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CNN Larry King Live
Encore - Interview with Michelle Obama; Interview With Mike Huckabee
Aired February 17, 2008 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING HOST: Tonight, could she be the next first lady and make history in the process?
Michelle Obama -- the private side of a public life. A revealing look inside her world with husband and presidential candidate Barack Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA: We can send this man to the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Plus, Mike Huckabee hanging tough after weekend election wins.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is incredible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: But is that enough to seriously challenge frontrunner John McCain?
Answers next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We're in Washington tonight, on the eve of the Potomac primaries. That's Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
And our special guest is Michelle Obama, the wife of the 2008 Democrat -- would-be Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama. The mother of two daughters, Malia and Sasha. And she's the Harvard Law-educated hospital executive.
Did you expect this?
M. OBAMA: You know, I don't think anybody could have expected this. I mean a year ago, although Barack announced with 16,000 people in the frigid cold in Springfield, I mean I knew this guy had something special to offer. But, you know, where we today is pretty amazing.
KING: Was he confident? M. OBAMA: Oh, he's always pretty confident. Yes. I mean he wouldn't have taken this -- taken us down this path if he didn't think that he had a very good shot at it. And that's something that we talked about. I mean I looked at Barack as were making this decision and I said, do you think not only can you do this, but should you do this?
And he looked me in the eye and he said, yes. He said I can be a good president.
KING: Did you as, wives will sometimes do, try to put a damper on it?
M. OBAMA: Oh, of course. That's my job. But, you know, the thing that I -- we talked about were the practical aspects of the race -- you know, how would it affect the kids?
And we have a 9-year-old and a 6-year-old -- how would they feel about this?
How would we manage our lives to make sure that their lives stayed on track?
What would we do financially?
Those were the kind of practical issues that I wanted to walk through step by step and sort of know how we would handle this when we confronted it. And when I got the satisfactory answers, I was ready to go.
KING: Did you think the public would take to him as it has?
M. OBAMA: You know, I...
KING: Because you only one race to go on...
M. OBAMA: Yes. Yes.
KING: ...plus local races.
M. OBAMA: You know, I was hopeful. I based it on what we had seen in his career in the past. And every race that Barack has run, he started out as the severe underdog, with people saying that he was too young and too inexperienced, he couldn't raise the money, he couldn't build the organization. We heard that in his U.S. Senate run.
But what we found out was that if Barack could, through strong organization and building a grassroots effort on the ground, could break through the noise and speak directly to the people -- and once people got to know him, know his message, sort of see his heart, his sincerity, his authenticity, then, you know, that always trumped whatever doubts people had.
KING: So now, Michelle, you must give it some thought -- I might be first lady.
M. OBAMA: Go figure.
KING: Go figure.
You must think of that.
M. OBAMA: I have to. Yes.
KING: And what enters your mind?
M. OBAMA: I think wow, what an opportunity. What a platform that I'll have, potentially, to talk about a whole range of issues that could affect the country. What a privilege it will be to have the opportunity to speak to peoples' hearts, to be a part of moving this country in a different direction.
So I try to embrace the exciting parts of it.
KING: So you're ready for it?
M. OBAMA: I'm ready for it, yes.
KING: Ready to be the first black, first female first lady?
M. OBAMA: I'm who I am. I'm ready for it. That's who I am.
KING: Do you think there will be a lot of pressure on you if that happens?
M. OBAMA: You know, I -- I just think this is a pressure filled position. I think that anyone who steps up into this sort of level is going to find some -- some degree of pressure. I just don't think about it in those terms. I mean, it's in the same way that I don't think about what might go wrong. I've never spent my life sort of thinking what could go wrong, or else I wouldn't be here.
what have you not liked so far?
M. OBAMA: About -- you know, I have to tell you, I'm one of these people who walks down every dark road before I take on a pretty ambitious process. And that's one of the things that I did. I sort of thought through all the things that could go wrong. So I kind of prepared myself. And what I found is that there hasn't been anything that I didn't expect to happen.
KING: You have not been surprised?
M. OBAMA: I haven't been surprised?
KING: By anything?
M. OBAMA: By the good and the bad. It's all part of it. And that's something that people should understand. I mean we're not new to politics. We're new to the national scene, but Barack has been in the U.S. Senate for several years. He was in the state senate in Illinois for eight years.
KING: Yes, but that isn't the national scene, scene.
M. OBAMA: You know, it's just more of the same, except more people are watching. I think that if you're secure in yourself and you sort of know who you're and I think be this time we're in our 40s. Not to say we don't have anything else to learn but, you know, we're pretty grounded. And that helps you sort of, you know, handle all of the ups and downs of this kind of stuff.
KING: Is it hard being a mother and the wife of a candidates?
M. OBAMA: You know, I think it's hard being a mother a working mother in this society period. I mean one thing I say is that what I'm struggling with in terms of the balancing that I have to do to get through the day is no different than what any woman that I know is struggling with. In fact, I think that I can't complain because I have resources that most mothers don't have. I've got my mother, who is staying behind, helping with -- me with my kids. She's with my girls right now. And that gives me a level of peace.
But so many women out here, they don't have the resources. They don't have that informal support structure. They don't have health care. They don't have living wages. That's who I worry about.
KING: You have a backup system.
M. OBAMA: I have a backup system. And that's what we need to make sure -- that's one of the things Barack wants to do, is to make sure that women and families have the kind of backup system that we have to sustain ourselves.
KING: Let's talk about the opponent.
Has Hillary surprised you?
You couldn't have known what would have happened on the other side.
M. OBAMA: No. No, but, politics is politics. And I think it's a competitive endeavor. And, you know, it's rough and tumble. I think that she has handled herself well in this respect -- I think that she and Barack, as he says all the time, were good friends and colleagues before this race, and they will be afterwards.
I think, you know, the job that we all have as Democrats is to come out of this thing united and ready to toward a common purpose.
KING: But there had to be days where you were a little ticked.
M. OBAMA: Of course. That's my husband. I love him. I don't want anybody to say anything bad about him. But, you know, I would also, you know, be foolish to think you would enter a race where you wouldn't hear somebody being critical of your husband. So I try not to take it personally.
KING: Do you ever look at it in the sense that it's you against Bill?
M. OBAMA: Oh, absolutely not.
KING: I mean he's first man.
M. OBAMA: Yes.
KING: You're first lady.
M. OBAMA: Well, but he's Bill and I'm Michelle. We're very different people.
M. OBAMA: But, no, I really focus on what's in front of me at the time. And, really, when I go before a crowd, I'm thinking about trying to reach peoples' hearts. I mean really do, because I firmly believe that there is a fundamental difference in what Barack can offer. And inspiration is a part of that -- and the ability to connect and unite.
And that's sort of what I'm trying to do when I'm talking. I'm not thinking about Bill or Hillary. I'm not even thinking about Barack. I'm thinking about the people in front of me and what their pains the level of unfairness -- this gap of inequality that is happening with working folks out here, regular folks trying to make it.
So with that, I don't have time to focus on the competition.
KING: We'll take a break and when we come back, we'll ask Michelle about this man Barack and what, in her opinion, not only as his wife -- what makes him so special?
Michelle Obama is our guest.
This is LARRY KING LIVE.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. OBAMA: The next president of the United States, my husband, Barack Obama.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: OBAMA: We are one nation. We are one people. And our time for change has come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Michelle Obama.
OK, obviously, he's special. I mean his critics would say he's special. His opponents would say it.
M. OBAMA: And I would say he's special.
KING: And you would say it.
M. OBAMA: Yes.
KING: What is it?
What does he have?
M. OBAMA: You know, OK, so there's my opinion as the wife. So I can share that. I mean he's a...
KING: Nobody closer than that.
M. OBAMA: He's a great orator. He's inspirational. He's brilliant, all of that.
But you know what?
He's a good man. He's, first of all, my best friend. He's a phenomenal support to me and the girls. I mean this is a guy who, in the midst of this race, hasn't missed a parent/teacher conference, you know. This is the stuff that I look at. He took the girls trick or treating. He came home for a day to buy the Christmas tree. He took me out for our anniversary. I mean, you know, he is just...
KING: Little things.
M. OBAMA: It's he's consistent. But he is consistent.
It's just his character, you know?
And there is a warmth and a sincerity and an authenticity. And he's also somebody who is not going to just tell you what you think you want to hear. He's always going to play it straight and tell you what he thinks. He's going to be honest with you.
KING: What affect do you think he's had on the way that Americans look at race?
We all know that Alma Powell discouraged Colin Powell from running for president because of fear something would happen to him because he would be the first black president.
M. OBAMA: Right.
KING: Do you think he's changed thinking?
M. OBAMA: Yes. I think he's moved the thinking ahead.
I mean, when was the last time that we've had a candidate of any race or of any political party that's won Utah and South Carolina and Los Angeles and Louisiana and Maine and Illinois?
I mean, you know, he's touched on every element of this country -- every race, every political party -- Republicans, Independents. And I think, you know, he is uniting people not around race, but around hope. And I say this race is just the rejuvenation of hope.
KING: So you think...
M. OBAMA: Hope makes a comeback and...
KING: ...they don't see black when they see him...
M. OBAMA: Well, I think they're...
KING: ...they see just Barack?
M. OBAMA: I think there are people who see it. But, you know, the thing that I've always found and what makes me hopeful, especially when I travel around places like Iowa and places where there are not that many black folks, is that, you know, where I connect with people is around values. It's around the stories of my upbringing, you know, growing up in a working class background. Seeing my father get up and go to work every day and just be happy that he could provide his family with a decent living. I mean that's all folks want.
And when you tell those stories, when Barack shares his upbringing and the values he was raised on -- the notion that you treat people with decency and respect even if you don't always agree with them or don't know them -- you know, people hear that. And it reminds them of who they are and who they hope to be. And that transcends race.
But that's not to say that race is not a factor. It still plays a significant role. We have -- we still have work to do and I think people recognize that.
But what we see in this race is that people want to be in a better place and they're ready to work for it. And that gives me hope.
KING: When you were a small, little girl, wasn't it one of your dreams to see the first female president?
M. OBAMA: You know, I have to honestly say no. That's -- you know, and -- because that wasn't even a possibility for me. I mean the truth is, when I was a little girl, the thought of a woman or an African-American being president was the furthest thing from what could be possible. So it's only now that I am seeing, in this race, these two phenomenal candidates that I know, as some have said, that we now can move beyond those issues and we can go for who we think is the best candidate.
KING: Are there some women who might say step aside and let there be a woman first?
M. OBAMA: Oh, of course. You know, there are women who feel like, you know, this is...
KING: Your chance.
M. OBAMA: ...this is -- right. Exactly. I understand that, but I don't agree with it because, you know, I come to this thing as a mom. And I'm really worried about the country that we're going to hand over to our kids. And I know deep in my heart that we need a leader that can unite us across so many lines.
And I just think, in my heart of hearts, that Barack is the only person in this race who can do that. And that transcends into these other issues of who's first and whose turn it is.
KING: Do you have any doubts about him?
M. OBAMA: Absolutely not.
KING: Absolutely not?
M. OBAMA: Not in terms of his character. I mean this is what is true. Barack is going to mistakes. But, see, the beauty of Barack making mistakes is that he's not going to be so stubborn that he can't admit that he's making mistakes and he can't look at another way of approaching things.
I mean, I think that's all people want. I mean, to the extent that people are angry with the current administration, it's just that you feel like folks sometimes view leadership as stubbornness. And you don't want to admit when you've made a mistake. And I think most Americans understand that if you want leaders to take risks and reach for, you know, grand achievements, that sometimes they're going to stumble. But you want to know that that know that they'd stumble and that they're ready to correct their mistakes and move forward. And that's something that Barack is able to do.
KING: Can his mind be changed?
M. OBAMA: Absolutely. Hey, I change it every day.
KING: We'll be right back with Michelle Obama.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
B. OBAMA: The rock of the Obama family. The closer on the campaign trail. Give it up for Michelle Obama.
M. OBAMA: Today, we can do something amazing. We can elect my husband.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY: Are you the one?
Is he the one? Is he the one?
Is he the one?
I believe he is the one -- Barack Obama!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It was on this program some months ago when I asked Oprah Winfrey if she was going to endorse anyone or get involved in politics. And that's where she announced that she would endorse your husband.
What has that meant?
M. OBAMA: You know, I -- first of all, I adore Oprah. She's more -- and the more you get to know her, the more you realize that she's just a great intellect.
What she's done is that she has a broad reach. Now she can't -- she doesn't convince people. I think Americans are smart enough to want to make their own decisions. But what Oprah has offered is access to a broad base of her supporters. And what that's given Barack the opportunity to do is to just try to speak to them. So she's opened up more doors, but he's had to walk through them.
KING: Have you gotten close to her?
M. OBAMA: Yes. Yes, I would consider Oprah a friend -- Oprah and Gale. Both are just terrific women.
KING: You know Senator John McCain, obviously.
M. OBAMA: Yes, I do.
KING: He serves in the Senate.
M. OBAMA: Yes, I know.
KING: What do you make of his candidacy -- if he gets it?
M. OBAMA: You know, I think he has served this country in just a tremendous way. And I don't think you can do anything other than respect his years of service. So, you know, I think that Barack will relish the opportunity to expand upon their differences, but I know he'll want to do it in a way that retains a level of respect and dignity in the race. And I look forward to it.
KING: What do you hear about the super-delegates?
M. OBAMA: You know, I think a lot of people, more and more, I'm hearing, that they don't want this race to be decided by super- delegates. I mean they want the voters to decide.
And -- but our focus is one state at a time. Every delegate counts. This is a close race. We don't take anything for granted so... KING: I arrived in Washington today from New York, coming from L.A. Do you know ). And the first thing you hear is rumors. And one of the rumors is that if McCain is the nominee, he might choose Condoleezza Rice as a running mate.
M. OBAMA: Oh, I hadn't heard that.
KING: How would that strike you?
M. OBAMA: Ooh, I have...
KING: Does that add to the intrigue of this race?
M. OBAMA: I have no idea. You just enlightened me. I haven't had time to even ponder.
KING: That's just a rumor.
M. OBAMA: I -- you know, I have no idea.
KING: It's ponderable.
M. OBAMA: It is ponderable. I will have to ponder that and get back to you.
KING: We'll all ponder it.
KING: It's just a rumor, folks. This is Washington -- it thrives on it. You live here, you know it's right.
M. OBAMA: I don't live hire.
KING: You never moved here?
M. OBAMA: No. No, we stayed based in Chicago, because that's where my work is.
KING: So where does Barack live?
M. OBAMA: You know, he commutes back and forth. He has a little apartment here. But, you know, he's trying to get home as much as possible.
M. OBAMA: Um-hmm.
KING: So you never lived in the...
M. OBAMA: We've never lived here. I mean that's one of the ways, in my opinion, that I've been able to keep our kids grounded and focused, that they've never been pulled out of their lives and therefore they...
KING: Do they go to a regular school or a private school?
M. OBAMA: They go to a private school that's affiliated with t University of Chicago, where I -- I work right around the corner. I've got great access to them, which, you know, you need when you're basically doing it all.
KING: Would they go private here, too, I guess?
M. OBAMA: You know, we haven't thought about that so.
KING: Who's going to -- what's going to happen tomorrow?
M. OBAMA: Tomorrow Barack is going to do well because everyone who is listening is going to go out and vote for him. But we don't take anything for granted. I mean, what I tell people is Barack is the underdog until he's sitting in the Oval Office. I mean, because when you're the agent of change, when you're the candidate that's really pushing against the establishment, I don't think you can ever take anything for granted.
I am snake bitten. I am superstitious. I don't claim victory until it's over and I want people to go out and vote.
KING: No prediction -- Maryland, the District of Columbia?
M. OBAMA: Hey, no. I don't...
M. OBAMA: No. I think that we need voters to be focused on this. We need folks to turn out. Whether they're voting for Barack or not, what we say is you've got to get out and vote. But, obviously, if you're voting, we want your vote. And we just keep working hard, reaching out.
KING: John Edwards -- did -- Barack didn't meet with him today, did he?
M. OBAMA: No, they didn't get a chance to meet. I think it's...
KING: Do you know when they'll meet?
M. OBAMA: No, I don't know. I haven't spoken to him today. So hopefully I'll see him tonight.
KING: What did you think of his campaign?
M. OBAMA: John Edwards?
Oh, I think he ran a tremendous race. I mean from that -- you know, I think that's where he and Barack are similar, in the sense that they are focusing on the plight and the gap that's being created by -- between, you know, folks in the upper echelons and regular folks. You know, he's built -- he built a great relationship with labor, one that Barack has built, as well. I think the constituencies are the same.
So I think John ran a tremendous race.
Elizabeth Edwards is somebody who I admire and respect, as well.
So, you know, we are hoping that their supporters, as well as John, will be -- will see the alignment of interests and we can work together.
KING: Do you think this race could go to Denver...
M. OBAMA: Yes.
KING: ...without a nominee?
M. OBAMA: Yes. It's possible. You know, anything has been -- haven't you -- over this year, nothing was predictable.
KING: What's not possible?
Right, what's not possible?
M. OBAMA: So I think we have to prepare for everything.
KING: Are you prepared, if possible, to lose?
M. OBAMA: Oh, yes. Yes. I don't want Barack to lose, because I think that there are so many people who have built up expectations. And they know that something different is possible. And, you know, you just don't want to see that loss of hope. And I don't think people will go there. I think people are ready for something different. But, you know, as I say, I prepare for everything -- mentally and emotionally. So I'm ready for the highs and I'm ready for the lows. But I'm also ready to work with my husband in the White House, as well, and lead this country to a different place.
KING: The last time we met was at the convention.
It's great spending this time with you.
M. OBAMA: Thank you so much.
It was an honor for me. I really appreciate it.
KING: Michelle Obama.
Republican candidate Mike Huckabee is still running the race.
Can he make it to the finish line?
We'll ask him when LARRY KING LIVE returns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUCKABEE: This campaign is not over. It is not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We continue with Governor Mike Huckabee the 2008 Republican presidential candidate or would be candidate, the former governor of Arkansas.
KING: We continue with Governor Mike Huckabee, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate -- or would-be candidate, the former governor of Arkansas.
Are you still surprised, Mike?
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In many ways, Larry. It's been quite a journey. And, you know, we still continue to build momentum. Instead of things winding down, they seem to be winding up. More people are going to MikeHuckabee.com website than we ever had before. We're having record contributions daily. People are ready to keep us in this race.
KING: What's the latest on the bizarre situation in the state of Washington?
HUCKABEE: It is bizarre, Larry. It's one of the most remarkable things. We were stunned and still are that with 87 percent of the vote count in, the state party chairman just said, we're going to quit counting the votes. We're going to declare John McCain the winner and congratulate him and went home.
Obviously, that's unacceptable. It's not just unacceptable to us. It's unacceptable to any American who believes that you don't disenfranchise somebody when they vote. If they take the time to do it, you count their vote. So we've had attorneys there, working, trying to get to the bottom of it, asking for a full accounting an audit of the process. We want all those votes counted. Then we want to make sure there was an integrity in the process and even the chain of possession of the forms themselves, to make sure that we, in fact, didn't end up winning that thing.
KING: Do you expect a resolution?
HUCKABEE: I think we'll get one. We've had a lot of cooperation from the Republican National Committee. There are many people in Washington state at the Republican party who realize this is not something they want to have hanging over them. They want to get it resolved. So I'm hopeful and optimistic and confident that there are enough what I would call wise heads that will prevail. We'll get to the bottom of it. I think we all want transparency.
If you get beat, you get beat, but you want to make sure it's a fair, honest and up front, transparent election. It clearly is not if you just discard 13 percent of the ballots that haven't been counted.
KING: You are a conservative. Why are so many of your brethren so not forgiving of Senator McCain? Why won't they let him be what he says he is, a conservative?
HUCKABEE: Well, he is a conservative. But he angered many conservatives with the immigration bill that was believed to be a form of amnesty, his failure to support the human life amendment, his support for embryonic stem cell, opposition to ANWR; the McCain/Feingold campaign Finance Act is really a tough one to swallow. It has, I think, had some very detrimental effects on the overall electoral process in the country. His lack of support for Bush tax cuts -- It's those things he has done.
I don't think that causes him to not be a conservative. I'm going to be very fair to the senator. I think it would be a real stretch to say that he isn't. He has an 82 percent conservative rating with the American's Conservative Union. But he has angered conservatives with certain positions that he's taken and bills that he's sponsored, and there are clearly, you know, fences to mend.
KING: How, governor -- how do you win this? Lay it out for me how Mike Huckabee can win this nomination?
HUCKABEE: OK, a couple of things can happen. One, you may have some delegates that defect, people who are committed to somebody else who decide to go elsewhere when they're released. The main thing is that until somebody has 1,191 delegates, we don't have a nominee. Now other things could happen. Senator McCain could say something on any given day, as I could, that would end the campaign. Candidates are capable of having those moments.
The other thing that could happen is, if nobody gets 1,191, we go to the convention. That's when the delegates at the convention would actually pick their nominee. That's a possibility.
KING: What do you think of the other side of this? This Obama/Clinton race?
HUCKABEE: It's fascinating. A few months ago, I absolutely said there's no way that anybody but Hillary could win this thing. I have had to say, boy, I was as wrong about what was going on on their side as I was in predicting how things were going to shake out on our side. Everybody's predictions have been wrong. That's why when people say there's no way I can win this, why would I accept that, since the conventional wisdom and the absolute going to be has never been yet?
I think it could go to the wire. I think Obama has a real shot at getting the nomination.
KING: Any one of the two you would rather face?
HUCKABEE: I would like both of them to quit, frankly. I think both bring some interesting things. I really believe that in many ways Obama is going to be a formidable candidate because he's fresh. He's new. He excites people. He's an incredibly likable person. But if Hillary is able to present herself as a person who has been in the process longer, then that's going to be an advantage that she's going to have. I know Hillary very well. I know, obviously, President Clinton very well. I have great respect for them. Actually, they campaigned against me every time I ran for office in Arkansas. I know them very, very well. And I'll tell you something, if she's the nominee, it's a tough fight out there. Don't every underestimate the tenacity of the Clintons in an election.
KING: Would you be a vice presidential candidate?
HUCKABEE: I would rather be the presidential candidate. I'm really not even thinking about it. I doubt I'll be asked. That's not my goal. I know a lot of people want to speculate it. But it's like saying, would you be a co-host on somebody else's show? Right now, you have your own show. Why would you want to be somebody's co-host and occasionally sub? You wouldn't.
For the same reason, I'm not interested in being somebody's co- host right now.
KING: One other quickly, what do you expect, if anything, to win tomorrow?
HUCKABEE: We're having an amazing response in Virginia. That's where I am right now. I'm in Roanoke. I think we have a real shot at surprising people tomorrow. I'm not going to make some rash predictions for Maryland or District of Columbia or Virginia. I just know that there are a lot of people who want a candidate who has the chief executive experience, who has the stamina and capacity to lead, who has actually sat in the desk and made the tough decisions.
I'm the only non-senator now in the heart of this campaign. Senators typically just aren't the ones people -- when it gets down to it, they know they've never had the chief executive experience. I believe I have an advantage not having a Washington address, and being a governor, not a senator.
KING: Good luck, Mike. We'll be seeing you, as we say, down the road. You're always there.
HUCKABEE: Thank you so much, Larry. Pleasure Always. Good to be on the show.
KING: Governor Mike Huckabee. We'll be back with a panel to discuss it all right after this. Don't go away.
KING: Our panel to discuss all of this. Here in Washington, Paul Begala, the CNN political analyst, also a supporter of Hillary Clinton; Jamal Simmons, Democratic strategist, president of New Future Communications, and a supporter of Barack Obama; in Seattle, Michael Medved, the syndicated radio host, and a supporter of John McCain; and back here in Washington, Tim Hutchinson, the former Republican senator from Arkansas, a supporter of Mike Huckabee.
First, Paul Begala, what do you make of Mrs. Obama? PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What a home run. Somebody needs to maybe a button that says "Vote For Michelle's Husband." I support Hillary, but what a star. So poised. What struck me is she's been through all of this and she said I wasn't terribly surprised by either the good or the bad. Most people go through this the first time, they are not just surprised, they're freaked out. So she's got a real depth and poise to her that's really endearing, very impressive.
KING: Jamal, what did you make?
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I thought it was a great interview. She would make a great first lady. I think everybody sort of knows that. We'll see what happens the rest of this year. She's certainly helping the campaign move forward.
KING: Michael, what thinks the loyal opposition?
MICHAEL MEDVED, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Again, she's terrific. She's a potential candidate herself years from now. I would love to see her debate Bill Clinton. How about a first spouses debate?
KING: Well said. Senator Hutchinson, what do you think?
TIM HUTCHINSON, FMR SENATOR: Tremendously impressive individual. Clearly you hear her speak, not only is she articulate, you can imagine her in the White House. She's very impressive.
KING: That's four to nothing for her. What's going to happen tomorrow, Paul?
BEGALA: I do the think that the polls have often been wrong. I don't think they're wrong this time. I think Senator Obama has a commanding position in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia, which is probably his toughest state. He's got Tim Kaine, a very popular governor of Virginia and he is drawing massive crowds. I think he's going to win all three.
SIMMONS: He's also got Mark Warner's wife, who is helping to lead the Women for Obama effort in Virginia. That's going to be very helpful. I know the Clintons have been in there pretty strong today. But I think the campaign is on both sides know that Virginia is going to be pretty tough for the Clintons. The question is what the margins are going to be. Then we'll see what happens after that.
KING: Michael, what's going on?
MEDVED: Well, what's going on, obviously, is there's a huge surge of momentum for Obama. Here in Seattle, Barack Obama had one of the biggest political rallies in the history of the city. He had 20,000 people who came out with no notice. The interesting thing to me, and as a Republican it's one of those things that I would look forward to running against him in the fall -- on my radio show today, I said OK, you're one of the people out there who thinks Obama represents change, represents hope. Hope for what? Change to do what exactly? None of his supporters were able to say exactly. That's going to have to be defined.
KING: Tim, where stands Huckabee in all of this? Did he get robbed in Washington?
HUTCHINSON: Did he what?
KING: Did he get robbed?
HUTCHINSON: Clearly there's a big question mark over what went on in Washington. Any time you stop counting with 87 percent and it's only a 250 vote difference, that's not good at all. That will all be sorted out, I'm sure. As to the primaries tomorrow, you know, the polls don't look particularly good for Governor Huckabee. But none of the polls really reflect the surge that occurred, the bounce that the governor got out of Kansas and Louisiana, his tremendous performance over the weekend.
Some of the late, late polls show it closing. I think, as Governor Huckabee said, there could be some surprises.
KING: What does he have?
HUTCHINSON: He has -- you know, I've been in politics over 25 years. I've never seen anyone that can empathize and relate to people the way Mike Huckabee does. He has the humor. He has the wit. He's quick and articulate. But beyond all of that, there's this capacity to touch people. They sense that. They're important to him. He really does care.
Whether it's in Iowa, where he walks across the street to take thank somebody who is holding a sign up for him in the driving rain; whether it's speaking to a large crowd, there is something there that is almost magical in the way he connected with people.
SIMMONS: Larry, the one thing I think about Mike Huckabee, I think he taps into something that is very similar also to what Senator Obama has, which is that even though people may not agree with all of his issues, I think they really like this guy. They understand where he's coming from. They understand what he wants to do. He's not throwing hard elbows at anybody. He's out there selling his cause. People respond to that.
We've had eight years of George Bush. George Bush has been a divisive president. I think people thought they were signing up for one thing from the president, and they got something else. They got unending war. I think they're looking for somebody who they can at least have some sense of I know who you are and I know what you are going to do, and I like you a little bit.
KING: Have you ever seen anything like this?
BEGALA: No, certainly the cast of characters. I mean, come on. In the Republican party, it's their classical diversity, which is it's the old white guy against a middle-aged white guy. But they're not just that. Senator McCain is a certified war hero. Every American owes him a debt of gratitude for that. Governor Huckabee is a remarkable talent. I have an affinity for formerly fat governors of Arkansas from hope.
In our party, we're making history. Either we're going to have the first woman nominee or the first African-American nominee. It's all wonderful. I would caution one thing. Michael mentioned those crowds that Senator Obama is drawing in. They are impressive. But we in the media sometimes overreact to that because his demographic tends to be a lot of students and a lot of upper income folks who can take the time out to go to a rally.
Hillary always does better -- in fact, she carries every single income bracket below 50,000 dollars. Barack carries every single bracket above 50. So her working folks are usually under-represented at rallies or in the media.
KING: We'll pick right up with Michael Medved in a moment. First, let's check in with Anderson Cooper. He's in New York. I'll be back in New York tomorrow night to participate in all of our election coverage. What's up, Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, tonight politics, just as it is with you. The night before crucial primaries for Hillary Clinton in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., she is shaking up her staff, and as you'll see, bracing for a rough tomorrow.
Also tonight, the battle for super delegates; it is heating up. Tonight, what are they? Who are they? How might they change the entire outcome of this incredibly close campaign?
Plus, Mike Huckabee low on money but everywhere on TV. Why he's staying in the race and which Republicans don't mind that he's making things awkward for John McCain. All that ahead tonight. A big night for politics, Larry, at the top of the hour.
KING: We love it. Don't we, Anderson?
COOPER: Sure do, incredible.
KING: "AC 360" at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific. We'll be right back to get the comments of Michael Medved and more right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUCKABEE: When I hear people tell us what we cannot do, I want to say all it needs is the right motivation. Folks, we can do anything in this great country we want to do.
MCCAIN: I have lived my adult life with one purpose greater than all others, to keep America safe from all enemies foreign and domestic, and I will never tire of the honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: We're back. Michael Medved, I hope you remember what you were going to say.
MEDVED: I do. When Paul Begala was talking -- and he's right, of course, about the ground breaking nature of the Democratic candidates. There's something ground breaking about both of the remaining Republican candidates as well, which is they were both broke. These are guys who made it this far, both Mike Huckabee and John McCain, despite the fact that they were vastly outspent by better financed campaigns, particularly Governor Romney, but also Mayor Giuliani.
I think they did in the same way, which is based on straight talk. John McCain went to 100 different town meetings in New Hampshire. He was willing to argue with people and to talk with them. I think one of the things you find, and it's one of the reasons that McCain is being embraced belatedly by a lot of my brethren in the conservative movement, is because even where you may disagree with the guy, you know he's going to tell it as it is. He's going to tell you where he's coming from. And he's going to remain consistent and courageous. This means I think we're going to have a terrific battle against either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton in the fall.
KING: What, Jamal, has done it for your candidate?
SIMMONS: At the end of the day, I've seen a few of these presidential campaigns go by, and the one thing I think I have learned is it's almost always about the candidate. The candidates has to at some point click in, connect with the people and carry that campaign over the finish line. You can have a great campaign staff. They can do a lot of things for you. But if the candidate is not up for it, it's going to be tough.
I think this candidate, sometime last fall, October, November, he really just -- something clicked in him. He went out there, sort of like Michael Jordan in the last five minutes. Give me the ball. I just want the ball and I'll take the shot.
KING: Do you think it's more logical, Tim, that Mike Huckabee will be a vice presidential nominee?
HUTCHINSON: No, I don't think it's in the cards that he'll be asked to be a vice presidential nominee. I know that's not what he's angling for. That's not what he's working for.
KING: Do you think he still can pull this off?
HUTCHINSON: It's not mathematically impossible. It's daunting. You know, Senator McCain has to get 45 percent of those delegates to lock it up himself. He didn't do that well over the weekend. If you look back on those early primaries, only 10 percent of those primaries did John McCain ever exceed 50 percent of the vote. He was winning a lot of delegates because the conservative vote was divided up. I think it's going to be very interesting this one on one. KING: What's with Hillary, Paul? She had it racked up.
BEGALA: I think that was mistakes some of her advisers make. I've never heard her say this was inevitable, but a lot of her advisers did put out. That's kiss of death in the Democratic party. We hate the front-runner. This is a who has never had an instinct for the front-runner. She has always been for the under dog.
My goodness, she got a Yale Law Degree and signed up for with the Children's Defense Fund to help poor people. She followed her heart to Arkansas with a guy. A friend of mine drove her down there the whole way, saying, you're throwing your life away, honey. Don't do it. Don't marry this guy.
It wasn't Arkansas. It was the guy. But I think Jamal is -- you know, if Barack is Michael Jordan, and he may will well be, Hillary is Chrissy Evert. There are no unforced errors. She's not as glamorous. But, by golly, there are big problems facing this country, and she has the mastery of the substance. That's been her strength.
KING: Back with our remaining moments with Paul Begala, Jamal Simmons, Michael Medved, and Tim Hutchinson right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: And when I am president we will have the changes that will make us stronger and safer and smarter and fairer.
OBAMA: We will win the general election. And you and I together, we will go forward to change this country and change the world. Thank you, Maryland. I love you. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Paul Begala, if Hillary gets swept tomorrow, is she in big trouble?
BEGALA: She's in trouble, that's for sure. They got Wisconsin, where she ought to fight. She should make a stand in Wisconsin. But then come the two big ones on March 4th, which is Ohio and Texas, then April 27th is Pennsylvania. If she loses all three tomorrow, she'll have to win all three, I think, of Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. That's tough to do. But that's what she's going to have to do if she wants to win this.
KING: Michael, can McCain lose this?
MEDVED: Can McCain be blocked from getting a majority? Probably so. But I think it would be difficult. Look, the truth is the conservative movement is coalescing. Jeb Bush endorsed McCain today. Fred Thompson has come behind McCain. I think the Republican party is coming together, understanding this is going to be a challenging race, but understanding also that John McCain is the right man to represent all three pillars of the so-called stool of Reagan conservatism.
He is a fiscal conservative. He is a security conservative and he's also a social conservative.
KING: Jamal? Is it his to lose?
SIMMONS: John McCain's?
BEGALA: Not getting off that easy.
SIMMONS: No, I wouldn't say that at all. I think, as Senator Obama said himself, if you're name is Barack Obama, you're an underdog. At the same time, the Clintons are extraordinarily popular. They have a good team. I know a lot people who are in that campaign. I think that Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton -- you've got Chelsea Clinton out there -- all campaigning full time.
It's a triple threat, to keep the basketball analogy going. So I think the Clintons are very strong. She should do well in those big states. I think margin is going to be important because of the delegate count, but Barack Obama could pick off one of those big states. It's anyone's game.
KING: Mrs. Obama isn't exactly a detriment?
SIMMONS: No, she's going to help the ticket out.
KING: Tim, where do we go now with our man, Mr. Huckabee?
HUTCHINSON: Well, the real test of where conservatives are coalescing is not the endorsements, but where people are voting. If you look at Kansas and Louisiana last weekend, they're voting for Huckabee. I think there are an awful lot of people, as evidenced in those primaries, who say this race isn't over yet. They want an opportunity to cast their vote and make a choice. That's why Mike Huckabee's still in this race.
KING: Paul, are we well served here by four good people?
BEGALA: Oh, yes, absolutely. You think about the people who have even gotten out, the so-called second tier -- My party was Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden, any one of whom I would be proud to have as my president. In the Republican field, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, these are impressive people. I think the thing that we never talk about in the media is how really blessed we are in the country to have leaders like this coming up in such a difficult time.
KING: So you are optimistic no matter how it goes.
SIMMONS: I'm more optimistic if it's Barack Obama than Hillary Clinton.
MEDVED: This is a remarkable field. I agree with Paul completely. I think Governor Huckabee is a remarkable leader. He has built his entire campaign based on extraordinary performance in those televised debates, with no money at all. John McCain had a campaign that was dead. He brought it back from nowhere.
Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are remarkably gifted politicians, who will be extremely articulate advocates of the liberal point of view in what will be a clear choice election about the direction of the country.
KING: Thank you all very much for a sprightly conversation. Check out our newest podcast, Snoop Dogg at CNN.com/LarryKing. We've also got quick votes, transcripts and video clips too, all at CNN.com/LarryKing. Tomorrow night, we're on at Midnight Eastern, 9:00 Pacific with a special look at the Potomac Primaries. Now my man Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?
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