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The Situation Room
Edwards Endorses Obama; Interview With New York Senator Hillary Clinton
Aired May 14, 2008 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the breaking news we're following -- John Edwards only minutes away from endorsing Barack Obama. You are going to see it live here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The best political team on television is also standing by. We will assess the timing and how much Edwards' support really matters.
Plus, Hillary Clinton explains why she won't give up -- my one- on-one interview with Senator Clinton, this the day after her biggest win, one of her biggest wins, at least, in the primary season.
Also this hour, Senator Clinton pushing back at suggestions that Obama has the Democratic nomination in the bag.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
And we begin this hour with the breaking news, John Edwards only minutes away from endorsing Barack Obama for president. Both Obama and Hillary Clinton have been actively seeking Edwards' support since he dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination more than three months ago.
Edwards' decision to back Obama is a significant blow to Clinton, just a day after her landslide win in West Virginia.
Our Suzanne Malveaux is standing by in Michigan, where Edwards and Obama are set to appear momentarily.
Let's go out to Grand Rapids right now. Set the scene for us on what is going on, Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's a lot of excitement. People are anticipating what is happening here.
Barack Obama is going to come on stage. He's going to say he's got a surprise announcement, a surprise guest. That is when John Edwards will come out and publicly officially endorse him. There were quite a bit of rumblings earlier in the day. We saw David Bonior, the former chair of Edwards' campaign, with some of the Obama aides earlier, and so it was clear that there was something that was taking place, and both sides acknowledging that that was going to happen. And clearly this is a big win for Barack Obama, even if it's contributing to the math to those delegates, or even if it's just symbolic. What this means to Barack Obama is you will have John Edwards reaching out, talking to the working-class voters, who he really resonated with in his own campaign, reaching out to them, talking about those economic bread and butter issues that really make a difference to them.
It is a group that Barack Obama is trying to win over, trying to take from Hillary Clinton. And, obviously, this event, too, Wolf, taking a bit of that steam away from her victory yesterday -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne, stand by for a moment.
I want to play this little clip of what Senator Edwards told our own Larry King only 48 hours ago about a possible Edwards endorsement. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")
JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And what I don't want to do is contribute to the divide. We had a primary in North Carolina, where I live. I live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I voted in that primary, so obviously I made a choice in that vote. But at least for this moment, I think the reasonable thing for me to do is let voters make their decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, that was Edwards 48 hours ago, Suzanne.
And now, obviously, he's changed his mind. He's about to come out from where you are and walk out with Barack Obama and endorse him.
We don't have any inside information, or maybe we do, on what caused him to change his mind over these past two days, and make this formal endorsement?
MALVEAUX: Well, I have been talking to Obama aides, and they say that Obama has really been trying to court John Edwards in a very strong way, that they have conversations on a regular basis, but it was John Edwards who made the decision about the timing.
It was about the math, the math was not necessarily on Hillary Clinton's side, that the longer this continued, that the more difficult that would be for her. That is something that he expressed over the weekend. And, so, this is something where John Edwards decided the time is right now to release those delegates, the 19 pledged delegates.
Don't know how they're going to -- which side they're going to go to, but it is clearly his intention to campaign with Barack Obama, to let the people who have been most loyal to him, who Barack Obama, quite frankly, is struggling with, to let them know this is the guy that he is supporting. This is the guy, that he is taking his side here. So, this is something that obviously they have been talking about for a long time. But John Edwards made that decision very recently, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Suzanne, I want you to stand by. We are going to come back to you.
As soon as we see Obama and Edwards walk out for this formal, formal endorsement, we will go there live. You will see it here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Before word broke of Edwards' plan to endorse Barack Obama, I sat down with Hillary Clinton here in Washington for a one-on-one interview.
BLITZER: And joining us now, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, the Democratic presidential candidate.
Senator Clinton, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Congratulations on your win yesterday in West Virginia. Big win for Senator Clinton.
CLINTON: Well, it was a big win. And it was a very gratifying one, because I campaigned hard there, and I think that the issues that I have been championing, on the economy and health care, really resonated with the voters of West Virginia.
And as I have said many times in the last couple of weeks, no Democrat has won the White House since 1916 without winning West Virginia. So I took that as a good sign.
BLITZER: You did well there. All right. Let me get your reaction. The current issue of Time magazine, which you've probably seen. You see a cover like this and it says "And the Winner Is...", and you get a little asterisk, you know, what do you think when you see something like this?
CLINTON: I think it's a great picture of Barack.
CLINTON: You know what I think is that this is the closest election we've ever had, that anybody can remember. Each of us has brought millions of new people into the process.
I think I have now been privileged to receive the votes of 17 million Americans. And that's pretty much the same as Senator Obama.
The delegate race remains close. We have contests yet to go. People have been trying to end it. And the voters just won't let it happen.
As a recent poll suggested, 64 percent of Democrats want to see this continue. And I think for a good reason, because it's one of the most substantive, exciting, energizing political events I can remember in my lifetime.
And there is no winner yet. You have to have, now with the special election of a Democrat from Mississippi, 2,210 delegates to actually say...
BLITZER: You're including Florida and Michigan.
CLINTON: Which we have to. We have to include them.
BLITZER: Because in -- they're going to be meeting, the Rules Committee of the DNC...
BLITZER: ... May 31.
CLINTON: That's right.
BLITZER: They have to make a decision.
BLITZER: What do you want them to do?
CLINTON: Well, what I would want them to do is to seat the whole delegations based on the votes that were taken because I think the voters who came out, over 2.3 million of them in both states, clearly believed that their votes would count.
And they may have violated the DNC rules, but other states did as well.
BLITZER: Right now the DNC says that the number is, what, 2,025 or 2,026.
CLINTON: That's just not a practical answer. That would mean that only 48 states would determine who the nominee of the Democratic Party is. And that's not the way the election works.
BLITZER: So you're staying in at least through May 31 and June 3...
CLINTON: That's right.
BLITZER: ... which is the last -- you're not going anywhere.
CLINTON: I'm not going anywhere, Wolf...
BLITZER: All right.
CLINTON: ... except to Kentucky and Oregon, and Montana, South Dakota, and Puerto Rico.
BLITZER: These remaining states.
Let's talk about some of the issues, the key issues, the economic issues. Issue number one, the economy. Gas prices...
BLITZER: ... right now. You've said in recent days you want to get tough with the major oil exporting countries, OPEC, because of the huge cost per barrel and the resultant price of a gallon of gas.
But when you say "get tough with OPEC," what does it mean when you have members of OPEC like Ahmadinejad of Iran or Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Gadhafi of Libya, how do you plan on getting tough with them?
CLINTON: Well, I actually have a four-part program that I would put into effect, were I president today, to deal with these rising gas prices, which are going to hit $4 soon. And it's an enormous burden on people who drive any considerable distance.
BLITZER: So what kind of leverage do you have on OPEC?
CLINTON: Well, four things -- and I will get to OPEC quickly. I would go after the energy traders and speculators. I think they are adding to the cost of a barrel of oil. I believe there is significant evidence of that.
So I would launch a Department of Justice-Federal Trade Commission investigation and really try to rein them in and close what's called the "Enron loophole." I approve and voted for what the Congress did yesterday, which is to quit filling up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and I would even release some money.
I have advocated a gas tax holiday that is paid for. That is not what Senator McCain wants, he wants one that is not paid for. And Senator Obama doesn't want one at all. But I would pay for it out of the record profits of the oil companies.
Nine countries that are members of OPEC are members of the WTO, the World Trade Organization, where they have agreed to certain rules that I believe OPEC by definition violates. Also we have never used anti-trust laws in our country to really go at the heart of what is a monopoly cartel.
There is something fundamentally wrong and outdated in having the oil-producing countries getting together a couple of times a year and saying, "OK, here's how much we're going to produce and here's how much we're going to charge for it."
And I think there is enough market power in the world, if we use the tools available to us, to rein that in.
BLITZER: Because Barack Obama says this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You say you've been in the White House for eight years. You've had two terms as a United States senator and haven't said a word about OPEC.
And now suddenly you're going to take it right to OPEC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Well, he's wrong about that. I have voted, actually, in the Senate on several occasions to try to get the president of the United States to do something about OPEC. Obviously, President Bush wasn't inclined to do so. The Republican Congress before him was not inclined to do so.
So we're going to have, I hope, a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress. That is the time when we'll be able to take on this unfinished business when it comes to energy.
BLITZER: Looking back, did the Clinton administration, during eight years of your husband in the White House, do enough toward energy independence?
CLINTON: Well, they certainly tried, between both the president and the vice president. And my husband often says laughingly that tax credits and energy programs were the only things that he couldn't get the Republican Congress to even look at, because obviously they had a very different view about what we should be doing.
But now I think it's clear to everyone, even the Republican nominee, Senator McCain, who has been very eloquent in the last few days, talking about how we have to cap greenhouse gas emissions, this is not a Republican or Democratic issue.
We need a long-term strategy, like the one I have outlined on my Web site, hillaryclinton.com, you can read all about it. And we need a short-term strategy to try to provide relief to citizens right now.
BLITZER: You were recently asked about your proposal to have a holiday on the gas tax. And you would pay for it by having a windfall profit tax on ExxonMobil and some of the other big oil companies. And then when you were pressed on economists who would endorse your idea, you said you're not going to put your lot in with economists.
BLITZER: Which raised questions: Are you not going to believe in what economists say?
CLINTON: No, but I think there's that old saying: You can find an economist to say nearly anything. Now, some of the economists were against it because they misunderstood my policy. They thought it wasn't paid for. And I would agree with those who said we can't afford a gas tax holiday that will add to the deficit, that will take money out of the highway trust fund. Others are against the mechanism of a windfall profits tax. They think that doesn't necessarily work well and that the cost will be passed on.
My attitude is I think we could design such a windfall profits tax that would work, that would be enforceable and that would not be passed on.
I have been advocating a windfall profits tax on the oil companies to supplement a strategic energy fund that I have recommended for more than three years, and it's because I think that there is such a disconnect between what the oil companies have been raking in as profits and any comparable investment or effort that they have made to produce those profits.
There does seem to me to be an opportunity here, both to take away the subsidies for the oil companies, which clearly don't need our tax dollars to make these huge profits, and to try to impose a windfall profits tax.
BLITZER: But you will consult with economists.
CLINTON: Of course.
BLITZER: You believe in economists. And if you're president of the United States, you'll work with economists because when you said, "I'm not going to put my..." your lot in with economists...
CLINTON: Not totally. Not totally. Sometimes economists are not right. And I think there are political ...
BLITZER: Most of the economists have criticized your plan.
CLINTON: Well, again, some of them didn't understand it, and some of them don't believe it could be done.
But you listen to all kinds of advisers, but then you have to try to make up your mind. Franklin Roosevelt during the New Deal, a lot of economists said that's a terrible idea, you're going to be priming the pump, you're going to be putting people to work. That's a terrible idea. That's a betrayal of the American capitalist system. But he said we've got to put people to work.
Well, I think we've got to rein in the oil companies. And there are certainly economically appropriate ways of doing that.
BLITZER: Much more of the interview with Hillary Clinton coming up. She talks about what she calls her dumb mistake -- the interview, more of it, coming up next.
Also, any moment now, a huge political endorsement could dramatically reshape the Democratic race. We're standing by for Barack Obama and John Edwards to appear together. Edwards will endorse Barack Obama. You will see it live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And what will the fallout be for Hillary Clinton, and what happens to John Edwards' 19 delegates? Our panel of analysts standing by. They're all part of the best political team on television.
And something's happened in Mississippi that's leaving Republicans nationwide very fearful. One party leader says it's a wakeup call for the party. You are going to find out what happened and how it could help Barack Obama in the fall.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The breaking news we're following this hour, it comes from Grand Rapids, Michigan. You're looking at these live pictures.
We're standing by to hear from John Edwards. He will formally announce his announcement of his Senator Barack Obama. This is a significant development in the Democratic race for the White House, a considerable blow to Hillary Clinton. Among other things, John Edwards brings with him 19 pledged delegates that he won while he was a candidate.
We will go to Grand Rapids as soon as these two men show up.
Let's get back to part two now of my interview today with Hillary Clinton on racial divisions in the Democratic race for the White House, and global tensions that some say could play to John McCain's strengths.
BLITZER: When it comes to the war in Iraq, another issue on the minds of Americans right now, you've criticized Senator McCain for suggesting U.S. troops could stay there perhaps for 100 years.
But you yourself back in 2005 suggested, you know what? If there's a peaceful environment like along the lines of Korea, Germany or Okinawa, maybe it wouldn't be that bad for a long-term U.S. military presence in that kind of environment.
Is the criticism of Senator McCain, who's made similar comments, is it warranted?
CLINTON: Well, I think it is for this reason, that there isn't any significant milestone that the Iraqi government has met. It's a very different situation than Germany or Korea.
BLITZER: But if they were to meet those milestones and if there were a new, peaceful environment.
CLINTON: But Wolf, I don't -- I don't think, I think you're confusing kind of cause and effect. I don't believe that they will seriously attempt to meet those milestones until they are absolutely convinced we are going to withdraw. I believe that is the best way to focus their attention.
Everything we've tried, including the most recent effort with the surge, has not resulted in the gains that were either hoped for or forecasted. I believe we've got to bring our troops home.
There are continuing missions, guarding our embassy, Special Forces, perhaps, dealing with al Qaeda. But that's a very different scenario than what we have today. Therefore, I would begin to bring our troops home.
BLITZER: The Israelis are celebrating their 60th anniversary right now as an independent state.
Here is what McCain said about Barack Obama, and I want to get your reaction. He said, "I think" -- this is McCain -- "I think it's very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas' worst nightmare. If Senator Obama is favored by Hamas, I think people can make judgments accordingly."
McCain was referring to a statement by the North American spokesman for Hamas endorsing, in effect, Barack Obama.
Is McCain right?
CLINTON: No, I think that that's really just an overstatement, an exaggeration of any kind of political meaning, and I don't think that anybody should take that seriously.
BLITZER: Do you have confidence in Barack Obama as president would be a strong supporter of Israel?
CLINTON: Yes, I do. I would believe that that would be the policy of the United States, and it's been our policy for 60 years.
BLITZER: Because the criticism he gets from McCain and his supporters -- McCain supporters -- is that he would be willing to meet unconditionally with the leader of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And given the statements that Ahmadinejad has made about destroying Israel, that doesn't reassure, let's say, Israel.
CLINTON: Well, I think that's a different issue. You know, I objected when that statement was made back in an early debate. Because I don't believe that a United States president should commit to meet unconditionally with leaders of rogue nations.
That doesn't mean you don't eventually meet with them under appropriate circumstances, but not without conditions.
BLITZER: Let's talk about an issue that's come up in this campaign, the issue of race in the campaign. You were widely quoted in that "USA Today" interview.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CLINTON: There was just an "A.P." article posted that found how Senator Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans is weakening again and how the, you know, whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.
I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, your great friend and supporter Congressman Charlie Rangel said -- and I'm quoting now -- "It's the dumbest thing you could have said."
CLINTON: Well, he's probably right.
BLITZER: Explain. He is? Well, explain.
CLINTON: Well, absolutely. Well, I was -- I was referencing an "A.P." article. And, you know, obviously, I have worked very hard to get the votes of everyone. And I have campaigned hard.
I understand that we've got to put together a broad coalition in order to win in the fall. We've got to get to that 270 electoral vote margin. And I know Senator Obama has worked hard to reach out to every community and constituency.
So I'm going to continue to do that. That's what I think is in the best interest of our party and that's how we will win in November.
BLITZER: As someone who has championed civil rights all of these years, and you see all these stories coming up that he's getting 90 percent of the African American vote -- you're doing well with these white, working class voters as you did in West Virginia, for example, Pennsylvania, in Ohio -- how does that make you feel when you see this issue all of the sudden explode out there?
CLINTON: Well, I obviously regret people exploiting an issue like that because I think it's not only unfounded, but, you know, it's offensive.
I think people vote for me because they think I would be the better president. I think people vote for him because they think he'd be the better president.
I think people vote for me because they believe I will fight for them. I think they vote for each of us for whatever combination of reasons that appeal to the individual voter.
That's the way it's supposed to be in America. And I have worked very hard to make it clear to people in this campaign that we need a champion back in the White House.
I am not one who believes that we're going to be able to come to Washington in 2009, hold hands with everybody and take on the drug companies and the oil companies and the health insurance companies and everything we have to do, and that just somehow that will all happen.
I think politics is the hard boring of hardboards, as Max Weber said. And from my perspective, people who know how hard it will be to create the changes we need are attracted to my candidacy. People who feel that maybe life hasn't been fair, the odds are stacked against them, they want somebody who is going to go to bat for them. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BLITZER: You're also going to get a chance to ask Hillary Clinton something in this interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Clinton, I have a question for you. I was wondering, why do you believe that so many of your strongest Democratic supporters say that they would vote for Senator McCain over Senator Obama in the fall, if you were not to win the nomination?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As a CNN I-Reporter, you posed questions like that one to Senator Clinton. Straight ahead, you are going to find out how she answered some of those questions.
Also, I asked her something that brought tears to her eyes and made her rather emotional. The question and her answer, that's coming up in part three of this interview.
Plus, we're standing by live. We're waiting for the former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards to endorse one of his rivals. This is the scene in Grand Rapids, Michigan, right now -- that moment about to happen at a Barack Obama rally in Michigan. You're going to see it live unfold right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Momentarily, Barack Obama will be receiving the endorsement of former Democratic presidential candidate former Senator John Edwards. They're both at a rally, as you can see, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, right now. As soon as they appear, we will go there live.
In the meantime, let's continue with my interview with Hillary Clinton earlier today. She's defending her decision to keep on fighting, and she's vowing, her party will be united in the end.
BLITZER: At CNNPolitics.com, we invited people to submit a question to our I-Reporters. A couple came in that I want to play for you. Get your brief response. This was from someone named Billy Sutton (ph). He is a Clinton-supporter-turned-Obama-supporter. But watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Clinton, I have a question for you. I was wondering, why do you believe that so many of your strongest Democratic supporters say that they would vote for Senator McCain over Senator Obama in the fall, if you were not to win the nomination? (END VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Well, I have heard that from both my supporters and Senator Obama's supporters.
BLITZER: Because the exit polls show that -- a big chunk of it.
CLINTON: Both his supporters and my supporters might stay home or not vote for the other, and I just have to say as strongly as I can, Billy, that that would be a terrible mistake. Anybody that has ever voted for me or voted for Barack has much more in common, in terms of what we want to see happen in our country and in the world, with the other than they do with John McCain.
So I'm going to work my heart out for whoever our nominee is. Obviously, I'm still hoping to be that nominee. But I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that anyone who supported me, the 17 million people who have voted for me, understand what a great error it would be not to vote for Senator McCain -- Senator Obama and against Senator McCain. And I know that Senator Obama has said he would do the same to campaign for me.
So you know, in the heat of a primary campaign, people get -- their passions are high. They feel intensely. That's all understandable. But once we have a nominee, we're going to have a unified Democratic Party.
BLITZER: Because Mario Cuomo, the former governor of New York, among others, says the best way to heal this Democratic Party, irrespective of who gets the nomination, is for the two of you to be on the ticket.
CLINTON: I know. I think he made a speech or wrote something to that effect. And it's premature for either of us to talk about that. I think both of us are committed to doing everything we can to win in the fall. I certainly am.
And I will do -- I will do whatever it takes, because I know what four more years of basically the same Bush policies would mean to America, even though they would be carried out by someone else. They are more of the same. We cannot afford that.
BLITZER: We also got a variant of this question from a lot of our viewers. This was from a McCain supporter. He asked this question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you continue to stay in the race for the Democratic nomination? Barack Obama is well ahead (INAUDIBLE) delegates. And now ahead of you in the superdelegates, many of whom have switched to him after he won by a large margin over you in the North Carolina primaries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Well, I'm -- I'm really touched that a McCain supporter would be so concerned about our primary.
But let me say that, after my big win last night in West Virginia, the delegate difference is extremely narrow. It is -- people have gone to conventions and fought out nominations with far fewer delegates. We have a close, close race here. And it is a matter of inches. And we're going to keep going until someone gets 2,010 delegates. That's the way our system works.
BLITZER: John Edwards says he gives you a lot of credit for being willing to stick in there and fight it out. He, as you know, dropped out.
And I guess the question is how do you do it every single day?
CLINTON: You know, Wolf, something happens every single day that just lifts my spirits and energizes me. A lot of the people who have worked their hearts out for me in this primary season, they're not quitters in their own lives. I mean the single mom in Indianapolis who's never given money to anybody and gives me $20 a month out of her paycheck and goes to my headquarters every lunch hour to work for me.
Or the little boy who sells his bicycle from Kentucky. Or the 88- year-old woman dying in a hospice in South Dakota who just demands that her daughter bring her an absentee ballot. I mean these are people who I feel like I'm representing and that I have a very personal connection to.
So, you know, I don't believe in quitting. You may not win in life, but you do the best you can. You go the distance. You don't walk off the court before the buzzer sounds. You never know, you might get a three point shot at the end.
And so we're going to finish this process. It's been a privilege and an honor to have met so many Americans, been to so many of the beautiful places in this country. And I feel like I'm doing it for the right reasons. And I still believe I'd be the better president and the stronger candidate against Senator McCain.
BLITZER: And we have one final question, because we're out of time. And it involves your daughter, Chelsea.
I've been watching her since she was a little girl. She came to Washington back in '93, in the '92 campaign. And now she's a grown woman and she's out there campaigning for you every single day. I think she's in Puerto Rico right now. And I know you talk to her every single day.
CLINTON: Right. Right.
BLITZER: You know, what goes through your mind, when you have your own daughter out there working as hard for you as she is?
CLINTON: Well, it's one of the most incredibly gratifying experiences of my life, as a person and as a mother. You're going to make me get very emotional. She is an exceptional person. And she's worked so hard and she's done such a good job that I'm just filled with pride every time I look at her. You know, obviously, you know, we are very close. We are in communication all the time.
But, you know, she is doing this because she believes I'd be a good president, but also because she cares so much about our country's future. She did grow up in the White House. She knows what a difference a president makes.
If anybody ever doubted what difference a president makes, after seven years of George Bush, I think the doubts should be put to rest. So she's doing it because she's my daughter. But she's doing it because, as she says, she's a young American who cares about our future.
BLITZER: But she's doing it because she loves you.
BLITZER: Senator Clinton, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Hillary Clinton speaking with me here in Washington earlier today. We spoke before the breaking news that we're covering right now.
John Edwards, the former Democratic presidential candidate, set to endorse Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. You're looking at these live pictures from Grand Rapids, Michigan. That's where both of them are right now. It's a big rally for Senator Barack Obama. We've come -- become accustomed to seeing these big rallies for Senator Obama. This is an important endorsement.
Let's discuss with the best political team on television. Let me bring in Jack Cafferty first.
Jack, how big of an endorsement do you think this is?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I think when you take a look at the events over the last 12 or 14 hours, you know, timing is everything.
Let's look at what's happened since Hillary Clinton won what is largely considered by the experts to be a symbolic victory. Granted it was large in West Virginia, but she's still way behind in the math.
This morning, Barack Obama picked up two additional superdelegates. The "Associated Press" reporting he now has 30 in the last week. She's picked up one.
NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Organization, which has supported Hillary Clinton throughout her entire political career, announced this afternoon they were switching their support to Barack Obama.
And then the capper is John Edwards -- everybody's been waiting. Well, look, at the timing on this thing. Hillary Clinton taped all these interviews with the various networks and stuff today, and late this afternoon those get trumped by the announcement that John Edwards, who has one of those Metro North passes to get into the working, blue collar neighborhoods all around this country, is going to go to work for Barack Obama.
You know, years ago on "Monday Night Football" Don Meredith, when the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt, broke into a fractured version of something called turn out the lights, the party's over. It's time for the song.
BLITZER: I know, Gloria, you've been speaking with sources and you've been getting maybe some inside information on what happened to John Edwards. Because he was on "LARRY KING LIVE" Monday night saying he didn't think it was appropriate right now for him to endorse any of these candidates. Now, Wednesday, the day after West Virginia -- a huge win by Hillary Clinton -- he's decided to endorse Barack Obama.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we just spoke with someone, Wolf, who just got off the phone with John Edwards. John Edwards told him he had looked at what happened in West Virginia yesterday. He decided that it was time to really unite the party. In the speech we're going to hear from him in a few minutes, he is not going to attack Hillary Clinton at all. He says he has a great deal of respect for Hillary Clinton, but he just thinks it's time to try and get the party behind one nominee.
BLITZER: We did get this reaction, Jeff Toobin, from the Clinton campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe. He issued a statement saying this: "We respect John Edwards. But as the voters of West Virginia showed last night, this thing is far from over."
It could be over if it opens up a flood gate of those remaining undecided superdelegates. And 19 pledged delegates that John Edwards won earlier on when he was running for president, presumably. They don't have to, but he's going to encourage them to go with Barack Obama right now.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It really is just a matter of time now. The nomination is decided. With the Edwards' delegates, it looks like Obama will be fewer than 100 delegates from the goal line, from 2,025. And, you know, all you needed to do was listen to Hillary Clinton's tone in her conversation with you. That was a wistful valedictory tone. That was not a confrontational tone. She may quit after May 20. She may wait until after June 3. But she's not fighting anymore. This nomination is over and the party is now in the process of coming together.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider, you know, the law. They don't necessarily -- the 19 pledged delegates for Barack Obama -- for John Edwards, they don't necessarily have to go for Barack Obama. He could encourage them to do so. But legally they're not bound. They don't have to do so, isn't that, right? WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That is correct. They can make their decision based on their conscience. They are not pledged to anyone but John Edwards and he's no longer a candidate. They can vote any way they want.
But he's -- they're going to take his advice very, very seriously. And while we're not going to put them in the Obama column right now -- we want to call them and find out what they intend to do -- they are going to probably, in all likelihood, respect his advice.
BORGER: Well, Wolf, I...
CAFFERTY: It's important, too, I think, to remember...
BLITZER: Hold on, guys. Hold on one for a second. Because, Paul Begala, our analyst who supports Hillary Clinton, our Democratic strategist, is joining us on the phone. I want to get his reaction to John Edwards' decision.
I think it's a surprise, Paul, given what he said on "LARRY KING LIVE" on Monday night, to go ahead and endorse Barack Obama. We're awaiting the formal endorsement. That will happen here in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, CLINTON SUPPORTER: It is a surprise. But it's -- and I'm not a big believer in endorsements. I don't think they carry very much weight generally, particularly in a presidential campaign where people have their own access to their own information, their own beliefs and views.
However, there are two things that make this different. First, the point that Jeffrey and Bill were raising. He just may deliver a pretty good handful of delegates to Barack Obama. And, second, he did emerge in the primary as a very powerful spokesman for those very white, working class people that Hillary was talking about last night in her speech, who could very well determine the general election in the fall, as well as finalizing the primary for the Democrats.
BLITZER: And so there you see Barack Obama walking into the hall right now. He's -- it looks like he's walking in by himself. We're told the game plan is he'll speak a little bit and tell the crowd there he has a surprise guest that's going to be walking out. And everybody by now, presumably, knows who that surprise guest is, although maybe a lot of people inside the hall won't yet know the news, which has been reported, obviously, for some time.
It's a huge, huge crowd that has gathered there. And I want to listen briefly in. He's probably going to thank a lot of the supporters first.
Let's listen in. If he does go through a lot of thank yous, we'll break away and we'll wait for him to make the announcement about Barack Obama. If he gets right -- the announcement about John Edwards. If he gets right to the substance, we'll hear what he has to say.
But let's listen in right now to the Democratic presidential frontrunner.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.
OBAMA: Thank you, everybody.
OBAMA: Thank you. I am fired up.
OBAMA: I'm fired up.
OBAMA: I am fired up to be in Michigan.
OBAMA: I am fired up to be in Grand Rapids.
OBAMA: Look at this crowd. It is unbelievable. I am so grateful to all of you for taking the time to be here. I know that -- that we didn't have a chance to campaign here during the primary and I felt bad about it. I didn't have a chance to talk to you guys about the issues. I felt guilty about not campaigning. And so, as a consequence, I decided that I would try to give you something special.
OBAMA: I decided that on my first day of campaigning in Michigan, that I wouldn't be fooling around, that I wasn't going to just do the same old thing. But I decided that I was going to bring out one of the greatest leaders we have in the Democratic Party.
Please give it up for my friend, John Edwards.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.
So, so the question is...
EDWARDS: Thank you.
Thank you. So the question is, what am I doing here?
EDWARDS: You know, you know, I was promised a jet ski and I haven't gotten it yet. I am proud to be here with all of you. Proud to be in Michigan. Proud to be in Grand Rapids.
EDWARDS: During the course -- during the course of this presidential campaign, I've gotten to know the candidates and the top candidates very, very well. We have all been out speaking about the causes that are so near and dear to our hearts as Democrats. And now we're here down to two amazing candidates.
And before -- before I get too far, I want to take just a minute and say a word about my friend and your friend, Senator Hillary Clinton.
EDWARDS: In the past -- in the past few weeks, in the past few weeks I've got -- the past few months and past few weeks -- I've gotten to know Senator Clinton very well. We've talked, we've met in North Carolina. We've talked about the things that she cares about that every single one of you care about -- about the men and women in this country who don't have health care, about the children who don't have health care, about the men and women in America who just want to have a decent job and go to work.
EDWARDS: And we've talked about -- we've talked about our own children and our own families. And what I've learned during that time -- and I've gotten to know her very well -- is that she believes with every fiber of our being that America can be a better place and that we need change to make America what it's capable of being.
EDWARDS: And I want to tell you -- and I know this is hard to understand sometimes. But it is very, very hard to get up every day and do what she's done. It is hard to go out there and fight and speak up when the odds turn against you. And what she has shown -- what she has shown is strength and character. And what drives her is something that every single one of us can and should appreciate. She cares deeply about the working people in this country. She cares about the families who are losing everything because somebody got sick. She cares about our men and women who are putting their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan. This tenacity has shown her strength and her determination.
She is a woman who, in my judgment, is made of steel. And she's a leader in this country not -- not because of her husband, but because of what she has done, because of speaking out, because of standing up. (APPLAUSE)
EDWARDS: And we, when this nomination battle is over -- and it will be over soon -- brothers and sisters...
EDWARDS: Brothers and sisters, we must come together as Democrats and in the fall stand up for what matters for the future of America and make America what it needs to be.
EDWARDS: And we are a stronger party because Hillary Clinton is a Democrat. We are a stronger country because of her years of public service. And we're going to have a stronger presidential nominee in the fall because of her work.
Now, what brought all of us here...
EDWARDS: ...is the profound...
UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!
EDWARDS: What brought all of us together is the profound belief that we can change this country, that there are servicemen and women in Iraq who can come home starting today.
EDWARDS: That our kids deserve to go to better schools than we went to, that we can run our cars on something other than oil, that we have good jobs that can fill these empty factories and that the anxiety that all of our people face every day can change when we finally make two Americas one America for every single one of us.
EDWARDS: This is why you're here. You're here because of the hope that you carry in your heart to make this country better. And we have so much work to do in America. Because all across America, there are walls. There are walls dividing the way things are and the one America that all of us want to see. And, in fact, there's a wall around Washington, D.C. . The American people are today on the outside of that wall. And on the inside are the big corporations and the lobbyists who are working to protect a system that takes care of them. And guess who struggles every single day?
Working men and women in this country see that wall when they have to split their bills into two piles -- one pay now, one pay later; when they get bullied at work because they want to join a union; when they see disappointment on the face of their son or daughter because they can no longer pay for that child to go to college; when their CEO gets a golden parachute and their job gets shipped overseas. And you know something about that here in Michigan.
EDWARDS: When their wages drop -- when their wages drop and their kids go hungry.
And guess who's doing just fine?
The insiders, the lobbyists, the special interests.
Our job -- our job come January of next year is to tear that wall down and give this government back to the American people.
EDWARDS: There is another wall that divides us. It's the moral shame of 37 million of our own people who wake up in poverty every single day -- in a nation of our wealth, to have millions of Americans who work every single day and still can't pay their electric bill and pay for their food at the same time. There are mothers out there working two jobs every day to try to keep their kids from going to bed hungry. There are men and women who have worked hard all their lives so that they could try to buy a home and they're living in a tent city because they've got nowhere to go.
This is not OK. And for eight long, long years, this wall has gotten taller. Yesterday -- yesterday I was in Philadelphia and I was announcing an initiative to cut poverty in America in half in the next 10 years. And I am proud to say today that Barack Obama stands with me in this cause.
EDWARDS: We also have a wall that divides our two public school systems in America. It is not OK that a child born into a wealthy family gets the best education in the world and a child born in a small town or the inner city barely gets by. Their education is our education. We're going to fix that system for them and make these schools work for everybody.
EDWARDS: How about health care, right?
The big drug companies, insurance companies, HMOs, the politicians who take their money, they're getting their way. And they love that wall just the way it is today. Well, it's going to be gone as soon as we create real and meaningful universal health care for every man, woman and child in America.
EDWARDS: And there's also a wall that's divided our image in the world. The America as the beacon of hope is behind that wall. And all the world sees now is a bully. They see Iraq, Guantanamo's secret prison and a government that argues that waterboarding is not torture.
EDWARDS: This is not OK. That wall has to come down for the sake of our ideals and security. We can change this. We can change it. Yes, we can!
EDWARDS: If we stand together, we can change it.
UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!
EDWARDS: And the reason -- and the reason that I am here tonight is because the Democratic voters in America have made their choice and so have I.
There is one man -- there is one man who knows and understands that this is a time for bold leadership. There is one man that knows how to create the change -- the lasting change that have you to build from the ground up. There is one man who knows in his heart that it is time to create one America, not two. And that man is Barack Obama.
This is not --
UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: Obama! Obama! Obama!
EDWARDS: -- This is not -- this is going to be easy. It's going to be the fight of our lives. But we're ready, because we know that this election is about something bigger than the tired old hateful politics of the past. This election is about taking down these walls that divide us so that we can see what's possible -- what's possible in that one America that we can build together. Barack Obama understands that through his core. You know, as I've traveled this country -- as I've learned from traveling this country, from talking to students like those that we took to New Orleans, who volunteered their spring break to go to New Orleans to work to help rebuild the city. A former...
EDWARDS: A former Army captain that I met who served two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, even after he was badly injured in a grenade attack. And I'll never forget a man named James Lowe (ph) who born with a cleft palate that kept him from being able to speak and he had no health care coverage and lived for 50 years in America not able to speak because he had no health care.
What I've learned and what Barack Obama has learned, this campaign is about them. It is about you. It is about the people. It is not about us. And that is what we are fighting for.
EDWARDS: And it's about the one America we're going to build for them. One America, where Main Street is strong. One America, where struggling towns come back to life because we've finally transformed our economy by ending our dependence on oil. One America...
EDWARDS: One America, where the men and women who work the late shift, who get up at dawn to drive a two hour commute and the young person who closes the store to save for college, they will actually be honored for that work. One America, where no child -- no child goes to bed hungry when we finally end the moral shame of 37 million Americans who wake up every day in poverty.
EDWARDS: One America, where we finally start tackling the real health care crisis in America. One America, with one public school system, where a boy in the city and a girl in the suburbs will wake up every day with an equal chance to a quality education.
EDWARDS: One America...
EDWARDS: One America that rebuilds our moral authority in the world, not just with our strength, but with our soul. One America, where the walls will fall when the war in Iraq ends in 2009 and our servicemen and women...
EDWARDS: ...and our servicemen and women will come home to the heroes' welcome that they deserve. And we...
EDWARDS: We will take care of our veterans. We're going to get this part of the war right. We will never again stand by while men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States of America stand in line and have to wait for health care. We will never stand by...
EDWARDS: ...we will never stand by while 150,000 men and women who wore our uniform -- veterans -- go to sleep every night on grates and under bridges. Not in our America. Not in our America. And not in our America when Barack is president of the United States of America.
EDWARDS: You know, we've been in this kind of During the course of this presidential campaign, fore. In times of war, the Great Depression -- deep divisions that tore at the soul of this nation. We came together. And we went to work to make sure that we passed on a stronger and better country to our children.
We will meet this challenge again. This is who we are. This is our moment. This is our time to take down these walls, to close our divide and build one America that we all believe in.
If you want that, if you believe in that, then join me in helping send Barack Obama to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue because we believe that in our America...
EDWARDS: ...that we love so much, no matter who you are, no matter who your family is and no matter what the color of your skin, none of those things will control your destiny. And that that one America that I've talked about is not only possible, but it will be achieved under President Barack Obama starting in January of 2009.
EDWARDS: Thank you. God bless you.
I'm honored to be here with you. Thank you, all.
OBAMA: John Edwards.
Give it up for John Edwards.
EDWARDS: Thank you.
OBAMA: You know, I haven't been seeing John as much, so I forgot how good he is.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: What a wonderful speech. I am so grateful. I am so grateful for John Edwards for coming to Michigan tonight.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: I am grateful for his support, but more importantly, I want to thank John for everything that he has already done to make us one America.
Thank you, John.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: John, I also want to thank your wonderful wife Elizabeth for her courage and her resilience.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) OBAMA: Her unyielding passion and commitment to a cause that will be central to my presidency, and that is ensuring that right here in the richest country on earth every single American has decent, affordable health care, it is long overdue, Elizabeth's been fighting for it, John's been fighting for it, and I will fight for it when I'm president of the United States of America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)