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CNN Live Event/Special

New Presidential Contests For Michigan and Florida?; Can Obama Take a Punch?; Ron Paul's Exit; Cranky McCain; Florida and Michigan Asking for Fairness and Justice; Bill Clinton Staying on Message

Aired March 07, 2008 - 20:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for joining us tonight.
We are down to mere hours now before the Wyoming and Mississippi contests, then six long weeks to the all-important Pennsylvania primary. Who knows, by the time we get there, maybe Florida and Michigan will be back on the calendar. That's among the questions that are front and center tonight.

Should there be new primaries or caucuses in Florida and Michigan? If those states are left out of this summer's convention, will the Democratic Party be disenfranchising minority voters? I will be talking with one of the people who is making that claim tonight.

But the question that we're starting with this evening is, can the Obama campaign take a punch and punch back? He's had a bad week, losing three out of four primaries, and, today, losing a top foreign policy adviser. Samantha Power quit amid a furor that she stirred up by expressing doubts about whether Obama can keep his promise to withdraw American troops from Iraq within 16 months.

Here's the clip of Power's BBC interview that caused all the fuss.


SAMANTHA POWER, FORMER OBAMA ADVISER: What he's actually said, after meeting with the generals and meeting with intelligence professionals, is that you, at best-case scenario, will be withdraw one to two combat brigades each month. That's what they're telling him. He will revisit it when he becomes president. You can't make a commitment in whatever month we're in now, in March 2008, about what circumstances are going to be like in January 2009.


ROBERTS: Well, as you can imagine, Senator Hillary Clinton jumped all over that comment first thing today.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama campaigns on his plan to end the war. His top advisers tell people abroad that he will not rely on his own plan should he become president. This is the latest example of promising the American people one thing on the campaign trail, and telling people in other countries another.


ROBERTS: Well, the best political team in television is watching and listening to everything happening out there on the trail, including Senator Obama's response.

Let's begin with our Jessica Yellin, who is covering the Democrats for us from a destination not typically on the primary coverage map, Wyoming.

And this is -- this is the second time this week, and after losing three out of four primaries on Tuesday, that Senator Obama has been back on his heels, Jessica, not a place he wants to be.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not a place he wants to be, John, and in a sense, surprising, because, if you recall, when Senator Clinton released that 3:00 a.m. ad, who's ready to answer the phone in the White House in the middle of the night, the Obama campaign responded swiftly, and it seemed they had a war room in place ready to go, but not so this week.

He has been slow, or soft, in reacting to a number of these attacks from Senator Clinton. And, in a sense, it shouldn't be surprising. First of all, he's not as versed in the blood sport of politics as Senator Clinton is. Though he likes to say he's a tough guy from Chicago, he doesn't have as many years hitting back in this kind of tough political environment.

Also, he's run a campaign by attracting all these new people who love his politics of hope, his promise of a new kind of cleaner politics. And he risks alienating them by going too negative, so he is in a tough spot, John.

ROBERTS: So, some people have wondered if maybe he has got a little bit of a glass jaw here, that he takes a punch and he goes down for a while.

Can we expect him, Jessica, with these latest attacks to hit back a little harder than he has so far?

YELLIN: I would say the answer is yes. We shouldn't take this too far. Senator Obama did respond to Clinton's attack on this Samantha Power's issue. In fact, he did today here in Wyoming. Let's listen to what he said.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was because of George Bush, with an assist from Hillary Clinton and John McCain, that we entered into this war, a war that should have never been authorized, a war that should have never been waged. I have been against it 2002, 2003, 2004, '05, '06, '07, '08. And I will bring this war to an end in 2009. So, don't be confused. I don't want to play politics on this issue, because she doesn't have standing.


YELLIN: Now, so, there you heard Senator Obama defending himself against Senator Clinton's attacks.

He made a few soft knocks on her, suggesting that he's run the better campaign; therefore, he is a better manager. But, really, when it comes to the toughest hits on Senator Clinton, he's leaving it to his campaign aides to do, so it is not coming out of his mouth, at least not right now. And we just have to wait and see if that's enough -- John.

ROBERTS: Jessica Yellin for us tonight in Cheyenne, Wyoming -- Jessica, thanks.

Well, this week, the Obama campaign has been embarrassed by his aides' comments about Iraq, Hillary Clinton and NAFTA. How much is this loose talk going to hurt him?

I ran that question by CNN contributor James Carville, who is a Hillary Clinton supporter, and CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, who was an adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton.


ROBERTS: James Carville, David Gergen, thanks for being with us tonight.

Let's take a quick listen to what it was that Samantha Powers said regarding Barack Obama's position on Iraq.


POWER: He will course not rely upon some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or as a U.S. senator. He will rely upon a plan, an operational plan, that he pulls together in consultation with people on the ground to whom he doesn't have daily access now as a result of not being the president.


ROBERTS: David Gergen, it appears that this adviser has committed the cardinal sin, and that is the sin of giving the opposition a major talking point.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, sadly -- and I must tell you, I start from a position of enormous respect and affection for Samantha Power. She is both a colleague and a friend and a woman who spent seven years out in places like Rwanda working on a book on genocide that won a Pulitzer Prize, a very passionate woman, new to politics, way overstepped her bounds, has created a big problem for Barack Obama.

I think he can get past it, but it is a problem.

ROBERTS: How big a problem is it, James Carville, for Barack Obama?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it is a pretty big problem when you take it in combination with professor Goolsbee, I think his name is, and this dust-up he had over NAFTA in the Canadian Consulate there.

I think what he ought to do -- and I'm serious about this -- he needs to come out and like address this and sort of tighten this stuff down, because you have now two instances within a week of campaign advisers, one to a foreign government, one in Britain, saying, well, don't pay too much attention to what we said in the campaign.

And it is particularly difficult for him, because he's sort of relied a lot on the fact that he was different and transparent. So I don't say this as somebody who is sympathetic to Senator Clinton. This is a problem. I don't know if it is the end-of-days kind of problem, but it is a pretty big problem for him right.


GERGEN: I think James is right about that. I think he's got to get past Wyoming and Mississippi. Then I think he's got to address it. I think James is right about that.

ROBERTS: But what about this idea, David, that this is the second time that an adviser to the campaign has gone out there and caused a lot of problems? You worked for a couple of White Houses. You know that you have got to stay on message. How is it that these people are out there wandering off the reservation?

GERGEN: Well, if you're inside a campaign -- and James has been in many of them -- you would hit the roof with something like this, if one of your academic advisers goes out there and strays off the reservation, because first of all -- and the main thing is, beyond the damage, I'm sure Barack Obama doesn't believe -- he believes what he's telling people.

I don't think there is any insincerity on his part. He's laying out what he thinks he needs to do. Now, can facts change? Yes. Bill Clinton promised when he came in, in '92 a plan that was going to do -- involve a lot more spending for social purposes.

But when the economy went haywire, and deficits were going through the roof, Bob Rubin came to him during the transition, as James remembers, and he wisely changed his plan and changed the direction of what he was doing. But, at the time he said it, he meant it. And I would assume and believe Barack Obama means what he says now.

ROBERTS: Well, what about that idea, James? You pointed out that this is the second time that Barack Obama appears to have a talking point, but, as president, would do something different.

Aren't there plenty of presidents who have said one thing as a candidate, and then they have had to modify their position once they take the Oval Office?


But what's unique here is that it's going on in the campaign in that he's saying something, and one of his top advisers -- and I had met Ms. Power about three weeks ago -- and I don't know her as well as David does, but she is a bright, a very bright person. She has enormous contributions to make to this country.

But that was an impolitic thing to say. And David and I have been doing this for a long time. And people think that it is very easy to go out and speak on behalf of a candidate. But unless you have some experience doing that, you make the kind of mistakes that she made.

Now, she is the senior foreign policy adviser. She's not just some kind of minor flunky campaign spokesman. And that's why I said that I think this and Goolsbee, who was his chief economic adviser, these are pretty serious people that are going out contradicting their candidate.

It certainly causes problems. I'm not saying it is fatal problems, but I'm saying it is problems that Senator Obama and them need to address, and quickly. And I have been -- and David and I, we have all been in this situation before, let me tell you.


CARVILLE: I would be throwing a lot of things about right now.


ROBERTS: Let's certainly hope that no physical harm...

GERGEN: But this happens. This happens in campaigns.

CARVILLE: Right. It does.


ROBERTS: Let's certainly hope that no physical harm comes to either one of them.

David Gergen, James Carville, good to see you tonight. Thanks.

CARVILLE: You bet. Thank you.

GERGEN: Thank you.


ROBERTS: Wyoming and Mississippi are up next. But the states on many Democrats' minds tonight are Michigan and Florida. Will they be left out at convention time?

Also, Ron Paul makes an announcement about the future of what he is calling the revolution.


ROBERTS: The Democratic Party is still tied in knots tonight, trying to figure out how to get Florida and Michigan into this summer's convention. Both states lost all of their convention delegates as punishment for scheduling their presidential primaries early in January. People voted, but their votes didn't count.

Our John Zarrella has been watching the anger build in Florida and he joins me now from Miami.

How hot are people down there, John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Well, about as hot as it's been down here lately, John, steaming.

We have heard from the politicians and the pundits about what they think should be done. Well, what do the people of Florida think ought to be done about Michigan and their state, the Sunshine State?

We also found out that it may not matter what anybody thinks here in Florida as far as the primary is concerned, because it may be impossible to pull off.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): What did voters in Florida and Michigan do wrong? Was it their fault the votes didn't count? At a popular breakfast spot in north Miami, the talk often turns to the delegate mess in Florida and Michigan. The consensus, there is only one way to fix it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only fair way to do it is to have a revote.

ZARRELLA: But the folks here say, not with my nickel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they want another election, let the Democratic Party pay for it. That's the bottom line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as they pay for it, it is their party, it is their club, they can do whatever they want, but they shouldn't ask the taxpayers to pay for that.

ZARRELLA: With Obama and Clinton raising money hand over fist, there is even this sentiment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want those delegates, let them pay for it, let them fight it out. That would be fair.

ZARRELLA: But guess what? Even if some good samaritan came up with the $20 million for a revote in Florida, it probably couldn't happen. Forgotten in all the redo hullabaloo, the calendar. The secretary of state's office says it will take 90 days from the moment someone says go to be ready for a primary. But the party's window for holding primaries closes June 10.

If you don't, say, go by, oh, say, Monday, you don't make the window. And perhaps the greatest stumbling block:

STEVEN GELLER (D), FLORIDA STATE SENATOR: I guess we can go one, two, three, four, but we're going to run out of fingers and toes pretty quickly. We have no way of counting the ballots because we don't have voting machines.

ZARRELLA: Fifteen counties are changing over to optical scanners with paper trails required by law to be in place by July 1, too late. And the law that requires these new machines, it's the same one that moved the primary up to January 29 and caused all this mess.

In Michigan, the move has been toward a caucus. A deal appeared close, until state Democratic Party leaders apparently balked at the cost, $8 million to $10 million.

MARK BREWER, MICHIGAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: We would have to find thousands of election sites, train thousands of workers, print thousands of millions of ballots, so, daunting logistical problems.

ZARRELLA: The money for the caucus would come from fund-raisers, the two campaigns and the party, not taxpayers.

That's one thing everyone agrees on: Taxpayers in the two states won't foot the bill.


ROBERTS: So, John, has anybody floated some ideas of what could possibly happen during the last eight hours or so?

ZARRELLA: Yes. It doesn't look like a primary is going to come off here in Florida. Michigan, they're still working on the caucus. Right now, they're talking about possibly mail-in balloting in Florida. That would cost about $4 million or $5 million. Governor Charlie Crist, the Republican governor, said, today, listen, if the Democratic National Committee will pay for that, well, then I think the state -- he thinks the state of Florida should go ahead and oversee it.

But, of course, we know the DNC has said we aren't paying for anything. So, right now, it looks like everybody's waiting for the other guy to blink -- John.

ROBERTS: A lot of people are talking about options as to how they could pay for things.

John Zarrella for us in Miami tonight -- John, thanks very much.

And with me now, Democratic National Committeewoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. She is an uncommitted superdelegate. She started the original campaign to have an early primary in Michigan. She's also married to Congressman John Dingell, who is a Hillary Clinton supporter.

And in Jacksonville is Florida Democratic representative Corrine Brown, who warned all the way back in September that there would be trouble if Florida moved up its primary.

We say good evening to both of them.

Debbie Dingell, you have for the last couple of days been in all of these negotiations for the state Michigan regarding what might happen in the future to try to get those delegates seated. Where are you in the negotiations? What's happening?

DEBBIE DINGELL, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEEWOMAN: We're still talking. We have got some very basic ground rules, John. And that is, it is going to be consensus, it is going to involve both campaigns, it is going to involve the DNC, it is going to be practical, it's going to be affordable, and it's not going to be taxpayers' money. And when you do something like that, it's not easy, although we're up against a very serious time...


ROBERTS: Are you any closer tonight to figuring this out than you were 24 hours ago?

DINGELL: No, I would probably say we're probably further away.

But I must say that the campaigns and the DNC are very important partners in all of this and they have got to come to the table and help play, too.

Congresswoman Brown, what do you think should happen there in your state of Florida?

REP. CORRINE BROWN (D), FLORIDA: Well, first of all, let's think about what happened.

In Florida, the law says the legislature sets the date for the primaries. And, so, in Florida, the legislature is controlled by Republicans, the House, the Senate and the governor. They set the date. And, when they set the date, we tried our best to negotiate with Howard Dean and the bosses of the DNC. And we had a major problem in 2000 wherein our votes weren't counted.

And that was the Republican Party. Now it's the Democratic Party, and it is unacceptable. When you all talk about these caucuses, you know what they vote on in the caucuses? Stickers. That is unacceptable. We had a certified election where we had over three million Floridians voting; 1.7 million voted in the Democratic primary. And our votes should count. I don't care who's saying it, who is talking about it.

You talk about rules. You make exceptions for the rules. You know, you say, well, Florida changed their date. They didn't change anything. Why do you punish four million Democrats for what the Republican-controlled legislature did? It is unacceptable.

ROBERTS: So, let me just double-check. So, you are saying that the results, as they stand now, should continue to stand and the delegates should be seated...


BROWN: Absolutely, in Florida. And we had a certified election, certified by the supervisor of elections. All of the candidates' names appeared on the ballot. It -- there wasn't campaigning in Florida. People went to the polls and voted. We had an amendment on the ballot. We had the largest turnout in the history of Florida. Over three million people voted.

ROBERTS: Debbie Dingell, you pushed for this early Michigan primary. How are you feeling now about the whole thing?

DINGELL: That the fight is the right fight. And if we haven't proven that the presidential nominating system is broken in the Democratic Party, I don't think we ever will.

And that's what we were about. We are about saying two small states should not dominate the presidential nominating system. We have tried for 20 years to change the system. Sometimes, a little civil disobedience is necessary to change it. We probably didn't know that the consequences would be so serious. But we are...


ROBERTS: You were warned, though, weren't you, many times about the consequences?

DINGELL: But you know what? This is the one thing that I want to say.


DINGELL: Nobody thought we would be here, including the two presidential candidates and Howard Dean, who came to Michigan and Florida, by the way, and said, they're going to seat your delegations.

So, this is about a fight that's still a very legitimate fight. And, at the end of this, one of the other things that has to happen is this presidential nominating system must be changed.

ROBERTS: Congresswoman Brown, you said -- and let me quote you -- and this was months ago -- "I wholeheartedly believe that if this decision" -- this is the decision to move up the primary -- "is carried out, it will have drastic consequences, not only for the state of Florida, but for the nation as a whole."

Are you saying I told you so in a big way tonight?

BROWN: Well, what I'm saying, yes, I told you so, but I am also saying that you cannot punish Florida Democrats for what the Republican-controlled legislature did. I mean, it is unfair to Floridians.

I mean, when you all talk about, well, we had an election -- well, we had an election in Florida. We had over three million people voting in Florida. And our votes should count.

and let me say one other thing. You cannot win the presidency without Florida. Florida is a player. And to ignore us is unacceptable. I mean, when you talk about going to the convention, you talk about credentials, you talk about housing, we're not at the table, that's unacceptable.

You said Howard Dean said, well, these are the rules. You made the rules. You changed the rules for whoever you want to. Let's work this out. In fact, my senator, Senator Nelson, sued Howard Dean and the DNC. This has been a problem. All of Florida has been trying to work it out and we have been stonewalled by Howard Dean and the bosses in Washington and whoever. It's unacceptable.

ROBERTS: Right. Well, obviously, a tremendous amount of emotion on all sides of this.

Congresswoman Corrine Brown, thanks for being with us.

BROWN: Thank you.

ROBERTS: And, Debbie Dingell, stay with us, because we want to bring you back to talk more, in particular about the disenfranchisement of minority voters here.

But right now, I want to take a closer look at the Democratic voters in Michigan and Florida.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, joins me now from Los Angeles.

Bill, all of these states wanted to go early so that they could affect the primary process. Do they still have a chance to do that?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's the ultimate irony, John.

Florida and Michigan moved up their dates, so that they could have more influence. Well, if they have what I call mulligan primaries or contests of some sort, that is, do-overs, late in the game, they could have a decisive influence on who the nominees are.

Now, a mulligan is highly irregular in golf. Well, you know what? The primaries that they held in Michigan and Florida in January were highly irregular. There have been 29 primaries so far this year in 29 states. In 25 of them, more Democrats than Republicans turned out to vote. Two of the five states that were exceptions? Florida and Michigan.

Yes, a lot of people voted in those states, but a lot of people didn't vote in Florida and Michigan, Democrats, because they didn't think the primaries counted. They were told the results wouldn't mean anything. So, as a result, they were very irregular contests. There was no campaign.

ROBERTS: Well, I can certainly tell you, from personal experience as a golfer, Bill, that a mulligan isn't all that unusual.


ROBERTS: But it is, as you said, ironic that these states may actually affect the race more by going late, as opposed to going early. But, if they do end up having another vote, what are the options?

SCHNEIDER: Well, there are several options. And they would help different candidates.

What would help Hillary Clinton is if they had a mail-in ballot, because that's very easy to do. Her supporters include a lot of seniors, a lot of foreign-born American voters, a lot of working people, who won't vote unless it is easy to vote. A primary is a fairly easy way to participate. So, she would prefer that. She won the uncontested primaries earlier in the year.

But, if they have a caucus, those are the contests where Barack Obama usually does well. He's won most caucuses, because they reward passion and stamina. And his -- his followers have a lot of that. And, best of all for Barack Obama -- my goodness -- they could have an Internet primary. His people are younger. They know all about the Internet. He would win that in a walk.

COOPER: And, as John Zarrella suggested that they are thinking about in Florida, they could have a mail-in primary as well.

As you pointed out, Bill, Hillary Clinton got the most votes in both Florida and Michigan. If they were to have a redo of the vote, would she likely repeat, or are there forces at work that could change the outcome?

SCHNEIDER: Well, she won in Florida and Michigan in January because there was no campaign, and she had the advantage of strong name recognition. Barack Obama was not very well known to most Democrats and couldn't be because there was no campaign. He wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan.

Now, what happens if they have a revote? Could it still go, could those two states still go for Hillary Clinton? I think the odds are that she would do well, would do well in Michigan and Florida. If you look at a map, Ohio voted very strongly this past week for Hillary Clinton. Well, five states of the 12 that haven't voted yet border Ohio. And they're all going to vote. One of them is Michigan. Michigan votes very much like Ohio.

It's economically distressed, like Ohio. It has a large blue- collar population. And the same forces that gave Hillary Clinton a victory in Ohio could work for her in Michigan. And Florida isn't quite as economically distressed, but it has population groups that have turned out heavily for Hillary Clinton, seniors, and Latino voters. So, she stands a good chance of winning them again if they have a revote.

ROBERTS: Bill Schneider in Los Angeles for us tonight -- Bill, thanks.

Republican Congressman Ron Paul posted an enigmatic announcement on the Internet. What does it mean for the future of his presidential bid and the millions of dollars that he's raised? Stay with us for that.

And later, the no longer campaigner in chief. So, exactly what is Bill Clinton's role these days?


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to the CNN ELECTION CENTER. Presumptive presidential nominee John McCain's last significant Republican opponent is giving up. A Ron Paul spokesman telling me earlier today that they are officially winding down his campaign. Congressman Paul explained why in a video message to supporters that was posted on his campaign Web site.


REP. PAUL (R), TEXAS: Though victory in the conventional political sense is not available in the presidential race, many victories have been achieved due to your hard work and enthusiasm. For that, I am deeply grateful and encouraged. We must remember, elections are short-term efforts. Revolutions are long-term projects. But even with the past year's achievements, we're still in the early stages of bringing about the changes that this revolution is all about.


ROBERTS: Now, with all of the stress of the nomination battle behind him, why is Senator John McCain turning cranky? He got testy while talking to reporters on a campaign flight today. We're going to show you that exchange. Then, we're going to have our panel weigh in on it.

With me here in the studio is CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger, as well as Chris Cillizza, whose blog, "The Fix," is a must- read on How's that for a plug? And former senior adviser to John Edwards' presidential campaign, Joe Trippi.

We'll get to senator hothead as he is being called today by the Democrats in just a second. But let's take a look at the 30,000-foot view here. Senator McCain's spent the last couple of days trying to unify the party, trying to win over conservatives. Some reluctant members of the Republican Party have decided to fall in love with him but overall, where are conservatives?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they're not in love. I would have to say that. They are going to hold their noses, some of them, and support him, considering the alternatives. But they never -- the conservative base of the party is never going to be in love with John McCain.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, "THE FIX", WASHINGTONPOST.COM: The key though I think is what Gloria touched on is, this is not a vacuum. It is not ideal Republican candidate A versus John McCain. It is John McCain versus either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Most conservatives are going to pick John McCain, though they're not going to be overjoyed about pulling that lever.

JOE TRIPPI, FMR. SR. ADVISER, EDWARDS CAMPAIGN: I agree with that. That's why it's a question about what he's trying to do here because the more he tries to make the case to conservatives, the more he hugs George Bush and the conservative wing of his party, the more he's driving independents and Democrats who might have looked at him away from him. So if he keeps this up, it's a good thing for the Democrats.

BORGER: But they're not paying much attention to him right now because they're paying attention to the Democratic candidates, right?


ROBERTS: We haven't actually seen him hug President Bush yet, but it was pretty close to getting there.

CILLIZZA: They got that --- they got that endorsement out of the way. Remember, they got out of the way in March. It's in March. And so, he's now got all those months to say, well, we've already done that.

ROBERTS: It will be really interesting to see how they use him in the weeks ahead.

BORGER: Money -- raising money.

ROBERTS: Yes. You think that's going to be it? There won't be a lot of appearances together or on the trail?

BORGER: It depends where he is.

TRIPPI: I'm hoping for it. As a Democrat, you got to hope for a lot of appearances together. But I don't think -- I think -- I think it will be fund-raisers.

BORGER: Yes. And Bush can rally the base.

ROBERTS: One of the questions that John McCain fielded today at one of his town hall meetings was somebody who said, you're thinking about taking John Kerry on as your running mate. And we all remember back in 2004, John Kerry kind of floated the idea for a second about maybe taking John McCain on as a VP candidate. And McCain today immediately said, no, not going to happen.


CILLIZZA: You want to rule it out. I think he was very unhappy, frankly, in private as expressed, and unhappiness about the way that John Kerry thing played itself out. I think that they were really, really upset. It presented McCain knew he was thinking about running for president down the line. Being a Democrat vice presidential nominee is not exactly the way you want to start a 2008 presidential bid. So they were not happy. He wants to rule it out immediately.

ROBERTS: And then, though, after that on the campaign plane, Elisabeth Bumiller of "The New York Times" said, you know, I went back to a 2004 article in which you denied ever having a meeting with John Kerry, and answers the story that he asked you. Here's how John McCain responded to that.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Everybody knows that that I had a conversation. There is no living American in Washington that knows it. There's no one, and you know it, too. So -- well, you know it. You know it. So I don't even know why you asked.


MCCAIN: No, you do know it. But it's well known that I had the conversation. It was absolutely well known by everyone. So do you have a question on another issue?


ROBERTS: John McCain is saying we did have that conversation, everybody knows it.

BORGER: He had a conversation with the enemy. And also, this is a "New York Times" reporter. In case we hadn't noticed lately, John McCain and "The New York Times" are not in love.

TRIPPI: But, I mean, he was sort at ends again. He's trying to solve a problem with the conservatives, which he doesn't want anything about John Kerry out there and sat it down. But now, he raises that issue that everybody -- that he doesn't want raised, his temper, the fact that he gets angry. And that's happening now, again, with the whole -- everything, Democrats, independents and Republicans across the board.

CILLIZZA: You know, this is fascinating. Before we came on, I just did a quick e-mail check to see what the latest update was. The McCain campaign is sending around a story by Bloomberg that is basically headlined "McCain's softer side," which it shows. But it shows that they are well aware that this temper narrative, as Joe rightly points out, is not beneficial for him.

ROBERTS: If you want to see the softer side of him, a buddy of mine mailed around his "Saturday Night Live" performance where he was singing Streisand songs, which is hilarious.

BORGER: Right.

ROBERTS: Let me just flip, Gloria, if I could today... BORGER: Yes.

ROBERTS: ... to the Democratic side of things because I want to get Joe a chance to answer this. Let's say that you're in charge of Barack Obama's campaign as opposed to being an adviser to John Edwards. Samantha Power goes out there and says what she said, what are you doing back there at campaign headquarters?

TRIPPI: I think he has to go out and --

ROBERTS: No. But give us a look inside. Are you throwing things?

TRIPPI: Oh, yes. Well, these things happen all the time in a campaign. It's very rare for a campaign to go without one of them happening, but you don't want it to happen right now.

BORGER: Right.

TRIPPI: Right when you're really trying to turn the momentum. So, yes, you're pulling your hair out at that point. I mean, it wasn't -- it's not good timing. But I mean, I think they had to be a little bit tougher about getting out in front of it instead of sort of --


ROBERTS: And you were saying that maybe one more out there?

TRIPPI: Yes, I think there is another -- I think there's a couple more. I think she's evidently making these kinds of statements, and there's tape of it or something that's going to happen.

BORGER: And particularly coming on the heels of the whole NAFTA problem they had at the time of Texas and Ohio, where they didn't fire the economic adviser who allegedly spoke to the Canadians and did a little wink saying not to worry about what the candidate was saying on NAFTA, they didn't find --


ROBERTS: Allegedly.

BORGER: Allegedly.

ROBERTS: According to the Canadians.

BORGER: Allegedly, according to the Canadians. So they had to do something on this.


CILLIZZA: And for a candidate, frankly, who has built his entire campaign on not doing it in a political way...


CILLIZZA: ... doing it differently, saying what he means and sticking by it. That's why I think it's potentially damaging.

BORGER: Right.


CILLIZZA: It gets at the heart of the --

TRIPPI: Look for the Clinton campaign to argue about firing the woman and keeping the guy. Economics, I think, will be a problem.

ROBERTS: That's the next shoe to drop.

BORGER: Oh, that's right.

ROBERTS: All right.

BORGER: Oh, my God. Haven't even thought of that.

ROBERTS: Gloria Borger -- Gloria Borger, Chris Cillizza and Joe Trippi, thanks for being with us tonight. It's good to see you. Thanks for coming in on a Friday.

We're going to switch our attention back to the Democrats and their problems with Florida and Michigan. Former U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Mary Frances Berry issued a warning to the party. She's going to be here next to talk about it.

And later on, Bill Clinton's changing role in his wife's presidential campaign.


ROBERTS: Our special Friday series "Uncovering America." Tonight we explore resentment bubbling up in minority communities over the possibility that their votes in Florida and Michigan will not be counted in the nomination of the Democratic candidate. Civil rights leaders are saying that decision will disenfranchise a million minority voters in both states. One of those leaders is former U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Mary Frances Berry who wrote a letter to the Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean saying, "Resolution of this issue is a matter of fairness, justice and practicality."

NAACP head Julian Bond followed that with another letter of complaint telling Dean that minority voters in Florida may become victims of the Republican-controlled legislature which moved up the primary in violation of DNC rules. Mary Frances Berry joins me now. She's a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who has studied claims of voter disenfranchisement in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. She has not yet endorsed a candidate. And also, back with me, Debbie Dingell, an uncommitted member of the Democratic National Committee, from Michigan.

So Mary Frances, let's start with you. You wrote this letter to Chairman Dean.


ROBERTS: February the 3rd. What do you think is the effect of the current situation on minority voters? Will they be particularly stunned by this?

BERRY: Well, I was really worried because after what happened in 2000 when people were clearly disenfranchised, and then there were some fixes put in place for the 2004 election, and Florida was a little better then, the big problem was Ohio. To come back again when all of these people turned out to vote, showing that -- and they were innocent victims. I mean, they weren't the officials who made the decisions -- to simply give them the back of your hand. I said to Chairman Dean, this doesn't make any sense. It doesn't make any sense for Michigan either. It doesn't make any sense for Florida, especially given the fact that all three candidates were on it.

And two things are going to happen. You're going to have disaffected people who are unhappy because they've been disenfranchised before. And here you go again. And you're going to have a lot of people who are mad at you and every time the Democratic Party has done that, I pointed out to him as a matter of history on February 3rd, you get this big problem of blood-letting at the convention and you end up losing the elections. So I think it's bad in terms of practicality. It's bad in terms of fairness.

And what do I get back from him? Well, we'll just wait until the convention. I think that that's totally unacceptable to wait until the -- wait until the convention. And that's exactly what you don't want to do and I just think something should be done.

ROBERTS: In Florida, voters got to vote for a candidate because everybody was on the ballot...


ROBERTS: ... even though they didn't campaign there. But Debbie, in Michigan, things were different because only Dennis Kucinich and Hillary Clinton were on the ballot. Sixty-nine percent of African-American voters did not vote for Hillary Clinton. They voted uncommitted. So there's an even greater problem for them that their votes aren't even counted for a candidate.

DEBBIE DINGELL, DEMOCRATIC NATL. COMMITTEEWOMAN: It wasn't 69 percent, it was 45 percent. But I'm very concerned about how people do feel in Michigan. It's not simple. The fact of the matter is Senator Obama signed an affidavit himself and did take the name off the ballot. We who study politics and it's the inside politics who understand what that was and it's all about. But there are a lot of voters who went.

I think the thing that most upsets me and I don't know how to fix it, is the number of people that went to the polls that day and wanted for the first time to vote for an African-American, and the name wasn't on the ballot. They do feel disenfranchised. We have to deal with that in Michigan. And whatever solution we do come up with it, it has to be a consensus opinion that takes that into account.

ROBERTS: I wasn't saying that 45 percent of voters voted uncommitted. Sixty-nine percent of African-Americans were uncommitted.

DINGELL: I'm sorry.

BERRY: But look, John, I really think that it's short-sighted and pennywise and pound foolish to say we don't have enough money to fund a revote, or we don't have enough money to fix this problem. We're saving our money for the general election. If they don't fix the problem, the general election will be a disaster for the party. So that's just silly.

ROBERTS: Mary Frances, in the state of Florida, 32 percent of voters were minority voters.


ROBERTS: And you've been talking to a lot of them. What have they been telling you?

BERRY: They've been telling me -- I've been down to Florida and I've been talking to people in Michigan. In Florida especially, what they say to me, black students on the campuses where I've been speaking, Latino students, hey, we came out to vote, we don't know what the officials are doing, you know, the bigwigs in the party and so on, but we came out. And these numbers and after what's happened to us before, and some of them for the first time, how can they do this to us? Don't they care about us and care about our vote? And that's the sentiment that they have. They will be totally disaffected if this isn't fixed.

ROBERTS: And you would say, I guess, Debbie, that the only way to enfranchise these African-American and other minority voters is to put names on the ballot in a redo of the vote.

DINGELL: I'm not actually proposing anything right now. Everybody has got to be at the table.

ROBERTS: But I mean is that the idea?

DINGELL: All the candidates -- some people have proposed that. I'm not supporting anything right now. I'm going to develop a consensus. But I recognize how strongly that communities feels, but there are also women -- they're going to feel disaffected, or not just women but people who voted in January. Ours is not simple.

ROBERTS: I'm sure your family is getting a lot of pressure, though, because your husband, Congressman John Dingell, his 15th district, a lot of minority voters in that district.

DINGELL: It's a very complicated situation. Believe me, I've heard from every side. And that's why I'm not sleeping at night. By the way, the fight that we have though, when you talk to people, is the right fight. Because the issues that they care about, the issues that the urban, the minority community care about are never part of a 3 1/2- year presidential campaign, and quite frankly, have yet to become part of the campaign this time. And they need to be. And that's what the fight's about. And when you remind people they're there, but this is such an inside politics game, that we forget what the general voter out there really feels.



BERRY: Fix it.


DINGELL: Yes, they want it fixed.

BERRY: Fix it sooner rather than later.

DINGELL: And it's everybody's problem, John. It's the states', it's the DNC's and the candidates' problems to fix together.

ROBERTS: As you say, an enormously complex and controversial problem. We'll keep watching this very, very closely. Debbie Dingell, Mary Frances Berry, thanks very much for being with us tonight.

In tonight's edition of "Raw Politics," some guys who made millions in spite of the mortgage mess have some explaining to do on Capitol Hill. Tom Foreman has got more.


ROBERTS: "LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up in just a few minutes' time. Larry, I hear you singing there. Who's coming up with you tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Yes, I amuse myself, John. Wyoming, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, they are primary concerns. And our political panel will talk about what those states mean for Obama and Clinton.

Plus, CNN's own Gerri Willis will be on hand to discuss the bad job news today. Worst report on that front in five years. It's money and politics at the top of the hour. I would think mostly money, wouldn't you?

ROBERTS: Yes, I would think so, too. And Larry, that is nothing to sing about. But we'll see you tonight at 9:00.

KING: Good point. I will shut up.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Larry.

In the housing and mortgage crisis, there are haves and millions of have-nots. Today, it was the haves' turn before Congress.

Also, what could be Puerto Rico's key role in picking a Democratic nominee? Tom Foreman has got all that and more in tonight's edition of "Raw Politics."


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Why are some people getting so rich and others so poor from the mortgage crisis? Congressional Democrats want to know.

FOREMAN (voice-over): On the Congressional carpet today, CEO's who scored hundreds of millions while their companies lost fortunes. Lawmakers wonder if those pay packages hastened the crash.

NELL MINOW, THE CORPORATE LIBRARY: There's no excuse for paying people so much for doing so little.

FOREMAN: The big guys say they did nothing wrong.

The military under fire again for banning openly gay troops. Rights troops rally at the Capitol to launch a new effort to change that.

And Puerto Rico's Democrats are switching from a caucus to a primary for their vote on June 1st, hoping to bring more folks into the process.

FOREMAN (on camera): It matters because Puerto Rico has 55 pledged delegates and vote so late, those island Americans could now decide this race. That's "Raw Politics."


ROBERTS: Our Tom Foreman. And you can catch more of his unique take of the week's political stories this weekend as he hosts "THIS WEEK IN POLITICS," Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday at 1:00 p.m., right here on CNN.

Have you noticed who is not sharing the stage with Hillary Clinton these days? So what is Bill Clinton up to? And is it helping?


ROBERTS: Bill Clinton is tirelessly crisscrossing the country for his wife Hillary. But the former president is no longer attacking Barack Obama. Instead, he is assuming a new role for him, that of a traditional political spouse, which consists of mainly praising the candidate.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would be here for her if we had never been married. I would be here because I honestly believe she's the best qualified person to be president. And it's not just me. Our daughter is working all over America. She was in Wyoming with me. She's been here in Pennsylvania.

CHELSEA CLINTON, HILLARY CLINTON'S DAUGHTER: My mom stood up for universal health care.


ROBERTS: That's right. Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton last campaigned for her mother in Philadelphia, and before that in Wyoming and Ohio. Always promoting her mother, always staying right on message.

As Deborah Feyerick reports, staying on message is what it's all about for the Clintons.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once not long ago before the South Carolina primaries, journalists assigned to Bill Clinton say they could get close enough to ask questions.



FEYERICK: But that was before his answers started making news, the kind that draws attention away from the candidate.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're feeding you this because they know this is what you want to cover. This is what you live for.

FEYERICK: So the press went from standing here to standing here -- a distance safe enough to keep the press from the president, or the president from the press. CNN's Brad Hodges covered the former president.

BRAD HODGES, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: There were plenty of incidents where we were prevented from leaving the pen, either to get sound or to get a better shot of Mr. Clinton.

FEYERICK: The pen, or cage, is an area specifically designated for the media. Break the rules and leave and you risk getting shut out. Political insiders like John Edwards' former communications director says, it's a way for campaigns to set the agenda and define the candidate's message as opposed to the other way around.

CHRIS KOFINIS, EDWARDS COMMUNICATIONS DIR.: You don't want to be responding to what a surrogate may or may not have said. You want to be hammering your message to create that echo effect to influence as many voters as possible, to help frame that message in the most advantageous position for you.

FEYERICK: President Clinton's communications director says the media has plenty of access, and that nothing's changed.

FEYERICK (on camera): Of course, there's the security issue and how it's handled by local police, keeping people away. But the campaign says the famous husband's focus is on talking to voters and local reporters. His spokesman expressing frustration at the media, he says, for not covering the issues Mr. Clinton speaks about at the dozens of campaign stops each week. Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


ROBERTS: At the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE," Larry is talking jobs -- yours, and that big job in the White House.


ROBERTS: For the "Most News in the Morning," including the most political news, join Kiran Chetry and me Monday through Friday at 6:00 a.m. for CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING." Monday, Congressman Ron Paul talks about his future and the Ron Paul revolution.

And check in with CNN all day tomorrow. We'll not only have full coverage of the candidates on "BALLOT BOWL," but we'll also bring you the Wyoming Democratic caucuses starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. All the results from them.

And the CNN ELECTION CENTER will be at full speed for Tuesday's Mississippi primary. That's all for tonight. Thanks for joining us. I'm John Roberts. We'll see you again on Monday morning. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.