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The Situation Room

Interview With New York Congressman Charles Rangel; Obama Grabs Superdelegate Lead

Aired May 12, 2008 - 18:00   ET


Happening now: Hillary Clinton on track for a big win in West Virginia tomorrow. Will it be a new beginning for her campaign or a last hurrah? I will ask a leading Clinton supporter, Congressman Charlie Rangel.

Barack Obama's new break -- he has scored more superdelegates than Clinton, and now he's ready to focus in on the fall battleground.

John McCain tries to change the political climate on global warming. Can he convince voters that, on this issue, he's no George Bush?

I'm Wolf Blitzer, along with the best political team on television. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

On this primary eve, there's little doubt that Hillary Clinton will pull off a new win in West Virginia tomorrow, and most likely a big one. The question is this. What happens to her campaign after that?

Today, Barack Obama is in even better position to clinch the nomination. He now leads Clinton in the fight for superdelegate support.

Let's go out to West Virginia.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is standing by.

You're watching a senator, Senator Clinton, who is determined to press on, Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She is determined, Wolf. She is doubling down in states that have upcoming primaries, and she's telling folks here in West Virginia that they can make all the difference in this race.


YELLIN (voice-over): They love her here. They really do.



YELLIN: Clinton, trailing in pledged delegates, superdelegates, and states won, is expected to rack up a huge victory in West Virginia.

CLINTON: The eyes of the world are going to be on West Virginia. You have an opportunity to send a real message about who you believe would be the best president for you.

YELLIN: In other words, help keep this campaign afloat. Clinton has been telling West Virginia audiences she is in this race to the end.

CLINTON: But I guess my favorite message was from a woman named Angela. Keep strong, she said. It's not over until the lady in the pantsuit says it is.



YELLIN: But many of her top supporters view her expected win here as little more than a last hurrah before Barack Obama becomes the Democratic nominee. It seems to be a widely-held view. has already started running Obama ads in key general election states.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a lifelong Republican, and I'm voting for Barack Obama.


YELLIN: And Obama is planning upcoming trips to Missouri, Michigan and Florida, crucial battlegrounds for the election in November. In his one West Virginia appearance today, the senator tipped his hat to Clinton.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am -- I am extraordinarily honored that some of you will support me.


OBAMA: I am grateful. I understand that many more here in West Virginia will probably support Senator Clinton.

YELLIN: Then he blew right past her to focus on issues central to the next race he hopes to run, the one against John McCain.


YELLIN: And, Wolf, if location is everything, Barack Obama's plans for tomorrow night are telling. He will not be in West Virginia. He will be in Missouri, and he is not holding a primary night event. Senator Clinton is. She will be in Charleston, West Virginia -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much for that.

There's a -- let's have a closer look now at where the fight for the superdelegates stands. Clinton's once daunting lead is completely gone. Obama now leads by a margin of four. By CNN's latest count, Obama now has 277 superdelegates. Clinton has 273.

The gap in total delegates is even wider. CNN estimates that Obama now has 1,869 total delegates. Clinton has 1,697. That's a 172-delegate advantage for Obama. And he's getting closer to the 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. That's the magic number right now.

Once both parties' nominees are decided, superdelegates will be forgotten and the Electoral College votes will count big time.

Let's go to our chief national correspondent, John King. He's already at the CNN Election Center, getting ready for tomorrow night.

John, all three candidates, if we take a look at their travel plans, it speaks volumes about what's going on right now.


And let's start with Senator Clinton, because the Electoral College is part of her last-gasp argument, if you will, to leaders in the Democratic Party, saying, hey, look, I know Barack Obama is winning among pledged delegates, even now among superdelegates, but I'm the tougher candidate for November.

It's a tough argument for her to make, but here's how she does it. She says, look where I'm winning. I'm winning here. I win Pennsylvania. I win in Ohio. I win out in Tennessee and Indiana. And I'm expected to win West Virginia and Kentucky. White working- class voters, if she could take those away or any Democrat could take those away from the Republican in November, that could switch the White House alone back to the Democrats.

Hillary also says, look at me. I won the primaries out here in the Southwest, up in Nevada and California, Latino voters, the growing, fastest growing piece of the U.S. electorate. So, Hillary Clinton says, if you look at my strengths here and my strengths here, I will be a better candidate in November.

However, most Democrats assume that Barack Obama will be their candidate in November, and this is the map, Wolf, that more and more is in play. This starts with the premise of the race four years ago. As every presidential election does, you go back in time four years, John McCain in the slot that would be George W. Bush, all these red states, Barack Obama in what would be John Kerry territory, all these blue states.

Well, here's what John McCain says. He's out in Oregon today. He says, with the environment and other issues, I can reach out to independents. He also says, you know what? I think I can come in here and play in Missouri. I think the people -- let me switch that one -- keep that one there -- the people of New Hampshire like John McCain. He thinks he can play there.

He says Barack Obama's problems with white working-class voters would put Pennsylvania in play. So, if you look at that, John McCain says, I'm up above 300 electoral votes already, and there are a few more Democratic states out here, say Wisconsin and up here in Wyoming and Wisconsin, that he thinks he can play. And so he's making his math, maybe 400 -- states.

Well, Barack Obama says, nonsense. I'm going to come out here and I'm going to play in Nevada. I can play in New Mexico. I will keep Missouri for the Democrats. I did well in the primary there. I'm going to down here and play in Florida. And I can use my African- American support to put Virginia in play.

If you look at this, Wolf, just assume the campaigns are right with this math, they're in a very competitive race, where it could come down to one state. If Barack Obama could spin Colorado, he's the president of the United States. John McCain is not. If John McCain can put Missouri in the Republican column, he makes it over 270. Barack Obama slips back over.

So, when the campaigns are looking at the electoral map now, that's why you see John McCain in Oregon, in other places, that would say, hmm, can he really win that state? And you will see Barack Obama, as Jessica Yellin said, going into Missouri, down to Florida, and up into Michigan, trying to heal the wounds in the Democratic Party, because, in both campaigns right now, they look at this map, and it's early, it's still May, but they see a very competitive battleground with perhaps six or eight key swing states.

BLITZER: It's going to be fascinating. All right, John, thanks. See you tomorrow at the CNN Election Center.

Tomorrow night, we are going to bring you all the election results from West Virginia at the CNN Election Center. Our coverage begins right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, 4:00 p.m. Eastern, then continues into the night.

Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It turns out that President Bush might do more damage to John McCain's campaign than the Reverend Jeremiah Wright will do to Barack Obama's.

A new "USA Today"/Gallup poll says finds that 38 percent of likely voters say McCain's ties to the president make them less likely to vote for the presumptive nominee in November -- 33 percent say Obama's relationship with Wright has the same effect on them.

However, there is more of an upside when it comes to the relationship with President Bush. Seven percent of those surveyed say they are more likely to vote for John McCain because of his association with Mr. Bush. That compares to only 1 percent who say that they're more likely to vote for Obama because of his relationship to Jeremiah Wright.

The pollsters say it's also important to look at how these personal associations affect the candidates among their bases. If you do that, it looks like Wright may do more harm to Obama. That's because 19 -- 19 percent -- pardon me -- of Democrats say they would be less likely to vote for Barack Obama because of his ties to Jeremiah Wright, while just 10 percent of Republicans say they are less likely to vote for John McCain because of his ties to President Bush.

You think we chop this stuff up finely enough? However, among the general electorate, the two appear to do about the same amount of damage. In particular, President Bush could hurt McCain's ability to attract those Democrats and much-sought after independents.

Here's the question. What's more damaging to the presidential campaigns, Bush's relationship with John McCain or the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's association with Barack Obama?

Go to You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Many people may be counting Hillary Clinton out, but one prominent supporter argues why she should stay in.


REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D-NY), HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I cannot think of any reporter that can show us a downside in letting everyone vote and going to the convention and coming out with one candidate.


BLITZER: Congressman Charlie Rangel lays out exactly why Clinton should not do what some are urging her to do.

John McCain does something to disprove the claim he's just like President Bush and would represent a third term of Bush. He slams the president on one issue and says he won't do what the president did for eight years. We will tell you what's going on.

And a disturbing death toll that's likely to grow -- in China right now, almost 9,000 people are confirmed dead after what's being called the biggest earthquake in a generation.

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


BLITZER: On the eve of the West Virginia primary, Hillary Clinton supporters are ready for her to score a big win. But they can't ignore the delegate math that works against Clinton or suggestions that it's time for her to call it quits. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now from New York, Congressman Charlie Rangel. He's a major supporter of Hillary Clinton.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

RANGEL: Sure. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Where does this campaign between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama stand right now?

RANGEL: Well, I think it's abundantly clear that Barack is way ahead of us. And I thought you were going to ask the question they normally ask, you know, why doesn't she drop out? And then I would have responded by saying, for what?

I think this has been the most exciting primary for the Democrats and for Americans that we've ever had. So it's exciting people and I think it's going to make us all look better when we get to November.

BLITZER: So you think this is good for the eventual nominee, whoever that is?

RANGEL: I really do. Of course I do.

People want to vote, and they haven't voted. She gets out, some people are going to feel that they never got a chance to participate.

We've got people from all parts of the Democratic Party that's going to go out. She even went as far as to make an awkward and I describe it as a dumb statement that she's doing better in the white community than he's doing. You know, and candidates don't talk that way.

Obama has campaigned above the racial lines. But you know that this is politics. Whenever you find the TV stations talking about what's happening in the black community, which is obviously Obama's, and the white vote hasn't come in, so it's done in the back room. But certainly it is nothing to suggest that at the end of the game, that you bring these people in, you bring them into the Democratic Party.

And everyone would have anticipated against the extension of the Bush years with McCain. So I think it's going to be great.

BLITZER: You had suggested that that comment she made in that interview with "USA Today," in your words, was one of the dumbest things she could have said.

Let me play that little clip, and I want to discuss it with you. Just bear me out.


CLINTON: Senator Obama's support among working -- hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how the, you know, whites in both states who have not completed college were supporting me.


BLITZER: All right.

When you said it was one of the dumbest things she could have said, what did you mean exactly? Because I know you went out later that day and you were at a fund-raiser with her. You obviously are very, very strong supportive of her.

RANGEL: Well, you know, I guess it's all right when pundits and reporters report things such as that. And there's no question in my mind that she could have said that in reaching out to bring in these people who are not participating for Obama, that she's going to go out and bring them in.

So at the end of the day we have Obama people, we have Clinton people, we have white people, black people, and people of all races. You know, that would have gone and that would have sold.

You can't leave those people just hanging out there because they don't support Obama now. And if anything, if she's doing so badly, she will bring them out, bring them into the party, and they'll stay in the party. And so it seems to me if you're a campaign manager, you would do what she was saying, but certainly we would not expect our candidates to do what reporters do.


RANGEL: And that is to talk about race. Reporters do it every night, every hour.

BLITZER: I guess though what she was implying, and correct me if I'm wrong, is she thinks she would be more competitive against John McCain in the fall than Barack Obama.

Do you believe that?

RANGEL: Of course not. Of course not.

I think that Obama has shattered all of this business about white and black. But certainly not in certain parts of the country where you see big pro-Clinton areas. And certainly not in other areas where you have large minorities where they're big Obama.

He's done a great job, but the feeling of race and color is still out there. If the two of them, especially women who attach to her, come into the party, African-Americans come into the party, there is no question that McCain is not going to be the beneficiary of this type of diversity that we have in our great party.

BLITZER: Can she still win the presidential nomination?

RANGEL: Well, she would not be in there if she didn't believe that according to the rules and the math that she could. Most people said mathematically it's impossible. BLITZER: What do you think?

RANGEL: That is -- that it doesn't make sense. If mathematically it was impossible, then the race is over. And I'm surprised that people use that term.

It may be that it's more difficult. But we in New York remember when the Giants were going to the Super Bowl, and I guess somebody might have said they don't stand a mathematical chance of winning. Well, we New Yorkers and the New York congressional delegation and those of us that love the Giants believe that as long as it is possible, we're going to be with her.

BLITZER: Have you spoken to her lately?

RANGEL: Sure. I spoke with her yesterday. I speak with her often.

BLITZER: And how did she sound?

RANGEL: Well, you can see it on TV. She's full of energy. I don't know how she does it. She's got a real great team behind her all over the country.

And the real question should be, is she more concerned with the party and winning than she is with herself? And most all the time that she talks with me, is what we are going to do come November. And that means working with Obama, working with other people who haven't checked out.

This is a great time in American history to have a woman there that's an outstanding candidate, to have an African-American that's an outstanding candidate, to have young people enthusiastic and coming together in order to make certain that the pain of the Bush years are behind us. I don't see -- I cannot think of any reporter that can show us a downside in letting everyone vote and going to the convention and coming out with one candidate. To me, it just makes a lot of sense.

BLITZER: We're out of time. But very quickly, should they be on the same ticket?

RANGEL: I think that would be absolutely terrific and -- and I hope it works out that way.

BLITZER: Congressman Rangel, always a pleasure having you in THE SITUATION ROOM.

RANGEL: Good to be with you.


BLITZER: One witness describes the horror felt as a tornado tore through.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GLORIA WORKMAN, TORNADO VICTIM: And it was just roaring, and it was just getting closer and louder and louder. And you could see stuff flying everywhere.


BLITZER: The twisters left a trail of death and devastation, and, even after, there are many reasons for those affected to fear.

A powerful earthquake rocks China. The death toll is high and is rising right now. Some people are sleeping outside their homes by choice, because they fear something else is about to happen.

And Hillary Clinton may be looking toward the summer, but Barack Obama is looking toward the fall. You're going to want to hear what he's doing to gear up for a possible general election campaign against John McCain.

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



BLITZER: John McCain is trying to break the Republican mold when it comes to the issue of global warming. Just ahead, what he would do differently than President Bush and how it might help the climate. We're watching this.

Also, new word about Hillary Clinton's possible exit strategy. The best political team on television is standing by with that.

And does President Bush hurt John McCain more than the Reverend Wright hurts Barack Obama? That's Jack's question. He will be going through your e-mail -- lots more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: John McCain tries to distance himself from an unpopular president.

Barack Obama is expected to lose at least three of the remaining primaries. What impact, though, will it have on his campaign?

And you will are going to out how one Oklahoma couple survived the killer tornadoes.

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

John McCain is campaigning right now in Oregon. He's trying to disprove the claim that he's like President Bush regarding one specific issue right now.

CNN's Dana Bash is in Portland watching this story for us.

Dana, he's pushing something that is not normally pushed by a lot of Republicans.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not. And, you know, Democrats, as you can imagine, are calling this idea that he's talking about climate change a masquerade.

But John McCain's campaign really thinks that, by him talking about this, this will be one of his best issues, because it allows him to distance himself from President Bush, and it also pushes the idea that could be counterintuitive, a 71-year-old candidate pushing the idea of change.


BASH (voice-over): Republican candidates don't often come to the Pacific Northwest to decry the effects of global warning. Precisely the reason John McCain did.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters, and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring.

BASH: He rebuked President Bush, whose administration has been skeptical of science showing global warming.

MCCAIN: I will not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears. I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges.

BASH: McCain promised to abandon what he called dead-end diplomacy and push for a new global treaty. To reduce greenhouse gases, he proposes a cap-and-trade solution, which caps gas emissions, but allows companies to trade emission credits.

MCCAIN: As never before, the market would reward any person or company that seeks to invent, improve or acquire alternatives to carbon-based energy.

BASH: Portraying himself as a rare species, a green Republican, is a regular part of McCain's stump speeches.

MCCAIN: ANWR, I believe, is a pristine place. I don't want to drill in the Grand Canyon and I don't want to drill in the Everglades.

BASH: But coming to Oregon to highlight his environmental proposals is all about the fight with Barack Obama for independent voters. In 2004, one-third of Oregon voters were independent, among the highest of the battleground states. It's why McCain is using one of his most precious resources, campaign cash, for this new TV ad here.


MCCAIN: I believe that climate change is real. It's not just a greenhouse gas issue. It's a national security issue.



BASH: Democrats in several left-leaning environmental groups blasted McCain today for what they called hypocrisy, pointing out, for example, that he praised renewable energy here at a wind power plant, but he voted against tax credits that would help that kind of renewable energy.

The McCain campaign responded, Wolf, by insisting that that kind of legislation and others were things that had excess spending, and that collided with the idea that McCain is also pushing, which is to try to stop that, as well, in Washington -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thank you.

Let's talk about this and more with our senior political analyst Gloria Borger, our own Jack Cafferty, and our CNN senior analyst Jeff Toobin.

Jack, in a lot of states, there are more registered independents, if you will, than Republicans or Democrats. And McCain sees an opening here on this issue of global warming.

CAFFERTY: Yes, he's going to be the next Al Gore, right? I don't think so.


CAFFERTY: I just -- you know, it's an interesting tactic, but, if you look at his record and his absence on, what was it, 15 votes on various environmentally related pieces of legislation in the last year, I think he got one of the lowest ratings by one of the watchdog agencies of any member of Congress, as in zero.

So, it's trying to be all things to all people, but I don't know if it's going to fit so well on Senator McCain.

BLITZER: Does he have an opening here, Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he does have an opening.

All during the primaries, John McCain has been talking about global warming. I think it's a way for him, believe it or not, not only to attract independent voters, but maybe even -- even some younger voters, who may be Republican and be looking at him on that particular issue.

BLITZER: He makes it clear he believes there is this problem, Jeffrey, called global warming, in marked contrast to a lot of other Republicans out there who aren't yet convinced that this is a serious problem. JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, you know, this story illustrates just how low the bar is for Republicans on the environment.


TOOBIN: You know, the fact that he acknowledges global warming is seen as a big advantage for him, but it's like acknowledging gravity. It is a scientific fact.


TOOBIN: Now, the real issue is not whether it exists. The question is what to do about it.

And, in that area, he's not as far as to the right as Bush is, but he's pretty close. So, the substance is -- is a little weak, but I think it's a smart political move for McCain, and he's going to do it.


BORGER: And he's signaling that he could work with a Democratic Congress on this issue, if he had to.

CAFFERTY: He will have to.


BLITZER: Let's talk about some dates that are coming up. There's a lot of talk, Gloria, out there, about May 20. There's going to be primaries in Oregon and Kentucky. Why is that date potentially significant?

BORGER: Well, sources within the Clinton campaign and also folks close to the Clinton campaign say that we should really be keeping an eye on May 20, because we expect Hillary Clinton to win in West Virginia coming up tomorrow, and then you have Kentucky and Oregon.

She's going to win in Kentucky. He's going to win in Oregon. Some people are saying, look at that date as a potential sort of end of the campaign, maybe the day after, because she would have won one. He would have won one. She could go out on a high, and maybe they would be sort of slowing the campaign down.

However, talking to people in the campaign, they always say they have no idea what Hillary Clinton is thinking. And they also think that the rules committee meeting on May 31, Wolf, is very important, because they believe they have to resolve the Florida and Michigan issue.

BLITZER: And, Jeff, Terry McAuliffe said today in his mind there's no doubt she's staying through June 3, the day of the last two primaries.

TOOBIN: Well, I think that's the likely outcome. Certainly, she's been saying that, and there really isn't that much of a difference between May 20 and June 3. The only primaries after that are South Dakota, Montana, Puerto Rico, not primaries with a lot of delegates at stake.

But, you know, the campaign now is all about how it ends, and whether it ends with the party coming together or continued friction. I think it will be interesting to see, does Hillary Clinton use this May 31 meeting as an opportunity to throw all the cards in the air and say that she wants to have a fight over Michigan and Florida, or is it a time for trying to bring the party together?

BORGER: You know, I would argue that the nature of the campaign has already shifted. I think today is a perfect example.

We know that Obama is going to Florida and Michigan and Missouri. John McCain, as we were just talking about before, is running a general election strategy. And the tone between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has certainly shifted. They're both talking about John McCain. They're not attacking each other so much.

So, you could already say we might be in a general election mode already.

BLITZER: Jack, what do you think?

CAFFERTY: I think the only question is how she chooses to make her exit. And we don't know that yet.

BORGER: Well, and I think it's not only how she makes her exit, but I would argue it's what she does after she exits, how hard she campaigns for Barack Obama and what she does in the fall, because that's how people are really going to judge her...


BLITZER: Here's another question that we will discuss after the break, the question involving these three losses he's expected to endure, in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Puerto Rico. Does that highlight weaknesses he would have going forward towards November?

We will talk about that and more.

Also, Barack Obama criticized for not wearing a flag pin -- is he wearing one now? We will talk about that.

And a late entry into the race for the White House -- does the former Republican Congressman Bob Barr think he has a chance right now as a Libertarian?

Plus, very close call for a killer storm.

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


BLITZER: Let's get back to Jack Cafferty and the best political team on television.

Jack, if he loses big in West Virginia, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, does that sort of highlight, advertise weaknesses Barack Obama would have going forward towards November?

CAFFERTY: I don't think so. Puerto Rico can't vote for president, so they can vote in the primaries, but that's the end of the game for them.

If he loses 2-1 in West Virginia -- and he might -- let's assume she gets 65 percent, he gets 35 percent. West Virginia has 28 delegates. She will net a gain of nine if he gets beat 2-1. He is much, much farther ahead than that. He's expected to lose, you know, the West Virginia primary. He's expected to lose Kentucky.

He will probably win Oregon and South Dakota and Montana. And outside of giving us something to talk about for a couple of days, I don't think it matters.

BLITZER: What do you think, Gloria?

BORGER: Well, I think we already know what Barack Obama's weaknesses are.


BORGER: They have been pointed out time and time again.

I would also just say that West Virginia and Kentucky have been reliably Republican states, largely on the environmental issue that we were talking about earlier, the question of coal mining. Remember, George W. Bush ran against Gore in those states, saying that he's going to stop coal mining.

And guns, another big issue in those two states -- I think it would be very difficult for any Democrat under any circumstances right now.

BLITZER: And Jeff?

TOOBIN: I think it's a problem for Obama. As Jack has pointed out, the nomination fight is over. Obama is going to be the nominee.

But the question of how he gets poor, working-class, mostly white voters throughout Appalachia, whether it's West Virginia, or Ohio, or Kentucky, or Pennsylvania, those are votes that Democrats need -- a Democrat needs -- especially in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

He's got to show that he can win those voters over. Now, just because they voted for Hillary in the primary doesn't mean they won't vote for him. But he's got his work cut out for him, and I think it is issue for him.

BORGER: But Ohio and Pennsylvania are different from Kentucky and West Virginia. That's all I'm saying. I think that obviously he's got a good shot in Ohio and Pennsylvania, but we have, Kentucky, I think any Democrat would have a problem with those states.

BLITZER: He's now been seen wearing the flag lapel pin, Jack. And some pundits are making a big deal of that, trying to show his patriotism going forward. He did wear it -- there you see the picture. Let's show it to our viewers. He didn't wear it for a while. He wore it earlier on.

What do you think, big deal, little deal? What's going on?

CAFFERTY: I think it's a non-deal.

I mean, we have real problems in this country. What somebody sticks in the lapel hole of their sport coat, what does that mean? It's like one of those wedge subjects of debate. It's even more minuscule than some of the traditional wedge issues, which are in the grand scheme of things, for the most part, meaningless.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Gloria.

BORGER: I think it's also a gender issue. Why don't they ask women candidates why they're not wearing lapel buttons, particularly ones wearing pantsuits? You know, I mean...

BLITZER: Madeleine Albright was always wearing some sort of pin with red, white and blue on it when she was secretary of state.

BORGER: Right. She was.

BLITZER: I think she still wears them.

What do you think, Jeff, about this whole issue, which you know people are going to be talking about?

TOOBIN: I think it's totally trivial, but you can be sure that some discussion went into his decision to wear it again.


TOOBIN: It was not casually made. I am sure of that.

I think it's probably good for Obama to wear it sometimes, not wear it sometimes, make it a nonissue in that regard.


BLITZER: He's clearly looking ahead already. Jack, he's going to be in Missouri tomorrow, in Michigan on Wednesday. He will be in Florida May 21, 22. These are not states that have primaries coming up. He's already looking ahead.

CAFFERTY: Well, and, you know, one of the things I think that's characterized his campaign and right from the get-go is this very trend to be looking ahead, looking beyond what's the obvious, and planning a strategy down the road.

He caught her flat-footed on Super Tuesday, because he was ready for the campaign to go on after that, and she wasn't. And now we get down to the meat and potatoes of going to these so-called battleground states and getting to know the people and them letting them get to know him, but more importantly saying, do you really want four more years of Bush? Then vote for McCain. I know you liked Hillary, but I'm Hillary's friend, and she and I see eye to eye on a lot of this stuff, and I will look out for you as well as she will. So, let's make friends and move on toward doing something about this broken government.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much. Stand by, Jack. We have got "The Cafferty File" coming up.

Gloria, Jeff, see you back here tomorrow.

Killer tornadoes -- why this devastated town might not bother rebuilding, and how one couple managed to survive even when everything around them was destroyed.

Plus, fun and games out on the campaign trail. Jeanne Moos has a "Moost Unusual" story right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Horrific and devastating, that's how Oklahoma's governor describes damage from tornadoes that strafed his state. At least 22 people were killed in a series of twisters that tore across the Midwest and South over the weekend.

Let's go to one of the hardest-hit towns right now. It's an area that was already struggling with a manmade disaster.

Susan Candiotti is there.

What is the latest, Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is that six people died in the town of Picher, and today is day three of people trying to clean up.

You always in the aftermath of a tornado hear about trees being uprooted and split in two. Well, in this case, wind speeds of up to 175 miles an hour stripped the bark from this tree.

As we indicated, six people died. Yet, every day, you hear amazing stories of survival. The Workmans will tell you theirs.


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): It's salvage day at the 46-year-old Workman homestead, where finding little things sometimes means a lot.

(on camera): Here, some things you just can't replace, right?


(voice-over): On Saturday, Gloria and Tom were carrying in groceries when they heard sirens and saw a monster funnel cloud coming straight for them.

GLORIA WORKMAN, TORNADO VICTIM: And it was just roaring, and it was just getting closer and louder and louder. And you could see stuff flying everywhere. So, we ran to the bathroom. He got me in the tub as low as he could get me and he put the dog in here on top of me. You could hear it go whew, whew. And then finally the last (INAUDIBLE) here just came in on us.

And I grabbed ahold of him, because I didn't know if he could hang on. And I was holding on to him. And the tree came and hit him in the back of the head and it went into my arm here. And...

CANDIOTTI (on camera): You all right?

WORKMAN: The scab. The scab is about that long, went into my arm.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): The Workmans are among hundreds waiting to hear about an expedited government buyout of Picher's homes. The town's long-closed lead and zinc mines polluted the air and water. The land has been caving in. A federally-funded toxic waste cleanup has been dragging on for years.

WORKMAN: I don't care what they offer me. It's going to be a lot more than what I have now.

CANDIOTTI: Saturday's tornado was a final blow to the town.

WORKMAN: This is goodbye. This is goodbye to Picher.

CANDIOTTI: But when the Workmans leave for good, it won't be without their trusty bathtub.

WORKMAN: It saved our lives. And the least we can do is give it a decent burial with flowers. We're going to plant flowers in it.

CANDIOTTI: As if to make matters worse, Tuesday's forecast calls for the threat of more tornadoes.

WORKMAN: I wouldn't want to see that. I really wouldn't.


CANDIOTTI: Now, she is not the only one. And, you know, with the one of the waste -- a mine waste over my shoulder here, we can tell you that this is one town that is not likely to recover. Absolutely no one plans to rebuild -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Susan, thanks very much.

Let's get right to Lou to see what's coming up at the top of the hour -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": The State Department, Wolf, finally paying some attention to the fact that Mexico is exploding with drug cartel violence, and the rising threat to this country is finally, finally, being recognized, at least in part, by the State Department. The State Department's reaction? They say they're shocked. Well, we will have a special report that will shock our State Department even further.

Also, what could be the worst tornado season in years more than 20 people killed over this weekend. We will have that report.

And new efforts to ensure the integrity of our voting system, lawmakers in the state of Missouri -- voters there may prove that they're U.S. citizens before they can vote. Now they may have to. We will have that report and we will have the very latest, of course, on the presidential primary campaign. Senator Clinton's campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, is among my guests here tonight.

Join us for that at 7:00 p.m. here on CNN and all of the day's news -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Lou. See you in a few moments.

Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, which is more damaging to the campaigns, President Bush's relationship with John McCain or the Reverend Wright's association with Barack Obama?

Dave in Houston writes: "Bush is the bigger albatross. Barack Obama and John McCain are running for president, not archbishop. The fact that McCain has constantly supported Bush on illegal and controversial policies is much more damning than the sermons of Reverend Wright. Obama is not some googly-eyed party boy who is under the Svengali-like influence of a severe older man. See Bush-Cheney. He has a powerful intellect and knows where to accept Wright's ideas, where to reject them. McCain, on the other hand, stands wherever it is politically expedient at the moment."

Scott in Billings, Montana: "Reverend Wright gave some speeches. Bush and his cronies lied to America and the result of that lie is over 4,000 dead American soldiers, plus thousands more wounded. The answer is obvious. The Wright issue is over. The soldiers are still dying."

Mark in Asheville, North Carolina: "Reverend Wright by a mile. After Denver, he will appear in numerous attack ads aimed at voters who aren't even paying attention now. The ads will be enormously effective, just like Willie Horton, the ad that sank Dukakis. All the Republicans will need is to peel off one blue state, and it's over."

R. in New Hampshire writes: "Jack, since McCain's favorite Pastor Hagee has called the Catholic Church 'the great whore,' I would think the pastor debate between the two might come off as a tie. That being said, Bush is the tiebreaker, and McCain the loser."

Jackson in Rome, Georgia, writes: "At my current level of disgust for the Republican Party, I'd seriously consider voting for Reverend Wright himself before I voted for another Republican." And Drew in Florida says: "Bush, hands down. Wright has no real power. Bush has been damaging America for two terms. His list is far too large to post here. Report on something we don't know, please."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there, among hundreds of others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack. Thank you.

On our Political Ticker: The former Republican Congressman Bob Barr is running for president as a Libertarian. Barr says he would pull troops out of Iraq and slash government spending. He will need to win the nomination at this month's Libertarian convention, but Barr's candidacy is already seen as a wild card that could take votes away from John McCain.

Things don't always go as planned out on the campaign trail.


CLINTON: OK. We need a paramedic. Somebody has fainted. Does anybody have any water? Is there -- here, I have got a bottle of water. Let me bring it down, see if that will help.


BLITZER: The unexpected and the unscripted and the unusual, loose ends on the campaign trail. Jeanne Moos and more -- when we come back.


BLITZER: Sometimes, there's so much going out on the campaign trail, that only Jeanne Moos can sum it all up for us.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Will the billiard ball eclipse the bowling ball? Barack Obama sure seemed more at home on a West Virginia pool table.

OBAMA: The sing of a misspent youth.

MOOS: Though he still managed to just barely lose. There's no losing sight of Hillary. What can a candidate do to make a gloomy day sunnier? Wear yellow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please don't stop. Don't stop.

MOOS: And what can a Hillary impersonator do to make her shtick funnier? Wear yellow while explaining why Hillary would be better candidate against John McCain.


AMY POEHLER, ACTRESS: My supporters are racist.


MOOS: That's an actual Hillary outfit.

CLINTON: Celestial choirs will be singing.

MOOS: Yellow is her favorite color.

And while we're on the subject of outfits, the press was accused of swooning, and was mocked...


MOOS: ... for showing one of the first sightings ever Barack Obama wearing jeans aboard his campaign plane. But remember the last president who looked good in jeans.

Hillary looks pretty good on the hood of the Hillary-mobile. An Arizona artist has been driving the Hill car to campaign rallies, an artist who wears an actually Hillary pantsuit.

But enough about what's being worn. Listen to what's being said, calling someone alive dead. That's what Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe did, referring to Tim Russert's father.


TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Big Russ, if he were sitting here today, nothing's impossible. Jack McAuliffe, if he were with us today -- they both -- they're probably both in heaven, right now, Tim, probably having a Scotch, looking down, saying, you know what? This fight goes on.

RUSSERT: Big Russ is in the Barcalounger, still watching this.


RUSSERT: God bless him.



MOOS: But that's not as bad as the Bill O'Reilly meltdown prompted by the Teleprompter that is circulating on the Web.


BILL O'REILLY, HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": I can't read it. There's no words on it.


MOOS: It's an old video from O'Reilly's days at "Inside Edition." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'REILLY: Do it live! I will write it, and we will do it live!


MOOS: We will move on to the folks, who announced the winners of their "Obama in 30 Seconds" competition.

(on camera): The winner for funniest ad goes to one entitled "It Could Happen to You."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never thought it could happen to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been living with it for a while now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got it from her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, this could happen to anybody.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is your brain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is your brain on hope.


MOOS (voice-over): Here's hoping I never get caught on tape the way Bill O'Reilly did.




MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Tough crowd out there.

All right, guys, thanks very much for joining us.

Remember, our coverage tomorrow of the West Virginia primary begins at 4:00 p.m. Eastern right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.