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The Situation Room

Michigan Votes; Will Obama-Clinton Truce Hold?

Aired January 15, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Mitt Romney's big test in Michigan. Will the state where he was born breathe some new life into his presidential bid? Republican primary voters are deciding right now.
Plus, will a truce between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama hold? I will ask the highest ranking African-American in Congress, Congressman James Clyburn, about the racial tensions that have been dividing Democrats.

And Latino voters are about to make a splash in the race for the White House. We will tell you how the Democrats are reaching out to Hispanics in Nevada only days before that state holds its contest.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

About three hours from now, the doors will be closed at all the polling places around Michigan, and the results of another crucial Republican primary will start coming in.

Bill Schneider standing by with fresh information from our exit polls, clues about what Michigan voters are thinking.

But, first, let's go to CNN's Dana Bash on whether Michigan will make or break Mitt Romney.

Dana, even many Romney supporters feel he can't afford to lose tonight. Set the stage for us.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no question about that. This is absolutely crucial for Mitt Romney.

But, just to give you a mood check here, they are feeling much, much more confident about the way the day is going to go as the day has gone on.

I will read you a quick e-mail I just got from a Romney adviser: "We feel as good as we have felt in an while."

There is a sense -- they're being careful, but there is a sense that what this night is billed as, a victory celebration, will finally, for the first time for Mitt Romney, live up to its billing.


BASH (voice over): Mitt Romney knows the stakes in Michigan are enormous, and he's playing the nostalgia card.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think Michigan is going to vote for a Romney again. I'm planning on it.

BASH: Romney's father was a three-term governor, but that was 40 years ago, and he left the state as a teenager.

ROMNEY: We have got to sign these homemade signs. Is that yours?

BASH: Still, he's hoping for a much-needed Michigan win by making the kind of personal connection he's had trouble finding elsewhere.

ROMNEY: Almost all the cars you see are American made, the way they ought to be. And...


ROMNEY: Of course, people speak with no accent. And they know that pop refers to a drink, and not a relative.

BASH: Trying to close the deal in this economically depressed state by playing up his business bona fides, railing against Washington.

ROMNEY: Michigan is going through a one-state recession. How in the world can the federal government sit back and watch a state suffer year after year after year?

I grew up in Michigan when Michigan was the pride of America.

BASH: Michigan voters just have to watch TV to see how crucial they are to Romney's candidacy. From January first of last year through last week, Romney spent more than $2 million on 2,555 TV spots in Michigan.

No one else came close. Chief rival John McCain spent just about $359,000 for only 645 TV spots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And were you planning on supporting Governor Mitt Romney at the caucus?

BASH: That, after Romney poured millions into Iowa and New Hampshire, only to finish second both times.

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R), MICHIGAN: Let's go, Mitt! Let's go, Mitt! Let's go, Mitt!

BASH: Even supporters like Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra admit to CNN a loss here could be devastating.

HOEKSTRA: It's hard to put a silver lining on if Mitt lost with Republican voters in Michigan. That would be hard to put a silver lining on. This is his home state. You would hope that the home state would rally around the native son.

ROMNEY: Sign your shirt?


BASH: Now, you just heard Congressman Hoekstra refer to Republican voters. That has been a major challenge for Mitt Romney because of the fact that the Democrats aren't really competing here in Michigan. They had been very worried that Democrats and even more importantly independents would flock towards John McCain.

Now, we are told by Romney advisers that their reports from the field is that turnout is low today. They think that that benefits the Romney campaign, Mitt Romney himself, because they think that means that independents aren't necessarily voting.

If this is the case, if Romney does do well here, they say this obviously gives them a new lease on life, but it also, Wolf, makes what is already a very jumbled and uncertain Republican race even more so -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And less than three hours until the polls all close in Michigan.

Dana, thank you very much.

Dana will be sticking around.

John McCain isn't waiting around in Michigan to find out if he's won today's primary. The senator will wait for the results tonight in South Carolina, where he's hoping for a strong showing in Saturday's GOP primary.

Eight years ago, McCain won the Michigan primary, but his loss in South Carolina sank his presidential campaign.

Mike Huckabee also is hightailing it to South Carolina from Michigan. The former Arkansas governor suggests he will be a winner tonight as long as he defies expectations in Michigan. But he's banking heavily on South Carolina and its large base of evangelical Christian voters.

Many of you want to know just what Michigan voters are thinking right now as they vote in the state's primary. Right now, we have some of the very first exit poll information coming in.

Let's turn to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's watching this for us.

You have been going over these numbers. First of all, Bill, on the Republican voters who voted for Mitt Romney, what do they say was more important, the issues or personal qualities?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Mitt Romney has a lot of personal appeal in Michigan. It's his home state. He's a local boy. His father was the governor of Michigan.

So, did they say -- did Romney supporters say their vote was driven by personal qualities? No, actually. They said that they voted for him because of issues much more than personal qualities. That was the top priority.

BLITZER: What about the issue of McCain voters? What do they say on this matter of personal qualities vs. issues?

SCHNEIDER: McCain voters said personal qualities, just as they did in New Hampshire. For them, it wasn't the issues. It was McCain's personal appeal.

We have seen in state after state -- well, they have only been two states, really -- where McCain has been highly competitive, but in both of those states, John McCain supporters say they like him, they're personally attracted to him, and they like his personal appeal, but they're not issue voters or ideological voters or even values voters. What they like about McCain is him personally.

BLITZER: And among those who voted for McCain, what do they say they like most about him?

SCHNEIDER: What are those personal qualities? Good question.

Well, number one, as in New Hampshire, he says what he believes. They like that about McCain. Number two, they think he has a lot of experience. He's been around national politics. He knows national security. But notice that the least important of the three qualities, shares my values.

Values voters are not particularly attracted to John McCain. Again, the vote for McCain in Michigan, as it was in New Hampshire, is a highly personal vote -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, I know you're going to continue to go over these exit poll numbers and share them with our viewers. Bill, thank you.

Democrats are not campaigning in this primary in Michigan. Their national party is punishing the state for moving up its primary. Michigan would have 156 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, but the national party is stripping all of them from Michigan for holding its contest before February 5.

Barack Obama and John Edwards actually withdrew their names from the ballot. Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel, their names are still on the ballot.

We are going to have complete coverage of all of this coming up, the Democrats' focus, and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Bill Clinton is acting in the role of peacekeeper today, publicly supporting a truce between his wife and her top presidential rival, Barack Obama.

Brian Todd is joining us now with the latest on this racially charged feud that's been dividing Democrats.

What is the latest, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you remember that infamous now "fairy tale' remark and all the fallout from that. Well, Mr. Clinton's tone has changed drastically.

And some people close to the story say, that's not a moment too soon.


TODD (voice-over): The former president says Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama did the right thing when both tried to take the racial sting out of their heated primary battle.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, looks like the nominee of the Democratic Party is going to be an African-American man or a woman. Both are historic. And, as far as I can tell, neither one of them are losing votes because of their race or gender. They may be getting some votes because of their race or gender, but they're not losing any. And that's a good thing for America.

TODD: This all began when Hillary Clinton made a remark that some read as an attempt to downplay Martin Luther King's Jr.'s role in passing civil rights legislation.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He gave a speech that was one of the most beautifully, profoundly important speeches ever delivered in America, the "I Have a Dream" speech. And then he worked with President Johnson to get the civil rights laws passed, because the dream couldn't be realized until finally it was legally permissible.

TODD: A number of prominent African-American politicians had warned that a Democrat-against-Democrat fight over race would do the party no good. The Reverend Jesse Jackson recalled one case of interparty warfare over several issues that was especially damaging.

REVEREND JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: I remember so well in 1980, in the Kennedy-Carter primary struggle, there was so much anger and blood let, until they could hardly embrace each other on the stage in New York City. And they never recovered. And they lost the campaign.


TODD: Bill Clinton signaled today he and his wife got that message loud and clear, but he also played up his own civil rights record and he suggested that Mrs. Clinton will follow in his footsteps -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian, for that.

Let's check in once again with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Here's some good news. Prices at the pump could be headed higher. Only this time, we won't be able to blame big oil or OPEC.

A transit panel set up by Congress is proposing a huge hike in gasoline taxes, as much as 40 cents a gallon over five years. The money would be used to repair aging roadways and bridges and ease congestion on highways. The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission -- let me give you that again -- the National Revenue Surface Transportation Policy Study Commission suggests raising the current tax -- their business card is this big.

BLITZER: What's their acronym, though?


CAFFERTY: Yes, I don't even know. I can't spell it.

They want to raise the gas tax about 18 cents a gallon for unleaded gas now by five to eight cents a year for five years. The tax would be adjusted for inflation.

The panel was set up following that collapse of that bridge in Minneapolis, remember, to give recommendations on how to fix U.S. roads, ports and mass transit systems. Forget that we already pay highway taxes in this country.

It is estimated the cost of doing all this work would be about $225 billion a year for the next 50 years. Coincidentally, that's about what we spend on the war in Iraq these days. It means probably, though, that we will do the same thing that we've been doing for the last 50 years when it comes to maintaining our infrastructure, bridges, roads, et cetera, mostly nothing.

So the question is this: Should the gasoline tax be raised 40 cents a gallon over five years to pay for improvements and repairs to the nation's infrastructure?

Go to, where you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of people would rather pay that extra 40 cents to the government than to OPEC.

CAFFERTY: I understand, but we pay highway taxes and stuff now. And that money is not being -- it goes somewhere. It's like, where did the money go to fix the roads?

BLITZER: I know.

CAFFERTY: I mean, the roads are in terrible shape in this country. We pay taxes presumably to deal with it. It's not being done.

BLITZER: Jack, stand by. We got a lot more to talk about this and more.

Coming up: A high-ranking congressman calls on fellow Democrats to cool the rhetoric on race, an appeal to the Clinton and Obama camps from the House majority whip, the highest ranking African-American in the Congress, James Clyburn of South Carolina. He is my guest. I will ask him about his deep concerns.

Also, a car bomb strikes a U.S. Embassy vehicle in Lebanon, killing several bystanders, Americans the apparent target.

And President Bush asks his Saudi hosts if they can do something about the high price of oil. Are they giving him more than a song and a dance?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: Another high-profile Democrat is urging the Clinton and Obama camps to move on from racial politics. That would be the House majority whip, James Clyburn of South Carolina. He's joining us now from Capitol Hill.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about what's going on, because it's been very disturbing, as you well know, to a lot of Democrats, especially African-Americans.

What's your read on -- on what has happened?

CLYBURN: Well, I think that the time has come for all of us to get back to discussing our shared vision as Democrats for this country, for these three candidates that seem to be left in the race, Senator Edwards, Clinton, and Obama, to talk about their vision for taking us to where they think we ought to be, and to really just declare a truce in all of this, accept everybody's explanation for how we got to where we are, and to move on.

And I am pleased that it seems that everybody is going to be doing that.

BLITZER: Yesterday, one of your good friends, a prominent Democrat in the House, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Charlie Rangel, who is a Hillary Clinton supporter, he said that Barack Obama was way off limits in suggesting that Hillary Clinton was saying something wrong.

I want to play this little clip for you, Congressman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D-NY), HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: For him to suggest that Dr. King could have signed that act is absolutely stupid. It's absolutely dumb to infer that Dr. King alone passed the legislation and signed it into law.


BLITZER: He was referring to what Hillary Clinton said, that you needed a president to sign that legislation into law, LBJ, and something that -- that Barack Obama later suggested was inappropriate for her to make that suggestion.

What's your take on that?

CLYBURN: Well, you know, Wolf. I'm a little bit of a student of history.

And I think I recall, I believe it was President Franklin Roosevelt who once, in a session with A. Philip Randolph told Mr. Randolph that he agreed with all of the civil rights requests he was asking of him. And then he said to Mr. Randolph, now, you go out and make me do it.

Now, I think that all of us who participate in this process know that everybody has a role to play. And maybe a president is required -- and that's true -- to sign any legislation, but the fact of the matter is, if you really wanted to expand this even more, J. Everett Dirksen, and his work he did in the Senate, also contributed to that.

So, it was Democrats and Republicans. There were blacks and there were whites. And there were elected officials and demonstrators all working together to get this done.

BLITZER: It was a team effort.

CLYBURN: I think that all of us know that. It was a team effort. And that's the way it is today.


BLITZER: I want to clarify your comments that you made on Friday in "The New York Times," because that seemed to have stirred the pot a little bit.

You were quoted as saying: "We have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics. It is one thing to run a campaign and be respectful of everyone's motives and actions, and it is something else to denigrate those. That bothered me a great deal."

What bothered you a great deal?

CLYBURN: What bothered me was the notion that anybody was going to minimize anybody's role. We don't minimize the president's role in articulating the moral authority that comes with his office. And we don't minimize the roles of those people outside of the government whose responsibility it is to agitate on behalf of their constituents.

And that's all I was saying about that. And, when we talk about people's motives, we ought to always be very careful. And that's what I have tried to do. And that's why I want us just to accept everybody's explanation for what they meant by what they said and then let us move on.


BLITZER: With Hillary Clinton the only Democratic front-runner to remain on the Michigan ballot, Edwards and Obama supporters are pulling for a different option. You can -- they cast a so-called uncommitted vote, which many of them see as a vote against Hillary Clinton.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, explain how this works.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is a ballot that Democratic voters in Michigan are seeing today.

There's Hillary Clinton on the ballot right there, her name still on it. But go down and there's no other top-tier Democrat here, just this name down here, uncommitted. And that's who grassroots supporters of Barack Obama and John Edwards have been rallying for on and offline.

There's a Web site -- there's a video on YouTube urging people to vote uncommitted, a Web site, Michiganders for Obama, which has been rallying this cry, saying that a vote uncommitted is actually a vote for Barack Obama. And there's a similar effort for John Edwards.

Something else that has been floated online that we will be looking at is this idea that Democrats should vote for Mitt Romney, that floated by the Web site Daily Kos, the idea being that, if Romney stays in the race, they spend more and more money, the Republicans attacking each other and not Democrats.

We will see how this all goes down in a couple of hours -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We should know soon enough.

Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

Tonight, the Democratic candidates are certainly looking ahead to their first test of the Hispanic vote. It's coming up later this week. We're live in Nevada to show you what the stakes are.

Dozens of cars plunged into the river; 13 people died. You remember all of that. Now investigators come up with a clue as to what caused the collapse of that Minnesota highway bridge.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Democrats are gearing up for the first big test of Latino support. We are going to tell what you they're doing to win Hispanic votes in Nevada and why that state could influence what happens in some big contests ahead.

Plus, if Mitt Romney leaves Michigan without a win under his belt, can his campaign carry on? Will the best political team on television buy into the notion that tonight is do or die for Mitt Romney? We're watching the story.

The nation's largest bank posts its biggest loss ever. Now Saudi Arabia is stepping in to help. Is that risky business for the U.S. economy and national security?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Happening now: A House committee opens hearings on steroid use in Major League Baseball. One lawmaker is warning, if the league doesn't fix the problem, Congress will.

Also, the Food and Drug Administration declaring that food from cloned animals and their offspring is safe, not requiring any special labeling, meaning you won't know if you're buying and eating cloned food.

And serious financial problems for Citigroup -- the company is reporting a $10 billion loss in the fourth quarter, the largest in its history, and an $18 billion write-down stemming from the mortgage meltdown -- all of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, the Democratic presidential candidates are looking ahead to their first test of the Latino vote. It happens Saturday, when Nevada holds caucuses.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): From Barack Obama, a rallying cry made famous by the late labor activist Cesar Chavez.


YELLIN: From Senator Clinton, the human touch at home with Hispanic voters.

Hispanics make up 9 percent of eligible voters nationwide, but 12 percent here in Nevada. And, with a race this tight, they could decide who wins the state. ADAM SEGAL, DIRECTOR, HISPANIC VOTER PROJECT: If you have to win this state, and if this is the state that the Democratic Party set up as the example of the influence of Hispanic voters in the Democratic Party, you have to be able to demonstrate that you can win Hispanic support.

YELLIN: Obama scored a crucial boost when the state's Culinary Workers Union endorsed him. Most of their members are Latino and will be encouraged to caucus for Obama.

But Senator Clinton countered, announcing the endorsement of Cesar Chavez's brother, organizer Richard Chavez. And the Latino community has a long history of affection for all things Clinton.

Their top concerns are the same kitchen table issues that worry the rest of the nation.

SEGAL: They're really focused on, you know, whether they're going to have a job over the next six months or a year; whether they're going to be able to afford health care; and whether the local education system is adequate for them and their family. Certainly, the war in Iraq and immigration are also enormous issues. But the Democrats are not really using those issues as a wedge issue in the primary battle.

YELLIN: Whoever does win the Hispanic vote here will have bragging rights, as they face primaries in California, New York and Florida -- battleground states in which the Latino vote could be equally decisive.


YELLIN: And, Wolf, both Senators Obama and Clinton have gone up with new television ads in Spanish. They're their first Spanish language ads anywhere in the nation and they are trying to do everything they can to turn out Hispanic voters here. They're trying to teach them, also, how to caucus. For many people, it will be their first caucus this Saturday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Saturday in Nevada. All right.

Great, Jessica.

Thanks very much.

Meanwhile, the polls in Michigan closing in just about two-and-a- half hours. And before the night is over, we should see the next shoe drop in the GOP presidential race.

Let's talk about that and more with our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin, our own Jack Cafferty and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. They're all part of the best political team on television.

You know, Michigan, for Romney, seems to have been tailor-made. He was born there. His father was a popular governor there. He used to be president of American Motors. He's fixed a lot of companies, fixed the Olympics.

What do you think?

CAFFERTY: Well, I think if he doesn't win there, he ought to go home.


CAFFERTY: I mean, come on, he's the favorite son. You've got to win your home state. I think Giuliani is probably rooting for him. Giuliani doesn't want to see McCain win in Michigan. But, you know, they're all running around Michigan pandering to the voters -- we'll fix this, we'll fix that, I won't rest until Michigan is fixed.


CAFFERTY: The country is circling the drain here. It isn't just Michigan. And promising to fix Michigan is just disingenuous.

What are you, going to make 50 different state projects as you go around the country?

I mean come on.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, Jack, your campaign slogan would be things will be worse if you elect me in -- as president?


TOOBIN: I mean they're running for president.

How can they be...


GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, but they are running...

TOOBIN: know...


CAFFERTY: Empty promises from politicians -- I mean is this something new?

We haven't heard this before?

TOOBIN: No, it's...


BORGER: Right. Well, I was going to say, are you shocked by this?

But they are -- they are running like they're running for the state legislature. CAFFERTY: Yes.

BORGER: Yes. This is a very local race. And it's like Mitt Romney is running for the president of Michigan.


BLITZER: Michigan is in such trouble, though. I mean Detroit -- like my hometown of Buffalo -- it's lost half its population...


BLITZER: the last 20 or 30 years.

TOOBIN: And...

BLITZER: It's really sad what's going on over there.

TOOBIN: And I think, as Jack is pointing out, there are large economic forces at play that no president of any party can solve. I mean, you know, the -- Detroit is not going to be the auto capital of the world anymore.

BORGER: Well...

TOOBIN: I mean that's just simply not going to happen.


BORGER: Well, John McCain says those jobs are not going to come back, but Mitt Romney says John McCain is a pessimist.


BORGER: That's been the campaign.

TOOBIN: I mean there could be jobs coming back, but they aren't those jobs coming back.

BORGER: Right. Well...

CAFFERTY: You know, you just got through reporting Citibank lost $10 billion -- the biggest quarterly loss in their history. We have economic problems that make Michigan look like a pimple on a bull's rear end -- if you'll pardon the expression. I mean this country is $9 trillion in debt. We're blowing, what, $300 billion a year on the war in Iraq. I mean, Michigan -- yes, it's too bad. There are economic problems all over this country.

BLITZER: And the country is facing a recession, potentially.

BORGER: You know...

BLITZER: Some people -- some economists think we're already in a recession. BORGER: It's true. And the Democrats, truth be told, are the ones who are much more comfortable talking about the economic anxiety issue because they're much more comfortable with government solutions to these kinds of problems. Michigan is really a test for the Republicans on their own economic message, because they have to run against George W. Bush and what the economy has become. And they also have to say well, here's how I'm going to fix it.

Mitt Romney said he's going to convene, in his first 100 days as president, you know, some kind of consortium on how to fix Michigan.

TOOBIN: Oh, that'll do it.

BORGER: Right.


BORGER: But it is a test for them. It is a test.

CAFFERTY: Get a committee -- a government committee together to fix our problems. I mean come on.


CAFFERTY: I mean it's too late for this stuff. It's over.

TOOBIN: Well, I'm not prepared to say it's over.


TOOBIN: I mean it's still the strongest economy in the world.

CAFFERTY: Not for much longer, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: But -- well, but I know -- I mean I know that's a -- a very legitimate point. But I mean it is striking when you talk about the Citibank story.

Where did they go to get the money to bail it out?



TOOBIN: I mean it used to be that money came from the United States. But, you know, whether it's oil that we're buying abroad or goods that we're buying in China, I mean that's who's bailing us out, because they have all the money that we spent...

CAFFERTY: With our own money.

TOOBIN: With our own money, yes.

CAFFERTY: With the money we sent them for oil and gasoline. The weapons package that President Bush just offered the Saudis, they're going to buy it with your money and my money and her money. What's wrong with this picture?

BLITZER: I want to talk about that and a lot more. Hold your fire. We're going to talk what's happening with the investments coming in from overseas. I want to take a look at what's happening on the Democratic side, as well.

Much more with the best political team on television.

Coming up, a Saudi prince comes to the rescue of an ailing American financial giant. Details of that stunning loss and a surprise twist. There he is, the Saudi prince.

And President Bush seeking direct help from Saudi Arabia. He's there right now. Check it out. He's got the sword. They're dancing. They're celebrating. I don't know what they're celebrating, but we're going to have details of that and a lot more.

Jack and the guys and gals will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The Democratic frontrunners, Hillary Clinton Barack Obama, they're calling for a truce in their battle over race.

Let's get back to the best political team on television.

Jack, everyone here was recommending they finally call a truce yesterday. They did call a truce.

Is it going to hold?

CAFFERTY: I doubt it. And if it holds, it will only hold on the surface. There are -- unfortunately, racism is part of the social fabric in this country. And despite the fact that Barack Obama bursts on the scene -- this refreshing figure who didn't utter the word race while he was campaigning. He won in Iowa. He did well in New Hampshire.

We can't let it go. You know, we just can't let it go. We've got to go back to the old ways. Let's divide along racial lines. Because there are people and organizations in this country in whose vested interests racism lies. And there's an ax to grind there and it's not going to go away.

TOOBIN: I also think we have not -- we have enhanced -- we have exaggerated...

BLITZER: We meaning?

TOOBIN: ...meaning the press has exaggerated, I think, how much the racial fight has gone on.

If you look at the actual things that they are fighting about -- Hillary Clinton's comment about Johnson and Martin Luther King...

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: It was a very subtle thing. It was hardly a racial remark.

BORGER: Subtle and...

TOOBIN: And then...


TOOBIN: ...Charlie Rangel and Robert Johnson, everybody knows no one tells them what to say. They decide on their own what to say. Those are very two independent thinking folks. And they made inflammatory remarks. But Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton didn't say anything inflammatory.

CAFFERTY: I disagree.

BORGER: You know, it's not about whether they masterminded this. It's about,, as one of our colleagues pointed out to us yesterday, whether the Clinton campaign kind of let it sit out there...


BORGER: ...and didn't pull Bob Johnson back and say you need to apologize.


BORGER: ...because maybe they...

CAFFERTY: What's up with that?

BORGER: You know, we don't know the answer to this. Honestly, we don't know the answer. But this is...

TOOBIN: Bob Johnson is a millionaire -- a billionaire...

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: ...who does exactly what he wants to do. Charlie Rangel has been a congressman here since before I was born.

BORGER: But you can still say...

TOOBIN: I mean these are...

BORGER: ...he's out of line.

CAFFERTY: But Johnson was speaking on behalf of Hillary Clinton when he made these remarks. And Shaheen, her co-chairman, national co- chair, got fired for doing the same thing. And she didn't say a word about...

TOOBIN: But you CNN's fire Bob Johnson.

CAFFERTY: ...about Bob Johnson.

TOOBIN: You can't fire Bob Johnson. He doesn't work for them.

CAFFERTY: No, but you can say publicly...

BORGER: But you can say he's wrong.

CAFFERTY: ...he doesn't speak for me on that issue. And that's what she should have said.

TOOBIN: I think this is a very subtle thing and this is not...

CAFFERTY: Then why are we sitting here talking about it?


TOOBIN: Well, that's a separate question.

BLITZER: Well, one of the...


BORGER: Well, but I...


BLITZER: One of the reasons is that every day, virtually, Bill Clinton goes on a radio show...


BLITZER: ...Al Sharpton's radio show or other radio shows and talks about it.

BORGER: He's still apologizing.

BLITZER: And so what are we supposed to ignore the fact that the former president of the United States is talking about these...

TOOBIN: But he is...

BLITZER: ...sensitive issues?

TOOBIN: He is reducing the temperature. That's what he's doing on those radio shows.


BORGER: No. He's keeping the story...

CAFFERTY: On Al Sharpton's program?

BORGER: ...but he...


CAFFERTY: Come on.

BORGER: But in a way, he's doing -- like Bill Clinton, he's doing both things. He's reducing the temperature on the one hand and keeping the story alive...

TOOBIN: But, look...

BORGER: ...on the other hand.

TOOBIN: The Clintons have been close to the black community for decades.

BORGER: I agree.

TOOBIN: Bill Clinton should campaign for black votes.

BORGER: I don't think. Right.

TOOBIN: What are they supposed to do, write off the black votes?

BORGER: And I thought the whole racial issue would not have come up in the context of the Democratic primary. I thought it would come up in a general election.

TOOBIN: And it probably will.

BORGER: And it could, if Obama is the nominee. But...

TOOBIN: But I think it's not only a service to the Democratic Party, it's a service to the country for both of these candidates to say, look, let's talk about issues, let's talk about leadership...

BORGER: I agree.

BLITZER: All right...

TOOBIN: Let's not talk about race.

BLITZER: All right, let's take Jeff's advice.


BLITZER: Let's talk about an issue -- Citigroup, a company -- a big company we were talking about. They're getting this $10 billion investment from the Kuwaitis, the Saudis, from Singapore. And some are suggesting you know what, this is a vote of confidence in the U.S. economy, because these guys wouldn't be taking their hard-earned oil money and investing it here in the United States if they didn't have confidence in the U.S.

CAFFERTY: Well, that's like the Chinese buying Treasury notes and bills from the federal government. They own American assets by doing this. And, yes, the American assets are still valuable. Citibank, arguably, isn't as valuable as it was yesterday. And it's probably not going to be as valuable tomorrow as it is today. But they're investing in American assets with our own money. BORGER: And, you know, I think the question the American public will start to ask is, are these passive investments, which is fine. Or, at a certain point, do they become more than passive investments and become managerial and start running Citigroup or whoever it is.

BLITZER: You know...

BORGER: And then I...

BLITZER: You know money talks, Jack. You covered this story for a long time.


BLITZER: Let me show the video while we're discussing -- the president when he was in Saudi Arabia today.

Watch this and go ahead, Jeff, pick up your thought.

TOOBIN: Well, no, it's just -- the point is that this is a potentially virtuous circle, if America can cut its dependence on foreign oil. Because instead of mortgaging our future to these very unstable countries, you will also fight global warming if you can stop importing all this oil. But until somebody steps up with some leadership that says, look, we have to do this and the country has to sacrifice, it's not going to happen. But it's not just -- it's not national security and not just economics, it's science.

CAFFERTY: And what was Bush over there doing today?

Please give us more oil. Please open the spigot.

BLITZER: Please lower the price.

CAFFERTY: Please produce more oil.

BLITZER: Please lower the price.

BORGER: Well, but...

CAFFERTY: I mean, you know, we're over there selling arms packages to guys that they're going to buy back with our own money and then, in the next breath, he's begging these people who, when the chips are down, aren't going to side with Israel to give us more oil so the price will come down so it he'll help our economy.

BORGER: Well, let...

CAFFERTY: I mean it's sad. It's sad.

BORGER: Well, let me ask you, Jack, though, which candidate in this presidential campaign is talking about a 50 cent a gallon tax on gasoline?

Not one.

TOOBIN: Or a carbon tax.

BORGER: Yes. Right.

TOOBIN: I mean a carbon (INAUDIBLE)...

CAFFERTY: Yes, well, this thing we had on earlier -- there is a commission out. They want to raise gasoline taxes 40 cents a gallon over five years, use the money to pay for infrastructure. But we're too busy talking about...

BORGER: Which presidential candidate is saying that?

CAFFERTY: We're too busy talking about the Michigan economy and about racism. And nobody's talking about the kinds of stuff that we're -- that we're alluding to here. And, ultimately, that will be the demise of this economy.

BLITZER: We've got a...

CAFFERTY: I mean it's...

BLITZER: We've got a lot more to talk about. We're going to be here for hours and hours tonight, because the voters are speaking in Michigan.

Guys, thanks very much.

Jack's got The Cafferty File coming up, as well.

Let's check in with Lou, because he's got a special two hour program coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Yes, well, you're going to be there for hours and hours. I'm just going to be here for hour and hour.


BLITZER: Yes, but that's a lot.

DOBBS: But, Wolf, thank you.

BLITZER: That's a lot, Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.

Coming up at 7:00, we'll have the latest for you on the presidential election campaign, the Michigan primary, the false choices being offered to voters by candidates from both parties. I'll be joined by former presidential candidate, Governor Bill Richardson.

Also tonight, the federal government talking tough on the issue of criminal illegal aliens.

It took a while, but is it another P.R. stunt? And the mortgage crisis in this country threatening the future of some of our biggest cities and all the people within them. Some mayors have had a bellyful of the financial institutions that created this crisis. We'll have a special report on what they're doing about it in communities across the nation reeling from the impact of faith-based economic policies. We'll have a live report from one of the worst affected areas.

And please join us at the top of the hour for all of that, all the day's news and a lot more.

And please, please join us at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, as well, for a special edition of "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- "Independents Day: An Awakening of the American Spirit". Don't even think about that "American Idol" thing -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Lou.


Thanks very much.

We will all be there. We'll be watching. We'll be participating, as well.

A Democratic candidate in legal limbo. We have details of an eleventh hour effort by Dennis Kucinich to be included in the presidential debate. Find out why Nevada's Supreme Court may decide.

Plus, hecklers on the campaign trail -- some good, some bad. We'll somehow show you the best of both.

Jeanne Moos is standing by with that.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: On our Political Ticker right now, suspense building before a Democratic presidential debate in Nevada later tonight. The State Supreme Court scheduled a late hearing on whether Congressman Dennis Kucinich would take part in the face-off. A Clark County district judge ruled Kucinich must be included in the MSNBC debate or the cable TV news network would have to cancel the forum. The network's parent company is appealing, arguing the judge lacked jurisdiction to make that ruling.

The Democrats announced today that Kansas governor, Kathleen Sebelius, will deliver the party's response to. The president's State of the Union Address. And there will be a Spanish language response, as well, delivered by a Texas state senator. Top Congressional Democrats emphasize that both are female leaders from red states. The president's State of the Union Address is January 28th. Southerner Mike Huckabee is apparently some -- is apparently having some winter fun in chilly Michigan. Check out these pictures of the Republican in a snowball fight before the cameras. Huckabee suggests the cold and snow in Michigan might work to his advantage in today's primary, because he contends his Evangelical supporters might be more motivated to brave the elements than some other voters.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always check out our ticker at You can read my daily blog there, as well.

Let's go back to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Huckabee looked like Brett Favre in that playoff game up in Green Bay last weekend. He was throwing snowballs on the field during the game, as I recall.

BLITZER: That's going to be quite a game this Sunday night...

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes. The Giants/Packers.

BLITZER: Green Bay.

CAFFERTY: Yes. And then the Chargers/Patriots, right?


CAFFERTY: It's getting good out there.

The question this hour is this -- should the gasoline tax be raised by 40 cents a gallon over five years -- the money to be used to pay for improvements and repairs to the nation's infrastructure?

Kevin writes: "We pay tolls when we travel on toll roads, yet I seldom see the improvements that are promised with our toll money. What makes me think a 40 cent a gallon gas tax would be used to repair our infrastructure? About 30 cents of that money would wind up in some fat cat's pocket. Why not develop a public works program, hire the unemployed and put them to work fixing our roads?"

Barbi writes: "I thought we were moving toward helping the middle class. I realize maintaining roads and bridges is, indeed, important. But even suggesting anything that would make gas prices go higher than they are now is absurd."

J.C. in New York: "It makes sense to me. Those who use the roads ought to pay for their upkeep. Our gasoline costs are the lowest of any developed country in the world anyway."

Mike in California writes: "It's just a back door way to raise taxes. If anybody believes the tax will be used for what it's supposed to be, they're dreaming."

Alex: "Maybe if we take the money that it takes to put some of these commissions together, we would not have to raise anything. I thought, like most Americans, that we pay taxes for these purposes already."

Alex, we do.

And David writes: "If they raise gasoline taxes by 40 cents a gallon, I won't need any roads. A foot path will do."


BLITZER: True, but unfortunate.



BLITZER: Jack, thank you.


BLITZER: Cheering and jeering...


OBAMA: Oh, thank you New Hampshire.


OBAMA: I love you back.


Thank you.


BLITZER: Presidential candidates come across some hecklers -- the good ones, the bad ones. They try to come up with their own comeback lines.

Jeanne Moos -- and only Jeanne Moos -- can take a close look at this.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from our friends at the Associated Press.

In Iraq, devout Shiites beat their chests as a sign of grief. They're commemorating the martyrdom of Muhammad's grandson in the seventh century. In Kenya, a bicycle taxi rides past a burning car. Kenya's parliament met for the first time today since the disputed presidential vote there.

In India, a holy man ties his turban while marking a Hindu holiday. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are expected to go to Eastern India to observe.

And in Cambodia, the sun silhouettes a boy as he rides on an ox cart.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures often worth a thousand words.

They get cheered and they get jeered.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary, marry me, baby.

CLINTON: That is -- that is certainly the kindest offer I've had, but...



BLITZER: And if they're lucky, the presidential candidates can come up with a good line -- a good comeback line, that is.

CNN's Jeanne Moss has a Moost Unusual look at the crowds along the campaign trail.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When you get heckled it can be by Jekyll or Hyde. There's the good heckler -- for instance, yelling at Barack Obama, "I love you."


OBAMA: I love you back.


MOOS: And the bad heckler, like the pranksters from a Boston radio show who interrupted Hillary Clinton shouting, "Iron my shirt!"


CLINTON: You bring about change...


CLINTON: demanding it.


CLINTON: And some people think.



MOOS: But even a happy heckler requires a good comeback.


CLINTON: Yes, sir. Right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary, marry me baby.


CLINTON: That is certainly the kindest offer I've had, but...


CLINTON: I would probably get arrested.


MOOS (on camera): Actually, Hillary, you wouldn't get arrested. His MySpace page says he's 20-years-old.

(voice-over): And though he's not under age, marriage might be tricky since Frank Mians (ph) describes himself as primarily gay.




MOOS: Hillary is all over the MySpace page of this political science major from Los Angeles.


MOOS: He's proposed to Hillary twice before -- at a fundraiser and at a rally, when he yelled, Marry me, Mamacita" and Hillary blew him a kiss.


MOOS: These days, supporters are so hot for their candidates that they're falling like flies.


OBAMA: Is somebody OK?

Did somebody just get faint? (END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: Supporters have fainted at a Obama rally and at a McCain rally.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Whoops. We have a doctor there, I'm happy to say.

Thank you.

I hope you're OK.


MOOS: And Bill Clinton still knocks the ladies dead. Watch the young woman behind him teeter.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And by a proven cost savings in the health system that everybody agrees are there. It'll work and it's very important.


MOOS: That's Chelsea Clinton coming to the rescue behind Bill.

Obama offered his fallen supporter his own bottle.


OBAMA: You got some water?

Good job, EMT.


MOOS: Whether it's a fainting spell or a heckler...


MCCAIN: Now, now, come on. Give it a little -- give it a rest.


MOOS: Supporters like to see how their candidate deals. Maybe they could learn a lesson from this 2-year-old, who got heckled by a 3-year-old while giving a book report.



SADIE: I'm not a baby. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Little Sadie (ph) didn't let a heckler trample her human rights.


SADIE: I'm not a baby. I'm a human.


SADIE: I am.


SADIE: I am. I am a human.


MOOS: Sadie for president.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Now you can take the best political team with you anytime, anywhere. You can download the best political pod cast at

You can also read my daily blog there, as well,

Join us here at the CNN Election Express tonight for up to the minute results of the Michigan primary. I'll be back, along with my colleague, Lou Dobbs, during the epee hour. When the final polls close at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, I'll be right here with Larry King. And we'll stay here until all the results are in.

Until then, thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.