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Congressional Black Caucus to Urge Obama to Support Clinton for VP; Commuters Reaction on Obama's Historic Win; McCain's Challenge: Obama Links McCain to Bush
Aired June 04, 2008 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning. One of Hillary Clinton's most adamant supporters is putting the pressure on Barack Obama to make Hillary Clinton his vice presidential running mate. Billionaire Bob Johnson says it needs to be done for the sake of party unity, and he is now petitioning the Congressional Black Caucus to urge Obama to select Clinton as his running mate. Bob Johnson is the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. He's also the founder of Black Entertainment Television, and he joins me now live from Washington.
Bob, it's good to see you this morning. Thanks for being with us. If I can quote --
BOB JOHNSON, FOUNDER, BET: John, it's good to be here.
ROBERTS: If I can quote from the letter that you sent to Congressman James Clyburn whom we had on yesterday after he decided to back Barack Obama as a superdelegate, you say, "I, as a longtime supporter of Senator Clinton and of the Democratic Party, urge you to do everything possible to unify this party to win the presidential election in November. For me and millions of other Democrats, I believe that the most important step that you can take now is to encourage the Congressional Black Caucus to urge Senator Obama to select Senator Hillary Clinton as his vice presidential running mate."
The first question I have, Bob, is does she know that you're doing this?
JOHNSON: Before I answer that question, John, let me first of all, congratulate Senator Obama on this historic victory. And I believe that if Senator Obama leads this country the way he ran the primary, it will become a historic event for African-Americans, probably greater than the Emancipation Proclamation which was signed in 1863.
It's the significance of his election that's so important and therefore, having him elected in November, not just the Democratic nominee is absolutely paramount.
Now, to your question about, does Senator Hillary Clinton know what I'm doing? Absolutely. I talked with the senator, told her what I was doing. She didn't direct me to do it, but she certainly knows that I am doing it.
I have been in touch with her all the way in my thinking about how we can move this country in a unified way, and she's prepared to be a part of that unity.
ROBERTS: So when you say she's prepared to be a part of that unity, is she prepared to accept a slot on the ticket as the vice presidential running mate should it be offered to her?
JOHNSON: Well, John, Senator Clinton has said often that her most important thing is to deal with the key issues that affect the Democratic Party and affect the American people. And she is prepared to do that any way the party asks her to do. If the party asks her to be a part of electing Obama, she is going to work just as hard to get Obama elected as president as she worked as hard to seek the nomination during the primaries.
ROBERTS: But, Bob, obviously, she didn't say -- obviously, she didn't say to you, no, don't do this. I mean, that would be an indication that she would entertain the idea and would probably like the idea.
JOHNSON: Well, there's no question that Senator Clinton will do whatever she's asked to do for the party. And she would certainly, as she said, to some of the New York delegation, entertain the idea if it's offered.
But where I'm coming from is I believe Barack Obama can beat John McCain with another vice president. But I think if you want a unified Democratic Party and this absolute certainty that these two dynamic leaders bring to the Democratic Party, we have the best chance of winning with Senator Obama at the top of the ticket, Senator Clinton as his vice president.
You can't find in a historic election two more dynamic, inspiring people who could lead this country and lead the Democratic Party for years to come. And I think it would be most important when you have this historic election of an African-American potentially on the verge of being the first president, and a female being the first vice president, I think the history almost compels these two people to get together. And I hope they do.
ROBERTS: So let me just reiterate the point, Bob, that she knows what you are doing. She may not have officially sanctioned it, but she knows what you were doing. Does she want the vice presidential running mate slot?
JOHNSON: I think Hillary Clinton wants to serve the Democratic Party as she's done for many years the best way she can.
ROBERTS: Right, but does she want to do it as the -- does she want to do it as the running mate?
JOHNSON: I think Senator Clinton and Senator Obama are going to get together at some point in the near future and talk exactly about that question, John.
ROBERTS: Right. JOHNSON: And this is a decision that Senator Clinton has to make, a decision that Senator Obama has to make as to who he wants as his vice president.
JOHNSON: What I'm doing is saying there were Congress people on Senator Clinton's side on the caucus. There were Congress people on Senator Obama's side of the caucus. What I've said to Congressman Clyburn is what we want is to have the best team on the field. I think the best team on the field is Senator Obama at the top and Senator Clinton as vice president.
ROBERTS: Let me ask you, Bob, about the timing of this. You're doing it at 7:00, the day after he went over the finish line. Some people might say that by getting out this publicly on it, by going to Congressman Clyburn on it, you are trying to limit his options for who he can pick as a running mate. Almost forcing him to take Hillary Clinton.
JOHNSON: Not at all, John. In fact, let me correct something you've been saying. My letter was not a pressure letter. My letter was an urge and an encouragement.
As I said before, Senator Obama will make the decision based on what he thinks is in the best interest of the person who can help him win the election, and most important, the person who can help them best govern when he is elected president. So this is Senator Obama's decision.
What I've asked members of the Congressional Black Caucus, many of whom I know and many of whom I support, is that we were on both sides of the primary party. Hillary Clinton supporters, Barack Obama supporters. If the caucus members can come together and agree as I do that it would be in the best interest of the party to have Senator Clinton on the ticket, they carry that petition to Senator Obama.
JOHNSON: This is not a pressure. This is elected officials giving their best judgment. And Senator Obama is an excellent judge of making decisions as witnessed by his successful campaign. He will make that ultimate decision as is his right. And I'm certain that I, along with Hillary Clinton, will get behind him, whether or not she is on the ticket or not.
We've both been Democrats long before Hillary was first lady, long before I met Senator Clinton, long before I met Senator Obama.
ROBERTS: Bob --
JOHNSON: I've been a Democrat, and Democrats will rally around Senator Obama in November.
ROBERTS: Bob, it's no secret that Congressman Clyburn was quite upset about what former President Bill Clinton did in South Carolina back around the time of the primary there. Is she concerned about repairing relationships with the black community?
JOHNSON: Well, you know, John, a lot of things were said in the passion of a primary, both on Obama's side and Senator Clinton's side. And this is no time to look back at that primary fight. What we need to look for is how do we best beat John McCain.
JOHNSON: Senator Clinton has been working tirelessly for all of her life to be a leader of the Democratic Party. President Clinton has been working, as you know, as the president, created a dynamic economy and made tremendous opportunities for African-Americans. I don't think any of these candidates, Obama, Clinton or President Clinton, are concerned about repairing images. Our images will be repaired when we put Senator Obama in the White House as a unified ticket.
ROBERTS: So, Bob, if I could, just maybe a one-word answer here to put a button on it, if she were asked to be Senator Obama's running mate, she would say --
JOHNSON: Senator Clinton would say I will do everything I can to help you get elected.
ROBERTS: All right.
JOHNSON: And if I could do that by serving as your vice president, I will do that.
ROBERTS: So she would say yes then?
JOHNSON: It's her decision.
ROBERTS: All right.
JOHNSON: But I'll tell you, if she asked me, I would urge her to do so.
ROBERTS: All right. Bob Johnson, thanks very much for being with us this morning. Good to see you. Thanks, Bob.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: John Roberts must have been a Boy Scout because he just didn't give up on Bob Johnson there.
Suzanne Malveaux, OK, help me out. Let's play the words, the Bob Johnson word game here.
What does Hillary Clinton want, do you think? And what your sources are telling you, what are they telling you about? Would she say yes? Bob is saying she would entertain the idea but --
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure, sure.
PHILLIPS: But would she take it?
MALVEAUX: It seems obvious that the signal is that she would take it. I mean, the one thing that she is working on here is establishing a legacy for her campaign. It was historic in the sense that she was the first woman who got this far. But beyond that, she wants to feel and do something that makes a difference here.
It's obvious that she still feels that she is the stronger candidate, and that's not going to change. She also equally feels that Barack Obama cannot win without her. It's something that she believes deeply and passionately. It's also something the superdelegates, those who have supported her, have said quietly.
So that's why she feels that she needs to bring this forward and make the case very, very strong to be the number two. Now, if that doesn't happen, then she has to kind of figure out what is her role as a surrogate to the party. How aggressively does she campaign for Barack Obama?
I thought it was interesting that Bob Johnson said that if she is not made the offer, if she doesn't get this offer, that they would still campaign for Barack Obama. How aggressively, we still don't know.
PHILLIPS: And John asked the question, too, to Bob Johnson, you know, are you pressuring Obama to take Hillary Clinton as your VP? And he used the words, I'm urging him, I'm encouraging him, he said, but in no way would I pressure Obama. But in a way, there's some pressure going on here.
MALVEAUX: Well, yes. I mean, it's all semantics, I think at this point because you have kind of a back channel, the informal campaign for her to become the number two. And now, you have Hillary Clinton who made it public yesterday, which I thought was very significant floating that idea publicly.
That really -- and the timing of it all really does put pressure on the Obama campaign within days to respond. At the very least, take some of the spotlight off of him and puts it back on her. What are we going to do about Hillary Clinton?
ROBERTS: It's almost like Kerry/Edwards in 2004, where the Edwards campaign pretty much forced John Kerry to take him on?
MALVEAUX: That's right. And one other thing, they talked to one of the Clinton supporters this morning who said what she does in the next 48 hours is just as much a test of her leadership than what she did the last year and a half.
PHILLIPS: We got to remember, too, they're not best friends. They're still contentious relationship going on there.
MALVEAUX: It's a lot worse.
PHILLIPS: Suzanne, thanks.
ROBERTS: Thanks. It's 10 minutes after the hour. Sixteen months after launching his quest for the White House, Barack Obama is claiming victory as the Democrats' nominee. Coming up, a man who has been with Obama since the beginning, his communications director, Robert Gibbs, on Obama's victory and where the campaign goes next.
PHILLIPS: We're also going to speak with someone from John McCain's corner about what we can expect from a McCain versus Obama campaign.
ROBERTS: And waking up to a new day. Our Richard Roth is talking to the man on the street about the historic night in American politics. Hey, Richard.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm in the station in New York. A lot of these trains headed to Washington, as one of the candidates will be. We've been sampling reaction from commuters, American history made, and we'll have it next on AMERICAN MORNING.
PHILLIPS: Waking up to a new day in America. Richard Roth catching up with commuters and getting their reaction about Obama's historic night. Richard, did everybody stay up late?
ROTH: Some people didn't stay up late. Some people still haven't woken up here. I was here four months ago after Super Tuesday getting reaction. Let me tell you, it seems like some of these people are still waiting for trains. But the reaction, very interesting as I talk to morning commuters.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't really care for him. I was a Hillary person.
ROTH: Would you vote for him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I would not.
ROTH: You'd vote for McCain?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just don't think America is ready for a black president.
ROTH: But that's (INAUDIBLE) your vote.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd rather have -- I would rather see a woman in office than to see Obama. That's my personal choice, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got mixed emotions. I'm happy, but I want Hillary.
ROTH: So will you vote for Obama?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, definitely.
ROTH: No second thoughts?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. We can't have McCain in office.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've seen that last night, and I am just so tickled. I love it. I was so pleased to see that.
ROTH: That woman did not want Hillary Clinton to be Barack Obama's vice president. In our highly unrepresented sample this morning, Kyra, there was mixed opinion about whether Hillary would make a dream ticket with Obama -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Richard Roth, we'll continue talking to you throughout the morning. Thanks -- John.
ROBERTS: Barack Obama makes history after a long primary battle against Hillary Clinton. We're going to take a closer look at the exit polls to see what he still needs to do to go all the way to the White House.
And unity is the word of the day in the Democratic Party. Can Hillary Clinton deliver states as the number two on the ticket? We'll break it all down at the magic wall ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
PHILLIPS: It's been a late night and an early morning for our John Roberts. Why? Because not only are we doing AMERICAN MORNING, but he's been doing the magic wall all throughout the evening.
ROBERTS: The fabulous magic wall.
PHILLIPS: What have -- let's start -- shall we start with Obama?
ROBERTS: Well, let's start with the primary season and we'll show you what he won, what she won.
ROBERTS: Then we'll go to how that might play in the general election and what she might bring to the table if Bob Johnson's appeal...
PHILLIPS: If she becomes VP.
ROBERTS: ... to James Clyburn, you know, carries some weight, and Barack Obama chooses her as a running mate.
PHILLIPS: OK. ROBERTS: First of all, let's take a look. Here's what Barack Obama won. He's the dark blue here. So he won that whole swathe of the northern plains and the west with the exception of South Dakota here. And he also won a whole bunch down here through the south. All right.
So just keep that in mind because we're going to transpose that. We're going to go to the electoral college map and draw on that again.
PHILLIPS: Which, by the way, we've been hearing about delegates, delegates, delegates.
PHILLIPS: Now, this is what we're going to be talking about from this point on, right?
ROBERTS: All right. So, here's what he won. Let's just mark that out again like that. That's what he won there. And that's what he won here.
Now, this is very important because you'll notice that for the most part, this is all red. This was won by President Bush in 2004, and Barack Obama would like to make some inroads here in the 2008 election.
So how does the whole thing shape up? Let's do a side by side comparison.
John McCain, who we're going to start with, the number of electoral votes that George Bush had in 2004, Barack Obama the number of electoral votes that John Kerry had in 2004.
So Barack Obama takes a look at the map here. Let's light it up. Here's the swing states. All right. So Barack Obama is taking a look at the map.
PHILLIPS: Where do I need help, right?
ROBERTS: First of all, he's taking a look at what can I win. He's saying, well, you know, we've got a Democratic governor here in Virginia with its 13 electoral votes. There was amazing turnout for him, particularly among African-Americans in the central part of the state. So maybe I can take that one away from the Republicans and put it in the Democratic column.
I also did well in Iowa. Remember he won the caucuses there. Perhaps he can turn that one. He also won Colorado and while Hillary Clinton narrowly won New Mexico, the fact that they've got a Democratic governor there, Bill Richardson, may put that one in the win column for him as well.
Now, John McCain could come along and say, hey, well, I did -- I do well among white working class voters, maybe I can take back Pennsylvania, because Barack Obama, you weren't so strong there. And there is a Republican governor here in the state of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, maybe we can grab Minnesota.
So Barack Obama is saying, well, I need some help in some of the states. What if Hillary Clinton were to come along now and help me out?
PHILLIPS: Where could she have the biggest impact?
ROBERTS: She could have an impact here in Pennsylvania. Hanging on to Pennsylvania, she could have an impact here in Ohio. Governor Ted Strickland, the Democrat, she did very well in Ohio. And maybe she could even pull off a win in Arkansas. So you take those --
PHILLIPS: How's that change the numbers?
ROBERTS: Well, you put them side by side here, and you've got a whole lot of states that are suddenly in the Democratic win column. Let's color those all the same color, take the swing states off.
So we've got this one, this one, this one, because she may take back Minnesota. Here, here, here, here and here. And suddenly, take a look.
ROBERTS: Barack Obama has got 312 electoral votes to John McCain's 226. Such a margin of victory that they could afford to lose Minnesota. They could probably even lose Ohio back again and still be past that 270 to win.
So this is why people are making the argument that Hillary Clinton would be a good running mate for him because she can bolster him in some states where he's showing some weakness. Now, there are arguments that Barack Obama would be just as strong in those states in a general election as she was in the primary. But the Clinton campaign, those who would like to see her as vice president saying he could help her, or she can help him where he's weak and put them over the top this November.
PHILLIPS: And we're going to be talking to Robert Gibbs, communications director for the Obama campaign, coming up. We'll put these numbers to him, see what he thinks.
ROBERTS: It's a magic wall, though, isn't it?
PHILLIPS: Yes, it is.
ROBERTS: It's a pretty incredible thing.
PHILLIPS: We're going to talk with Barack Obama, of course, about securing enough delegates to sew up the nomination. This is what John is talking about here on the board.
So where does the campaign turn this morning? Coming up, well, the man who's been in charge from the very beginning, as I mentioned, we're going to talk with Communications Director Bob Gibbs.
Also, the terms of surrender, what's next for Hillary Clinton? One of the few people who may know joins us also on AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERTS: Twenty-five minutes after the hour. A special "ELECTION CENTER" edition of AMERICAN MORNING here, the day after the finale of the Democratic primary process.
And John McCain last night, at the same time, down there in Louisiana opening up his general election campaign.
To talk more about that joining me now from Alexandria, Virginia is Mary Matalin. She is a McCain supporter. Also served as an assistant to Vice President Cheney.
Mary, it's great to see you this morning. So Barack Obama now the presumptive nominee. Is he the one that John McCain wants to run against?
MARY MATALIN, MCCAIN SUPPORTER: Well, Senator McCain has long been running the party, has long been understanding that Senator Obama is going to be the opposition.
He gave a great speech last night. I think Senator McCain did a much better job framing up the fall, framing up for his key rationale is going to be, which is change is certain, progress is not. You can have the kind of change that Senator Obama's proposing which is backwards and potentially cataclysmic, or you can have catalytic and forward-looking change, and John McCain has a record to run on. He has a record of reform.
So I'm not going through the talking points. He did a great job framing it up, but Senator Obama as always gave a spectacular oration.
ROBERTS: Were you happy with his speech last night? Leslie Sanchez, one of our panelists, Republican strategists, said that that speech was like a bingo game at an AARP conference?
MATALIN: Well, you know, being able to give a good speech is not as important to conservatives as what's in the speech. How you say it is less important. What you're saying and he said some very good things which is big government is not the answer, activist centralized command and control, redistribution government, which is what Senator Obama had in his speech is not good. It's good rhetoric, but it's not good policy.
On the other hand, there are some things that I think he needs to ratchet back. And I don't say this just as an admirer in respect of the Bush presidency. But we get it, you know. He's his own man. And you just got to walk a fine line on being your own man and having -- distinguishing yourself from this candidacy, this presidency, without dissing this president.
ROBERTS: The race here, of course, Mary, on the part of both of these candidates is to try to define the other one. Barack Obama has been trying to do that with John McCain saying that a McCain presidency would be tantamount to George Bush's third term. Let's listen to what Barack Obama said about that last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRES. CANDIDATE: There are many words to describe John McCain's attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush's policies as bipartisan and new, but change is not one of them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Barack Obama, Mary, has seemed to have done well enough in trying to define John McCain that John McCain saw fit to mention this idea of a third Bush term last night. Does Senator Obama have Senator McCain on the defensive?
MATALIN: You know, Senator McCain needs to get in front of it, but as I just said, distinguishing himself which he would need to do in any event, just like George Herbert Walker Bush needed to distinguish himself from Ronald Reagan (OFF-MIKE) this president. Now, you've got two guys out there sort of quasi, dissing, dissing President Bush.
And you know what, even Democrats are in Bush-bashing fatigue. What the weakness of Barack's definition of himself is that he is not defining himself. He's just continuing to define himself as not being Bush.
What is he for? And what John McCain successfully said last night. Young man, old ideas. New fresh speaker, old stale concepts.
MATALIN: So that's the bigger framework for the fall. And we just -- John McCain needs to remember that getting Democrats and independents won't count if you don't put them on top of conservatives. So that's what his challenge is.
And Barack Obama has a very, very weak candidacy here. As the RNC said, he sort of whizzed over the finish line. He's never won in his -- he won against a Democrat in his home state. He won in a Democratic state. He won a personality contest against Hillary Clinton and barely at that. So he's got a lot more work to unify his party and define himself in something larger than, you know, this continuation of Bush bashing.
ROBERTS: Well, the general election campaign is on now. We'll be watching very closely. Mary Matalin, thanks for joining us this morning.
We also -- we had a little tiny problem with your microphone there. We want to apologize for that as well, and we'll get you back real soon.
MATALIN: Thanks, John.
ROBERTS: All right. See you soon -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Well, her husband, James Carville, might be happy about that because he's got other things to say, quite the opposite. He's the one supporting Hillary Clinton, as his wife there, you just heard, is the supporter of McCain. She served as assistant to President Bush.
James Carville on the phone right now. I don't know if you could hear what your wife was saying, James. But I I'm going to take the point that you would disagree with her. Let me ask you about Hillary Clinton's speech last night, why didn't she concede?
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: There was never any plan or intent to concede. She never conveyed to anybody that she was (inaudible) and I think she'll probably make an announcement and it will be after the consultation with people. And when she does, she's going to do everything she can do to help the ticket. She will do it in a way to maximize the impact of this.
PHILLIPS: Well, let's talk about that. Would she take the VP spot if offered to her?
CARVILLE: I don't know, you know whether or not - I don't know, a, if it's going to be offered to her and I don't know the circumstances. What I understand yesterday, somebody in a conference call said if she'd take the VP spot, it was said, look, I'll do whatever to help the ticket. I thought it was pretty magnanimous response than if she said she would have taken the VP, will help the ticket. I think that she and Obama have sit down and have a discussion as the diplomat would say on a wide variety of issues of mutual interest.
PHILLIPS: Well, does it seem like a bit of a coincidence, that Bob Johnson, the founder of B.E.T. comes out, talked to us just about 30 minutes ago, supporting the notion that she may become VP. He wants her to do it. The timing is interesting?
CARVILLE: Well, a lot of people want her to do it. I mean, there are a lot of people that want to see this ticket in place. I don't know, you know and since Obama is the nominee and congratulations to him. It's a remarkable achievement and very proud, I'm sure he does down the campaign trail. I think we're getting bit ahead of ourselves here. That's OK. We're in the press, and we do that.
PHILLIPS: Well, yes. We have to do that. We got to keep this moving.
CARVILLE: Understand. I'm just merely pointing it out as I go. And I like it.
PHILLIPS: Yes, do you. So just real quickly, Hillary Clinton has never said to you, I want that VP spot? CARVILLE: No. Never said that to me in any conversation that I've had with her. And tonight was about thing and that would be about not being the vice president, the fact that now that the delegates are counted, that is not going to happen. That's something - I suspect that they will and I think that she's going to be very supportive of the ticket.
PHILLIPS: Got it.
CARVILLE: I noticed a lot of the --
PHILLIPS: All right. We're getting - we're losing you on the cell phone there, James. I'm going to continue pushing this notion here. Joining us now from Washington, D.C. is one of the men behind the Obama campaign, communications director Robert Gibbs. Glad that we got you this morning. As you know --
ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Good morning.
PHILLIPS: Good morning. The talk is right now, what is Hillary Clinton going to do? What is Barack Obama going to ask Hillary for? All this talk about the VP position. So, let me just ask you point blankly, they had a conversation last night on the phone. Did Barack Obama say to Hillary Clinton, will you consider being my VP?
GIBBS: No, Kyra. I think we've just crossed the delegate threshold an hour or two before that. So obviously, the vice presidential process will begin in a little bit more earnestness today as the presumptive nominee. Look, I think what underlies your question, is this party going to be unified as it moves forward? Are these two candidates going to come together, is the whole Democratic Party going to come together to make sure that the next four years don't look like the past eight years under George Bush. And I think there is no doubt that there's energy, and enthusiasm. Senator Clinton brought out millions of new voters. Senator Obama brought out millions of new voters. It's now incumbent upon us to make sure that we get all of those people united under one tent moving forward and capturing the White House in November.
PHILLIPS: Everybody is talking about unity. And there's concern about this party being divided. And what is it going to take to continue that hopeful notion that this party will not be divided? And what you look at the states and you look at the support that Hillary Clinton could bring to Obama and the chances of that ticket, getting that White House spot, I mean, is that the answer? Everybody - so many people are saying, that's it, it's Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, if you want to talk about unity, that's the ticket?
GIBBS: Well, look, again, I think this is a process that's going to start now in a little bit more earnestness because we're the presumptive nominee. And Senator Obama, one thing he did tell Senator Clinton last night was that he looked forward to sitting down with her when it made sense for her. We certainly will do that. She's been a tenacious competitor. She's accumulated a lot of votes throughout this country. And we want to make sure that we're appealing to her voters and we're getting our voters out and we're talking to independents and disillusioned Republicans to put together the type of coalition that we need to change this country in November.
PHILLIPS: So when they do sit down, what are they going to talk about, are they going to talk about that VP spot?
GIBBS: Well, look, I wouldn't presume to know exactly what they're going to talk about. My guess is they will go over a wide range of topics. They've had very cordial conversations over the last few days, particularly - I think only the two of them know how hard the other person is working.
PHILLIPS: What did you think of the tone of her speech? I'm curious, Robert. What do you think of the tone of her speech? She's getting a lot of criticism for that?
GIBBS: I only saw a part of it last night. We were obviously focused on our event. Again, look, she's going to run her campaign. Her staff's going to help her run her campaign. We're focused on having crossed that threshold. And now trying to appeal to, as I said, not just Democrats but independents and Republicans -
PHILLIPS: Robert Gibbs, it is so hard to get an answer from anybody this morning about what Hillary Clinton is going to do.
GIBBS: Maybe, Kyra, it's because nobody knows the answers right now. I mean, I think, again, you know, we just crossed that delegate threshold a few hours ago. Obviously, this is a process that's going to take some time to sort itself out.
PHILLIPS: You bring up a good point when you sit down with Hillary Clinton and say, OK, Hillary Clinton, what are you going to do and do you want it? Maybe that's how we'll get the answers.
GIBBS: But you know what, look, I think what she said last night, and I think she's very sincere about this is that she wants to work to make sure that the Democrats are united and that the party comes together. And that we do everything we can to make sure that John McCain who voted 95 percent of the time last year with George Bush doesn't become the president of the United States. Because I don't know anybody who thinks George Bush was right 95 percent of the time last year. That's what's going to unite Democrats more than anything else come November.
PHILLIPS: All right. Obama campaign communications director Robert Gibbs. Great talking to you this morning. Thanks, Robert.
GIBBS: Thank you.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take another shot at finding out what Hillary Clinton is up to when we talk to Terry McAuliffe, her campaign manager. That's coming up in just a few minutes.
PHILLIPS: Maybe we'll finally get an answer. ROBERTS: Also, find out what voters think about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the same ticket. We ask them plus an all-star lineup. Charlie Rangel, Ed Rendell, Bobby Jindal, Willie Brown. All joining us live on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.
ROBERTS: 39 minutes after the hour. So it was a long tortuous primary process that went from the beginning all the way to the very end and who thought that it was going to do that. And did our exit polling last night find out about how people are feeling about how long this process went. Our chief political analyst Bill Schneider is here this morning with all of that.
So, did people like the idea that it went this far? Or did they wish that it had ended on super Tuesday, what did you find out?
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we asked them do you think that this primary season being so long energized the Democratic Party or did it divide the Democratic Party? And the answer, at least among Montana Democrats was, they're divided over whether it divided the party. Forty-eight percent said they think it energized the party. Forty-five percent said it divided the party. We asked the same question among South Dakota Democrats and they were a little more enthusiastic. Fifty-five percent said it energized the party. Why? Because Clinton won that state. And apparently, a lot of Clinton voters think hey this is great, in fact, Hillary Clinton wants it go on a little bit longer. She's not ready to give up yet.
ROBERTS: As we saw last night. And what about on the other big question of the day. Was there a similar divide between people who want to see her as the vice presidential running mate?
SCHNEIDER: There was a similar divide. People, Democrats are not really sure about that. Take a look at Montana Democrats. Should Obama pick Clinton as his running mate. 50 percent, yes, 45 percent, no, which means, hmmm, kind of a good idea but they're not certain, no overwhelming support for it. Should the issue, should he pick her as a running mate. Same thing, South Dakota there. Those are Clinton voters mostly. Clinton voters are more enthusiastic about this. And as you can see right now, there's something like an organized lobbying campaign to get her on the ticket. Never saw that before.
ROBERTS: Certainly is the topic of the day. We've never seen that before. Bill Schneider, thanks very much. Kyra.
PHILLIPS: What does Hillary Clinton want? The only person who may know that besides her, her husband and her daughter, well, they're going to join us live coming up.
And what battles lie ahead for Barack Obama. We're going to hear from a man who will let us know, legendary African-American politician Willie Brown will join us in the next hour of AMERICAN MORNING.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: 43 minutes after the hour. And it is the political question of the morning, what will Hillary Clinton do now? Let's bring in a man who may indeed have the answer, Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Clinton campaign. He joins us now live. Good morning, Terry.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: John, good morning.
ROBERTS: We've known each other a long time and we can speak frankly here.
MCAULIFFE: You bet.
ROBERTS: Bob Johnson says that Hillary Clinton knows that he is reaching out to the congressional black caucus to try to get her the running mate spot. Does she want it?
MCAULIFFE: Well, let me say this. We finished up last night. As you know, long campaign, 17 months, we had a big celebration last night. More votes than anybody has ever gotten before. We finished up one-two this morning. A fun celebration. We didn't talk about the vice presidency. But she has always told me, John, I will do whatever it takes to win in the fall. Whatever that maybe. So, I would say all options are clearly on the table. But we haven't had that specific conversation. We were fighting hard yesterday for the nomination. Now, she wants to talk to her supporters, thank everybody. She's got thousands of delegates, 18 million votes. Raised $250,000,000. You know, take a little break this morning to give time to her supporters.
ROBERTS: Bob Johnson told us that they had a conversation about what he was doing. She certainly didn't object to it. Could we take that as a de facto acknowledgement that she does want this?
MCAULIFFE: Well, I think - a lot of her supporters would. You know, would like to see her --
ROBERTS: What about her?
MCAULIFFE: Well, in fairness, I don't think anyone has really had that conversation up until last night, as you know, we were all calling superdelegates. You know, she and I were doing radio shows in South Dakota yesterday. We were fighting her guesting. Today is a new day. We'll speak sometime today. But listen, she'll do anything. She won on a record number of women, Hispanics, seniors, blue collar. You look at the coalition that she brought together, more votes than any candidate ever running for president.
ROBERTS: Will she help him on the ticket? What could she deliver?
MCAULIFFE: Well, my personal opinion. I'll take my Hillary Clinton hat off, sure. You look at the states that she put into play, in Florida, in Ohio, Arkansas.
ROBERTS: Because it's been a long time since a vice presidential running mate has really brought something to the ticket in terms of winning something, you go all the way back to LBJ in 1960.
MCAULIFFE: Well, 18 million people voted for her but you look at who she brought in. She expanded the Democratic Party based during that primary. Look at all the voters she brought in. As I say, women extraordinary. She would open up a tremendous amount of state. No question about it. Florida, she has double digit lead today. Ohio, with her involved, Arkansas is on the table. When you looking at a lot of those states out west, New Mexico important for us.
ROBERTS: A lot of people are wondering, Terry, after looking at her speech last night, listening to her speech, why she didn't reach out a little bit more to Barack Obama. I mean, she congratulated him. But there was no acknowledgement really that he was the presumed nominee, and she continued to say that she was the stronger candidate.
MCAULIFFE: Well, in fairness, this was the end of, you know, a long process for all of us. It was her night. We were here in New York. Celebration. People came in from all over the country.
ROBERTS: Wait a minute, wasn't it his night? He became the nominee.
MCAULIFFE: For Hillary, I mean, she came back to thank everybody. You cannot disregard that she got 18 million votes, more than anyone else. Last night was her turn to talk to all of those millions of supporters, John, who came out to vote. And we were right into it. I mean, you everybody is trying to get the numbers before the end of the night. We were still going strong. We never gave up, nor should you. She congratulated Senator Obama. I went to congratulate Senator Obama, his team, you know, David Axelrod, their whole team. They ran a great campaign.
ROBERTS: Is no one at any level in the campaign, the Obama campaign discussed this idea of bringing her on as a running mate with you folks?
MCAULIFFE: Absolutely zero discussion. Until last night, John, I can't say it any stronger, we were working with her. As I said, doing radio calls and look at last night, she won South Dakota, picked up another state.
ROBERTS: So she didn't suspend the campaign last night.
ROBERTS: When will she?
MCAULIFFE: Well, I think with all the talk as she said she wanted to talk to her supporters. I left early this morning. And I think, we'll all talk to her this week.
ROBERTS: Today, later this week?
MCAULIFFE: I think we'll have conversations this week. And she'll talk to her supporters. There's plenty of time. I mean, we are going to be unified, John. This party, we're going to win this fall. Hillary Clinton will do anything she can to help us win at the presidential level, down there, all over the country. It was the greatest primary ever.
ROBERTS: Terry, it's great to see you this morning. I know you're running off.
MCAULIFFE: You bet. Thank you.
PHILLIPS: One of Hillary Clinton's biggest supporters was Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell. So now that Barack Obama has enough delegates to take the nomination, we're going to ask the governor if he thinks Democrats can unite? And what can we expect in a general election battle between Barack Obama and John McCain. Louisiana governor and McCain supporter Bobby Jindal joins us with a look next on AMERICAN MORNING.
PHILLIPS: Barack Obama's big moment is being shared by millions of people this morning. And many of those voters live near former President Clinton's office in the Big Apple. Here's CNN's Jason Carroll.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, when former President Clinton opened his office in Harlem, it represented a symbol of change in the city. Now residents there are embracing another man who represents a symbol of change in the country.
CARROLL: In a place like Harlem, the names and faces of those who earned their place in history make for street signs and hot- selling t-shirts. And now another face of a man who has made his mark.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see it as history being made, of course.
CARROLL: This man said he never thought he'd see someone like Senator Obama get this far in his lifetime. Neither did Edgar and Linda (Ridley).
EDGAR RIDLEY: Well, I was hoping but I never really thought he did.
LINDA RIDLEY: And even up until now, many of us had our hearts in our mouths hoping things would turn out OK. So we're very excited about it.
CARROLL: These high school girls say they've always believed the United States is ready to accept a man of color in the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has education and he's speaking - he's saying good things, he's promoting good things with this campaign, so why couldn't he get as far? And I feel like the country is stepping up a lot.
CARROLL: The Ridleys understand the optimism of the younger generation, but still question the willingness of some to get behind Obama in a general election.
JON RIEDER, SOCIOLOGIST AND AUTHOR: When you think about the nastiness of the last couple of months in the Democratic primary, we've had a resurgence of this image of a nation divided. So, wounded women against wounded African-Americans. So we've got this incredible spectacle of kind of a wounded identities and warring groups.
CARROLL: One key group the Senator would need, white women. In New York's upper west side, those we spoke to say they were hoping Senator Clinton would be the one making history. But most say they now support Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it would have been just as historic if we would have had the first woman president. However, I think it will be terrific.
CARROLL: The next question, once the glow of this historic moment wears off and reality sets in, how will Senator Obama fare in the match up against Senator McCain? John, Kyra.
ROBERTS (voice-over): Over, maybe not? Done with?
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't quit, keep fighting. Stay in this race.
ROBERTS: Hillary Clinton watches and waits as Barack Obama makes American history.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is our moment. This is our time.
ROBERTS: The nominee in waiting speaks live next hour. And we'll hear from John McCain's potential number two ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERTS: The all-star lineup still ahead here on this special "Election Center" edition of AMERICAN MORNING. It's five minutes to the top of the hour. We're following breaking news this morning. One of Hillary Clinton's high-profile supporters, billionaire Bob Johnson is urging the congressional black caucus to pressure Barack Obama to make Clinton his running mate. Earlier, I spoke with Johnson about whether Clinton knows what he's up to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB JOHNSON, FOUNDER, B.E.T.: I talked to the senator, told her what I was doing. She didn't direct me to do it. But she certainly knows that I'm doing it. I've been in touch with her all the way in my thinking about how we can move this country in a unified way. And she's prepared to be a part of that unity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: And while Johnson stopped short of saying that Clinton wants the vice presidential running mate slot, he did say that she would entertain the idea if it were offered. Kyra.
PHILLIPS: And joining us now from Washington, D.C., New York Congressman and Clinton supporter Charlie Rangel. And of course, Congressman, that's what I wanted to ask you, I introduced you as a Clinton supporter, but considering what happened last night and where this race is now going, will you back Obama?
REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Well, we all got to back Obama.
PHILLIPS: Will you make the switch and back Obama, 100 percent?
RANGEL: Not until we settle how we're going to do this. But there's no question, at the end of the day, we'll all be behind Obama. This has been one of the most historic, exciting primaries that we've had in the history of the Democratic Party. And so, it's just a question of how we work this thing out. But there's no question in my mind, that he's won the nomination. And we are Democrats, and we knew, that no matter which one won, that we're going to have a victory in November. All we have to do is bring them together.
PHILLIPS: Well, and we'll talk about that and some things that have happened this morning that are trying to stimulate that unity. But that historic aspect of this, I mean, 45 years ago, we heard Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech and you saw Obama's speech last night. And I'll tell you what, it's just his mannerisms and his tone and what he was saying, you sort of felt like it was an MLK speech. Let's talk about that. For you, as a politician, the significance of what happened last night.
RANGEL: Well, it's been exciting. It's groundbreaking. It's historic. I -- when Hillary Clinton was even thinking about running for president, every Democrat in the congressional delegation endorsed her long before Senator Obama indicated any interest, and quite frankly, at the time, I didn't have that confidence that America would rise above raise racism and to give him the victory that the he did. And there are probably still people out there that have reservations about his candidacy because of his color. And that's why it's going to be so important that we all come together and solidify our support behind this magnificent young man.
PHILLIPS: You know, congressman, you bring up an interesting point. Because I came across something overnight. Cbsnews.com. The head of that dot-com said that they have been inundated with these racist comments. And they've actually - he actually took the effort to say to staffers, no longer will they allow readers to post them because it's gotten so bad. Now, these are just web postings. But, as Barack Obama continues to do well and continues to move toward the White House, are you concerned about his security, his safety, and that this issue of racism, you know, could be a life-threatening thing?
RANGEL: Not because he's moving closer to the White House. Whatever sick people we have there, I don't expect that --
PHILLIPS: I'm talking because he's black and he's running for the White House.
RANGEL: I know exactly what you're saying. But I don't really think that the illness of racism is going to explode because he's moving closer to the White House. As a matter of fact, I think people having an opportunity to listen to his inspiring speeches, if anything, his face will be enlarging. So, I'm very optimistic in terms of what happens at the end of the day. But there are some people in certain congressional districts that will not respond to him just because of his color and of course most of them will not be in the Democratic Party. And so we have to reach out to make certain that this election as president of the United States not only brings us together as Democrats but brings us together as a nation.