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Campbell Brown

Sen. Lieberman Substantiates Support for McCain; Obama Winning Money Game; Clinton Continues Challening Obama and McCain; Race and Gender in the Campaign Trail; What Hot Topics do Americans Discuss in the Blogosphere; Celebrity Endorsements: Do They Really Matter? A look on Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination

Aired April 03, 2008 - 20:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, raking in the cash. Barack Obama raises more than twice as much money as Hillary Clinton, but she is still fighting, calling Obama today timid on the economy, and delivering a message to the pledged delegates: Feel free to change your mind.
Also tonight, the results of a provocative new survey. Americans tell us if they would rather see a black candidate or a woman in the White House.

But before anybody gets elected, they have got to have money, money, money. And the Democrats' latest fund-raising numbers could make your head spin. Barack Obama took in more than $40 million in March. Hillary Clinton's March total, $20 million. Obama has now raised more money for the primaries than any Democratic candidate ever, close to $234 million.

It is a blow for Clinton. But at a rare head-to-head session with reporters today, she came out swinging.

So, to talk about this and a lot more, senior political correspondent Candy Crowley joining us, as always. She is in Chicago tonight. Steve Hayes, a senior writer for the conservative magazine "The Weekly Standard," is in Washington. And Katrina Vanden Heuvel is the editor of "The Nation." And just to mention, the magazine has endorsed Barack Obama, but Katrina has not endorsed or contributed to any candidate. She is joining me here in the studio.

Welcome, everybody.

Candy, let me start with you. We saw a very defiant Hillary Clinton today, but she's saying she is still in it to win it. But she's also playing the underdog. And let's listen to a little bit of what she had to say.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not taking anything for granted. I'm going to work as hard as I can. And I am being outspent. You know, I haven't seen final numbers, but I think I was outspent four-to-one in Ohio and three-to-one in Texas. And, goodness, I think I was outspent five-to-one in Rhode Island. So I'm being -- used to being outspent. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And that's probably going to continue being the case, given the fund-raising numbers out. As we said earlier, Obama ahead of her like 2-1.

Candy, this is a real problem for them, isn't it?


First of all, very interesting that the three states she mentioned there, she won. So, this is part of that overall strategy: I'm the underdog, and despite the fact that I'm being completely swamped by money, I'm winning in these states.

But the fact of the matter is, she's going to have to spend money in Pennsylvania. She is spending money in Pennsylvania. He's got it down to the single digits, according to the poll of polls. So, she is going to have to spend even more money there.

Well, what happens when you have limited funds, or at least half the funds that your opponent does? You don't have as much on the next primary, North Carolina, Indiana. All of these are key. Hillary Clinton has to do well in all of these states coming up. It costs money. So it is a problem.

BROWN: And, Katrina, how much does the money race matter?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, "THE NATION": Let me just speak for a moment as a magazine which is a pro-democracy magazine which has endorsed Barack Obama.

BROWN: Right.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Pro-democracy. This presidential campaign has the dirty distinction of being the first presidential campaign to break $1 billion. The whole kit and caboodle, you have got independent expenditures, congressional, $5 billion.

What is striking, however, is that, in the absence of public funding, which we need to modernize and update, Barack Obama has democratized fund-raising. He's fused online and offline. He's brought in small donors. And I think that has really created a new bottom-up model and investigated in grassroots mobilization.

Hillary Clinton has relied more on big donors, top-down. And I think that has hurt her. So, she is also taking corporate PAC lobby money, which is a defining difference.

BROWN: Steve Hayes?

STEPHEN HAYES, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, "The Weekly Standard" is also very pro-democracy, I would like to point out.


HAYES: We have a rare moment of agreement between me and Katrina.

I think what is remarkable about Barack Obama, $40 million is amazing, no matter who does it, in whatever context. What's really remarkable about it is that it came from, I think, 442,000 donors. That is an incredible number of total people contributing to Barack Obama's campaign. And it does show, I think, a breadth of support that comes to him that Hillary Clinton just doesn't have and can't really muster at this point.

BROWN: And could probably be an issue in the general election, too, don't you think, Steve?

HAYES: No question about it. I think that is one of the things that have to have John McCain advisers running scared at this point. They have got somebody that they are facing who, in the midst of what I think we could say for Barack Obama was a bad month last month -- he had the Reverend Wright scandal. He has negative press days one after another, and yet he raised $40 million from a lot of different donors.

It was an incredibly productive financial month for Barack Obama, in spite of the fact that it was a bad political month for him.

BROWN: Candy, let me go to something else you today. And I notice you said this before, but it is still pretty amazing. The quote is, there's no such thing as a pledged delegate.

Candy, for people out there who may not fully comprehend this, tell us what it means to be a pledged delegate, and why when she would say something like this, a lot of people out there are going, huh?

CROWLEY: Well, because the fact of the matter is these aren't binding rules. The pledged delegates as you know are the ones that are elected in these caucuses and in the these primaries.

But once they get to the convention, they don't have to vote for the person to whom they are pledged.

BROWN: It's a technicality, though, isn't it?


CROWLEY: Well, one would think, yes. I think you are going to see the bulk of the pledged delegates show up and vote for the person they are supposed to show up and vote for.

They signed up to be delegates for a specific candidate. So, yes, absolutely, you can expect them to do that. But just in case, let's say that, moving forward, Hillary Clinton sweeps the board. Let's say that she does really, really well in these 10 primaries and caucuses coming up.

So, she does that. Let's say she gets to the end of the season, and she still doesn't have enough pledged delegates. Well, so, do those pledged delegates look and say, you know what, she's looking a lot stronger now? And that's what they are counting on, basically, is that she does a really big showing, and then the pledged delegates begin to think maybe she's the one.

VANDEN HEUVEL: I think there's a contempt for democracy on the part of those who are calling for Hillary Clinton to get out.

Let's run the sweep. Let's run the 10 primaries. But it is also contemptuous to say pledged delegates are not bound by the votes that they cast. And I think the danger here is that the Hillary Clinton campaign is setting up the superdelegates, which were set up as a fire wall to protect the party establishment, to put her in the winning spot.

And this has been a historic Democratic race, and I think, if it ends that way, it is a taint of illegitimacy, although the party would rally, because the differences are so stark between a Democrat and a Republican this year.

BROWN: All right. We have got to take a break there. You guys are sticking around.

Candy, Steve, and Katrina, stay with me.

The candidates are stopping at nothing to keep the coffers filled. We have free dinners, tickets to an Elton John concert, and now some even more out-of-the-box tactics to raise big money.


BROWN: The candidates are raising record-breaking amounts of cash. And you might think all the money would be enough, but get a load of the tactics they are also using to woo voters.

One favorite is the giveaway. John McCain offers a VIP ride on his Straight Talk campaign bus for lucky supporters who make a donation. A Hillary Clinton contest is offering contributors a chance to attend a star-studded fund-raiser hosted by Elton John. A Barack Obama promotion now over offered donors a chance to come to an intimate dinner.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to have four people who donate money this week to sit down and have dinner with me, on me. We will fly you in. I will pay for dinner.


BROWN: The Obama campaign is also offering Indiana high school students a chance to play three-on-three basketball with the potential president.

To qualify, you have got to register at least 18-year-olds to vote. And then get this. OK, this is my favorite. An Obama campaign office was mobbed yesterday when it started to giving away tickets to an upcoming Dave Matthews concert. They put the word out about the tickets during a Bill Clinton rally that was happening across town. Some of the folks at the Bill Clinton rally opted to bail on Bill in favor of Dave Matthews.

Now, this is tough politics.

Steve, I cut you off earlier. So I will start with you. What's going on here? It is like "Price Is Right" politics. Is this a new phenomenon?

HAYES: Yes. I think it is. And I think it is sort of funny and entertaining.

I think it is hilarious that Barack Obama would do that in the middle of a Bill Clinton rally. And when you look at it, you have got Dave Matthews on the one hand. You have got Elton John on another. There's probably a metaphor there when you look at Barack Obama vs. Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton, a little older, not quite as stylish, Barack Obama younger, hipper.


HAYES: No, but the serious point about this is, I think candidates are doing everything they can to take advantage of these new technologies that will get people to contribute to their campaigns, to support their campaigns, to do anything they can to generate additional support.

And I don't really have any problem with it. I think it is creative.


VANDEN HEUVEL: I think there's something light here. And I like the basketball piece, because it is not really about money. It is about asking students to register.

But there is something kind of corrosive about money and politics. And I think we have lost sight of it. There's a reason we have a financial crisis. The financial industries have given tons of money to both parties, leading to deregulation, leading to mortgage crisis, predatory lending.

So, I think it is a moment to reflect when we end this campaign, abolish the superdelegates, and let's have some clean-money financing. Barack Obama's mentor in the Senate, Richard Durbin, has a great piece of legislation, transpartisan, with Arlen Specter. Support it. It is called the Fair Elections Now. I think we have got to get it out, because then people have access.

BROWN: Lessons learned from this experience.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Lessons learned, yes. BROWN: Candy, let me go back to Hillary Clinton, because she did make a fair amount of news today. I want to bring up something else she said, that it seems like the endgame for her is very much the message that sort of won this for her husband. It's the economy, stupid.

Let's listen to what she said about that today.


CLINTON: My opponent, Senator Obama, has been very timid and unenthusiastic about doing anything with the economy. I feel like Paulette Revere. The recession is coming. The recession is coming.


BROWN: Now, not to draw too many parallels between her and her husband and how they're running this campaign, but this is like her big push message, isn't it, that: I feel your pain.

CROWLEY: Oh, absolutely. And, frankly, it has been for a while. I know we talk a lot about how Iraq has been replaced by economic issues, but I can assure you that, at the beginning of this campaign, a year ago in January, when we would go to town hall meetings with these candidates, yes, you would get questions about Iraq, but, honestly, they were all on the economy, some aspect of it, whether it was jobs, whether it was health care, whether it was the price of gasoline.

So, this has been out there for a while. She has been very good at having these kind of smaller intimate roundtables, where she listens to stories about why people lost their health care and how they lost their house and that kind of thing.

And particularly in Pennsylvania, where you have a huge working- class vote, a huge union membership vote, the issue of jobs, NAFTA again has come up. So, it is a very, very -- it is the issue in Pennsylvania. And obviously, when we saw her doing that ad for John McCain, that, too, was about the economy. So, now it is pretty much all economy all the time.

BROWN: Let me ask you about that, Steve, because there are really two points I'm taking away from the last couple of days that are going to be issues for McCain, the economy, because Democrats are driving this message home. He's not, at least at this point.

And then the fund-raising numbers. The McCain campaign hasn't released their numbers yet, but they have basically said we don't think we're going to be anywhere near what the Democrats are.

HAYES: Yes, I think those are probably -- you have probably identified two of the biggest couple concerns that the McCain campaign faces going forward through November.

On the one hand, the issue set right now is not good for John McCain. He has said, and we know that we will hear this in ads coming in the general election, that he's not an expert on the economy. It was used in the primary. It will be used I think heavily in the general.

And the other thing is money. He's not raising a lot of money. I think he has not fully excited the conservative base. He has not done the kinds of things that one might expect a nominee to do.

BROWN: But isn't that sort of surprising? Shouldn't he be by now? We have known he's the nominee for enough time for him to reach out to those big donors, right?

VANDEN HEUVEL: James Dobson, a major conservative social figure, came out yesterday and said he's still not on board with McCain.

I think what you are looking at, though, Campbell, as you head into the general, whoever the Democratic nominee is, fundamental divide on the role of government, the role of regulation. McCain is peddling snake oil. It is tax cuts for the rich and deregulation is going to cure our ills.

But, I mean, he has a tough problem -- Steve follows this more carefully -- with his base. It is still not coming together. And I think that will be a detriment for him, and particularly at a moment when the national security card may not play with this economic recession metastasizing.

BROWN: All right, Candy, sorry.

CROWLEY: Campbell, let me just sort of...


CROWLEY: Yes, go ahead.

BROWN: No, no, jump in, please.

CROWLEY: I just wanted to add sort of to bring this all together, and that is that part of what the Clintons are arguing now as they move toward electability and talk a lot about electability, is saying, listen, if you put Barack Obama against John McCain, the issue is going to be national security, because he will hit hard on those credentials.

They believe Hillary Clinton has passed the commander in chief threshold, that non one thinks that she isn't tough. So, they believe that by having Hillary Clinton against John McCain, that the playing field will be economics. And they believe that's where John McCain has his weakest point. And that's one of their issues that they are pushing in terms of electability.

BROWN: All right, we have got to end it there.

Candy Crowley tonight for us and Katrina here and Steve Hayes in Washington, thanks to everybody. Appreciate it, guys.

(CROSSTALK) BROWN: He was once the Democratic nominee for vice president. Now he's backing John McCain. That is ahead in the ELECTION CENTER.


BROWN: For John McCain, it is day four of his service to America tour. The candidate was in Florida today linking his days in the military to his suitability for the job of commander in chief.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are many qualities to military service that make it such a special profession, but among the most important is the ability to get things done, no matter how difficult, confused, or unexpected the situation.


BROWN: Among those making the case for McCain, Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent, who now says it is all about the war in Iraq.

And I spoke with Senator Lieberman, a former Democratic presidential candidate, just before the program.


BROWN: Senator Lieberman, John McCain has all but said that Senator Obama can't cut it as commander in chief. He says he doesn't understand the history of this country in warfare, that, when it comes to national security, he has no experience or background in any of it.

Do you agree with that? Do you think Barack Obama is not up to being commander in chief?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: Well, I certainly believe that John McCain is very much up and ready to be the commander in chief we need now at a time of war, not just the war in Iraq.

But the war against the Islamist terrorists who attacked us. When John McCain made that comment about Senator Obama, it was in response to Senator Obama playing gotcha politics, old-time politics, with that comment that John McCain had made about that fact that we might be in Iraq for 50 or 100 years.

And I think Senator McCain was saying that either he was playing gotcha politics, because he knew John McCain didn't say that, or he didn't really understand national security. The fact is --

BROWN: But he did say that about the 100 years comment. I know he has since sort of dialed it back or explained it better, but he did say that.

LIEBERMAN: Well, actually he dialed it back and put it in context on the very day that he said it as part of an exchange at what I think was a town hall meeting in New Hampshire. And the point is that Senator McCain would like to bring as many of our troops home from Iraq as soon as we can, based on the conditions on the ground. But, as he said, troops will be there, if we succeed, for years afterward, just as we still have troops in Germany and Japan more than 60 years after the Second World War ended.

And those are troops that are keeping the peace that others won. I hope we can get to a point where we can do that soon in Iraq.

And either Senator Obama, when he talked about Senator McCain wanting to be there fighting for 100 years, was not leveling, or he didn't understand that critical element of national security history.

BROWN: Right.

Hillary Clinton has got a new ad out, a new 3:00 a.m. ad out, and she's hitting Senator McCain on the economy. And you know he's admitted that he's not that economically savvy. Do you think John McCain is going to do a better job with regard to the economy than Hillary Clinton would?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I do. And I do for the second big reason why I'm supporting John McCain. He's a leader who wants to solve problems. And he knows that the way to do that here in Washington is to break through the partisan nonsense and force people to do what's best, not for their party, but for our country.

So, I think McCain is the one who is going to be able to deal with the economy, health care, environment, education, Social Security...


LIEBERMAN: ... much better.

BROWN: Let me press you on that a little bit on the economy.

Do you agree with Senator McCain philosophically? Because he has been clear that he would have a much more hands-off approach in terms of how to deal with what many view as the economic crisis going on in this country right now than Democrats would be. And you're a former Democrat and an independent?


BROWN: So, are you on the same page with him philosophically?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I probably don't agree with every detail of what Senator McCain has said about the economy.

But you know what? I agree with him on the big questions. And I want to point out a really important sentence in one of the speeches he gave on the economy within the last couple of weeks. He said, dogma -- I'm not quoting exactly, but paraphrasing -- dogma must always give way to common sense. And, you see, that's John McCain. He's not ideologically rigid. He's always going to see a problem and try to solve it, because his main priority is to serve the country and to get things done for the country. And that's why I think he will always listen to people, too. Again, he knows that, to get something done, you can't just have members of one party. You have got to have both.

And, therefore, he will be listening to Democrats, as well as Republicans, when he's president of the United States.

BROWN: All right. Senator Joe Lieberman with us tonight -- Senator Lieberman, as always, thank you.

LIEBERMAN: Great to be with you, Campbell. Thank you.


BROWN: Jimmy Carter is not only a former president; he's also a superdelegate. And he's giving a pretty big clue about which one of the candidates he is going to support.


BROWN: A check of more political news happening now.

Barack Obama may have picked up an interesting endorsement today -- well, sort of. Speaking to reporters in Nigeria, former President and superdelegate Jimmy Carter noted that Obama had won the support, not only of his home state of Georgia, but also his children and grandchildren.

He then added, "As a superdelegate, I would not disclose who I'm rooting for, but I leave you to make that guess."

Well, we no longer have to guess about a revote in Michigan. Tomorrow, the state's Democratic Party is going to vote to abandon any attempt at a new election to replace the state's faulty primary vote in January.

While the Democrats might not know their nominee any time soon, John McCain said today that Republicans will find out his choice for a running mate before their September convention, and he might just do the background check himself.


MCCAIN: You put the list together. And then you just do a cursory kind of a look that I guess you could do on Google.


BROWN: On the Democratic side, at a question-and-answer session in Las Vegas, John Edwards was asked whether he would accept his party's number-two spot for the second time. And his answer, "No," seems pretty definitive.

Straight ahead on the program: Would Americans rather put a black candidate or a woman in the White House?

We have got answers when we come back.


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Issues of race and gender, they are front and center in this campaign.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have an election where the two people vying to be the Democratic nominee are an African-American man and a woman. And I think that says a lot. It says a lot about who we are as a party and who we are as a country.


BROWN: And what does the country say? Well, take a look at this new poll "Essence" magazine conducted with Opinion Research and CNN. The question, is the country ready for a black president? Seventy-six percent say yes. Far fewer, 63 percent say America is ready to be led by a woman.

Well, joining me now to talk about this, CNN contributor Roland Martin, and Joan Walsh who is editor-in-chief of "" Hey, guys, welcome.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Glad to be here, Campbell.

BROWN: Roland, let me start with you on this. You just heard those numbers. Let me give them again. Seventy-six percent say they're ready. The country is ready for a black man to be president. Sixty-three, only 63 say that America is ready for a woman president. What does this say to you about racism and gender, you know, in terms of where the barriers are bigger right now?

MARTIN: Well, first of all, remember, we've had 43 U.S. presidents, 43 have been white males. And so, there have been barriers for African-Americans as well as women. But also, I think a greater number is this. Six reconstruction, in terms of the United States Senate and governors, we've only had five African-Americans ever elected to those two offices. Women, 51.

So I think if you want to say where is there a barrier, bottom line is women have done much better, in terms of the major power positions in the Senate as well as governors more so than African- Americans.

BROWN: Joan, do you agree with that?

JOAN WALSH, ED-IN-CHIEF, "SALON.COM": Well, I think Roland is right about the numbers. There is no doubt about it. I think the question comes in when you're talking about the highest office in the land, and whether gender or race is a bigger barrier. And it looks like from this poll that it's gender. I mean, you have to take it with a little bit of skepticism. These are the people not saying I wouldn't vote for a black man, or I wouldn't vote for a woman. They're saying the country isn't ready. So it's not totally scientific, but it still gives us a sense of where the attitudes are. And at the top, top, top of the country, there's more comfort with an African-American than with a woman.

BROWN: Let's take this --

MARTIN: Hey, you know what, Campbell.

BROWN: Go ahead. Go ahead, Roland.

MARTIN: You know, Campbell, here's the deal, though. I mean, you have Obama and Clinton vying for the nomination. John McCain is still the nominee. And so, the bottom line is he may still be elected president. So all of this could be absolutely meaningless.

BROWN: Right.

MARTIN: This is about really the question that I think of really who is ready. The bottom line is, you have not had a significant number of women as well as African-Americans who have even vied for the shot. That's the other key as well. So you have to have a lot to choose from over the years.

BROWN: Let me take this a little deeper, in terms of the poll numbers, because it gets even more interesting. In 2006, look at this, only 54 percent of blacks said that the country was ready for a black president. Sixty-five percent of whites said this country is ready for a black president.

OK, look at today. Sixty-nine percent of blacks versus 78 percent of whites feel that the country is ready. So, I want you both to address this. How do you explain the difference here? And this is a kind of two-parter.

The first -- you got to assume that the numbers may be have gone up in both cases because of Barack Obama, because of the enthusiasm about him. But how do you explain -- you know, Roland, you start. How do you explain that apparently more whites in this country think that the country is ready for a black president than blacks?

MARTIN: Well, easy, because I think for African-Americans, you're looking through a different prism and that is how have African- Americans been accepted. Look, Senator Barack Obama was losing to Senator Hillary Clinton by around 30 to 40 points among African- Americans. Why? Because many African-Americans thought before Iowa the whites would not vote for a black candidate. When he won in Iowa, 95 percent of whites, that changed everything. So that's why you have that. But also, Campbell, you also --


BROWN: It's an electability thing. Sorry, go ahead.

MARTIN: Well, it's electability, but also, do you believe that whites are going to vote for this kind of candidate?

BROWN: Right.

MARTIN: The reason the numbers have also changed is because we now have two candidates who have weeded out everyone else. And so, of course, they are going to look different because you only have two left, one African-American, one a white female.

BROWN: Joan?

WALSH: Yes, I think they've both done reasonably well and so, that accounts for the improvement in the polls data. But I would also say, Campbell, you know, let's be honest. I think that Senator Hillary Clinton has faced much more overt sexism than Barack Obama has faced over racism in this campaign. She was greeted with jeers "iron my shirts" in New Hampshire. She's asked by debate moderators, why are you not likable?

Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge ran pictures of her looking old and said, you know, the country isn't ready to look at an old woman. And when you go back to that very seminal moment where a woman asked John McCain, how do we beat the "B" word, and John McCain laughed, I mean, you can cannot imagine that happening. How do we beat Barack Obama and somebody using the "N" word in laughter? So, you know, a kind of genial sexism is so much more OK in our society than that kind of racism. It's just true.

BROWN: The last word, Roland. You get it. How do you explain that, though? The language of nothing else certainly is different.

MARTIN: Well, of course, it is. And that is there are things that have been defined as being acceptable. But also, I think what you will hear as you will hear those critics -- look, Rush Limbaugh did a whole new skit on the Magic Negro talking about Senator Barack Obama in the "L.A. Times."

WALSH: That's true.

MARTIN: So the bottom line is you have folks with characters back and forth. But there's no doubt, a lot of the venom towards Hillary Clinton is also because she's on the national landscape. Those eight years in the White House as well, that plays a part. I think if there was a woman running who did not have in essence that baggage or that history that we've had, we might see a different kind of campaign, I believe. But again, clearly, sexism is there based upon some of the comments that you hear.

BROWN: All right. Roland, go drink some hot tea and get your voice back. I need you bad.

MARTIN: All right. You know it.

BROWN: Good to see you. And Joan Walsh, as always, thank you so much.

WALSH: Thanks, Campbell. BROWN: Americans are burning up talk radio and the Internet. Next, top radio jocks and bloggers on what they're hearing about the totally crazy money being raised by the campaigns.


BROWN: On the radio, voters are talking about whether Obama has become a regular politician, and if his young fans will turn up at the polls.


MARTHA ZOLLER, THE MARTHA ZOLLER SHOW, WDUN: In the early days, you know, I know he hasn't been around long to call it the early days. But in the early days, Barack Obama really did raise the level of debate in the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, he had to get into the trenches now and he looks just like a regular politician.

BILL BENNETT, MORNING IN AMERICA, SIRIUS: I'm not counting much on those young voters anyway, in terms of a lot of votes, because they don't show up and vote. You know, they just don't, even when they're supposedly fired up.

BILL HANDEL, THE BILL HANDEL SHOW, KFI: Gallup poll, McCain beats Clinton and Obama by two percent. Exactly the same.

These national polls right now, they're just silly to even utilize. I mean, they don't mean anything.


BROWN: So superdelegates defecting, McCain's biography tour, and big Democratic fund-raising numbers -- they are the hot topics today on the blogosphere. And joining me tonight are three bloggers to hash out these topics. We've got Nico Pitney. He's the national editor of the "Huffington Post." Ed Morrissey blogs at and is the political director of BlogTalkRadio(ph). And Amanda Carpenter is the national political reporter for Hey guys, welcome, everybody.




BROWN: What you guys are telling me that the buzz is about right now is in large part McCain's biography tour. And Ed and Amanda, you are conservatives. So Amanda, why don't you start. Tell me what people are talking about. Is the tour working for him, or would they rather be him talking about other issues?

CARPENTER: I think, though, one of the most interesting stops that came out of that biography tour is when he admitted that he had a temper problem at his alma mater high school. You know, he kind of went through and said how he is this rebellious teenager, and then he said in his adult life he's also had problems with that, which is kind of nice to hear him talk about that, because there's been rumors, especially in the Republican primaries that he had some harsh words from other people. And those things have kind of haunted him through the Senate, as Republican colleagues have said. So it's nice to see him get that off the table a little bit.

BROWN: And Ed, for you, what are people buzzing about?

MORRISSEY: Well, I think they're looking at his ads. I think they're liking his ads. He's running a very good baseline campaign right now. He's establishing himself, he's defining himself before anybody has a chance to define him exteriorly. He has the opportunity right now, while Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are battling it out, to present his own image to the American people, to present his own identity to the American people. And I think he's taking advantage of it. I think he's doing a good job.

BROWN: And we should mention, too, the people you guys are hearing from and dealing within are pretty sophisticated in terms of their knowledge and engagement in politics. Nico, what are your folks saying?

PITNEY: Sure. I mean, I hate to rain on Ed and Amanda's parade, but unfortunately, biographies just don't win elections, and I think we've seen that. Unfortunately for me, Al Gore didn't win in 2000. John Kerry didn't win in 2004. And, you know, maybe George H.W. Bush would have beaten Bill Clinton if biographies mattered so much.

But, you know, another issue is that McCain's -- there are elements of his biography that aren't so well known. For example, first Martin Luther King Day, everyone is celebrating, but he opposed in Arizona making Martin Luther King Day a holiday. I think there are elements of his biography that still need to be unearthed.

BROWN: And Amanda, let me ask you too. There are other issues here for him that I know people have been buzzing about. In part, conservatives, in particular. I mean, he has yet to win over the hard-core conservatives, right?

CARPENTER: Yes, we saw the "Wall Street Journal" response from James Dobson today. I think we're going to see some -- we're going to take about the money raising numbers later. But I can tell you right now that at "Townhall" readers, they kind of -- they sort of see it as the point of pride, like he may have trouble raising money. One, in part, because of the campaign finance laws that he chimed in. And secondly, because they don't think he secured the base enough for them to start writing checks. So this is going to be a thing that continues. And right now, I think some people are actually a little bit happy about it.

BROWN: So Ed, why do you think he is not doing well with conservatives? I mean, is he even trying yet?


MORRISSEY: Oh, I think he's -- BROWN: I mean -- don't you think he should be sort of focusing on that? Or --

MORRISSEY: I think he's doing outreach to conservatives, but he has to strike a balance here. He wants to remain strong with independents and centrists, and he has to be seen as not changing his positions in order to do that.

I'd like to respond one thing to Nico. With McCain, the biography is the baseline. He has 20-something years of experience, 26 years, I believe, or 24 years of experience in Congress, taking all sorts of different public positions, both popular and unpopular with his party.

PITNEY: That may very well work against him.

MORRISSEY: But biography is all that Barack Obama has. He doesn't have a track record. He doesn't have a lot of experience. He's asking people to judge him on his biography. And so, I think what you're seeing here is Nico may be right that biography isn't going to be a winning element here, but it's the only element that Barack Obama has so Nico should hope that that's not true.

BROWN: Well, I got to disagree with you there, Ed, because what he also has as what we learned today is $40 million that he raised in the month of March, twice as much as Hillary Clinton. And certainly, I mean, the McCain campaign, as we mentioned earlier, hasn't released their fund-raising numbers yet, but they've said, OK...

PITNEY: I wonder why. MORRISSEY: Well, we'll be 40.

BROWN: We are fairly sure that the Democrats are beating us on this. So seriously, guys, I mean, is that going to be a huge issue?

CARPENTER: Yes. I think the money raising is one thing that does cause Republicans and conservatives -- they gives that pause. It's the money raising the Democrats have been capable of and a huge number of Democratic registrations. Those are two things that, you know, I think people are very concerned about.

PITNEY: You know, I have to say as a Democrat, though, money doesn't discern elections either. Ron Paul raised a lot of money, he didn't get any votes.

CARPENTER: Where did that money go, by the way?

PITNEY: Democrats -- that's true. Democrats have to be weary about leaning on that too much. We also need to inspire a lot of enthusiasm and win over a lot of swing voters.

BROWN: All right. We've got to end it there, Nico.

MORRISSEY: And Campbell, the other thing about that --

BROWN: Yes. Quickly, Ed. MORRISSEY: ... is that John McCain isn't fighting anybody else right now. So the numbers aren't really significant for him at the moment.

BROWN: Right.

MORRISSEY: But if it continues to be low going into the late summer, then it will be a problem.

BROWN: OK. Nico, Ed and Amanda, thanks to everybody. Appreciate it.

Next up, lights, camera, political endorsements. We're going to tell you which Hollywood stars are supporting your favorite candidate.


BROWN: Let's turn now to politics in Hollywood. Hillary Clinton spent the afternoon in celebrity-rich Los Angeles trying to raise money. She goes on Jay Leno's show tonight. Meantime, people are talking about Jane Fonda going public with her choice for president, telling reporters she is voting for Barack Obama.

But is the woman who is known as "Hanoi Jane" an endorsement worth counting? Well, what's the value in general of a celebrity endorsement these days? And which stars are political gold? Are any of them political gold?

Well, joining me tonight is David Caplan. He's the editor of "People" magazine. Hey, David, welcome.


BROWN: So, I got to say, we generally are pretty dismissive of celebrity endorsements and whether they really have an impact at all. But maybe one that stands out for me is possibly having had some is Oprah Winfrey, and her endorsement of Barack Obama. Do you agree with that?

CAPLAN: Oh, yes. Oprah Winfrey is so influential. Look what she does to authors when she puts it on her book club.

BROWN: Right.

CAPLAN: So imagine the potential for a politician. And Oprah is so influential. In fact, there was a poll done recently and it's interesting because she is very favorable among younger voters. When it comes to younger voters, they really look up to her and they look at her opinion as OK, that's what I should do. But among older voters, they don't care too much.

BROWN: Yes. OK. Well, let's look at some of the other names that have really stumped (ph). The other Barack Obama big names. Larry David --

CAPLAN: Yes. BROWN: George Clooney. George Clooney get you anything?

CAPLAN: George Clooney does get you something.

BROWN: Maybe with some women.

CAPLAN: That's right. Oh, with the women, with those looks, he better get some votes Obama for that.

BROWN: On the Hillary Clinton side, her big fans -- as we know, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, they've been old friends of the Clintons for years. Steven Spielberg and Barbara Streisand. But McCain, Republicans always seem to have a problem with movie stars, right?

CAPLAN: They do.

BROWN: Tom Selleck, though. Arnold Schwarzenegger and, of course, a big endorsement we have seen yesterday right on this show, Heidi Montag. A lot of jokes surrounding that. I mean, ultimately. Do any of these people have -- does it matter at all?

CAPLAN: Yes, I mean, there always is a little bit of skepticism with celebrities. Like, oh, they don't matter. It's superficial. But the bottom line is celebrities do influence a lot of people. They are influential in everything, including politics. And, you know, with Heidi Montag and John McCain, he is going to open up a whole new demographic, "The Hills" generation. So you have, 63-year olds --

BROWN: Are you being sarcastic? I can't tell.

CAPLAN: A little bit. There are going to be some people -- people love "The Hills."


CAPLAN: You're going to have 63-year-old Tom Selleck at one end of the spectrum. And then, you're going to have 20-something year old Heidi Montag. So the MTV generation are pro McCain now. Who knows?

BROWN: Who knows?

CAPLAN: Who knows?

BROWN: Who knows? OK.

Which celebrity endorsements should one try to steer clear of, if they can?

CAPLAN: Well, this is interesting. Polls done recently and an ID (ph) basically, Tom Cruise, Rosie O'Donnell, Donald Trump and Madonna are celebrities that most Americans find basically toxic as an endorser for these candidates. They're too outspoken. They're just -- you know, they open their mouths and everyone sort of cringes like uhh. So those are the celebrities that most Americans would rather not hear from. BROWN: OK. So give me a do and don't list for celebrity endorsers. You know, if you are Barack Obama, if you're Hillary Clinton, if you're John McCain, and you've got these very, you know, enthusiastic Hollywood celebrity types, what do you need to tell them to sort of keep them in the box?

CAPLAN: Three rules.


CAPLAN: Keep your mouth shut, raise lots of money, and remember you're not the star, the politician is. You're going to have to take a bit of a backseat.

BROWN: Oh, can they do that?

CAPLAN: That's typical of those egos in Hollywood.

BROWN: That's a hard sell in Hollywood.

CAPLAN: It's very, very difficult.

BROWN: Very, very fun. David Caplan, good to have you here.

CAPLAN: Thank you.

BROWN: Appreciate it.

All three candidates were asked if they wanted Secret Service protection on the campaign trail. Well, the answer from one, thanks but no thanks. We're going to tell you who that is when we come back.


BROWN: Now, a quick check of other political news tonight. Secret Service agents are supposed to be conspicuous, but don't even try looking for them around John McCain. That's because he's refused Secret Service protection saying it limits his connection with voters on the campaign trail. Senators Clinton and Obama both received protection, but McCain had said he's going to rely on private bodyguards as long as possible.

We talked earlier tonight about big name Hollywood endorsements but remember Huckabee endorser, Chuck Morris? Well, according to, someone listed this Cheeto on eBay claiming that it looked the Walker, Texas Ranger star and martial arts icon. I guess you can kind of see it, even the fighting stance, I think.

Anyway, the lucky bid was $16 for a piece of popcorn. Who pays for a piece of popcorn? OK. Whatever.

Finally, an unusual alignment of schedules could lead to an interesting photo op tomorrow says "Newsweek." Hillary Clinton and John McCain are both planning to be in Memphis to honor the memory of Martin Luther King, and they are scheduled to stay at hotels that are six blocks from one another. And an important CNN event is coming up at the top of the hour. We have a preview next, witnesses to murder and what Americans think now about the plot against Martin Luther King. Stay with us.


BROWN: In just a few minutes, the CNN primetime event begins, "Eyewitness to Murder: The Martin Luther King Assassination." You've seen the images. You've heard the accounts, but that's not the whole story. Today, a vast majority of Americans believe the murder of the civil rights leader was not the act of one person but part of a conspiracy.

Special correspondent Soledad O'Brien brings us the complete story tonight, and she's joining me right now.

And you had all of this incredible access to eyewitnesses, people who had first-hand accounts. And yet, these conspiracy theories abound.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And you know, part of the reason why is because of that history. J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI was absolutely obsessed with Martin Luther King. He wanted to destroy him. He wanted to discredit him. He wanted him to commit suicide, and we have documents now that showed that.

He actually sent tapes in hoping that King would be so embarrassed he'd just go ahead and kill himself. And even though James Earl Ray confessed, a confession he pretty quickly recanted, the King family believes that, in fact, his confession was not true and that he went to his grave keeping a lot of secrets about a conspiracy with him.

So you look at the polls, too, they bear that out. The CNN/Opinion Research polling shows that 58 percent of people polled say they believe it was a conspiracy. That it wasn't the act of one person. Only 33 percent said they thought it was the act of one person.

And if you break that down further, blacks and whites, 88 percent of blacks believe that it was a conspiracy. That number is only 50 percent for white Americans.

BROWN: Wow. That poll also had a couple of other numbers that I thought were really striking. Many people say, obviously, they've been inspired, greatly inspired by him and by his message, but they don't believe that we, as a nation, are living up to the ideals.

O'BRIEN: No, absolutely not. And if you remember what Dr. King was working on when he died was actually far more radical than many people will remember. Economic empowerment for the poor. That was really his focus. He was working on the Poor People's march in Washington, D.C.

The polls show that 59 percent of people who were asked said that they don't think the vision of Dr. King has yet been fulfilled, and that's pretty much the same, whether you're talking to black people or white people.

BROWN: And the "I Have a Dream" speech, I mean, this incredible moment. You know, we all sort of think we know about it or know it, you know, because we've heard these bits and pieces sound bites of it. But if you break it down, it's really very relevant, even today.

O'BRIEN: It is. And, you know, it was not called the "I Have a Dream" speech. The "I Have a Dream" part was utterly and completely ad libbed. He threw it in. The actual text of the speech does not include "I Have a Dream."

The whole focus of that speech, the real headline was that black people had come to cash a check for justice and opportunity. And I think the focus on economics is something that you see that's very relevant even today. So 40 years later, polls support this, too. Sixty-eight percent of people polled said that they think that message, that speech, is still relevant, even if they only remember it as a sound bite.

BROWN: I know.

O'BRIEN: Even if they kind of remember it not fully, they think it's still relevant. And I think that's really true. Our research certainly bore that out.

BROWN: All right, Soledad O'Brien. Soledad, thanks.

O'BRIEN: My pleasure.

BROWN: "Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination" begins right now.