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Campbell Brown

Skyrocketing Gas Prices Become Election Campaign Issue

Aired June 09, 2008 - 20:00   ET


Hi there, everybody.

Skyrocketing gas prices -- that is our top story tonight because it's what so many people around the country are talking about right now. And as the general election campaign gets under way, it is a hot issue for both candidates.

The national average at this moment is a staggering $4.02 a gallon. That's another record.

People are really hurting, and according to our latest CNN/Opinion Research Poll, 55 percent of you say gas prices have actually forced you to cut back on household spending. And most of you think it is going to get a lot worse. A majority of you telling us that you think it is very likely gas will hit $5 a gallon sometime this year.

And it isn't only drivers who are paying more. Today, American Airlines announced it's adding $20 to every roundtrip ticket for the reason of higher fuel prices.

So, who do we blame? What, if anything, can John McCain or Barack Obama do about it? That is what we're looking at first tonight.

Senator McCain is still calling for a three-month holiday from the federal gas tax. He's defended that idea again today at a Virginia fundraiser. The fundraiser was off-limits to cameras unlike this visit to a coffee shop early in the day.

McCain says he doesn't pretend that dropping the 18 cents a gallon federal gas tax is going to be the answer to our energy problems, but McCain says, drivers deserve a break even if it's just a little break.

Meanwhile, Senator Obama is trying to tie McCain to the oil companies. Opening a two-week economic tour today, Obama called it outrageous that McCain supports tax breaks for Exxon Mobil which made a profit last year of nearly $41 billion.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE: At a time when we're fighting two wars, when millions of Americans can't afford their medical bills or their tuition bills, when we're paying more than $4 a gallon for gas, the man who rails against government spending wants to spend $1.2 billion on a tax break for Exxon Mobil. That isn't just irresponsible, it's outrageous.


BROWN: The national average for a gallon of gas may be $4.02, but AAA says people are paying that much or even more in 22 states and in the District of Columbia.

And senior business correspondent, Ali Velshi, is here to show us who has really got it the worst, I think, and, you know, some are hurting more than others. You've been looking at the map. Show us the states that are getting hit the hardest.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SR. BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alaska, Connecticut, and California are the highest gas prices, but that's not actually the way to look at this. The way to look at this is the proportion of your income that you pay in gasoline.

So, if you look at places like New Jersey or all these places that actually in white, it doesn't matter what the gas price is. The income and the amount that you drive means that it's not that big a proportion, it's under 5 percent of your income.

Look at these darkly colored places around here. Alabama and Mississippi are perfect examples of these but you see them elsewhere in the country.

BROWN: Right.

VELSHI: These are places where maybe people live further away from work. They drive maybe less fuel-efficient cars. But generally speaking, the income is lower. We all pay between $3.85 and $4.49 for a gallon of gas. But if you're making a whole lot less money, you're paying much bigger, more than 10 percent of your income is going towards fuel.

Up in this area, it's less than 5 percent. Sometimes in New Jersey, in fact, it's less than 2 percent. So, that's the issue.

It's hitting everybody and it's not hitting everybody the same way, Campbell.

BROWN: Thirty percent increase, and that's just over the last year.

VELSHI: In gasoline.

BROWN: How much worse is it going to get?

VELSHI: That's the easy part. Thirty percent increase in the last year in gasoline, that's nothing compared to oil. We've seen 100 percent, more than 100 percent increase in the price of oil. Now, most of the price of gasoline, more than 75 percent, comes from the price of a barrel of oil. So, we've had calculations that say that $135 for a barrel of oil means $4.50 for a gallon of gas.

In fact, on Friday, we had a 13 percent jump in the price of oil. If we see that moving into gasoline, we're back at that number, $4.50 for a gallon of gasoline. If you think that this is too high, you've got to make changes to your own life because we're not seeing $3 or $3.50 any time soon.

BROWN: Wow. OK, Ali Velshi, stick around and I know you're coming back with us on the different issue in just a second.

Both presidential candidates will concentrate on your money and the economy over the next several days. And as we mentioned, Barack Obama has just now starting a two-week campaign swing highlighting economic issues. John McCain is giving a keynote speech to a small business convention tomorrow and, of course, obviously, they're dealing with the gas prices issues in the context of all of this.

Jessica Yellin is covering the Obama campaign and Dana Bash is watching - yes, Dana Bash is watching the McCain campaign and she's joining us now.

And Jessica, let me start with you. I know Obama unveiled an entire economic plan that included a proposal for a second round of rebate checks but nothing specific that address pain at the pump. Is the campaign missing something?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they've say no, Campbell. They say that anything that's a short-term fix with the gas problem is a gimmick and that voters know it, and Obama is banking on the fact that he can - as he puts, level with the American people and they'll believe him. So, what he's proposing are these rebate checks which you'd just described about $20 billion worth of what he proposed today, that would address to overall economic picture that Americans are struggling with right now, including high gas prices.

But he says to solve the problem, you know, you need a larger structural solutions, that's really long term. So, he's talking about funding alternative fuel development and changing tax policy for corporations. He pointed out the tax loopholes that Exxon Mobil he says is allowed under the McCain plan. And he wants the windfall profits tax for the oil companies.

So, he's really selling a long term message on the oil fix and hoping the American people believe him.

BROWN: All right, Jessica. And let me turn to Dana now.

McCain is still pounding away with this idea of a gas tax holiday even though Obama has trashed as it as a political stunt. And frankly, a lot of economists agree with that assessment. And why does McCain keep pushing this idea?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He keeps pushing it, Campbell, because you talk to McCain advisers and they say what they're data tells them is that what voters are most frustrated with, it's inaction right here on Washington and that if they can make Barack Obama part of the problem, part of that inaction that that will benefit John McCain.

And just like Hillary Clinton did during the Democratic primary, John McCain is also trying to make the point that by opposing this gas tax holiday, Barack Obama doesn't get it, he's out of touch. In fact, McCain mentioned it in a private fundraiser today that those who are hurting most, just like Ali pointed out, are low-income Americans who drive the furthest.

And I can tell you when McCain first proposed this back in April, in traveling around with him at sometimes state events, this by far got him the biggest applause line, this idea for a gas tax holiday. Having said that, they understand -- inside the McCain campaign -- that this isn't going anywhere especially in Congress. So, they do have to have another kind of plan and they say they will have a more comprehensive plan to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and we should see that in the next couple of weeks, Campbell.

BROWN: Let me bring Ali Velshi back in those conversations. I mean, it sounds like posturing coming from both sides. And give us a reality check. Is there anything that the newly elected president is actually going to be able to do about this?

VELSHI: Yes, they can go and go to the rest of the world and say -- how do we deal with this as a massive worldwide crisis? This 18 cents a gallon gas tax holiday doesn't make any sense. Now, there are some things that John McCain has said economically in this campaign that do make more sense than Barack Obama and there are some things that Barack Obama has that make sense.

This gas tax holiday is a red herring. It doesn't make sense. They need to come up with some way in which there are incentives for people to conserve less and for businesses to come up with new ways to fuel their vehicles and fuel the engine of the economy. There's no country in the world, Campbell, that depends on oil as the life blood of its economy the way the U.S. does.

BROWN: But everything they're talking about is so long term.

VELSHI: Right. And the honesty is to say -- we don't have a short-term solution for this which is what Barack Obama has been doing.

But I've got to tell you, he's going to hurt in places with these dark colors where people are paying more than 10 percent of their income in fuel because people need a break. They want to hear they've got a break. John McCain is right on that. They want to hear it but the answer doesn't make sense.

BROWN: OK, Ali Velshi for us, along with Jessica and Dana, thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

The battle for the White House comes down to about a dozen battleground states and that's more than in past years. So, next, why are so many in play and who is likely to benefit?

We're also going to keep watching -- keep watching this developing story. Look at this. This is in the Midwest. Flooding so bad, homes are literally falling into the river. We're going to tell you about that when we come back.


BROWN: We all know the American electoral map is full of red states and blue states. But this may be the year when we throw all of that right in the trash, because both John McCain and Barack Obama are zeroing in on the yellow part of the map that used to be called the purple part of the map. We're calling it the yellow part of the map now because it's up for grabs states that make the difference in a close-fought contest.

And Tom Foreman is in Washington with more on this yellow state showdown.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, right now, if we look at only the states McCain is likely to win, the red ones up here and those states that Obama is likely to win, the blue ones, McCain has a tiny lead in electoral votes, 194 to 190. But this doesn't mean much because a 1/3 of the Electoral College is up for grabs, and this election will be battled out in a dozen states.

Out west we're talking about Nevada and Colorado, as we work toward the middle of the country, we talk about a whole chain of states here working east -- Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, way up there. And then as we point south, we pick up Virginia here and Florida down here.

Florida is really the huge prize of all these battleground states, 27 electoral votes, almost four times as many as little Iowa has. No wonder McCain has been wading through the Everglades talking about the economy.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE: American families are hurting. American homeowners are hurting. And this is a very, very serious situation. And we have to do a number of things.


FOREMAN: Florida went Republican last time, but Obama will hit the state very hard, even if he doesn't win. It will force McCain to spend money and time playing defense there. Obama has an advantage in fundraising, such an advantage that he can afford to do this. That's why political analysts expect him to attack even red turf like maybe North Carolina and New Mexico and Georgia.

Of course, he'd love to win one but whether or not he does, he forces McCain to spread his resources out. That very strategy clobbered Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I have a different vision for the future. Instead of spending $12 billion a month to rebuild Iraq, I think it's time we invested in our roads and schools and bridges and started to rebuild America.


FOREMAN: The primary season reminded us that this is a very big country, but this summer, it's going to get smaller politically as both sides hammer on these battlegrounds and keep an eye on the big monster area up here, Campbell. That is going to be the real hot zone.

BROWN: Tom, thanks very much for that.

Now, with all of that in mind, and with the general election campaign now really officially under way, we do want to get into our war room. That's where strategy is key, where each campaign aims to crush the opposition.

And with me tonight as part of our war room from San Francisco, the former mayor of the city, Democrat Willie Brown; and from Washington, Kevin Madden, a Republican analyst and former national press secretary for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

Welcome to both of you.

Willie, we'd just heard from Tom Foreman that this general election is now about these yellow states, these battlegrounds, if you're running Obama's campaign, let's say, where do you send him? Is it going to come down to Ohio and Florida yet again?

WILLIE L. BROWN, JR., FORMER SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: Oh, no. In this case, Barack Obama is changing the whole landscape. The man who spoke earlier about how this could change, he's right.

Obama intends to go into every state in this union, just as he did in the primary when he so surprised Hillary Clinton, and when he does, I can assure you that those electoral votes are going to be solidly in the Democratic column, because he's going to put them there with the newcomers, with the independents, with those who want Washington changed, with those who believe the war in Iraq needs to be resolved, and with those who think the economy needs to be changed. Barack can deliver that message.

BROWN: All right, Kevin. So, if you're Willie Brown working for Obama, you're feeling pretty optimistic right now. Let's say you're McCain's guy, you're mapping out the general election campaign for him. Where are you sending McCain?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think exactly -- Tom Foreman is exactly right. You go right into those west states there where right now it's tied between Barack Obama and John McCain in these early matchups and you make the case that this is a choice between a big government solution with bigger taxes, more control for the government over your health care, and a weaker national security posture, versus John McCain -- which is a stronger national security posture, lower taxes, more economic development for regional and local economies. Make that clear choice between the two visions for government.

That's what John McCain ought to do.

BROWN: Willie, now that we are in the general election, Kevin and his Republican friends, they're going to move fast to define Obama on their terms -- what do you think that Obama's biggest weaknesses ultimately will be, those things that Republicans will seize upon, and how does he get ahead of that now?

W. BROWN: They're not going to find any weaknesses in this candidate. This candidate is totally new.



W. BROWN: The Republicans went into Mississippi in that congressional race in an effort to use Obama and Nancy Pelosi. They lost. They did the same thing in Illinois. They lost.

BROWN: OK. Let's talk about reality check here. Come on. We all have our weaknesses certainly. What do you think they are? I mean, he has some work he could be doing now to get ahead of it, right?

W. BROWN: Oh, no, no, no. You understand that Obama is like a rock star. When you draw 75,000 people...

MADDEN: We're going to exploit this overconfidence.

W. BROWN: When you draw 75,000 people to a rally in Oregon, everywhere he goes, everybody wants to see and hear Obama. And as long as he stays focused on the message, as he has done in the primary, this man is going to be very difficult for Republicans to redefine.

BROWN: Right, OK. Willie, I would say to you that this is a big Democratic year and yet, if you look at the polls, he's only like a point or two ahead of John McCain which shouldn't be the case if everything you say is true.

So, Kevin, with that in mind, let me get your take on this. Obviously, you would disagree here. What are his weaknesses that Republicans plan to exploit?

MADDEN: Well, first, as Willie Brown has pointed out, overconfidence. But I think that the campaign -- the Obama campaign forgets that this is fundamentally a center/right country. And if you look at the way Americans describe their political views, they're center/right, whereas, Barack Obama is very much perceived center/left or even far left.

What we have to do as Republicans is we have to remind them, that this is going to be a stark choice between those very liberal policies that Barack Obama wants to pursue and John McCain's more moderate, pragmatic economic policies, pragmatic national security policies -- make sure that he identifies with those, that's majority of center/right Americans, as the better choice.

BROWN: OK. We're going to talk about some of John McCain's challenges when we come back after the break. So, stay with us, guys.

And as we go to a break, take a look at this. We've got a pretty stunning picture of the lakefront house that was literally swept away by floodwaters in Wisconsin. We're monitoring the massive flooding there. We'll be back right after this.


BROWN: We are back now in the war room, talking political strategy for the general election campaign.

Willie Brown and Kevin Madden are back with us.

We're going to turn now to the McCain campaign.

And Kevin, John McCain had a real head start in the general election but we keep hearing about growing problems within the campaign, like some of these poorly staged events and let's take a look at Obama last Tuesday night. Here he is surrounded by thousands of people. The contrast is very striking to Senator McCain on the very same night. And this has gotten a lot of attention -- this ugly green background.

Looking at them side by side, and take a look if we can do the feed (ph), I mean, it seems like McCain needs a bit of a makeover. If you're running his campaign what are those three things that you change right now to get ahead of the game?

MADDEN: Well, obviously, I think you're right. I mean, there has to be a better movement towards staging the candidate. Obviously, John McCain flourishes in a lot of these intimate gatherings with your average voters. He has to be out there talking about these issues with them.

If he's going to have an act two from his nomination, he has to go out there and start showing that he knows more about these issues than Barack Obama, showing that he knows more about national security, really dialing in with the voters out there.

And he also has to make sure that he shows he has the vigor, he has the excitement for a lot of the core Republican voters that are going to be going to the polls in November. He has to be able to stage better, more excitement about his candidacy.

BROWN: But it does seem like that he really kind of blew a head start. Is that a fair thing to say at this stage, Kevin?

MADDEN: Well, I think it's very accurate. But you have to remember that John McCain went from being a one-state candidate in New Hampshire, to trying to grow a national organization and only in the space of three months. In that regard, I think they've done a very good job catching up.

But it's absolutely clear that they have to go out there and build the ground organization, those influentials and all of these pockets and these corners of communities out across the country so that they're going out there and getting their friends to bring to the polls for John McCain in November.

BROWN: OK. So, Mayor Brown, McCain's propose this series, I'm sure you've heard about this -- this Lincoln-Douglas style debates with Obama, no moderators, just the candidates. Should Obama accept? Who do you think stands to gain more or lose more from this kind of event?

W. BROWN: I think the American people will gain more. I think it's about time we remove all of the phoniness, the teleprompters, and all the other things, and give the American people an opportunity to see people real up and close -- people who are in real time, so to speak.

Obama will do very well in that environment. But the American people will be the winner.

Of course, John McCain is going to find it very, very difficult in that situation to separate himself from George Bush and the last eight years that has created a $5 per gallon gasoline in America and has created the horror in Iraq. That is going to be a problem for him at every stop.

BROWN: All right. For more strategies tonight, we've got to end it there, guys. But Mayor Willie Brown and Kevin Madden -- appreciate your time. Thanks, guys.

MADDEN: Thanks, Campbell.

W. BROWN: Thank you.

BROWN: A one-time Alabama governor who went to prison on public corruption charges is blaming behind-the-scenes manipulation by President Bush's former political chief, Karl Rove. Don Siegelman was a rarity, a Democratic governor in the Deep South, and he says that is why Rove set out to get him. Siegelman who is out of prison appealing his sentence, sat down with our own David Mattingly just a little bit ago.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Why would Karl Rove want to send you to prison?

DON SIEGELMAN, (D) FORMER ALABAMA GOVERNOR: I was winning elections in Alabama and by all accounts I shouldn't be.

MATTINGLY: As a Democrat in a Republican state?

SIEGELMAN: As a Democrat, I was beating the toughest Republicans that they could throw at me.

MATTINGLY: We've heard about right-wing conspiracies before, but if you stand back and look at your case and what you're saying, that sounds almost downright paranoid.

SIEGELMAN: Well, it's not. It's not paranoid if you have facts to back them up and the facts are that Karl Rove was involved in the state of Alabama.


BROWN: So, what exactly are the facts? Well, tomorrow night right here on the ELECTION CENTER, a prime time cable exclusive, we're going to go looking for Karl Rove's fingerprints on Don Siegelman's prosecution.

Plus: What you don't know about the man that President Bush called the architect of his presidency. I'm going to talk with the author of a brand-new book on Karl Rove's rise and fall. That is tomorrow night in the CNN ELECTION CENTER.

It isn't just the presidential candidates who have to practice the art of stagecraft, so do potential first ladies, and it involves a lot more than picking out clothes. We're talking style and substance. That's coming up in just a minute.

And this used to be a house. We are monitoring the devastating floods that are happening out in the Midwest right now. An update is coming up.


BROWN: First lady Laura Bush is praising both Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. During an interview today, the first lady said she admires the, quote, "grit and strength" that Senator Clinton showed in her presidential campaign. She also defended Michelle Obama who was criticized for saying in February that for the first time in her adult life she is proud of the United States.

Well, Mrs. Bush says, quote, "I think she probably meant that I am more proud."

So, all of that got us thinking about the stagecraft that goes into being a first lady. And here to help us out with that is Erica Hill.

And Erica, the general election campaign is just now getting under way. Already, I think I read two articles about prospective first ladies dealing with, what else, their outfits.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, which is interesting. You think the general campaign is under way, hey, how about what a first lady can do? Well, apparently it's what a first lady wears on Sunday in the "Washington Post," also front page of the "New York Times" style section on Sunday -- articles about Michelle Obama looking, of course, at this now famous dress that she wore the night that her husband became the presumptive Democratic nominee.

A lot of talk about this ensemble, a lot of folks actually raving about her fashion sense and wondering about why she chose the color purple. Could it be that she was trying to appeal to people in the red or the blue states? It could go either way because, of course, red and blue make purple. Could it be she just likes the dress? You never know.

It's amazing the speculation that goes on about could there not be some stagecraft to the dress. Well, it wouldn't be the first time though that we've looked at first lady and first ladies in the past because there was also some comparison to past first ladies looking at the pearls -

BROWN: A signature of Barbara Bush.

HILL: Absolutely, signature for Barbara Bush, and then also talking about Michelle Obama. You can't see this well on this picture. It's a little dark, but the clip, the signature clip that Jacqueline Kennedy had, of course, Cindy McCain also going to be getting a lot of attention as the potential first lady on the trail.

Now the night that her husband became the presumptive Republican nominee, you can see a little bit more subdued. This pleated yellow sheath dress and right back here, you can just make out just that a little bit of a bun going on there.

BROWN: But let's talk about first lady substance, too, because essentially these women are now candidates on the trail. So what other qualities besides their clothing are we going to see them promote?

HILL: Right, they're candidates and they're needed to help their husbands win the White House, which is the ultimate goal here, right?

So you're going to see, you're going to learn more about Cindy McCain. You see her sometimes on the trail. She's, of course, a former cheerleader, rodeo queen. She's also a mother, though. She's a certified pilot, which I just learned recently, actually.


HILL: A multimillionaire businesswoman. She, of course, chairs the board for her family's brewing business. It's the third largest Anheuser-Busch distributor in the country. So pretty impressive. She's got quite a resume herself.

As for Michelle Obama, we've heard a little bit more about her past. Of course, she grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a one- bedroom apartment. She's the mother of two little girls. She's also a Princeton and Harvard graduate. She also is a hospital executive, a Harvard-educated lawyer, I should point out.

So both of these women have very established careers and very established resumes as well, which they will, of course, as you mentioned, put to work for the husbands, and what can they do? They can humanize their husbands, make people relate to them a little bit better. So they'll do whatever they can to promote their husbands.

BROWN: All right. Interesting stuff.

Erica Hill with us tonight. Erica, thanks.

There's some breaking news right now that we are monitoring. A strong line of thunderstorms that is hitting the midsection of the country. We're going to have an update for you when we come back right after this.



The fight is on for the Hillary Clinton supporters. Who will they vote for now? Plus, we'll have a sneak peek at some possible running mates for Obama and McCain. All that and Bill Clinton's impact. Is it still being felt?

Top panels at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE," and back with more of Campbell Brown and ELECTION CENTER right after the break.


BROWN: Just in to CNN, a strong line of thunderstorms is making its way across the midsection of the country right now. That on top of the flooding that's taking place. It's pretty devastating in this particular area.

And right now, we want to go to meteorologist Chad Myers in the CNN Extreme Weather Center for the very latest -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Campbell. Rain showers, thunderstorms now from Ohio through Michigan, right on back down into Indiana, Illinois, in places that they do not need rainfall and more rain tonight. Had a couple of storms with tornadoes on the ground but very -- this is not a tornado day. This is a rainfall maker in places that we do not need rainfall.

Low-pressure system in the west. A brutal high-pressure system in the east with temperatures above 100 in some spots today in the east part of the United States. This is the first time we've seen temperatures in the 100-degree range in some cities in June period. Those 100 degrees come in July and August but not right now. And then the rainfall is still coming down in parts of the Midwest.

Look at the highs today. Newark, New Jersey, up to 99 degrees. New Bern, North Carolina, 99, and Raleigh the same.

Now, something else that happened. This is in Lake Delton, back up here in Wisconsin. This is the dam that's supposed to allow the water to go, and it did. The dam held up perfectly. But this is a low spot in the barrier between the lake and the river, and when that water came through that little barrier, this is the new river that was formed today. And this is what happened when that river got in the way of the homes that were already there. This is only a 16-foot lake, but this lake made its own new river to let the water out and the dam held up just perfectly. The dam did what it was supposed to do, keep the lake.

Unfortunately now today, Campbell, that lake is gone. It is just a mud hole. They have a lot of work to do to try to make a new dam there to make a new lake in Wisconsin Dells, which is one of the most beautiful parts of the state that's already had its fair share of damage this year.

BROWN: Absolutely. All right, Chad. Appreciate it. Thanks, tonight.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BROWN: So Hillary Clinton has taken her vow and it's time we take a long look at what exactly she accomplished. Did she achieve as much as she claims on behalf of American women?

We're going to put that question to an icon of the women's movement, Gloria Steinem, when we come back here in the ELECTION CENTER.


BROWN: This has become or has been rather one expensive campaign. For each delegate won by the Democratic candidates, they spent on average just over $100,000.

We have heard a lot about what Senator Clinton achieved with her long and costly bid for the nomination. She made her exit but her millions of women supporters will not be forgotten.

CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley was there on Saturday when Hillary Clinton said goodbye, and she is joining us now to bring us up to speed on all of that -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Campbell. You know a lot has been said recently about how Barack Obama is going to appeal to Hillary Clinton's voters, particularly the women. He's going to have to first take a look at their attachment to the senator from New York which has its roots in the past, the present, and the future.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's about time, it's not pastime, that we had a woman president in the White House. Thank you.

CROWLEY (voice-over): But it was not the time. History crystallizes in moments but it is formed by decades. As she closed her campaign, Hillary Clinton thanked some of her most ardent supporters.

CLINTON: And to all those women in their 80s and their 90s...


... born before women could vote who cast their votes for our campaign.

CROWLEY: It was important to Clinton to put the period on this chapter in history, written by almost 18 million voters, many of them women.

CLINTON: You can be so proud that from now on it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories.


Unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee. Unremarkable to think that a woman can be the president of the United States and that is truly remarkable, my friends.

CROWLEY: You get hit by shrapnel when you break barriers. There were questionable columns over the top punditry and no one else was asked whether he was tough enough.

CLINTON: And in the gentleman's words, we face a lot of evil men. You know, people like Osama bin Laden comes to mind. And what in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men?

CROWLEY: Her female supporters saw themselves in her struggles both personal and political. She was in their comfort zone, sometimes too close for comfort. There was a teacher in Des Moines.


CROWLEY: It was always a delicate dance for Clinton to not be seen as the female candidate while counting on and courting the female vote with the promise of history and the pull of familiar experiences.

CLINTON: I don't think I'm the only woman here who feels that sometimes you have to work even harder, right?

CROWLEY: Along the trail she never said sexism was at play, but the suggestion was there. After a rough debate Clinton traveled to Wellesley, her alma mater.

CLINTON: In so many ways, this all-women's college prepared me to compete in the all-boys club of presidential politics.

CROWLEY: By the time she conceded, Clinton was out there with it.

CLINTON: Like millions of women, I know there are still barriers and biases out there.

CROWLEY: For multiple reasons, most having nothing to do with gender, history did not crystallize for Hillary Clinton. But she believes she and her supporters are part of the decades that have shaped what truly will come.

CLINTON: Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it.

CROWLEY: Usually victors make the history, but there are exceptions.


BROWN: Wow. Candy, you know, I got to ask you about one thing. It has become the conventional wisdom, I think, that women across the board signed on to this campaign, but that's not necessarily the case, is it?

CROWLEY: It isn't and in particular in this really flummoxed the Clinton campaign, younger women. If you look at the primaries as a whole and the caucuses, what you find is that women from 18 to 29, by 11 percentage points, went for Barack Obama. From 30 to 45, about a tie between Obama and Clinton. And after that, she totally wipes him out. So it was older women.

And what they couldn't figure out was why those younger women weren't really drawn into the history of it. And the ultimate answer seemed to be that they haven't faced the sort of discrimination that the older women have faced and continue to face because they just haven't been out in the workforce and because it is a different world for them.

BROWN: Yes, just not feeling that sense of urgency.

CROWLEY: Right, right.

BROWN: All right. Candy Crowley for us tonight. Candy, many thanks.

So is that glass ceiling really unbreakable? Well, next, women's rights pioneer Gloria Steinem, and what she thinks about all this.


BROWN: Hillary Clinton made one thing clear in her speech on Saturday. Her campaign may have been a milestone for women, but that's not why she got into the race.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I was asked what it means to be a woman running for president, I always gave the same answer. That I was proud to be running as a woman, but I was running because I thought I'd be the best president.


BROWN: But did Clinton's gender set her up for a tougher fight, and how much of a role did sexism play in her defeat? I'm joined now by an icon of the women's rights movement, Gloria Steinem, co-founder of the Women's Media Center, and also by CNN senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin, joining us as well to talk about all of this.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: What an honor to be here with Gloria Steinem.

BROWN: I agree. I couldn't agree more.

TOOBIN: I'm thrilled.


TOOBIN: All right.

BROWN: All right, Gloria. There is a lot of debate I know, you know, about the role that sexism may have played in this campaign with regards to Senator Clinton. But I want to read you this is what Al Hunt of "Bloomberg" said today.

"Hillary Clinton didn't lose the Democratic presidential nomination because she is a woman, and gender no longer is a big deal in American elections. Hillary Clinton, in the important venture of her life, picked the wrong people and adopted the wrong strategy, unwilling to face this painful reality some Clintonistas persist in the whiny complaint that it was all about sexism."

What do you think?

STEINEM: I think he hasn't been listening, you know, because no one has -- I am not now saying nor have I ever said that it was all about sexism because it's a complex situation especially with a photo finish like that. It can be anything. You know, it can be hundreds of things that maybe she won. Maybe she won the popular vote.

You know, maybe -- you know, there are all kinds of things. But it's clear that there is profound sexism and slightly more concealed racism in the press and, you know, 40 percent of the public agrees themselves just from watching it's in the culture. The press didn't invent it. But since this is the way we learn about her --


BROWN: What in the press was so sexist in terms of how we in the national media treated her?

STEINEM: Well, I mean, for instance, she was called on to leave the race in a way that apparently the historians tell me no other presidential candidate ever has been, even though they have gone through all of the primaries and even gone to the convention.

BROWN: But do you hear she had these calls until the math, I think, made it pretty clear that she could not win the nomination.

STEINEM: No, no.

BROWN: And then people were saying, OK, why is she staying in the race?

STEINEM: No, if you look at the other people like Jesse Jackson and Reagan in '76, you know, where even it's certainly as unlikely to win but nobody said in the press that they should get out. And then there were all kinds of other things. You know, there was Chris Matthews looking in the camera and saying, well, she wasn't a senator because of marriage. She was only a senator because people voted for her because of a sympathy vote because her husband messed around.

BROWN: Right.

STEINEM: I mean, there's just countless, countless, countless examples of things that would not have been said about a male candidate and, incidentally, about Michelle Obama, about --

BROWN: Right.

STEINEM: You know, this is -- we're talking about a phenomenon here that we need to cure.

BROWN: Jeff, I mean, you watched this so closely and you were one of the proponents of the math argument very early on. You thought the race was over before a lot of people because of the math. Do you agree with some of what Gloria is saying?

TOOBIN: I agree with some of it but, again, you have to sort of go back through the history. The key moment in this campaign in many respects was the Iowa caucuses. And the Iowa caucuses was decided, I think, largely because of the war in Iraq.

Barack Obama was opposed from the very beginning. Edwards and Hillary Clinton had voted for the war. I think that's a perfectly legitimate nonsexist reason to vote, and I think that was the largest factor there.

Certainly in some of the press coverage there was some sexism, and I really disagree with the idea that it's so great to be a woman in politics. And why are there only a handful of women governors? Why are there fewer than 20 women senators?

But that can't be because it's such an advantage to be a woman, but I do think Hillary Clinton made a lot of mistakes in this campaign and Barack Obama did a lot of things right that had nothing to do with sexism.

STEINEM: But this isn't the point. I mean, it's not to say that she lost because of sexism. Nobody is saying that. But we are saying is that it is a crucial element that affects women who are in positions of authority because as all the surveys show, for instance, it's very difficult to be confident, to be successful, and to be liked as a woman. It's a choice. Either you can be liked or you can be competent or successful.


STEINEM: You can't be both. And this is extremely difficult and it's especially difficult in the media and media watchers know that.

BROWN: All right. Hold that thought. We got to take a quick break. We're going to come back with a lot more from Gloria and Jeffrey on the subject when we come back.


BROWN: And we're back now with Gloria Steinem and with Jeffrey Toobin continuing our discussion. And let me ask you guys just to look ahead.

What is the next woman candidate for president? What does she take from this experience from Hillary Clinton? What does she learn from it? And how long do you think it's really going to be before we see someone else as viable a candidate as Hillary Clinton was, be it for Republican or Democrats?

STEINEM: What she takes from it is that there's only three percent of the positions on television, clout positions that are occupied by women. That there's a lot of bias, I think. It's for asking the wrong question. It's like blaming the victim.

The question is, is the media going to change not are the candidates going to change? Because, you know, we need all of our talent not just half of our talent, and there's profound racism as well.

Look at the way Michelle Obama was treated as if she were disloyal for saying and even the word lynching was used, even if Cindy McCain could have said exactly the same thing and it would have been OK.

TOOBIN: I'm a little more optimistic. I think Hillary Clinton blazed the trail that will make it easier for those to follow. Obviously it all depends on who comes up through the ranks but, you know, Senator Amy Klobuchar, young senator from Minnesota, starts to run in a few years, it will be less extraordinary. And I thought the best part of her speech was when she said it was remarkable, but it will be unremarkable in the future.

BROWN: Well, let me ask you one thing, Gloria, there is a generational thing here. If you look at the poll numbers, younger women were not as supportive of Hillary Clinton. They were going in much greater numbers for Obama. Do you think there is, that younger women don't feel the same urgency about this? That --

STEINEM: I mean, she won the youth vote in California and in Massachusetts. That's very --

BROWN: But not in a national level.

STEINEM: You know, I think that's exaggerated but I think, of course, it is the case that they -- BROWN: The younger women take it for granted.

STEINEM: Well, they don't know. They don't take it for granted, but they feel that there will be many other candidates in their lifetime and, you know, there won't be so many other candidates in our lifetime. I mean, it's just a literal fact.

BROWN: What do you think? Is it partly a generational thing?

TOOBIN: I think -- I think younger women do take things for granted. One of the arguments that I always hear from older women is we are so concerned about protecting Roe v. Wade because we remember what it was like when abortion was illegal.

There are two generations now that have come of age since Roe v. Wade has been the law, and they think that's always been the law. I think those are the kind of issues that have different resonances depending on how old you are.

STEINEM: But they are very mad about just different things. That sex education in the schools, you know, is all abstinence. They're mad about that. They're mad about not getting their prescriptions filled. But they're mad in just about different subjects.

BROWN: So is Obama going to connect with those women that --

STEINEM: Absolutely.

BROWN: You do?

STEINEM: Absolutely.

BROWN: You don't buy any of these polls that say they're going to go to McCain?

STEINEM: No, I don't. I absolutely don't. I mean, you know, how dumb do they think we are? I mean, you know, McCain has a zero rating from planned parenthood. He has a zero rating on environment which is very difficult to do.

He has a zero -- he voted against the Fair Pay Act. He voted against children's -- I mean, it's ridiculous. Of course we're going to -- and Obama is a good person, a good candidate, and will make an excellent president.

BROWN: And everyone is going to rally.

TOOBIN: I think he's blessed in his Republican opponent particularly when it comes to appealing to young people. It's very hard for me to imagine John McCain appealing to many of them.

BROWN: All right. We got to end it there. Jeffrey Toobin and Gloria Steinem, good to have you both here. Appreciate it.

STEINEM: Thank you. BROWN: An interesting conversation.

And that is it for me in the ELECTION CENTER tonight. Larry King starts right now.