, if they're looking for a cheerleader, then perhaps they might tune in to Barack Obama.
BLITZER: Have a great weekend, guys. BRAZILE: All right.
MADDEN: Thank you.
BLITZER: Some Senator Hillary Clinton supporters are not buying the new pitch for party unity, and they're taking their campaign online. Our Web sites -- we're watching the Web sites that make their anger clear.
And Suzanne Malveaux is on assignment in Hawaii. She's tracing Barack Obama's early years, and has a full report. Stay tuned for that.
And, as Congress heads out -- out of town, what have they done to lower your fuel costs? Brian Todd will join us.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press.
In Nepal, police remove Tibetan exiles from a demonstration against the Olympic torch relay.
In India, stock traders watch with dismay as shares tumble amid jitters about soaring oil prices.
In Switzerland, a man carries his horn to the yodeling festival, where more than 12,000 yodelers and horn players will compete. Good luck.
And, in Austria, following a loss, a Russian soccer player poses with a fan for a picture -- some of this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth 1,000 words.
On our "Political Ticker" today: Hillary Clinton is working hard to try to ensure that her supporters are backing Barack Obama. But many Clinton die-hards are doing the opposite of that online, launching Web sites against Obama and the Democratic Party.
Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's watching this story for us.
What are some of these sites doing, Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, you just look at some of their names to figure it out. Clintons for McCain is one, Democrat in Exile. And there's several called PUMA. That's standing for "Party Unity My Ass."
If you just look around online, you're going to find dozens of these sites. They have been popping up over the last few weeks. And there's a sign that they're all banding together now. This Web site, justsaynodeal.com, links to 130 different forums, blogs, or Web sites. And a spokesman says the individual sites may have different goals, some of them going after the Democratic Party, some of them supporting John McCain. Others want to write in Hillary Clinton as a candidate. But he says they're all united in the fact that these Web site owners don't want to support Barack Obama in the fall.
Now, a spokesman for Senator Obama, when asked about this Web site, said today that -- pointed to the event in Unity, New Hampshire, and said Senator Clinton herself talked about the importance of unity -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What does that mean again?
TATTON: Oh, no, you're going to make me say it again in my accent. That is "Party Unity My Ass."
BLITZER: OK. I just wanted to make sure I heard it right.
BLITZER: Very creative. Thanks, Abbi.
Let's go back to Jack. He has got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: How do you follow that?
BLITZER: I know. You can't.
CAFFERTY: You can't follow that.
BLITZER: You have got nothing better than PUMA.
CAFFERTY: "Party Unity My Ass."
CAFFERTY: I like it, "My Ass."
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: How united do you think Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton really are?
Uche writes: "They really don't have to be united, Jack. It's a matter of how united they publicly appear to be."
Karen in Maryland: "Common causes can unite common enemies. Let them unite, because the alternative of McBush, McSame, 100-year war McCain is unthinkable."
Gerald writes: "She's united -- with his bank account. Now that the extortion has been codified by her lawyers, and Obama has acquiesced with an opportunistic bribe, all is wonderful. Business as usual in the politics as usual realm."
Tom writes: "They are very united. Both of these are heart- driven public servants ready to do whatever it takes to advance the public good, even sign on with a same-party adversary. We're all family, Hillary says, and I think she means it, so much so that I'm supporting Barack at her behest."
Deb in Oklahoma writes: "It doesn't matter if they are united. It matters if their supporters are united."
Peg writes: "It's time that the mainstream media give up on this silly story just to get ratings. There are many more important things going on to talk about. It's time for one of your famous comments on how silly this storyline is. Democrats are united, and poor John McCain will have to go back to the Senate. I know he hasn't voted since April, but I think he still has a job there."
Nancy in Tennessee says: "I'm not feeling the love between these two. It reminds me of two people who just got a divorce and are trying to be civil in front of the children. The bad thing is, the kids are old enough to know the show is all for them."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile to look for yours among hundreds of others.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
BLITZER: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.