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CNN Larry King Live

Democrats Likely to Continue on Convention; Is McCain Now Attracting Conservatives?

Aired March 05, 2008 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, it's a whole new ball game. Clinton's hanging tough, Obama can't close it out and McCain clinches the top spot on the ticket.
Washington power hitters Bob Dole, Tony Snow and Dee Dee Myers are in the lineup.

We've got a deep political bench. So batter up, play ball.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin with an old friend, a frequent guest on this show in the history of this show, Senator Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican presidential nominee, the 1976 Republican vice presidential nominee. He was both majority and minority leader of the U.S. Senate. A decorated veteran of World War II, he's now special counsel to Alston & Bird.

It's good to have you back, Bob.

BOB DOLE, 1996 GOP PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Yes, Larry, good to see you.

KING: What's your read on this whole race so far, this Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton -- what's your overview?

DOLE: Yes, well, I -- you know, I've been watching it closely. Most of the excitement has been on the Democratic side, pretty obviously. And it's just a matter of time before McCain would rack up the nomination.

And I had a feeling going into Texas and Ohio that, you know, that Obama would win Texas and she would win Ohio and they'd maybe split Rhode Island and Vermont. But I think -- on the delegate count, I think he's only down about -- Obama is only down about four delegates from where he was before yesterday.

KING: Yes.

DOLE: So that's the -- and, you know, it's complicated. I watched CNN experts show us on the map how it's going to go on and on and on and on and it may be up end up in the hands of the super- delegates.

KING: All right, John McCain has got it all locked up. The president endorsed him today. You've worked with him in the Senate. First, tell us a little bit about his temper. There are stories that he's very short-tempered, hard to work with.

DOLE: Well, I don't know. I never found him hard to work with and I worked with John for 10 years. I was the Republican leader and he came to the Senate in 1987. And I left in the spring of '96.

And yes, he does have a -- you know, he does have a -- I guess you could say temper. But I always sort of rationalized that because the poor guy had been locked up in a little, you know, a space about as large as this table (INAUDIBLE) after about six years.

But he's been -- you know, he can control it. It's not a problem anymore. I can't remember ever having a, you know, any cross conversations with John McCain...

KING: OK, you had...

DOLE: We got along fine.

KING: You have had to select a vice presidential nominee in '96. You were a vice presidential nominee in '76. What or who should John McCain be looking for?

DOLE: You know, it's so early, I doubt if he's even looking. I remember in '96, we still weren't certain with four or five days to go. And all right, so one thing that McCain has is a lot of time to take a long, hard look.

He's obviously going to pick someone who's ready to do the job if anything should happen. That's true of either party. And I would assume someone younger than he is, somebody, you know, who probably knows the ins and outs of how the government works. There are a lot of good names out there and I don't want to start down the list because I don't think there is a list.

KING: All right, is his age a detriment? He'll be the oldest -- if elected, the oldest elected president ever.

DOLE: Well, I saw a recent poll -- and, of course, you know, we all watch these polls. And it said 88 percent didn't think age was a factor. And I think President Reagan addressed that in a debate with Vice President Mondale. He said, you know, I'm not going to make age an issue in this campaign. And there was a big difference.

If it's Hillary, and McCain, there's only about a 10 year spread. If it's Obama, it's about, what, 24 or 25 years. It might be more of an issue in that case. If it's Hillary -- Senator Clinton, excuse me -- and Senator McCain, I don't think it will be an issue at all.

KING: Are you surprised at how John McCain pulled this off?

DOLE: Oh, surprise is not -- I don't -- I can't think of the word. I mean I used to say well, my heart's with John McCain, but my head tells me it's not going to happen. Because here he was almost standing alone, he didn't have any money, he didn't seem to be going anywhere. And it kind of demonstrates the kind of guy he is and maybe the kind of guy the American people are looking for -- somebody who's determined and committed and never gives up and keeps on plugging, whether he's five percent or 10 percent or whatever he may be in the polls.

KING: With the fact that an unpopular president -- 28 percent at the last juncture -- endorsed him, a plus or a minus?

DOLE: Well, President Bush, you know, is very popular with the base that McCain needs. I think no doubt about it that President Bush's strong support is -- the support he has is coming from conservatives. And some of these same conservatives are the ones who have doubts about John McCain. So I think from that standpoint it's a plus.

Now, how much President Bush will do or how much he's going to be asked to do is another matter. And I think President Bush recognizes, you know, there are things he can do and probably things he can't do because of his standing.

KING: Why does the far right dislike John McCain so much?

DOLE: I don't know. I mean, I think if you're a purist -- I mean, immigration. But President Reagan initiated an immigration bill in 1986. We all voted for it. It granted amnesty to 3.7 million illegals. And I don't recall hearing a whimper.

So, you know -- and when Reagan was governor, he signed an abortion bill that increased abortions significantly. And I don't say that in criticism, because President Reagan was a great president. But I say it to have people understand that good men and women can change their minds for good reasons.

And my view is that John McCain is a mainstream conservative. He's not afraid to reach across the aisle. And some criticize that. It seems to me that it's necessary. Ronald Reagan used to tell me, as a leader, he said if you can get me 70 percent, take it. I'd rather have 80 or 90 percent, but if you can't get it, I'll take 70. So he understood.

KING: Yes.

DOLE: Sometimes you have to compromise. And, you know, we're probably going to be dealing with a Democratic Congress if he's elected. Maybe not, but it looks that way.

KING: We're going to take a break. When we come back, we'll ask the distinguished Bob Dole's thoughts on the Democrats and that race.

And as we go to break, I want to remind you that Senator John Kerry will be here tomorrow night, along with Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

We're back with Bob Dole, when LARRY KING LIVE returns.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's going to be the president who will bring determination to defeat an enemy and a heart big enough to love those who hurt. So I welcome you here. I wish you all the best. I'm proud to be your friend.



KING: We're back with Senator Bob Dole.

We're going to get his thoughts on the two Democratic nominees fighting for the nomination.

An appropriate question leading into it is an e-mail from Elana in Palm Bay, Florida: "Why do you think negative campaign tactics work, even though so many people say they don't like them?"

DOLE: I've never figured it out. I mean people would tell me we don't like negative campaigns. But they're effective. Negative ads are effective. And I can look back at my race in '96 and remember some of the -- what I thought were negative ads on Social Security and a lot of issues.

But they work. And I think the 3:00 a.m. Ad was a bit negative as far as Obama was concerned, but it was effective. I think it got people to thinking, now, who is the best qualified?

Is it Senator Clinton or Senator Obama? And as it turned out, the people who've made up their mind in the last couple of days, voted quite heavily for Senator Clinton.

KING: What's your read, Senator, on Hillary Clinton, the senator and the candidate?

DOLE: Well, I know her husband much better. We're good friends. And I know my wife works with Senator Clinton in the Senate. They have a good relationship. I've only met Senator Obama. But, again, my wife gives him high marks. He's a very decent, charismatic guy, no question about it.

I don't think anybody -- if you had asked somebody a year ago do you think this young guy from Illinois, you know, will be in a dead heat for the presidency -- or, in fact, he's ahead, the answer would have been no. I mean he's sort of become the pied piper of American politics -- a great speaker. He draws huge crowds. It's probably going to get pretty rough and tumble in the next 30, 40, 50 days.

KING: Is she, in your opinion, a good candidate?

DOLE: Oh, I think so. I mean I don't know how people define a good candidate. If you win, you're a good candidate. I've learned that.


DOLE: I've won and lost and I was always a good candidate when I won. But, you know, she does have seven years in the Senate. She was in the White House, first lady. She obviously had experience there as far as travel and dealing with some of the issues -- some not successfully, like health care.

But, you know, she can play the experience card. But, on the other hand, I think Obama would say well, it's not so much experience, it's somebody's judgment. It's your judgment that counts. It's not who picks up the phone, it's what do you say after you've picked it up.

And so, you know, they're both good candidates, no question about it. I mean it's going to be a tough, tough race in November.

KING: Is it a stretch or do you think there's a possibility that both could be on the ticket?

DOLE: Well, I've heard that speculation. I guess if they both can't be number one, that's probably going to be a problem. And he's leading in the popular vote. He's leading in the delegates by, what, about 100 delegates -- maybe 96. And he's probably going to win Wyoming Saturday and Mississippi next Tuesday.

And then there's a long wait for Pennsylvania. Then you have North Carolina and others. There's still 16 states out there. But I think it's a little -- I doubt -- I'm just guessing, as somebody who's been around awhile, that it's probably not going to happen.

KING: Is the economy the number one issue?

DOLE: No doubt about it. And the economy -- I remember getting a five page letter from Richard Nixon in 1994 telling me about my strengths and weaknesses. And the last paragraph of the letter was that if the economy is good, there's no way you can beat Bill Clinton.

Well, the economy was good. That may not be the only reason I lost, but it was certainly a factor. And the economy, if it doesn't improve, will obviously be a benefit to the Democratic candidate.

KING: And what about the turnout?

DOLE: Turnout again, you know, we've got an...

KING: It's amazing.

DOLE: We've got to shape up the party and, you know, get some enthusiasm. If you look at the money raising, the Democrats have raised -- I don't know, what, three or four to one money wise. And voter wise, a bigger turnout.

But, again, you've got these two very unusual candidates -- the first serious black candidate for president and the first serious woman candidate for woman. So, you know, history is going to be made here one way or the other. And for the first...

KING: We hope we can --

DOLE: ...the first time since Jack Kennedy, there will be a senator elected...

KING: That's right.

DOLE: the presidency.

KING: We hope we can call on you a lot in the days ahead.

Thanks so much. Always good -- good having you back again, Bob.

DOLE: Thanks, Larry.

KING: Senator Bob Dole.

Tony Snow and Dee Dee Myers joining us when we come back. See what the two former White House press secretaries from two administrations have to say about three candidates, next.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As a Democrat, you can't win the White House if you don't win Ohio. And I think I proved last night that Ohioans want to see me as the nominee. And that's what I intend to be.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We end up emerging with essentially the same delegate count that we had going in. And I feel confident that we're going to be able to go on to the nomination.



KING: It's a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE two former White House press secretaries.

In Washington, Tony Snow. He served as the press secretary to President George W. Bush. And he looks terrific.

And in San Francisco, Dee Dee Myers, who served under Bill Clinton, and is author of the new book "Why Women Should Rule the World. "

Tony, first, how are you?


KING: Are you under constant treatment or is there -- how does it work? SNOW: Yes, basically what I do is I take chemo pills five days a week and I do an infusion once every three weeks. So we're on what's called a maintenance dose. We're trying to keep the cancer in remission. And I'm feeling great, traveling around the country, giving a lot of speeches and enjoying myself.

KING: All right, we'll start with you and then to Dee Dee.

What do you make of this whole race? Give me your analysis.

SNOW: A couple of things. First, I love the fact that democracy has broken out. There was a sort of cynical planning behind the primary season this year. It was designed, really, on both parts, to get everything done by February 5th so you can raise your money and do your organization. And I actually like the fact that people are having to fight and scrape for votes.

The other thing is that, especially on the Democratic side now, you have the opportunity to see not only how the candidates react to changing charges and allegations from the two sides, but also changing events around the world. You get to see in real time how people who want to be commander-in-chief or chief executive are going to respond to changes rather than simply having sort of one list of speeches that are going to carry you through.

KING: Well put.

Dee Dee what's your overview?

DEE DEE MYERS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, PRESIDENT CLINTON: Gosh, I agree with everything Tony just said. It's remarkable how an open and contested process like we've had on both sides has really invested voters. And we've had not only a tremendous amount of interest, but huge turnout, particularly among Democrats as they evaluate the candidates.

And, Tony, as you -- I don't know about you, but as I travel around the country, I'm amazed to see how much people know. They sound like us, who live in Washington and are obsess about the details of these races. They know so much about it. They're turning out in big numbers and they're paying close attention.

As Tony said, they're watching how the candidates react not just to events within the campaign, but around the world. And I think it's great for the process.

KING: Tony, how good a campaigner will John McCain be?

SNOW: Well, you know, I think he's going to be a good campaigner mainly because McCain is a guy who's tenacious, he's vigorous, he's committed. The other thing that I think you're going to see on the Republican side -- I heard you asking Senator Dole about conservatives. A lot of conservatives are already sort of joining in with John McCain because they figure, look, he may not agree with us on everything, but he's going to be the Republican nominee and we'd really like to have a Republican president. So I think you're going to see a fair amount of energy there.

Some of the challenges for him are building a big organization, because, for many years, he's been the maverick. Now he's the establishment. That's going to be an interesting transition.

Then, at the same time, raising the money and pulling together all those activists who ultimately are going to be necessary.

You know, George W. Bush increased his votes between the 2000 and 2004 election by 11 million votes. You're going to have to figure out a way to get more and more voters out. As Dee Dee said, you've got an energized electorate, certainly on the Democratic side. Republicans are going to have to match it. And it's going to be -- so John McCain, obviously, is going to have that challenge.

KING: And what about the two Democrats, Dee Dee?

Who will be the better candidate, in your opinion?

MYERS: Boy, I think the country and particularly Democratic primary voters are still evaluating that. What's been so fascinating is that each time one of the candidates has appeared -- and particularly Senator Clinton -- at the brink of elimination, the voters have kind of said nope, let's slow it down. Let's keep the process going. Let's let them take another lap around the track here and see what we find.

I mean they've both proven themselves to be strong and resilient candidates. They both have responded to unexpected developments within their campaigns and within the campaign more broadly. They both had to sort of fight -- well, certainly Senator Clinton has shown that she can fight her way back. No one expected a week ago that she would win three states yesterday and by some pretty substantial margins.

So she's back in it. The delegate math still puts her at a slight disadvantage, but she is back in it. And this thing is going on.

SNOW: Yes.

KING: Tony, we have an e-mail question from Janet in Halifax, Nova Scotia: "Polls show Americans say they want change. Do you think that means change from George W. Bush? And, if so, how will his endorsement affect McCain?"

SNOW: Well, number one, people always want change when it comes to a presidential election. Change is the one constant in life. There are a lot of people who don't like the president. But, on the other hand, there are also a lot of people who have their questions about Democratic candidates.

And I think that's what's going to happen here is that the president will do whatever he can to support John McCain. And there are going to be constituencies where he's going to be important.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, the real question is are Democrats offering change or are they simply describing as change the same complex of policies they've been offering, in some cases, since 1932?

I think you're going to have an interesting clash of ideas. And, as Dee Dee and I both pointed out, I think the world is going to look different, both in terms of Iraq and Afghanistan, maybe the U.S. economy between now and election day. And that really is going to shape the kinds of things that are foremost in voters' minds when they go into the booth in November.

MYERS: Yes, well...

KING: John McCain assured me on this program a couple of weeks ago, Dee Dee, that this would be a race based on issues and there will be no dirty dealing. Do you believe that?

MYERS: Well, I believe John McCain is sincere about that and that his campaign will -- you know, they'll run tough comparative ads, but I don't think they'll go below the belt.

But, as we all know, it's not just about the campaigns themselves and what the candidates approve of and don't approve of. There's a whole world of additional organizations and 527 groups and independent expenditure organizations that can do whatever they want and don't coordinate with the candidates. And I think we've already seen some sort of nasty attack lines evolving.

One against Senator Obama is sort of is he American -- he doesn't wear a flag pin on his lapel, he has an unusual middle name, he doesn't put his hand over his heart when he sang the pledge.

So, you know, those aren't going to come from Senator McCain, but they're going to come.

So I think, you know, the candidates, I think, on both sides will try to keep it on the high ground. But, you know, we'll see how it evolves as (INAUDIBLE) go forward.

SNOW: Well...

MYERS: It's going to be tough.

SNOW: Dee Dee mentioned the 527s, Larry. And I think Democrats have a bigger problem with this than the Republicans. If you take a look at, taking out the (INAUDIBLE) -- "the General Betray Us ad," when General Petraeus was arguing in front of the United States Congress -- actually, testifying.

And, furthermore, they have been pulling the Democratic Party to the left of where it wants to be. It makes it more difficult for candidates when you have well-financed 527 and outside groups that are vocal, that are organized, that are making demands.

And I've got to say, this is a year where shrill people are making a lot of demands. And this is true on both sides.

MYERS: Right. SNOW: It makes it much more difficult for Democrats to do what they're going to need to do, which is really to try to move toward the middle to appeal to the real battleground, which is going to be Independent voters.

KING: But don't far right-wingers...

MYERS: But I think having...

KING: ...hurt McCain?

SNOW: Well, as I said, there are shrill people. But I don't think you've got the kind of organized clout on the Republican side that you do with MoveOn and some of these other organizations on the left. I just -- I don't think there's any parity there.

KING: I see.

Dee Dee?

MYERS: Yes, I think Democrats want to have a race on the issues, because the issues favor the Democrats in this cycle, which is interesting. If you ask voters who do you trust on the economy -- which is, we all agree, I think the number one issue -- by big margins they're saying the Democrats.

Tony might say they're old policies of the past, but they're actually the policies that voters are interested in. On health care, on Iraq -- how do we move forward on Iraq? Those are all issues that favor Democrats.

So if it's a campaign based on the issues and John McCain not only has to argue against the policies that people seem to like, he has to carry the legacy of the Bush campaign along with him, it's a tough (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Right.

MYERS: But, look, you know, no party can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory quite like we Democrats. So it's not settled.

SNOW: Well, I'll just...

MYERS: Not by a long shot.

SNOW: ...throw this in quickly. Actually, the Republicans think they got the better of the issues. When you have the 3:00 a.m. Ad, the question is who was willing to make the tough decision when it mattered on the surge?

There's only one person running who did that. And when you're talking about the economy, if you make the argument that Americans are going to better off if we set people against each other by income, class and raise taxes, that's a great debate.

And, by the way, Dee Dee, I love it because those are the key issues. They're going to be big differences. I don't think either of us ought to get cocky.

MYERS: Right.

SNOW: I think we ought to sit back and enjoy it.

KING: Boy, this is a...

MYERS: Hey, as I said...

KING: Let me get a break.

MYERS: one snatches defeat...

KING: Let me get a break.

Let me get a break, will you?


KING: You're getting a great preview of the race. Maybe these two people should run.


KING: We'll be right back with more. Don't go away.


CLINTON: The people of Ohio have said it loudly and clearly. We're going on. We're going strong and we're going all the way.



KING: We're back with Tony Snow and Dee Dee Myers. This first question, we'll start with Dee Dee. What do the Democrats do about the problem with Michigan and Florida?

MYERS: Boy, that's a tough one. I think for the moment, put it aside and let the primaries go on. See if there's a clear result after the next six or seven weeks, or seven weeks when we get to Pennsylvania. In the meantime, somebody ought to be thinking about what the options are. Of course, I think people are.

They can either count the result from the primaries that already happened, which seems incredibly unlikely. The officials there can ask for a do-over, which is a possibility. Or they can come up with some other kind of alternative. One way or another, it looks like that may be part of the equation in trying to solve this question of which of these candidates is going to be the Democratic nominee.

I never thought it would get here. This campaign has surprised me. Around every corner there's been a surprise. I think there's many more to come.

KING: Tony, how helpful is this clash between Clinton and Obama, how helpful is that to McCain?

SNOW: I don't see -- You know, the conventional wisdom is it helps him because Democrats are pitted against each other. But I'm going to combine this with a question you asked earlier, who's the strongest candidate? This is what the primary season's all about.

I love it when people on the sidelines say, I'd rather run against Hillary, or I'd rather run against Senator Obama. Whoever is going to emerge from this is going to be the stronger candidate. I have that faith.

So if I were a Republican, I'd be figuring out how to get your act together, rather than sitting around and sort of hoping Democrats are going to destroy each other. Because, like, Democrats have not been in the White House for eight years and they want to do it. And I think there's going to be a lot of energy and momentum once you get a Democrat as the established nominee of the party.

And yes, there may be a lot of fights between the Obama and Clinton factions between now and the convention or whatever. But I think if I'm a Republican, I don't even bother with the question of whether this is good or bad for me.

You've got enough work to do on your own, organizing campaigns in 50 different states, getting the money ready, getting your own people enthusiastic, sharpening your arguments and getting ready for what's going to be a tough, hard-fought campaign. I do think it's going to be on the issues. It's going to be enormously important for the country. So it's an interesting question. But --

KING: Well said. Dee Dee are you going to be involved in the campaign?

MYERS: I'll try to be helpful to whoever the Democratic nominee is in whatever role I can play. I'm not going to do it full-time. It's not what I'm doing in this chapter in my life. I'm out here flogging a book. I'm enthusiastic.

I'd be very satisfied with either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton as the standard bearer of this party. I think most Democrats feel that way. I think the party's going to come together, as it always does. It's going to continue to be one heck of a good ride.

KING: Tony, you going to be involved?

SNOW: I know I'm going to be giving some speeches and I'll be going around talking about things that I think are important. I haven't quite figured out what the role's going to be. I haven't really gotten calls from the McCain campaign. But, yes, I'm going to try to throw in my two cents worth, and if people want me to help them, I'll be happy to do it.

KING: You miss the job, Dee Dee?

MYERS: I don't miss the lifestyle. There's certain things about the job that I miss. You know, it's fun being in the white hot center of it. It's fun sort of being in the middle of history unfolding on a regular basis. It's fun to help try to move the country in a direction you think is positive and good for the American people. I know Tony feels the same way.

You know, it's a demanding job. The hours are long. And that's OK. But it's just -- you know, it takes a lot out of you. So I think each of us does it for a chapter, then we move over and let somebody else have a shot at it. It changed my life. It was a great job. It was a wonderful opportunity, and I'll always be grateful to the president, President Clinton.

KING: Dee Dee's new book is "Why Women Should Rule the World." Tony, do you miss --

MYERS: Very subtle.

KING: Do you miss the White House?

SNOW: I do and I don't. I love the job. I've never had more fun or drawn more satisfaction from any job I've ever had in my life. But the one thing you learn when you work in the White House, and this is a valuable lesson I got working in the first Bush White House, is if you're staff, you're a temporary worker. You've got to realize that the place is not about you.

It's a magnificent institution. Others can fill your place and will. So what you want to do is enjoy every day, every moment, every challenge, which I did. And at the end of it you look back without regret, but instead with a sense of joy and pride, because you got to do something not many people get to do. And it is one of the most wonderful, exciting, fun, fulfilling jobs. I loved it.

KING: Thank you both very much, Tony Snow and Dee Dee Myers. I tell you both, honestly, we miss you. When we come back, another former press secretary Ari Fleischer will join us, along with Katrina Vanden Heuvel and Ron Reagan to form the panel that fills out the show, next. Don't go away.


OBAMA: We can stand up with confidence and clarity to say that we are turning the page and we are ready to write the next great chapter in America's story.



KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.

Spritely show tonight. We now welcome in Seattle Ron Reagan, political commentator. He is a registered independent. In New York is Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of "The Nation," I'd imagine a liberal Democrat. And in Washington Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush.

Ron Reagan, we'll begin with you. I know yesterday must have surprised you.

RON REAGAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A little bit. A little bit. But you know, I'm not too nervous about the fact that this is going to go on. I think there's a lot of excitement in the Democratic party. I think that's good for them. A lot of new voters are being brought in. On the whole, would you rather have your nominee if you're a Democrat now? Maybe.

But on the other hand, it keeps them in the news. It keeps Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on page one of the newspaper every day, while John McCain is going to drift back to page seven or so because the story's just not with him anymore for the weeks to come anyway.

KING: How do you look at it, Ari?

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think the key now for John McCain is to actually be interesting, to come out with policy positions, to make interesting speeches about the direction he'd take America so he keeps sounding presidential, lofty, White House-like. While Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have to be much more political. That's John McCain's opening here.

But Larry, unbelievable, remarkable; I can't see how this does not go to the convention anymore for the Democrats. It's gone on that long. Because of did proportionate representation, I don't see anything changing.

KING: Katrina, doesn't it look like we're going to a brokered convention in Denver?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, "THE NATION": -- and shown pollsters and pundits to be wrong on almost every count, from McCain's dead candidacy to Hillary Clinton's out of it, now back in it. I think what is so important, and Ron spoke to this, is this is an exhilarating race, where people for the first time in many years are engaged, are citizens and participants, not just spectators.

What is crucial, and this isn't just a procedural question, is that this epic race be decided, the nomination, Democratically, and with legitimacy. And that means that the super delegates, and let's abolish them after this cycle, follow the popular verdict, the voters' verdict. And I think Howard Dean and the state legislators in Florida and Michigan need to think very hard, very soon, about rescheduling elections, primaries in those states.

They may help Hillary Clinton. But we need to think hard about the dysfunctionality of that and move forward with a legitimate ending. Because otherwise, to manipulate party rules, to thwart the popular will, you will see disillusionment, anger against whoever is the nominee.

REAGAN: Larry, Katrina is absolutely right. The worst nightmare for the Democratic party is going to the convention, where let's say Barack Obama has a 150-delegate lead, has won the most states, won the most popular vote, and somehow coming out of a back room Hillary Clinton emerges, because of the super delegates, emerges as the nominee.

You're going to have a lot of disillusioned Democrats. They've got to get this system together. And Katrina is absolutely right, this super delegate thing is nonsense and needs to go.

KING: Ari, what do you think?

FLEISCHER: Here's what I think happens next on the Democrat side; Barack Obama will win the next two contests, the Wyoming caucuses and the Mississippi primary. Then you have the great six- week lull until April 22nd when Pennsylvania votes.

Then Larry, eight states, including Puerto Rico after that that have yet to be heard from. And because, again, proportionate representation, I don't think it stops. Obama wins the next two.

Even if Hillary wins Pennsylvania without any kind of great margin, you don't get to 50 percent of those who remain. And this is the great issue the Democrats have. They like both their candidates and that is the strength for the Democrats.

It's not as if you have a liberal Democrat versus a conservative and it's a fight for the soul of the party. It's really two stylistically different people who represent different eras, different schools of thought about how Democrats should talk and operate.

They could get that back together if they do their job right as Democrats. The problem is it will go on so long. This is unprecedented in modern times.

HEUVEL: I'm not sure, but what I think is important, Larry, is that the issues be debated. We have seen in the last week some really -- I know negative campaigning is a part of our American political life, but Obama needs to learn how to counter-punch in his own way.

But the fear mongering of that red phone ad -- you know, Hillary Clinton has run a good campaign in many ways. But I think the Democrats do themselves a disservice, if they're going to fight over security on that ground.

We've had enough fear mongering in this country. The Democrats deserve a better debate about how this end this war and end wars through tough diplomacy, multi-lateral negotiations, and how to use the money that has been wasted to rebuild our country and bring our men and women home responsibly. Those are debates that need to be had. Not just fear, fear, fear.

KING: Hold it right there.

We'll be coming back to all three in just a moment. We'll take a portion of that moment to check in with Anderson Cooper, the host of "AC 360" at the top of the hour, who I think might be talking about the same thing tonight.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. At the top hour, Larry, on 360, breaking news about the Democratic race for president. Congressional delegations from Florida and Michigan just had a last- second, late-night meeting on Capitol Hill to discuss whether revotes should be held in their states.

You've just been talking about it. You'll remember the first time around the votes in Florida and Michigan, the states did not count. Needless to say, if the redo happens, it could dramatically shape who becomes the Democratic nominee.

We're just getting details of the results of the meeting. We'll bring them to you at the top of the hour.

Plus, we'll examine up close what exactly happened last night and on the campaign trail today? The Clinton campaign saying today it's their team who now has the momentum. But does the pure math still stack up against her? We're digging deeper. All that plus John McCain's White House meeting with President Bush. 360 at the top of the hour.

KING: That's Anderson Cooper, "AC 360," 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific. We'll be right back, don't go away.


CLINTON: Americans don't need more promises. They've heard plenty of speeches. They deserve solutions and they deserve them now.

OBAMA: I will not allow us to be distracted by the same politics that seeks to divide us with false charges and meaningless labels. In this campaign, we will not stand for the politics that uses religion as a wedge or patriotism as a bludgeon.


KING: Take a call for our distinguished panel.

Santa Monica, California, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. All right, I just want to say that didn't Saddam Hussein say that he was lying about weapons of mass destruction, and Bush of course would be the reasonable -- would have the intellect to take him for his word? And why is John McCain having such a hard time getting most Americans on board? It doesn't make sense. What's going on here?

KING: I don't understand the question but maybe Ari Fleischer does.

FLEISCHER: I think what he's referring to is "60 Minutes" ran an interview with the FBI interrogator who questioned Saddam. Saddam said he did send out visibly, publicly, every indication he could that he had weapons of mass destruction in order to deceive Iran.

I think that's what he's referring to. I always thought that was a notable admission because our intelligence of course picked up things like that, Saddam's statements. It also reminds me that the liar here was Saddam and the United States, George Bush, and Bill Clinton before him, all had good reason to believe he did have weapons of mass destruction. Saddam said it and people picked it up.

HEUVEL: I think what we know on this anniversary of the invasion of Iraq is that this is perhaps the greatest strategic blunder in U.S. foreign policy history --

KING: Hold it Katrina --

HEUVEL: Has cost this country perhaps three trillion dollars according to Nobel Prize winning --

REAGAN: I can debate the Iraq war here if you want to, but I'm not sure that's where you want to go.

KING: I can ask, though, how big is Iraq in this election?

HEUVEL: John McCain's going to make it big. Sorry.

REAGAN: John McCain, Katrina's right -- John McCain, that's his calling card here. He's pretty much stuck with it. So what happens in Iraq is going to have a big impact on how John McCain's prospects pan out for him.

If things start going south in a big way in Iraq, John McCain's not going to look too good with his support of the surge and the surge isn't working. On the other hand, if things pan out, then advantage McCain, I suppose.

HEUVEL: It's a deeply unpopular war.

KING: Hold it. Katrina, wait until I call on you.

HEUVEL: Sorry, Larry.

KING: Ron, isn't the public still against it?

REAGAN: Yes, it is. In a broader sense -- and Katrina was I'm sure about to say this and I'll let her say it -- in a broader sense and a deeper sense, the war is still a very heavy thing for the public. The public is against the war by 70 percent I think now. So in the overall sense, advantage Democrats.

However, tactically and in the smaller sense if things -- violence is tamped down in Iraq, temporarily at least, the small advantage to McCain.

KING: But Katrina, the economy's going to be the big one, isn't it?

HEUVEL: Yes, I mean just link to Iraq for a moment, Larry. This country can't afford a ten-year quagmire occupation of Iraq. John McCain has talked about 100 years in Iraq. The economy, Larry, you're right. It is the central issue for Americans who are feeling insecure, who haven't felt any of the great prosperity in this nation in these last years, when we haven't had shared prosperity. You're looking at foreclosure rates in parts of this country approaching Depression-era rates.

John McCain has said he doesn't really care that much about the economy and I think that's a big demerit and a problem for the Republicans and John McCain, as we head into this election.

KING: He'll change that though.

San Francisco on the phone, hello.

CALLER: Hi, yes, Larry, thank you. My question is for any one of the three panelists. My question is this; in light of what we're seeing with, for instance, with Texas, where one Democratic candidate very well may have won a primary, while another might win the caucus, and also the question surrounding super delegates and our electoral system in general, when we get to the general election, that is. Do you foresee any changes to the election process, or any election reform, because of what we're experiencing during this cycle?

REAGAN: It would be nice if there were changes. We could do away with the electoral college, for one. We could stop with the caucuses and have primaries. Caucuses are out of a Banana Republic scenario.

KING: Why do we still have the electoral college, Ari?

FLEISCHER: Because it's in the constitution and it's very hard to change the constitution. The history of our country shows it's largely worked. People don't want it necessarily. There hasn't been a groundswell for it. Go to a popular vote system, where really only the largest states get the most representation and smaller states get short shrift.

HEUVEL: I don't think the electoral college worked in 2000.

FLEISCHER: I think security does remain interesting and important always. I think it's a little deeper than what we previously discussed. While Iraq is unpopular and that's particularly playing itself in the Democrat primary, I think a lot of Americans, despite Iraq being unpopular, think if the phone rings at 3:00 a.m., they like John McCain to answer it.

So it's much deeper than just is Iraq popular or not? National security is really a measure of would the president protect us from all threats, including what's happening in Iraq, and that's one of the reasons John McCain is doing so well.

HEUVEL: It's how you protect -- it's how you protect, Ari.

KING: Take a break and be right back with this panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE, don't go away.


MCCAIN: So stand up with me, my friends. Stand up and fight for America, for her strength, her ideals, and her future. Contest begins tonight.



KING: Katrina, John Edwards has 26 delegates. They might be important, won't they?

HEUVEL: You know, I wonder why John Edwards dropped out when he did. I think he was a great force in this race. He channeled issues of inequality and poverty and the middle class in important ways.

But I think people are still waiting to see if he might endorse. I don't know if that number of delegates plays such a big role. If he hadn't dropped out, he might have had more to play with. But his message was crucial.

KING: Ari, is this going to be a clean race?

FLEISCHER: I think it is, especially if it's Barack Obama versus John McCain. They both have a record of trying to stress a different way of running, the maverick streak and the rise above it streak. Senator Clinton, I think, is a little more of the old school and the Clinton family has been through a lot of rough stuff and given it pretty rough and taken it pretty rough.

But there's a real weariness. That's one of the reasons Barack Obama's style has caught on. People are tired of it. It would be nice to have an election that lifted everybody up.

KING: Do you miss the White House?

FLEISCHER: No, Larry. I miss the president. There are days -- I miss Air Force One when I hear number 11 for takeoff at La Guardia. You don't miss the hours, the pressure, the pace. I have a four-year- old, a two-year-old, a wonderful wife, I like seeing them.

KING: Ron Reagan, do you want to make a prediction on who's going to come out the Democratic nominee?

REAGAN: I predict Barack Obama will still have the most pledged delegates when they get to convention. Beyond that, I couldn't tell you.

KING: We only have 20 seconds. Katrina, do you want to make a prediction?

HEUVEL: I predict that Barack Obama will have the pledged delegates. As I said, our Democratic system needs legitimacy. We're at a moment where too many of our institutions don't have that. So let's end this historic race with a nomination process that is true to Democratic principles. KING: Ron Reagan, Katrina Vanden Heuvel and Ari Fleischer, we thank them all very much for being with us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Check out CNN's number one page, You can email upcoming guests, send us an I Ask question, or download our latest podcast. We're online 24/7 at

Tomorrow, the political discussion continues. We're on top of it. Plus, the debate over what causes autism. Could childhood vaccinations be responsible in some way? A development expected tomorrow. We'll have exclusive interviews.

Now here's Anderson Cooper and "AC 360."