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'America Votes 2008'
Aired February 05, 2008 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: An extraordinary day in an historic year.
To our viewers here at home and around the world, welcome to a special report, CNN/"TIME," "America Votes 2008."
Today is of course Super Tuesday. Record turnouts are expected in this do-or-die contest.
So much is at stake today -- 24 states -- there they are right there -- more than 2,700 delegates, and perhaps the direction of our country. It is without a doubt one of the most exciting and important presidential races in decades.
Over the next hour, we're going to take a look behind the front lines to see how the candidates are right now executing their strategies on this decisive day. We will also look at the issues that voters say they care most about and how those issues will likely determine the nominees for both parties.
Joining us will be the best political correspondents from CNN and from "TIME" magazine. Moderating the conversations will be my colleagues, Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and Lou Dobbs.
Wolf, let's start with you.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Campbell, thanks very much.
And it's good to have Campbell Brown here as part of the best political team on television.
So, what do the candidates need to do to win Super Tuesday? Let's focus, first of all, on the Democrats right now. That would be senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. We'll talk about the strategy, the message with our panel.
And joining us right now from "TIME" magazine, the political columnist, Joe Klein; from CNN, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; Joe Johns, our special correspondent; and "TIME" magazine editor -- managing editor, that is, Rick Stengle.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
Gloria, let me start with you, and basically ask the question, why has Barack Obama suddenly, over these past few weeks, especially over these past few days, seemed to be generating so much momentum in these last-minute polls that we're seeing? GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: If I could answer that question, Wolf, I'd probably be working in the Clinton campaign right now because they're trying to find that out, too. I think we'll know more from the exit polls this evening. But I think it's a few things.
First of all, after Obama won in South Carolina, he did got a lot of momentum. There were a lot of complaints about that campaign waged by the Clintons there, a lot of complaints about Bill Clinton.
Then Barack Obama started getting endorsements by the Democratic establishment. Someone like Ted Kennedy, who has a lot of credibility in the rank and file of the Democratic Party, kind of gave Barack Obama the seal of approval. And that kind of momentum tends to build on itself in an election that is as truncated as this one is.
You don't have a lot of time if you're losing ground to make it up. But if you're winning ground, it is really good for you.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by.
Candy Crowley, our senior political correspondent, is out covering the Hillary Clinton campaign right now. Jessica Yellin, she's been covering the Obama camp.
Candy, first to you. Give us a little flavor on this Super Tuesday. What is Hillary Clinton got in store for herself on this day?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, these days have a certain routine to them. She got up this morning -- and, remember, almost half of the states in this country are holding primaries or caucuses today. So she wanted to reach out to as many as possible.
She did the morning TV rounds. Then of course the ritual of going to the voting booth, where she pronounced herself feeling pretty good.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I feel very, very good about the campaign. I've got a lot of people working hard for me across the country.
The issue now is, who will come out to vote? And I think if people ask themselves who will be the best president, and if Democrats ask who they think will be the best candidate to win in November, I'm very comfortable with the answers to those questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: That said, the Clinton campaign believes that they may come out of Super Tuesday with a split with Barack Obama. They acknowledge that Barack Obama has been picking up in the polls. They relate that to two things. They say, first of all, the Edwards voters in flux. They say, second of all, Obama has gotten a lot of free publicity, and it's been positive. They point to the endorsement of Senator Ted Kennedy, saying that in fact there probably is not a voter in this country that doesn't know that Ted Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama.
They still believe, however, in that the end they'll go back to what she just talked about, and that's experience -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Candy. Thanks very much.
Nice to see Chelsea Clinton. She's been a fixture alongside her mom throughout this campaign.
Let's go out to California right now. Jessica Yellin is covering the Obama campaign.
Give us a little flavor. What's going on today, Jessica?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Today, Wolf, Barack Obama is going to his hometown of Chicago, Illinois, where he will continue to do what he has been doing for these last few days, reaching out to his key constituencies of new voters, disaffected Democrats and independents. And he's been doing it by selling two key messages.
First, an emotional appeal, that he is the kind of leader that voters can believe in, untouched by the beltway politics that Hillary Clinton knows so well. And then there is the practical sell, which is he is a Democrat who opposed the Iraq war from the start, and therefore he would represent the cleanest break from the Bush administration and the hawkish wing of the Democratic Party.
Now, to that message that we just heard Candy talking about, that Hillary Clinton says she has more experience, Obama says, well, he has superior judgment and that's what matters. Now, I think Candy would agree the race, in these last few days, has had a very different look from the bruising fights we saw in South Carolina and Nevada. Both candidates focusing much more on attacking the Republicans rather than attacking each other.
And Barack Obama in particular has been making the case he would be the Democratic candidate who could best beat John McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I like that match-up. I'm happy to have a debate about the future of this country, because I am tired of the politics of fear. I want a politics of hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: Wolf, Obama is drawing -- Obama is drawing huge crowds and a string of celebrity endorsements. The question is, will that translate into votes today? Wolf.
BLITZER: Jessica Yellin out in California.
Joe Klein of "TIME" magazine, you've covered both of these campaigns extensively. The Clintons going way, way back. We both covered them back in '92 as well.
Let's talk about Obama right now, because you spent some time in recent days with that campaign. Tell us what's going on.
JOE KLEIN, "TIME" COLUMNIST: Well, I think the feeling now in the Obama campaign is a mix of humility, caution, and barely- suppressed glee, because it just seems to be moving their way. I think that they're very uncertain about tonight. I think we're all uncertain.
This has been a year where the polls haven't been good predictors because vast numbers of new people are coming out. But when the Obama people look at tonight, they're looking at the states right around here in New York -- Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts. These are states where they didn't have a chance a few weeks ago but now have a really good chance. And, of course, the big -- the big enchilada is California.
BLITZER: And I want to talk to Rick about California right now, because for the Democrats, these last polls out there seem to be all over the place. But as important as the popular vote will be in California, there's another issue that we're all going to be looking at that probably will be even more important; namely, the delegates.
RICK STENGEL, "TIME" MANAGING EDITOR: Right. It's a three- dimensional chess game in this election because it's not just the popular vote, it's also the delegates. And California, as Joe said, is the big enchilada.
Remember, two or three weeks ago, Hillary was leading comfortably in California, and now Barack is surging. He is a little bit like an Internet stock and she's a little bit like a mutual fund. He is rocketing up and she's basically staying the same. And the issue for him is this -- can he increase the universe of voters enough to eclipse her voters which have basically stayed steady all along?
BLITZER: You know, Joe, you've been spending a lot of time looking at the issues in this campaign, the differences between Hillary Clinton right now and Barack Obama. And there are some differences, although the differences between them and the Republican candidates obviously are much greater.
What stands out in your mind right now as voters go to the polls on this Super Tuesday, as the biggest difference on the issues between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Who opposed the war first. But there is also the issue of health care, whether there is a real universal health care that Obama supports, or whether Hillary Clinton is the person standing behind that.
When you look at it, there are fine-line divisions many times between these candidates that sometimes don't make their way across to the kitchen table because people are looking at the style of these candidates, the personalities of these candidates, the fact that they're celebrities. And that sort of, you know, subsumes the argument of the issues. People are looking at these people as people, as is this somebody I want to sit down with...
BLITZER: I get that sense, Gloria, as well, that a lot of Democrats out there are going to vote not necessarily on health care, the economic issues...
BLITZER: ... the foreign policy, national security issues, but on the intangible items like inspiration, like enthusiasm, change, experience.
BORGER: Yes, all of those things.
BLITZER: All those kinds of things that have so dominated this race.
BORGER: All of those things. And maybe, Wolf, even on the Republican side as well.
I think when you look at the exit polls that we've been looking at to try to find out what voters are thinking, they're looking at people who they believe share their values. They care about change.
It's not that they don't care about experience, but they want something different. They want a politician that they can believe in.
There is a question we always ask of the voters -- believes what he says, says what he believes. And Obama is off the charts on those -- on those answers, and so was John McCain. So it's very clear that they want something more authentic than they think that they've been given by their politicians.
BLITZER: You agree, Joe?
KLEIN: Yes, I think so. I mean, ultimately in every election the presidency is our most intimate office. The president lives in our house for four -- our homes for four years. And people make this almost subconscious decision, who do I want to have giving me the news? Who do I want to have giving me bad news?
And I think that that kind of -- I guess you could call it authenticity or candor -- has been a major role in this race. And I think that one of the problems that Clinton has had over the last couple of weeks has been that, once Bill Clinton came back into the picture in such a big way, people began to think, well, do we really want to have the circus back in town? BLITZER: Guys, stand by, because we have much more to talk about.
We hope our viewers, by the way, Joe, hope that they want CNN to give them the news, as opposed to the president of the United States. But...
KLEIN: You share the responsibility.
BORGER: Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: He can tell a little bit, or she could tell a little bit of the news, but we hope the main part will be told by us.
All right, guys. Stand by.
There'll be much more coming up.
Remember, for the latest on Super Tuesday and the race for the White House, you can check out this week's "TIME" magazine. That's our sister publication. The cover story: "Why Young Voters Care Again and Why Their Vote Matters."
Our special coverage of this Super Tuesday continues in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I've been to more than 82 countries as first lady and as senator. I know a lot of the leaders. And I think the world will let out a sigh of relief when George Bush leaves the White House so we can begin to work with each other again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I was convinced that the American people desperately wanted something new. That they were hungry for something different. That they didn't want a politics that involved tearing each other down, but wanted a politics that would lift the country up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, who will it be?
Welcome back to CNN/"TIME" "America Votes 2008," our special report on this Super Tuesday. This is truly an historic race for the Democrats. Either an African-American or a woman will be nominated at the party's presidential convention later this summer in Denver.
This hour, we're looking at the candidates and their make-or- break strategies. Let's get back to our panel.
Rick Stengel, what will surprise you the most? What would be the biggest surprise for you tonight?
STENGEL: I think what we have to look at is how well he does in her territory, how well does Barack play in her territory. How well does he do among women voters, where's he's always historically done well? How well does he do among older voters? How well does he do among Hispanics?
In a way, what we're looking for tonight and what we have to be careful of -- because we so dispose the way the race is perceived -- is how we evaluate who is the winner and who is the loser.
STENGEL: The fact is it's going to be a mixed result anyway, and how we skew it will affect how voters perceive it. And we have to be very careful about that, because going down the road, we have to look at how he will do versus her in those areas where she's been historically strong. If she actually starts playing well in his area, then it might be her night.
BLITZER: Joe Johns, you've been out on the campaign trail covering these candidates. Give us a memorable moment that sticks out in your mind that helps us better understand who they are.
JOHNS: Well, I have to say, with the two candidates we have right now, Barack Obama was probably the most fascinating about -- I walked into a room in Iowa, I believe, late at night, 11:00 in the evening, slipped right past all of the security. No one saw me.
I got within arm's length of the candidate, and suddenly realized that there was this feeling in this room with these people who are surrounding him that I hadn't ever seen in a candidate at least since Bill Clinton in his first try. There was this electricity in the room that was -- that was sort of unusual. And I think from sort of political science in college you would call it charisma. And that was an extraordinary moment for me.
BLITZER: Have you felt that when you've been out on the campaign trail?
KLEIN: Yes, I think that there's a lot of charisma. But, you know, to me, the interesting thing is that the key moments haven't been on the campaign trail, but they've been in the debates.
KLEIN: A number of the debates that we've seen here on CNN. I don't remember if the debate just before Iowa was on CNN. It might have been. But the moment when Obama was asked why he had so many Clinton advisors working for him, and Hillary jumped in and said that's a really good question. And he said, well, you can advise me, too, Hillary. I thought that that showed real quickness and cool and spontaneity, which was an important thing.
BLITZER: Gloria, you're going to be with us in our coverage all night.
BORGER: All night.
BLITZER: And when I say all night, I mean literally all night.
What are you going to be looking for?
BORGER: Well, on the Republican side, I'm going to be looking for some surprises. There is a possibility, for example, Wolf, that John McCain could surprise us by losing California.
He has the endorsement of Arnold Schwarzenegger there. And it would be -- it would really change the whole tenor of the Republican race if McCain does not win California.
I think on the Democratic side, I agree with Rick, you have to look for where somebody wins in somebody else's sandbox. And the challenge tonight for all of us is to differentiate for our viewers between somebody who wins a state and somebody who wins the delegates in that state on the Democratic side, and somebody who wins the popular vote in that state. Because those are different results.
What do -- what is a victory in this? On the Democratic side, it's really delegates. But if somebody has checkmarks up on the board for winning states...
BLITZER: It's political momentum.
BLITZER: All right, guys. We've got to leave it there. An excellent discussion, but there is a lot more coming up.
Thanks very much, guys, for coming in.
When we come back, Anderson Cooper joins us. Anderson will moderate a panel on the Republicans. What are they up to? We'll talk to the reporters who are covering the campaigns.
And later, Lou Dobbs and where the candidates stand on the issues that they say matter to you the most.
Remember, you can get more of your Super Tuesday political fix online at CNNPolitics.com.
We'll take a quick break.
Much more from the Time Warner Center here in New York City when we come back.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper.
This is CNN/"TIME" "American Votes 2008."
It is, of course, Super Tuesday. Millions are at the polls today. And we are watching.
Tonight we'll give you the latest numbers as they stream in all night long. A number of contests to be covering. As always, you can get the latest political news by logging on to CNNPolitics.com.
Before the break we focused on the Democrats. Now let's talk about the Republicans.
John McCain headed in today with a lead over Mitt Romney. But, of course, anything can happen, as we've seen before.
Will McCain hold on or can Romney move ahead? We'll ask our panel in just a moment.
CNN political analyst Amy Holmes joins us. CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, as well. "TIME" magazine's senior political correspondent, Karen Tumulty. And CNN political contributor, Bill Bennett.
I should also not that Bill has contributed to both the McCain and the Romney campaigns. We should also tell you that Bill hasn't endorsed anyone yet and hasn't decided who he's going to vote for.
BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right.
COOPER: As -- nor have many Americans, frankly.
BENNETT: Waiting for the outcome of this discussion.
COOPER: Exactly. We'll see.
With that, let's catch up with the campaigning.
Dana Bash is covering the John McCain campaign in Phoenix. Gary Tuchman is at the Romney headquarters in Boston.
Dana, let's start with you.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, you know, it's well known by now how superstitious John McCain is. He carries a lucky nickel in his pocket. He's...
COOPER: We'll go back to Dana.
Let's turn now to CNN's Gary Tuchman, who's standing by with the Romney headquarters.
Gary, what's the scene there?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, just last month, if you talked to Romney's people, Romney's people would tell you, hey, if we can leapfrog past Rudy Giuliani, we have a clear path to the nomination. Well, that happened, but there have been surprises along the way -- the ascendancy of John McCain, the viability of Mike Huckabee. And that may be the biggest surprise. Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are splitting the so-called values vote.
Now, Romney says he hasn't told Huckabee to get out of the race. He does say though that if he would get out of the race, he thinks it certainly would benefit him, and most people do agree.
So, the question that we have to ask, the question that's bedeviling Mitt Romney -- and that may be an interesting way to say it for a so-called values candidate -- just who is Mitt Romney? His detractors say that he's a flip-flopper, that he's a phony, that he will do anything to be president of the United States. But his supporters say he's a brilliant businessman, they say he's an outsider, they say he's a populist, they say he is the true conservative who is the heir to the Reagan revolution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll tell you, what we need to have is a person who will stand up for principles of the Republican Party, live in the house that Ronald Reagan built, and win the White House again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: Two keys for Mitt Romney tonight -- the California primary. Polls show him coming closer to McCain. If he does well there, it bodes well. And here in Massachusetts, he's voting here in Belmont, his hometown today. This is where he'll come for his party.
He's ahead of the polls. If he does poorly in his home state of Massachusetts, where he was governor, it would bode very poorly for Mitt Romney's candidacy -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Gary, we'll be hearing a lot from you throughout the day.
Let's go back to Dana Bash, who's with the McCain campaign -- Dana.
BASH: Well, Anderson, I think before we lost each other before I was telling you about being on John McCain's bus with him yesterday and how on the one hand he was predicting he was going to be the nominee, and suddenly catching himself as if he was going to jinx it. But, you know, tonight, for the McCain campaign, they say that success begins right where you are, in the Northeast.
They are hoping for big wins in New York and New Jersey, where there are winner-take-all primaries. But McCain himself admitted this morning he is very, very concerned about the biggest state of all. That's California. In fact, as we speak, he's headed back to campaign one last time in California.
Now, as I've been covering John McCain, it's been fascinating to watch as he's shifted his focus a lot more recently to talking about the economy. But as he potentially has the nomination in sight, he's trying to convince Republican voters that the dividing line, the biggest dividing line with Democrats, is still the Iraq war. And he says he is their best candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There was times when people said, no, we've got to get out, we've got to set timetables for withdrawal. You know what that means, my friends? That means surrender. And I can tell you right now that the two leading Democrats want to wave the white flag.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, as much as John McCain wants to focus already on the Democrats, he and his campaign understand that they are concerned about the pounding that they are taking from Mitt Romney and conservatives with very big megaphones saying that McCain simply isn't conservative enough to be the GOP nominee. Now, he says that he is.
He also is trying to say, well, wait a minute, I actually can appeal also to Independents. That should help Republicans in the general election. But obviously he has to get there first -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Dana. Thanks very much.
Let's turn now to Amy Holmes and John King, also "TIME" magazine's Karen Tumulty and CNN's Bill Bennett.
Bill, let's start with you.
How much damage has Rush Limbaugh and other radio personalities done against John McCain? I mean, Rush dedicated his whole show yesterday to bashing John McCain.
BENNETT: Some, I think. It's almost unanimous on conservative talk radio. It's not so on my show and Michael Medved's show. Medved has endorsed McCain. I've been neutral between McCain and Romney. But, yes, they have some clout.
I think it was a mistake though. It was on CNN my friend Hugh Hewitt said talk radio is going to gear it up and we're going to change this thing, or words to that effect.
I'm not sure they can. I don't think they can. What you've got to remember is, since Reagan, this is it. It is now the agony of decision.
We knew we loved Reagan, and we knew that Bush was the heir to Reagan. Because Bush was the heir to Bush, who was the heir to Reagan. You know, and it's easy when you have this kind of primogeniture.
But now the agony of decision this year. We have all these candidates, people have been all over the place, and so now a decision has to be made. No one is going to dictate.
All sorts of surprises have occurred, and I suspect some more surprises tonight. John McCain does not have an obvious constituency. There's no profile, I think, obvious profile of a McCain voter. So we shall see, and we shall see tonight.
COOPER: And if John McCain does well tonight, does he continue to reach out to the conservative wing of the Republican Party?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, that's the fascinating thing to watch, because he's a very stubborn man and he gets mad, frankly, at people questioning his conservative record. Because his view is, I have a 20-something-year very conservative record, and, yes, I reach out and work with Democrats.
And the first thing he said at an appearance in Boston yesterday, a moderate Republican state, at best, the Republicans there, was, I'm a proud conservative, but if elected I will reach across the aisle and work with Democrats. So he's trying to do both things at once.
And to Bill's point, you have a fascinating question the Republican Party is facing right now. George W. Bush was the conservative heir-apparent. He was right, if you're checking your boxes as a Republican voter.
And now you have John McCain, a guy who is a maverick, often out of sorts with conservatives in his party, and Mitt Romney, who was once an Independent who acknowledged voting for a Democrat for president. Those are the two leading candidates in the Republican Party.
COOPER: Amy Holmes, Mitt Romney has already spent $35 million of his own money on this campaign. What does he have to do tonight in order to keep going?
AMY HOLMES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, what he has to do is we know that California is a closed primary. So Independents will not be voting in it. That's making McCain a little bit nervous.
What he has to do is he has to do well in California and he has to point that he did well among Republicans and that he did well among conservatives. Of course, the big question is, if John McCain does well tonight, does Mitt Romney stay in?
You know, we were discussing this before we came on the set, does he give a conciliatory speech this week at CPAC, where John McCain will be speaking and trying to reach out to those conservatives, you know, for potentially a race down the line? You know, this is make- or-break time for Mitt Romney, and we'll see how it turns out.
COOPER: Karen, you've spent time with the Clinton campaign. Is she the candidate both these men, Mitt Romney and John McCain, want to run against?
KAREN TUMULTY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: You know, I think she is, because she is a known quantity. The Republicans have been running against the Clintons now since 1992, basically. And I think that one aspect of if Hillary Clinton does get the nomination, one thing that happens is it becomes a lot easier to unite the Republican Party again. Any sort of fissures they have right now will be quickly healed once they have Hillary Clinton to run against.
COOPER: Bill, do you agree with that?
BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think that's right. It will take a little time because it's pretty intense. I went -- I will give you this report. I went almost two hours on my radio show this morning for someone other than me had something nice to say about John McCain. But I . . .
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Two hours?
BENNETT: Yes. And it's a three-hour show. So we got there. But I've got even longer in the past. I think once, if McCann does win, and it is McCain and Hillary Clinton, I think most people will come home. But I'll tell you, it's very intense and people are mounting last-ditch efforts and there's a ton of enthusiasm for Romney.
Now, a lot of it, it's very odd, it's new-found. I mean these endorsements, for example, by talk radio guys and some of the others, they haven't been Romney people all along. People just have not known exactly what to do. Without Reagan and Bush, people are making a decision and they're not practiced in doing this.
AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But, Bill, aren't we already seeing the Republican establishment sort of coalescing around John McCain because it looks like he's the leader? I mean, I think it's amazing that Ted Stevens, the senator from Alaska, the bridge to nowhere senator that John McCain is constantly railing against, he said I'll make nice, I'll rally around you, John McCain, because he will be, it looks like potentially, the Republican nominee.
BENNETT: Yes, the devil they know. And I don't want (ph) to say he's the devil, but they know him. They know where the strengths and weaknesses are. They don't know Romney. He's not in that club. And he now becomes a kind of conservative insurgent at a very late stage. But that's kind of what's happened.
COOPER: We're going to have more on the GOP and this Super Tuesday coming up. The race for the nomination between McCain and Mitt Romney. And later, Lou Dobbs is going to take some of the issues that candidates say are the most important for voters. We'll get insight on the candidates and the battle for the White House 24/7 on "Time" magazine's political blog. Also we'll have a lot more coming up. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will preserve my proud conservative Republican credentials, but I will reach across the aisle to the Democrats and work together for the good of this country.
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's been a, if you will, a concentration of the mind of conservatives across this country and I'm getting more and more support. So, you know, I think I got a good shot of picking up even the majority of delegates in California or the majority of votes there.
MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unfortunately, the next generation of young Americans won't have it as good unless we get some leadership in this country that restores that sense of resilience and hope and optimism again in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The GOP frontrunners. One of them could all but lock up the nomination tonight. Welcome back to CNN/"TIME" AMERICA VOTES 2008. We want to remind you that the latest on Super Tuesday and the polls, you can go to cnnpolitics.com or you can go to "Time's" political blog called Swampland at time.com/swampland. It has everything you need to know on the races.
Now let's get back to the Republican battle between John McCain and Mitt Romney. Of course, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul still in the race. Joining us again, CNN's Amy Holmes, John King, "Time" magazine's Karen Tumulty and CNN's Bill Bennett.
John King, for Mike Huckabee, what has to happen tonight?
JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he needs magic to reassert himself as anyone with a chance for the nomination. And that is unlikely if you look at the polls. But it's good that we talk about him because he remains a very significant factor in this race.
Look at Georgia. If Mitt Romney is going to come back in this race, his complain believes he has to win Georgia. He's completing not only with John McCain there, but he's competing with Mike Huckabee in Mike Huckabee's native south.
Alabama is right next door. The birthplace of the right to life movement in this country is Missouri. Mike Huckabee has been campaigning out there aggressively. Even has some support up in the conservative, rural areas of Minnesota.
So if Mike Huckabee can pick two or three states up tonight, or at least draw the conservative vote away from Mitt Romney, John McCain has a better night because of that. So Mike Huckabee, it's most unlikely he will be -- he would need magic in a bottle to be the Republican nominee, but he is a factor in this race.
KAREN TUMULTY, "TIME" SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Mike Huckabee has been such an interesting part of this remarkable John McCain resurrection story as well. Last summer, nobody thought McCain would be where he is today. And it was in large part because of his own grit coming back after he ran out of money, fired his campaign manager, fired most of his staff. But I think this would have not happened had Mike Huckabee not wounded Mitt Romney in Iowa.
KING (ph): Right. Absolutely right.
COOPER: In terms of the differences between John McCain and Mitt Romney on issues, where is there daylight between the two?
HOLMES: Well, the big issue that John McCain has been campaigning on is the surge. That he stood up early, he stood up loud, asking for more troops in Iraq to be able to, you know, pacify the country and succeed there. And he claims that Mitt Romney was using code language about time tables and that he was not solidly behind this winning strategy. So we'll see today if the voters agree.
COOPER: But that, ultimately -- I mean, Bill, your point that you've made in the past is about personality and that surge issue is sort of a personality in leadership because right now they both support the surge. John McCain is just saying he was there first.
BENNETT: Yes, yes, that's right. But I think also John McCain feels that he plays commander in chief role much more readily. That he is the commander in chief. People see him as the commander in chief. Notice when he was arguing at the debate in California with Romney, he said, well, fine, you've been a CEO, but that's a lot different from leading a squadron, for example.
No, Romney is trying to accentuate the differences. That he is much more conservative on immigration. That he wouldn't have supported the campaign finance. The problem Romney has is -- and McCain has a similar problem the problem Romney has is, a lot of this is new-found. It's late. It's whether people believe it or not. So the arguments -- some of the arguments are, you know, look at the man's whole life. Look at McCain's whole life. And people will say, fine, and go in different directions when they look at that assessment.
COOPER: The economic issue, which seemed to work so well for Mitt Romney in Michigan, did not work well for him in Florida. John McCain scored higher on economic issues among the voters. We'll see how that plays out tonight. A lot more to talk about.
Lou Dobbs is going to be joining the discussion. Lou is taking on the candidates and the issues that they say they're fighting for, coming up. Stay with CNN all day and all night for continuous Super Tuesday coverage. We're back right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People are maxed out on their credit cards. They're afraid of losing their homes. The economy is no longer producing jobs. People are scared and they are anxious about their futures.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're a free country. If you want to start jobs somewhere else, we're not going to stop you, but we're sure not going to give you one penny of taxpayer dollars to do it because that is a betrayal of the working people of America who deserve to have a president who invests in their jobs instead of jobs overseas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, if you're just joining us, this is CNN/"TIME" AMERICA VOTES 2008. A special look at the issues and the candidates on this Super Tuesday. I'm Lou Dobbs. You've heard there a little sampling of Senator Obama and Senator Clinton talking about the economy.
They're all, in fact, now talking about it. But do any of them, Republicans or Democrats, have a plan that would protect your job and remove that fear and anxiety? Let's see what our guests think about that. CNN senior political analyst David Gergen joins us, from "Time" magazine, editor-at-large, Nancy Gibbs, and "Time's" senior political analyst, Mark Halperin, and CNN contributor Roland Martin.
Thanks for being here.
David Gergen, this is not the first time that anyone has talked about the middle class or talked about the fears and the anxiety. Are these candidates going to do something about it, in your judgment?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They are -- on the Democratic side, all for a stimulus plan for the near term. The Republicans seem more reluctant to go that direction, to my surprise. But I have to say that, in the totality of things, when you look at the long-term needs of the country, the candidates have not yet fully addressed the full agenda that will be required to deal with globalization, technology, loss of jobs, people being pressed. I think we're in the front-end of a long-term problem for the country that's going to be quite severe.
DOBBS: And it's been a long campaign. Why so late to the issue that now concerns most Americans the most?
GERGEN: Well, I think that they've been able to focus and get attention on the short-term, on the stimulus problems, the problems of the mortgage industry and the like. And Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, for example, have been very aggressive about addressing those problems.
But, you know, the truth of the matter is, the long-term requires some significant changes in the way we live. They require significant changes in the way we educate our kid. They may require some sacrifices near term. You can't deal with the long-term of the country unless you come to grips with the fiscal problems represented by Medicare and Social Security and the explosion of cost. And people -- you can lose votes if you tell the truth about what we're facing.
DOBBS: Well, very few of these candidates are risking losing those votes, Nancy Gibbs. Suddenly the economy appeared as the number one issue in both political parties for this presidential campaign.
NANCY GIBBS, "TIME" EDITOR-AT-LARGE: There's been an amazing change just since September when the Iraq War was still number one for most voters. And in the last month, they have switched places. And now both parties, the economy is number one. Iraq has fallen. That's, of course, you know, it's an irony for someone like John McCain that, because the surge that he argued for so passionately succeed to the extent that it did, it has sort of pushed Iraq further down in the news. And the economy has been the number one headline. And so voters on both sides, that is their number one concern by a lot.
DOBBS: Is there some peculiar alchemy at work here in the electorate that suddenly the economy pushes forward, or is there -- has there been, in your judgment, such a drastic change, a drastic threat to our quality of life, our standard of living?
GIBBS: The real movement in these last weeks has come actually among wealthier voters. Working class voters were worried about their mortgages and their medical bills for a long time. But where you see a change in all of the polling is now in people who are pretty well off but who looked at their 401(k) statements or who looked at their own economic prospects and their job security and started to get very nervous. And that is what has really propelled it to the number one position.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Lou.
MARTIN: Let's just be honest about it. Picking up on your point. The reason all of a sudden the economy's important, because all those folks on Wall Street who screwed up, who blew a lot of money on the whole subprime loan crisis, they're the ones now who are asking for a federal bailout. That's what's driving it. They're the ones who give money to the various campaigns.
People were losing their houses back in January of 2007. It was on the front pages in Detroit, "The Wall Street Journal," but no one even talked about it. So the bottom line is, people who are -- rising tuition. Sallie Mae announced two weeks ago they're going to cut back on student loans. Those are the people getting hurt. But when Wall Street all of a sudden says, we need a bailout, then all of a sudden the economy becomes important.
GERGEN: That's not true. Look, there are a whole lot of people who have gotten hurt by the stock market going down. Over 60 percent of the people in this country have an interest in the stock market now. There are a whole lot of people that are seeing both their house go down and their investments go down in the stock market and that's what's causing the deep, deep concern.
MARK HALPERIN, "TIME" SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the good news for people who care about the forgotten middle class is, all the candidates rhetorically are now Dobbsians. They're all concerned about these issues rhetorically.
I'd be less polite than David. I'm stunned at how unspecific the Democrats and Republicans have been on these issues. John Edwards, who's now departed the race, really set the pace by being specific, forced Obama and Clinton to be a little bit more specific. But you've got John McCain, who several times, despite his denials, has denied knowing very much about the economy.
And the under performing candidate here is Mitt Romney. When he got in this race, he said he would be the candidate who understood the changing global economy, who understood working class issues. He has barely talked about those things and I think part of the reason he's not been able to beat McCain is he's not been much better in those (INAUDIBLE).
DOBBS: We really have not seen a fully formed campaign from any one of these candidates to this point (INAUDIBLE) on the issues.
HALPERIN: Not a one. And if you look at Bill Clinton in 1992 and George W. Bush in 2000, they were much more specific and much more empathetic towards the changing world economy and what America got to do . . .
MARTIN: But Bill Clinton had to be more specific because of Ross Perot . . .
DOBBS: Roland, I'm going to have to just interrupt you for just one second. We're going to have to take a little break. Mark Halperin, thank you.
And we'll be back with our panel. Stay with us. Another critical issue, of course, is illegal immigration, border and port security. Do any of the Republican candidates have a plan that does more than just pander? Does any one of the Democrats? We'll be talking about that.
And we're getting our very first Super Tuesday results in from West Virginia. Are you ready? We'll be bringing those results to you here next. And log on to thepage.time.com for politics up to the minute from none other than Mark Halperin.
We'll be right back. Stick with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: We cheer the news that somebody has been sworn in as a U.S. citizen or people come here legally to visit us or to go to school here or to work here. But people who come here illegally need to understand that we're a nation of laws.
HUCKABEE: And I'm the only candidate that has said, we'll secure the border within 18 months with a real, honest to goodness border.
MCCAIN: We have to secure our borders. The American people want that. And I will do that first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Well, one of the big issues facing all of these candidates, and of course the next president of this nation, is the issue of illegal immigration and border security. We're hearing plenty of promises suddenly, but what about real solutions to a crisis that is clearly worsening? With me, again, David Gergen, Nancy Gibbs, Mark Halperin and Roland Martin.
But, first, we'd like to give you some late-breaking news on this Super Tuesday from West Virginia. Republicans there have gathered in conventions to determine where they will send their 18 delegate votes for that state's 30 GOP delegates. The first round of voting ended just a moment ago. In that first round, Mitt Romney with 40 percent, Mike Huckabee winning 33 percent, Senator McCain, 15 percent, and Ron Paul, 10 percent. Because no candidate received a majority, a second round will be taking place, a second round of voting, and we'll have those results when you get them. If this is any indicator, this Super Tuesday could be very interesting and a very long, long evening. So it's starting off well, at least for Mitt Romney on the first round.
Roland Martin, we were just talking about illegal immigration. It is an issue that the Democratic presidential candidates are doing their best to avoid, the Republicans seemingly -- it's sort of striking to see Senator John McCain suddenly talking about border security first. Do you believe him?
MARTIN: Well, I do believe him because bottom line is, somebody has to step up. He admitted in the debates at the Reagan Library, look, my idea the first time around, it didn't work. The people spoke. We must do this first. I think he understands that the political price when you pay to go another route. Security has to be first.
HALPERIN: Despite McCain finally talking about border security first, showing uncharacteristic discipline. From a purely political point of view, this is a disaster for the Republicans. One of the few issues the Republican Party has going for it in the general election is immigration, I think. And if McCain's the Republican nominee, it's off the table. The Democrat might be able to get to his right on immigration.
DOBBS: Nancy, your thoughts.
GIBBS: Well, I was struck to see that the most recent survey of Republicans says that twice as many now trust McCain on the immigration issue compared to Romney, which is a surprising figure since Romney has been so much tougher on it. And so I think that there may be some surprises about how that issue plays going forward. It mean it's either that they trust McCain's conversion experience on this issue, or just think that he has the expertise to now do as he promises and do the border security as part of a larger national security portfolio.
DOBBS: Both Democratic presidential candidates say that they would support comprehensive immigration reform. The fact is, talking about taking it off the table, with Senator McCain saying border security first, if one believes that, that does create a differentiation from the Republican and the Democratic candidates, does it not?
GIBBS: Yes, but it's been surprising. I have to tell you, Lou, how the immigration issue has not played a bigger part. And you would never have imagined -- if immigration had been the hot button issue among Republicans, if McCain would be in such a commanding position today given his past on this, and given, I think, a well-founded view that once he deals with the border, he's going to go back to the plan he had about how you deal with the people who are here. I mean I think he hasn't backed away from that. It's just his priorities. He's going to do border security first and then go back to the other. That's not where most Republicans stand.
HALPERIN: It goes to the fundamental distrust you talked about before, a lot of conservatives have about John McCain. He's changed his rhetorical emphasis, but he doesn't repudiate the bill that he supported. What Mitt Romney and I like to call the Kennedy/McCain/Bush bill.
MARTIN: But it's sort of true. Look what happened in Michigan when told the truth about the jobs there -- look, they're not coming back. I mean, we have to confront reality that 12 million people are not going back. I think Republicans have to face some realism here.
GERGEN: I think that's one of the big issues -- once we get beyond the frenzy of these primaries, can the candidates tell the truth about what we face an still get elected.
MARTIN: Truth. Oh.
DOBBS: We've just about at the end of our time. I've got to ask you, do you believe these candidates right now can either be taken at their words and do you believe that they -- there's any way reasonably that these candidates can pay for the programs they are enunciating? Very quickly.
GERGEN: I think they're going to be taken at their word, but their words haven't gone very far. And they haven't covered the real issues. They haven't addressed the real issue.
GIBBS: Yes, I think as long as they are punished for speaking the truth, it makes it much harder for them to do so.
HALPERIN: They all have outstanding intentions.
DOBBS: Mark Halperin, covering politics with his very being (ph).
MARTIN: The new president has a clean slate. They have a much better chance of getting something done versus President George W. Bush did.
DOBBS: If I may offer one opinion, Bill Clinton has been the only person so far to offer truth, and that is that our model in this country, our economic model, cannot sustain itself at the current rate. None of the candidates will officially say that.
We thank you very much. We thank our panel. We thank you. And we're going to be back with much more in just a moment.
A reminder, stay with CNN all day, all night for special coverage of this Super, Super Tuesday. And for everything up to the minute, go to cnnpolitics.com. We'll be right back.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: I want to thank all the guests who joined us for this hour, but we are just getting started. Stay with CNN for the best and most comprehensive coverage of Super Tuesday. We're going to have a round-the-clock analysis and updates from all 24 states. Forty hours. That is right, 40 hours of live political coverage. Count on CNN to bring you the votes as soon as the polls close from the very first to the very last in Alaska. And, as always, the best political team on television will be here today, tonight, tomorrow, for the latest on this very important day.
Let's turn things over now to Kyra Phillips and Don Lemon in Atlanta.
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