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The Situation Room

Dems Fight for Florida; Senator Kennedy Leaves Hospital; Michael Dukakis Advises Obama on Republican Attacks

Aired May 21, 2008 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Barack Obama zeroes in on Florida with the nomination almost in his grasp and with John McCain on his radar. Hillary Clinton is shadowing him, making her case for staying in the race.
Also this hour, John McCain finds a new place to try to prove he's not like other Republicans. Is he wasting his time courting voters who probably are partial to Barack Obama?

And Senator Ted Kennedy leaves the hospital a day after disclosing he has brain cancer. We're going to bring you up-to-the- minute information on Kennedy's fight ahead.

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

Right now both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are in Florida on very different missions. He's laying groundwork for a general election campaign against John McCain in a crucial swing state. She's arguing that the parties should count the delegates from Florida's disputed primary which she won back in January. But the numbers clearly stacked against Clinton now more than ever after the split decision in Kentucky and Oregon last night.

CNN now estimates that Obama has 1,962 total delegates. That's 64 delegates short of the number that's needed right now to clinch the nomination. Clinton has 1,777 total delegates, 249 short of the magic number needed to win.

We begin our coverage this hour with the Democrats in Florida and CNN's Jessica Yellin.

Jessica, this is the first time we've seen these two Democrats actually campaigning seriously in Florida after that disputed primary.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Senator Obama has not been in Florida since November. Senator Clinton since late January. But they've now converged on this state that has enormous electoral and symbolic significance to the Democrats. After all, this is the state that gave George Bush the White House after the 2000 recount.


YELLIN (voice-over): It's Florida fever. Clinton and Obama in the same state with very different goals. Obama in central Florida, campaigning for the general election.


YELLIN: After staying away for months, Obama's trying to build support in a state that put Bush in the White House twice.

OBAMA: It is good to be back in Florida! It's good to be back. I know you guys have been holding down the fort.

YELLIN: The Obama campaign has trained hundreds of Florida volunteers to register new voters. They're counting on them to win in the fall, focused especially on African-Americans, women, young Republicans and students.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here in Florida more than 1.7 million people cast their votes.

YELLIN: Senator Clinton, in Miami, is here fighting for her legacy with this message...

CLINTON: I believe the Democratic Party must count these votes. Exactly as they were cast.

YELLIN: Clinton seems to have an advantage in the state. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows she would beat McCain here 49-41. But Obama is in a statistical tie with McCain. Still, after years of Republican control, Democrats are feeling optimistic.

MARK BUBRISKI, FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY SPOKESMAN: Republicans have been in charge of Florida for some time now. People are fed up. We're seeing just mass migration to the Democratic Party.

YELLIN: There are 400,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans here. And Democrats picked up nine House seats in 2006. The Democratic Party in Florida says they plan to give McCain a run for his money.

BUBRISKI: A Republican cannot be elected president without winning Florida. So Democrats are going to challenge here very, very hard.


YELLIN: And the Democrats are looking for something else in Florida, Wolf. They are looking for money. Both candidates going to major fund-raisers over the next two days -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica, tell us about the new addition to the Obama campaign.

YELLIN: Yes. A surprising addition. Former ABC news congressional correspondent Linda Douglass is going to join Obama's campaign as a spokesperson and a senior strategist. We're told it's part of an expansion that the campaign is undertaking as they look toward the general election -- Wolf. BLITZER: Thanks very much for that.

Jessica Yellin.

Hillary Clinton's big win in Kentucky last night drove home the fact that Barack Obama has some serious weak spots even as he gets closer and closer to clinching the nomination.

Let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King. He's looking at this state -- Appalachia in particular, underscoring some of these weak spots.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If you look at Kentucky last night, Wolf -- and I want to expand the map a little bit here -- people are calling it the Appalachia problem, the Rust Belt problem.

Look at Barack Obama. The light is Senator Clinton. And as I draw these lines across, the light blue is Senator Clinton.

This is a county-by-county analysis of the Democratic race. So, Barack Obama winning so few counties.

Start in Pennsylvania, drop down into West Virginia. Even out here in rural Virginia. Down here in North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, even Michigan, where Obama would say the primary doesn't count. Their worry in the Democratic Party is this rural problem and white working class problem has extended across the map.

Now, he is most likely to be the nominee. You just told the delegate map. But many in the Democratic Party are saying his vice presidential pick and his campaigning over the next several weeks needs to be influenced by this.

Why? Now, that's a Hillary Clinton vote here. Let's go back in time to 2004.

Look how much of this same area was won by George W. Bush. And for the Democrats to win the White House, they have to hold Pennsylvania. They would love to switch either West Virginia or certainly Ohio. Jessica just talked about Florida, but if they could switch Ohio, then the Democrats would have a great electoral map.

So this worries the Democrats as you look at Obama. Want to come back now to '08 and the Democratic nomination.

And Wolf, the larger problem is right out here, in the industrial Midwest, the Rust Belt, along the Appalachian Trail. But it's not just there. It's in other places as well.

And if you come off the telestrator and pull out even here in Florida, Jessica was just talking about it, you find a lot of those white rural, blue collar voters up here along the panhandle, up in Apalachicola. And these up here.

And Obama's problem is also older voters. And a lot of older voters down here, retirees.

So, as the Democrats look at the electoral map and prepare for an Obama/McCain race, they see this light blue in this part of the country and down in here, areas critical to their math. And they say he has a problem.

BLITZER: The bottom line is he has some work out ahead of him if, in fact, he gets the nomination.

KING: He has five and a half months to do it. Democrats can say don't panic, but they say to the Obama campaign -- and many of them are calling and saying, you have to understand, don't you, the depth of this problem?

BLITZER: And her argument that she's more electable as far as the electoral college is concerned, he says he's got states at play that she wouldn't necessarily have at play.

KING: They both have a good argument. And if you pull up an electoral map we can look at it quickly.

They both have a pretty good argument. You know, what Senator Obama says is, you know, I can put Virginia in play because of African-Americans. I might be able to switch that. We're registering new voters, we're changing the conversation out in Colorado.

Both of the Democrats think they might be able to switch New Mexico. That's been very close the last couple of elections.

So, both Obama and Clinton make a compelling argument. Most Democrats concede today Hillary Clinton is right. She is stronger on an electoral map because she would hold Pennsylvania most likely, maybe switch Ohio, perhaps switch West Virginia, so many Democrats would...

BLITZER: Maybe Florida, too.

KING: Maybe Florida as well, because her support among older voters and blue collar voters.

Most Democrats concede the point that today she is stronger state by state on an electoral college match-up. But they say, look, Obama has the delegate math almost locked up. The nomination is almost his. What they need to worry about is fixing his issues, not dwelling on Senator Clinton's greater strengths today.

BLITZER: And that's why some of her admirers are even right now saying, you know what? Think about her as your running mate. We'll see what happens on that front.

KING: That will continue.

BLITZER: All right. That debate is not going to go away.

John, we'll see you in a few moments. Let's get an update right now on Senator Ted Kennedy. A day after the stunning news he has a cancerous brain tumor, the 76-year- old Democrat is now out of the hospital.

Let's go to Dan Lothian. He's in Boston with the latest.

What's going on, Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we still don't know how Senator Ted Kennedy will be treated for that malignant tumor. What I can tell you is that he is back home tonight down on the cape.

After returning home, he told reporters that it was "good to be back home again," and then went for a walk on the beach with his wife and his two dogs. Earlier in the day he had been released from the hospital here in Boston, where he had spent four nights.

As he walked out the door, we heard a loud applause from dozens of well-wishers who were waiting outside. He shook some hands. He greeted some of his relatives, hugged some of his relatives, raised his thumb into the air signifying obviously that he's in very good spirits.

And as he turned around, Wolf, we saw that patch, that bandage on the back of his head. That is where doctors went in and conducted that biopsy on Monday. That is a biopsy obviously that confirmed that he did have the cancer.

Now, doctors had expected that he would remain in the hospital for the next couple of days. But they decided to release him early because they said he made a quick recovery from that biopsy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan, thanks very much.

And later we're going to have a remarkable three dimensional view of the brain invaded by a cancerous tumor. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, will bring us his neurosurgeon skills right here into THE SITUATION ROOM. You're going to see something really remarkable.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty though right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, Barack Obama took another big step toward the nomination last night. He now has a majority of the pledged delegates, which means it's impossible for Hillary Clinton to catch him now. He also reminded those superdelegates who are uncommitted that if they endorse Clinton now, they will be going against the will of the voters.

None of this, of course, matters to Hillary Clinton. She's staying in, telling supporters she's determined to see every vote counted.

She's $19.5 million in debt, hopelessly behind, and probably further damaging the party's chances in November, but no big deal. Hey, this is all about Hillary.

"The New York Times" reports that she's told her inner circle she thinks that she can still be the nominee. And if she isn't, she can accomplish some final goals.

For one thing, Hillary Clinton's now saying that sexism, not racism has played a key role in her loss. Advisers say by fighting on she's showing young women that she's no quitter.

Clinton clings to the hope that Michigan and Florida will magically be awarded to her, despite both state primaries being invalid and despite the fact she agreed they would be invalid before they held their illegal primaries. She'll press that case, nevertheless, when the DNC Rules Committee meets at the end of the month.

Oh, and about those who say Clinton's dividing the Democratic Party or causing more of a racial divide among some white voters by staying in the race? She of course disagrees. She believes that if and when she quits, her supporters will quickly rally around Barack Obama.

So here's the question: Why does Hillary Clinton continue on when Barack Obama now has the majority of the pledged delegates and her campaign's almost $20 million in debt?

Go to CNN.some/caffertyfile. You can post a comment there on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

A famous target of Republican attacks has a message for Barack Obama.


MICHAEL DUKAKIS (D), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You cannot let the Republicans do what they did to me and what they did to Kerry.


BLITZER: I'll ask the former Democratic presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis, this question: Is Senator Obama tough enough to do what Dukakis could not do, namely win?

Also ahead, Obama's problem with white voters may be broader than you think. We're going to look at the double disadvantage he faces right now.

Plus, oil industry executives are called on the carpet over soaring gas prices. Are they willing to take any blame for their -- for your pain at the pump?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The closer Barack Obama gets to clinching his party's presidential nomination, the more Democrats are bracing themselves for anything Republicans may throw at him. That may include allegations of elitism, questions about patriotism, lines of attack that have defeated some past Democratic nominees.


BLITZER: And joining us now, the former governor of Massachusetts, the former Democratic presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis.

Governor, thanks very much for joining us.

DUKAKIS: Wolf, good to be with you.

BLITZER: I know you're still neutral among these Democratic candidates.


BLITZER: But here's the question, because I think your experience, it always pops up. Is Barack Obama tough enough right now to take on the Republicans and John McCain?

DUKAKIS: Yes. No question about it. If you listen carefully to his speech after his victory in North Carolina, it's entirely clear, Wolf, that he knows what's coming at him and he's ready for it.

BLITZER: I raise the question because I went back and read "The New York Times" after your defeat back in 1988. They said this -- and I'll quote it to you -- "Mr. Dukakis, a stubborn man, was determined to run what he viewed as a positive, issue-oriented campaign. He hit Mr. Bush occasionally, but until the final weeks he would never commit himself to the kind of repeated daily offensive that was needed."

What do you think about that?

DUKAKIS: I agree with the criticism. It was a great mistake. It was my decision not to respond to the Bush attack campaign for weeks. And it was a huge mistake. And no Democratic nominee will ever make that again, and Barack Obama will never make that mistake.

BLITZER: Because Bill Clinton in '92 and '96, whenever he was attacked, he counterpunched right away. He didn't waste any time. Some will say that John Kerry in 2004, that swift-boating, he waited too long to counter on that.

Did he wait too long?

DUKAKIS: Yes, he waited too long. And Clinton didn't.

As a matter of fact, you'll remember, Wolf, that Clinton had a unit in his campaign of about 10 people, some of whom worked for me in '88, who did nothing but deal with the Bush attack campaign in '92. And it was just as tough on Clinton as it was on me. BLITZER: So give me the advice -- give us the advice for Obama.

DUKAKIS: Let me say this -- to be ready, to respond immediately, to take the fight to McCain, and never to let up. Now, that doesn't mean that you can't be positive, because the American people are looking for a very positive agenda for Barack Obama and they're going to get it from him. But you cannot let the Republicans do what they did to me and what they did to Kerry.

BLITZER: Because you know what they're going to do, the Reverend Wright, the William Ayers from the Weather Underground.


BLITZER: They're going to go after him on all these issues.


BLITZER: What the Democrats did is going to be small potatoes to what's in store for him.

DUKAKIS: Well, but McCain is very vulnerable. I mean, his campaign is loaded with lobbyists.

As a matter of fact, as you know, right now he's throwing them overboard one after another. I mean, there are lots and lots of weaknesses there. Not only that, he's a supporter of what I think has to be the dumbest war we've ever waged. On economic policy he's nowhere.

So there's plenty to go after. But you can't let these folks do what they did to me and they did to Kerry. And I don't think there's any chance at all that Obama's going to let them do it. He's a tough guy, he's a smart guy, and he's not going to let them get away with this.

BLITZER: Here are some numbers that came out of the Kentucky exit polls yesterday. Numbers that the McCain folks and the Republicans love, but very worrisome to Democrats.

We asked Clinton supporters in Kentucky who they would vote for if she doesn't get the nomination. Forty-two percent said they would vote for McCain, 33 percent said they'd vote for Obama, 23 percent said they won't vote. Those are Hillary Clinton supporters.


BLITZER: And we've seen not as dire as that, but we've seen similar results in other exit polls, whether in West Virginia, Ohio, or Pennsylvania.

Those have got to be really worrisome numbers to you.

DUKAKIS: Well, they're worrisome, but not if my party does what I hope it will do. And that is organize every single one of the 200,000 precincts in all of the 50 states of the United States, something we haven't done since Jack Kennedy ran for the presidency. I didn't do it very well. And I'm serious, Wolf.

I think we've got to stop buying into this red/blue nonsense. You know, there are a dozen states that are supposed to be red states with Democratic governors. And we've been regularly conceding these states to the other side.

So, I want to see a precinct captain in six-block or neighborhood captains in every single one of the 2,000 precincts in the United States. If we do that, we're going to win those people over. If we think we're going to win it on television, then we're kidding ourselves.

BLITZER: The other day Barack Obama said to the Republicans, "Lay off my wife," Michelle Obama, some of the comments that she's made. Kitty Dukakis, your wife, was criticized.

Is going after the spouse of a candidate fair game in this kind of contest for the presidency?

DUKAKIS: I don't think so whether it's Michelle Obama or Cindy McCain, for that matter. And both sides have sinned on this.

Look, it's not our spouses that are running for the presidency. And while they're involved and engaged, and I think people want to see your family, they want to get a sense that you've got strong family ties, you care deeply about your family and so on, I think this kind of stuff is really out of bounds. And I would hope that neither side would do that.

There's plenty to go at on both sides when it comes to the issues that are facing them and are going to face us in the years to come. But I think they ought to get off this stuff, frankly.

BLITZER: Give us a final thought about Ted Kennedy, who's going through a very, very rough period right now.

DUKAKIS: Well, Wolf, it's hard for me to talk about it. It's so emotional.

Ted Kennedy and I were both elected to political office for the first time in 1962. He to the United States Senate and I to the Massachusetts legislature. We've been friends and colleagues and comrades in arms for years.

He was an incredible -- has been an incredible source of strength certainly for this state when I was governor for 12 years. There was nothing he wouldn't do for this state. And frankly, nothing he wouldn't do for the United States of America. And it's just awfully tough to deal with this.

But if there's one thing Ted Kennedy is, it's a fighter. And if anybody can fight and turn back this disease, this condition that he has, it's going to be the senator. And we're all going to be pulling for him, and I just hope and pray that he's going to be OK.

BLITZER: Well said. Governor, thanks very much for coming in. DUKAKIS: Thanks, Wolf.


BLITZER: A powerful senator versus a popular Web site. Joe Lieberman is calling on YouTube to remove videos that he says promote terrorism. The Web site isn't fully complying with that call. We're going to tell you why.

And Barack Obama's challenge to Appalachia. We'll take a closer look at why he hasn't managed to win over a lot of Democratic voters there.

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



BLITZER: Happening now, a major announcement today out of the Middle East. Two longtime enemies, Israel and Syria, confirm they're holding indirect talks. We're going to tell you what that means for the peace process in a live report from the White House.

Senator Barack Obama, he's out fund-raising his rivals, especially John McCain, who's trailing big time in the money race. What gives?

CNN's Brian Todd is standing by to tell us.

And a whole different look for Cindy McCain. The wife of the presumptive Republican nominee lets her hair down for a photo spread in "Vogue" magazine. We're going to show you the shots and we'll tell you what some strategists are saying about the reasons behind her new laid-back look.

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

John McCain is staying largely out of the campaign spotlight on this day, but the Republican nominee in waiting is planning ahead. He's looking for ways to reach out to African-American voters, despite the fact he likely will face off with the nation's first black presidential nominee.

Let's bring in Mary Snow. She's covering this story for us.

All right. What has McCain planning on doing?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, one thing that he's already done, Wolf, in recent days, he was interviewed by "Essence" magazine. It's the first interview with an African-American publication since becoming the presumptive Republican nominee. It's part of an effort to portray himself as a different kind of Republican, but he faces big hurdles.


SNOW (voice-over): In his "Essence" magazine interview, Senator John McCain says he'll go to places where he can continue a dialogue with African-Americans. And that includes the NAACP convention in July. He didn't attend last year.

It's part of McCain's effort to reach out to black Americans. In April, on the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination, McCain admitted he made a mistake in voting against making the King remembrance a federal holiday.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would remind you that we can all be a little late sometimes in doing the right thing.

SNOW: He also toured New Orleans' Ninth Ward and visited the site in Selma where civil rights marchers had been beaten four decades ago. He was asked about the fact that a majority of the people in the crowd who came out to see him were white, not black.

MCCAIN: There will be many people who will not vote for me. But I'm going to be the president of all the people.

SNOW: African-Americans are one of the most reliable voting blocs for Democrats. And one political observer says, making it even more challenging for Republicans this year is the Bush administration's handling of Katrina, the economy, and the war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This year is going to be even tougher for the Republicans to get a fair hearing from African-Americans.

SNOW: Political observers point out that, in 2006, there were several African-American Republicans running for high-profile offices, for example, Ken Blackwell. He ran for Ohio governor two years ago and lost. Now a columnist for "The New York Sun," Blackwell and others note the drop-off of Republican candidates who are African- American.

KENNETH BLACKWELL, FORMER OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: The Republican brand is in trouble. And it's just not a brand in trouble with African-Americans. It's in trouble with working-class whites. It's in trouble with a whole cross section of voter groups.


SNOW: McCain has been attempting to reach out to a number of those groups, as he also hopes to sway moderates and some Democrats -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And that whole strategy, Mary, is very useful for John McCain, reaching out to the African-American community. It might not in the end get him a lot of African-American votes, but it does tend to reassure a lot of white voters that he's at least on their page when it comes to these kinds of policies towards the African-American community.

All right, Mary, thanks very much for that.

YouTube is resisting an appeal from Senator Joe Lieberman to strip the site of dozens of videos from Islamic terrorist organizations. YouTube says that, unless videos show gratuitous violence or hate speech, they will not remove them from the Web site.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is watching the story for us.

Abbi, what do these videos actually show?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, these videos are not difficult to find on the site, branded with logos from al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist organizations. Some of them might show a cleric addressing the camera.

Others show attacks on American troops in Iraq. And Senator Joe Lieberman is saying, take this all down off the site, writing a letter to Google, asking them to remove this content.

Well, Google, we respectfully disagree -- YouTube posting this on a blog post on their Web site saying, we have removed some of this content that violates our own standards, gratuitous violence or hate speech. It says the other material on there is free speech. They wrote this lengthy blog post here responding to Senator Joe Lieberman and explaining how their guidelines work, thousands of videos uploaded each hour, and a community of Web users going through them and flagging what they deem inappropriate.

Senator Joe Lieberman is saying, that's not enough, hoping that Google and YouTube will rethink those policies -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

Senator Ted Kennedy is used to political fights. Now he's fighting a cancerous brain tumor. Just ahead, our Dr. Sanjay Gupta gives us a remarkable view inside the brain and what Senator Kennedy may be facing right now.

Plus, a fellow Republican with a penchant for straight talk has some tough words for his colleague John McCain. What's behind this slap from Chuck Hagel? Stand by for our "Strategy Session."

And the latest on a horrifying story -- six smiles left behind by a killer targeting college-aged men.


BLITZER: Oil and gas prices hit new highs once again today, crude exceeding $133 a barrel, at one point gas rising above $3.81 a gallon.

Congress is demanding answers. Today, a Senate panel grilled oil company executives about why prices are simply soaring. There were lots of explanations, but members clearly were not impressed.

Listening in on that testy hearing, our own Kate Bolduan. She's watching this story for us.

What explanation did the oil company executives give, Kate, for these skyrocketing prices?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they -- they gave many answers and tried to offer many explanations. But the oil executives say it all centers on the high price for a barrel of crude oil.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These witnesses represent the major vertically integrated...

PETER ROBERTSON, VICE CHAIRMAN, CHEVRON: The things that we can do is, we can invest to produce more supply. We're investing all that we can, given the limitations of this -- of access around the world, given the limitations of our own human capacity, given the limitations of the -- the contractor community and the drilling rigs and all these things that are available in the world. We are investing at our capacity.


BLITZER: Unfortunately, Kate, we're having some trouble with that package of yours.

What I want to do is fix it and come back to you. We will get that report.

But Bill Schneider is standing by, because he's looking at another important story we're following right now, namely Barack Obama, and some of the problems he might be facing down the road.

Do Democrats have what some critics are already suggesting, Bill, is an Obama problem?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as we saw yesterday, there are still a lot of Democratic voters who are unwilling to get on the Obama bandwagon, even though they believe he will be the eventual nominee.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Will white voters support Barack Obama? Yes and no. Kentucky Democratic voters were nearly 90 percent white. Obama got blown out in Kentucky by 35 points. Oregon Democrats were also overwhelmingly white. On the same day, Obama carried Oregon by 18 points.

There is no such thing as a typical white voter. How Obama does depends on what voters we're talking about. There's continuing resistance to Obama among two types of white voters, blue-collar whites and Appalachian whites. Why? He doesn't have big differences with Clinton on issues or ideology. But there are big differences of style and temperament. She comes across as a fighter. CLINTON: We are in this race because we believe America is worth fighting for.


CLINTON: This...


CLINTON: This continues to be a tough fight. And I have fought it the only way I know how, with determination, by never giving up and never giving in.


SCHNEIDER: Obama is running as a conciliator and a consensus- builder.

OBAMA: We should not just talk to our friends. We should be willing to engage our enemies as well.


OBAMA: That's what diplomacy is all about.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats have had this problem before with candidates who are not seen as tough guys, George McGovern, who was 1000 percent behind his initial running mate, Michael Dukakis in the tank, John Kerry, who was for the $87 billion before he was against it.

Republicans believe they can exploit the same weakness in Obama.

MCCAIN: Senator Obama is naive enough...


SCHNEIDER: The Clinton campaign is trying to make Obama look weak. It's working, but only with certain kinds of voters, with blue- collar and Appalachian whites, who want a more combative style of politics.

Now, Republicans are trying the same thing. Obama's betting that voters are fed up with all the fighting and want to try something different, for a change.

BLITZER: And there are Democrats out there -- Jim Webb comes to mind, the senator from Virginia -- who know something about Democrats gaining support in Appalachia.

SCHNEIDER: He does. He wrote a book about it. He talked about the Scotch-Irish tradition. They're the people who settled Appalachia. And you know what the title of his book is? "Born Fighting."

BLITZER: Well, that's what they're going to have to do if they want to win.

All right, thanks very much, Bill Schneider, for that.


BLITZER: Let's get back to Kate Bolduan. She's up on Capitol Hill.

She's been looking at the oil company executives who have been grilled at a hearing earlier today.

What happened, Kate? Tell our viewers, because some of it got lively.

BOLDUAN: It definitely got lively, Wolf. The hearing -- the debate was heated at times, and there were definitely some rare fireworks that you don't often see in some of these hearings on Capitol Hill.

But, in the end, what it came down to is, the oil executives say that, when it comes to the high price of gas, that we should be looking at the high price of crude oil.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): More than $130 for a barrel of oil, an average $3.80 for a gallon of gas, and the five executives of major oil companies summoned to Capitol Hill to answer for the record prices.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Thirty- six billion in three months, certainly more than the gross domestic product of some countries.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: You rack up record profits, record profits for any corporation in the United States of America, quarter after quarter after quarter, and apparently have no ethical compass about the price of gasoline.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Is there anybody here that has any concerns about what you're doing to this country?

J. STEPHEN SIMON, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, EXXONMOBIL: We have a lot of concern about that. And we're doing all that we can to produce as much product as we can to put downward pressure on prices.

BOLDUAN: While the executive of ExxonMobil acknowledged the big profits, he insisted that the high price of oil and gas is beyond their control.

SIMON: There are so many factors that go into establishing that price, supply and demand, weakness of the dollar, geopolitical situation, the amount of speculation coming into the market, the amount of spare capacity.

BOLDUAN: The committee also grilled the executives on their companies' investment in alternative fuels.

PETER ROBERTSON, VICE CHAIRMAN, CHEVRON: The things that we can do is, we can invest to produce more supply. We're investing all that we can, given the limitations of this -- of access around the world, given the limitations of our own human capacity, given the limitations of the -- the contractor community and the drilling rigs and all these things that are available in the world. We are investing at our capacity.


BOLDUAN: Now, one thing the oil executives also say is that the United States itself is at least partly to blame for the high price of gas. The oil executives say that Congress must lift restrictions on -- must lift restrictions on domestic oil exploration and production in areas like Alaska and off the coasts -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Kate, thanks very much.

Kate Bolduan on the Hill for us.

Coming up in our "Strategy Session," Clinton marches on, fighting for every vote.


CLINTON: We believe the popular vote is the truest expression of your will. We believe it today, just as we believed it back in 2000.


BLITZER: But, with time running out, does she have a game- changing argument? If so, what is it?

And angry words from John McCain from his longtime friend and fellow Republican Chuck Hagel. We're going to tell you what Hagel said. That's coming up in our "Strategy Session" -- all that and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A lot of ground to cover in today's "Strategy Session," including the results and the consequences of yesterday's Democratic primaries in Kentucky and Oregon, and a disagreement right now between John McCain and one of his longtime friends and allies in the Senate, Chuck Hagel.

Let's discuss this with our CNN political contributor, Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez, and Democratic strategist Jonathan Prince, a former deputy manager of the John Edwards presidential campaign.

Leslie, here's what Hagel said. He's quoted in "The Washington Post" as saying: "I'm very upset with John about some of the things he's saying. He's smarter than some of the things he's saying."

They were longtime allies and friends in the Senate. LESLIE SANCHEZ, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No doubt about that.

But I think, in this case, like with any of the senators, they're entitled to their own opinion. You can look at the fact that Joe Lieberman came out today and talked about Democrats and our enemies, where he took a very strong stance and took Democrats to task very much in terms of their weak approach historically on foreign affairs and national security.

So, I think there's a lot to be said...

BLITZER: Are you saying that Chuck Hagel is to Republicans what Joe Lieberman has become to Democrats?



SANCHEZ: Perhaps so.

BLITZER: Is that a fair -- a fair comparison?

JONATHAN PRINCE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think Democrats are probably a lot happier to hear Chuck Hagel talk right now than a lot of them are to hear Joe Lieberman talk.

You know, I think what has happened is, you have Chuck Hagel and John McCain, who are really Republicans for a long time seemed cut from the same cloth, guys who are willing to put policy ahead of politics and say what they really believe and both known as kind of mavericks.

And now what happens? 2008, here we are. One of them is not running for reelection. The other is running for president of the United States. It's not shocking that the guy who is running for president of the United States has kind of shelved his inner maverick and is kind of maximizing his inner Bush.

BLITZER: Because he's been in the forefront, Chuck Hagel, in criticizing the president's strategy in Iraq and a lot of other aspects of the policy.

SANCHEZ: I think Chuck Hagel has a record of being a contrarian. There's no doubt about that.

But I think the distinction is he's exactly somebody who is not running for reelection. John McCain is somebody who is at the peak of his career, has a lot invested in this, and is very cautious and careful, and built a career understanding foreign affairs and foreign policy.

PRINCE: Which leaves you to wonder who's being more honest and who's playing politics?

SANCHEZ: Somebody who has nothing to lose or somebody who is really trying to guide this country for the next four years? BLITZER: Jonathan, you haven't endorsed any of these candidates yet, right? Is that...

PRINCE: Well, I certainly support the Democrats overall.


BLITZER: You support the Democrats, but you haven't endorsed...


BLITZER: We could still woo you, Jonathan.


BLITZER: Does Senator Clinton still, at this late moment, have a game-changing strategy that can turn things around?

PRINCE: Look, I think the position that she's in -- and, you know, I think, as the Obama campaign says, she's got every right to play it out.

But I think the position that she's in is not so much that she's got some ability to have triple -- you know, to run the bases three times in a row, with triple grand slams -- I was looking for the sports analogy there.

I think the position she's really in is that she needs an unforced error. And she's playing it out to see what happens and to see if something happens...


BLITZER: If he makes a blunder, enormous -- or something else comes out about him.


PRINCE: An enormous blunder that changes the game.

But I don't think, at this point -- when you look at the numbers, when you look at the math, when you see what's left, I don't see how the Clinton campaign really has a strategy that they can impose without some outside help.

BLITZER: What do you think?

SANCHEZ: You know, it's interesting. I think she already has made the shift that's very critical. She has resuscitated this campaign. She showed that she can attract basically swing Reagan Democrats in competitive states.

And, basically, if you look at a candidate, like, politically -- in our business, we have to be right 51 percent of the time to be successful. She's 49.9. Really, it's absurd to think she should step away now, when she's somebody who is so competitive and has really hit a populist message on health care, on jobs, on the economy. And she's exposed that weakness of Reagan Democrats...


BLITZER: Here's the only question I think that's out there. What happens to Michigan and Florida on May 31, when the DNC meets to determine the fate of those delegates? Will they be included? Won't they be included?

And let's say they decide to keep the rules as is, Jonathan, and they're not going to include Michigan and Florida. Does she then say, it's over; I'm out? Or does she say, we're going to the convention for a floor fight?

PRINCE: Look, I don't see why she's -- May 31, June 3, you're not necessarily making a distinction there. I don't see why she's going to get out before the contests are over.


BLITZER: She's not going to get out obviously before June 3, Montana and South Dakota.


PRINCE: Right.

I do not see Hillary Clinton, knowing that the math is against her, the delegates are against her, that she's fundamentally lost, deciding to go there and wage a ground battle for...


BLITZER: It's happened before.

PRINCE: It certainly has happened.


PRINCE: But I don't think that there's that kind of divide in our party.

I think everyone wants to kind of squawk about it and make it sound like there's this enormous divide, but there isn't. What there really is, is an enormous coalition of voters who want big change in this country.


BLITZER: Well, what if she -- what if she and a lot of her key supporters honestly and sincerely believe, you know what, he's not really electable, and I am?

SANCHEZ: I think that's the issue, where it comes down to superdelegates are making that distinction. They are weighing that right now. She has -- she has a lot of personal money invested in this. She doesn't need a lot of money post-June 3 to really run a lean fighting force to the convention. There's a lot of arguments -- and strong ones -- to be made for why this should be discussed and aired openly.

There's a tremendous intensity. To raise almost a half-a-billion dollars from these two campaigns and these two candidates, you're not going to settle that lightly. And women have to be excited to come back around to Barack Obama.

BLITZER: Very quickly.

PRINCE: There's no question. People -- the folks who supported her need to be brought back around. But I think that's going to happen. I think the Obama campaign, when he's the nominee, assuming he's the nominee, is going to do it.

And they have already shown, really, an ability to start reaching out to her, reaching out to her supporters. John Edwards did a fantastic job, I thought -- I used to work for him, as you mentioned -- you know, reaching out to her supporters and giving her the credit for what she's done in this party. So, it's going to come around. It always comes around.

SANCHEZ: But John Edwards didn't translate to Barack Obama.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.


PRINCE: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We will continue this conversation.

Taking on YouTube, a U.S. senator is doing that, saying terrorists are using the Web site to promote their agenda.

And brain tumors like the one Senator Kennedy is battling, how are they detected and why are they so difficult to treat? Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a high-tech look inside the human brain -- that and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Checking our Political Ticker: New figures show John McCain can claim at least one kind of cash advantage over like rival Barack Obama.

Newly filed reports show the Republican Party and the McCain campaign had a combined total of more than $62 million cash on hand at the beginning of May. The Democratic Party and the Obama campaign had a combined total of almost $51 million. Without the party money, the Obama camp's cash on hand is more than double the McCain camp's available money.

A new endorsement for Barack Obama today from the United Mine Workers of America. The union is supporting him despite his big defeats in Kentucky and West Virginia, coal-producing states, where many of the union's members work and vote. The Mine Workers had originally backed John Edwards, who now supports Barack Obama. It's the latest example of Democratic allies rallying behind Obama, as the likely nominee.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can check out That's where you can download our new political screen-saver, by the way, and where you can also read my daily online blog post,

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

CAFFERTY: What is it, the Teamsters union, the steel workers, the mine workers union? What problem with working-class voters?

BLITZER: He's got a lot of union members there.

CAFFERTY: Yes, well, those are the working people, aren't they?

The question this hour is: Why does Hillary Clinton continue on, when Barack Obama now has a majority of the pledged delegates and her campaign's almost $20 million in debt?

Butch writes from Pensacola, Florida: "I can't believe this woman. Didn't she agree to the rules before the race started that Florida and Michigan would not count?"

Yes, she did.

"Now she speaks as if she cares so much about our votes counting. What about people like me, who didn't vote because we were told it wouldn't count anyway? As a black independent for Obama, I wouldn't vote for her if she were running against David Duke."


CAFFERTY: "And I won't vote for Obama if she is on the ticket."

Gigi writes from Alabama: "She is still in the race, and until all votes are counted. Contrary to what you would have your viewers believe, she has every right to do this. Obama cannot reach the total of delegates by the convention, and you know it. Florida and Michigan have not been counted. I don't give a flying fig about Howard Dean's rules."

Apparently, neither does Hillary.

"They are American citizens. Their votes will have to be counted to give the Democratic Party half-a-chance to win the presidency in November."

The primary votes don't count in the November election.

Helen writes: "To destroy Obama with the pretense that she is doing it for the women of the world. I am one of your former women supporters, Hillary. Get out."

Robert writes: "It is quite obvious Senator Clinton is vying for the 2012 election by dragging the primary process into August. The amount of time needed to heal the party and mount a campaign against McCain will be greatly hampered. By having a one-term president in 2008, John McCain, she can then have the candidacy and the election all to herself in 2012."

Lucille in New Jersey: "By her tremendous wins in Kentucky and West Virginia, it is obvious her supporters do not want her out of the race. She is the candidate who can win the general election. And I am sure that the superdelegates are beginning to realize that."

Lesa writes from Tennessee: Jack, Hillary is like the 'American Idol' contestants who really think they can sing, and then they get angry when Simon Cowell tells them the truth. She knows the truth, but she refuses to let go and admit it to herself. In her mind she's saying, I'm Hillary Clinton, and nobody will get in my way, and I will win by any means necessary."

And Julie writes from New York City, "Just to aggravate you, Jack."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog, Look for yours there. And we post hundreds of them each other with each question -- Wolf.

BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Jack. Thank you.