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The Situation Room

Democrats Roll Into Final Primary Showdown

Aired June 02, 2008 - 16:00   ET


Happening now: The Democratic primary season sputters to a close with tension and uncertainty. Will Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton end their fight for the nomination this week? On the eve of their final showdown, we're getting new information about what may happen next.

Plus, speculation about Bill Clinton's state of mind and his actions. I'll talk to the author of an explosive new article that suggests former President Clinton aides talked about an intervention.

And Senator Ted Kennedy's cancer surgery. Doctors are calling the operation on his brain tumor a success. This hour, the latest on Kennedy's condition and his battle ahead.

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

Up first this hour, the Democrats' primary finally. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are positioning themselves for the road ahead after tomorrow's closing contests in Montana and South Dakota. Obama still seems solidly on track to clinch the nomination after a tumultuous weekend. This despite the fact Clinton easily won yesterday's Puerto Rico primary.

But she's angry about the way the DNC decided to allocate Michigan's delegates after an emotional meeting on Saturday to address the disputed primaries in both Michigan and Florida.

Now the question is this: Will Clinton fight on, or will she drop out? Our Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley is traveling with Senator Clinton in South Dakota. She's watching all of this story.

All right. What is Senator Clinton herself, Candy, saying about her future?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: What she's saying about her future is that it's in the superdelegates. This is what the argument is about now. As you know, Wolf, for months now she has said that this is all about elect ability.

There are stories all over the place about staffers who are looking back at their other jobs, about advance people who have been told, listen, either come to the New York headquarters for tomorrow night, or you can go home. But these are people who go from state to state. Obviously Hillary Clinton has now run out of states. The question is, where does she go from here?


CROWLEY (voice over): On the eve of the end, Hillary Clinton was working Tally's Restaurant in Rapid City, South Dakota. Trademark tough.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What South Dakota decides tomorrow will have a big influence on what people think going forward. Because our main job at the end of this historic, closely contested primary season is to nominate the next president.

CROWLEY: The primary season ends so differently than it started. The front-runner is now the longest of shots. Yet so much of her is the same. Smart, intrepid. unknowable. She runs out of states tomorrow, but if she thinks it's over there's no hint of that. This weekend she won Puerto Rico.

CLINTON: Let's keep fighting for our dream. Let's keep fighting for what we believe. Let's keep fighting for one another. Let's keep fighting for America.

CROWLEY: Only a handful of people at the inner core of the campaign knows what she's thinking about doing when Tuesday's dust settles. One of them is Bill Clinton, a fierce bulldog defender with a habit of going off message as surely he did today.

BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This may be the last day I'm ever involved in a campaign of this kind. I thought I was out of politics till Hillary decided to run. But it has been one of the greatest honors of my life to be able to go around and campaign for her for president.

CROWLEY: Around her, plan Bs are being put into place. Staffers talk of vacations. Others have been in touch with the workplace they left behind. Those who have been with her since the beginning say she will not push this into the convention. As one close supporter put it, she's acutely aware of her place in the party. She will not ruin it.

Friendly fire, albeit gentle, has begun. Former Iowa governor and Clinton supporter Tom Vilsack told the Associated Press, after Tuesday's contest she needs to acknowledge that he's going to be the nominee and quickly get behind him. But that is up to Hillary Clinton. And she's still working plan A.


CROWLEY: Again, Hillary Clinton will spend tomorrow night in New York. Of course, she represents that state. And some of the time there she will spend before the election results come in, with her husband and her daughter, two of her senior advisers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And what's all this talk about some of her advance team being told, you know what, stay on hold for now, we're not planning anymore advance -- advance trips? What's that all about, Candy?

CROWLEY: Well, Wolf, you know, as you know, these advance teams go into states ahead of the candidates. They set up events. They are the people who put the platforms up and make sure that the band is there, that kind of thing. Clearly they have now run out of states. And the Clinton campaign, all along, as they have left states, have also dropped advance people.

Now, there is a story out there, and it was confirmed to me, that these advance people in Montana, in South Dakota, in Puerto Rico have been told, hey, come on up to Tuesday night's headquarter event, or you can go home, either one. Obviously at this point all the money, and this is a campaign that has been flailing, all of that has to go toward whatever the next effort is -- if there is one -- and the next effort really is superdelegates and you don't need advance people for that.

BLITZER: All right, Candy, thanks very much. Candy Crowley reporting.

Stay with CNN for complete coverage of the Democrats' primary finale. I'll be here along with the best political team on television to bring you the results from the South Dakota and Montana primaries. It all begins right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, then, once again, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow right here on CNN.

We'll get to politics in a moment, but right now, Senator Ted Kennedy is recovering from surgery on his cancerous brain tumor. The 76-year-old Democrat spent more than three hours in the operating room at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina today. CNN's Dan Lothian is following this case for us from Kennedy's home turf of Boston.

Dan, doctors say thank God the operation was a success. What do we know?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They did say that it was a success. The hospital is saying they won't give us any sort of official briefing on the surgery. The doctors will not be made available to us. The Kennedy family really handling the flow of information here; that information coming in the form of a press release that was issued earlier this afternoon.

His chief doctor, Doctor Allan Friedman said that the surgery was a success. That they were able to accomplish their goals during this three and a half hour or so surgery. And that he was awake throughout the surgery. The doctor also saying that they experienced -- he will experience no permanent neurological effects.

Senator Kennedy really remaining up beat throughout this whole ordeal. A family spokeswoman telling us he was joking with his wife, Vickie, that he feels like a million bucks and that he could do this all over again tomorrow.

Senator Kennedy also looking to the future in a statement that he released earlier today. He said he's looking forward to returning to the Senate and also helping Barack Obama win the presidency.

As for his recovery, he will remain here in the hospital for at least another week or so. Then he will return back to Massachusetts, Massachusetts General Hospital, where he will undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian, you're in Durham, North Carolina, not back home in Boston. I misspoke. Thanks very much for that.

LOTHIAN: That's right (ph).

BLITZER: We're going to be checking in with our own Doctor Sanjay Gupta, shortly. He himself is a neurosurgeon. We'll get his assessment on what might happen next. Sanjay Gupta standing by with that.

Let's walk over to Jack Cafferty. He's coming in, we have the "Cafferty File" coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Jack, welcome. You're coming in. Let's talk about what's going on. Politics, I assume.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: You had a long weekend, didn't you?


CAFFERTY: I was watching you.


CAFFERTY: If you're looking for clues, we have a few. Try some of these. Hillary Clinton to give her post primary speech in New York tomorrow night. Thing is New York's not voting. Montana and South Dakota are. Campaign aides and staffers who worked for Clinton in those two states, and Puerto Rico, have been invited to come to New York to attend the speech here, or go home, and await further instructions.

Here's another clue. It's being reported the campaign's finance department is asking Clinton staffers to turn in their outstanding expenses by the end of the week. Clinton has also planned a rally with her husband and daughter in South Dakota tonight. It's the kind of reunion she usually saves for election nights.

Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton said that today may be his last day campaigning for his wife. All of this would seem to indicate the end is near. The news comes on the heels of a weekend where Clinton swept up in Puerto Rico and yet was frustrated by the decision of the rules committee. With just two contests to go now, Clinton continues to trail Barack Obama in the all important categories of pledged delegates and superdelegates.

Nevertheless she's making the argument that she leads in the popular vote. And that by the time all the votes are counted, she will have won more votes, quote, "than anyone in the history of the primary process," unquote. The problem is the math's a little fuzzy. It's true only if you include Michigan and Florida, which don't count, and then don't include some of the caucus states, which do.

Clinton has also suggested she's focusing not only on undecided superdelegates but also on Barack Obama's superdelegates, who she says still have the option to change their mind -- and they do. Finally, she says she's still deciding whether or not to challenge the decision over the weekend of the Democratic Rules Committee.

So, here's the question. Will Hillary Clinton admit defeat and go gracefully when the time comes? Go to and post a comment on my blog. I think we're in the bottom of the ninth.

BLITZER: It looks like that. Although the DNC did say Michigan and Florida now do count after saying for all those months they don't count.

CAFFERTY: Only the delegates.

BLITZER: The delegates count.

CAFFERTY: The popular vote never meant anything anyway.

BLITZER: Of course.

CAFFERTY: It's all about the delegates.

BLITZER: That's just a signal to the superdelegates, supposedly.

CAFFERTY: They should do something. But the gutless worms won't. Wait till after South Dakota and Montana, because they're afraid.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks.

CAFFERTY: See you later.

BLITZER: New questions are being raised about Bill Clinton's behavior on the campaign trail.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not quoting opposition researchers for Barack Obama. I'm not quoting Republican lawyers or private eyes. I'm quoting people who work and used to work and still work for Bill Clinton.


BLITZER: I'll talk to "Vanity Fair's" national editor, Todd Purdum, about his explosive article about the former president.

Also coming up, our correspondents tell us what they're hearing about Hillary Clinton's thinking right now, and what she may do next. Could some kind of deal with Barack Obama be in the works? Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: There's lots of buzz going on about what happens next, this on the eve of the final two primaries. Let's bring in CNN's Suzanne Malveaux and our Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger.

You're hearing lots of things that are going on. It's hard to differentiate between rumors that are out there and hard facts, given the very tight circle, as Candy just said, of people who really know what's going on.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. And people who are really talking to the candidates. One of the things that we are going to see tomorrow is that Hillary Clinton is going to come out and she's going to say that she will do whatever she can, whatever's asked of her for the sake of the party to win in November.

The clear signal about that line is essentially she is saying that if offered the vice presidential slot, from Obama, that she would accept it. That is a message that has not been the Obama people. They have certainly been getting clear indications that that's the case.

But I talked to some of the Obama insiders. They're very nervous about that. There are a couple of things. They do not believe that Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, who comes along with her, have been fully vetted. If they're a dual ticket it may help bring these two sides together. But they feel like they don't know what's out there in terms of finances, or social life of the couple there. They're not sure really that that's going to be in their best interest.

BLITZER: When you hear from Clinton people they're not sure that Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are fully vetted yet either. But that's another matter.

What are you hearing, Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what I've been focusing on is sort of the end game here, Wolf. Essentially how Hillary Clinton gets out of this. I think as Candy Crowley said in her piece, that a lot of people believe Hillary Clinton will absolutely do the right thing and do what's good -- what's good for the party.

And I think that what you're seeing now in my reporting is that there's still 17 uncommitted Senate Democrats. If you remove the leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, I have been told that those Senate Democrats will come out for Barack Obama. Not before Montana and South Dakota. But after Montana and South Dakota. They won't do it as a group but they'll do it individually. You're going to see that melt start really rather dramatically.

BLITZER: I think what's telling, Suzanne, is what Candy just reported, that some of the advance people from Hillary Clinton's campaign, they're being told, you know, stay on hold. Because they're not gearing up right now for a general election campaign against John McCain. But Barack Obama is. He's not firing anyone. He's not telling anyone, you know what, stay tuned. Because he's going to Michigan and Florida and all these other states, where he's already campaigning aggressively against John McCain.

MALVEAUX: There's something else that's happening, too. There are a number of African-Americans who -- in Congress -- supported Hillary Clinton who are looking at their fate here. There's a real concern from Hillary Clinton and some of her folks that she's alienated those in the African-American community.

How do they bring the groups together? How do they make it better? How is it so that she's not necessarily blamed if Barack Obama doesn't end up winning, and moving on here? So, you're going to see an important endorsement. Jim Clyburn tomorrow is going to endorse Barack Obama.

BLITZER: That's news.

MALVEAUX: He's going to talk about it.

BLITZER: He's the number three Democrat, he's the whip in the House of Representatives from South Carolina.

MALVEAUX: Right. He's going to talk about the historic nature of having a woman and African-American running.

BLITZER: Let's not lose sight of this fact. It's an important fact. That on Wednesday we're here at the CNN Election Center in New York. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will both be here in New York, in this very city, at the same time. There will be a Democratic Party unity festival going on. And something's going to happen.

BORGER: Right. You know, you wouldn't be at all surprised, would you, if the two of them ended up appearing together.

BLITZER: I wouldn't be surprised if the two of them wound up being on the same ticket. I may be in the minority of the minority, or whatever.

BORGER: Well, I think I would be. But you never know. What I'm also hearing, Wolf, that high level surrogates in the Obama campaign are talking to high-level surrogates in the Clinton campaign about how to integrate their staff, how to get their staffs to start working together, going forward.

So, you know, it's very clear that the Clinton campaign is trying to figure out a way to fold its tent and make sure that they work for the Democratic nominee.

BLITZER: It's fair to say that Clinton, both of the Clintons, bring baggage to an Obama ticket. At the same time they do bring the potential of bringing together this very divisive Democratic Party right now. In the end Barack Obama will have to sit down with his closest advisers and decide, do they do more good for his chances of beating John McCain in November, or do more harm? And that's not an easy decision.

MALVEAUX: There's a real split. Specifically in the Obama campaign. A think there's a lot more people on Hillary's side who are saying, you know, that that would be a good idea, this kind of joint ticket.


MALVEAUX: It's really being pushed. But those -- there's some who believe that he's philosophically opposed to any kind of deal making that comes before this whole process of looking at all the candidates.

That, yes, she's on the short list. But, no, she is not going to kind of circumvent that by making some sort of back deal. You give me this, we'll give you that, kind of thing. And there is too much animosity right now. They said it's not necessarily trust, it's real animosity between these groups. There's a lot of bad blood.

BORGER: But it's about winning. It's not about animosity. It's all about --

BLITZER: If he thinks it will help him get elected, then, of course, he'll do whatever he needs to do.

All right, guys. Stand by because we'll continue to check in with all of our sources to see what's going on. What is very clear is it is a very fluid situation right now. Lots going on behind the scenes. We'll update you as we get more information.

Asset or liability? Do you think Bill Clinton has helped or hurt his wife's chance of becoming president? We're going to talk about that in our "Strategy Session".

And a legendary voice silenced. Rock and roll pioneer Bo Diddley dies leaving behind a unique imprint on the music industry. Stick around.


BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, fewer people are buying homes so fewer homes are being built. The Commerce Department reports construction spending, already in a slump, fell slightly in April. The home building number has not increased since September. In the meantime, nonresidential spending activities for things like shopping centers and office buildings showed big gains.

More progress in Iraq. Fewer U.S. troops killed last month than any other time since the war began. Nineteen troops died in May. In the meantime insurgents and others who wish those troops harm are dying or being caught. The U.S. military cites progress against insurgents saying dozens of suspects were captured over past two days in Iraq.

United Nations nuclear inspectors will visit Syria this month. Officials say they'll try to determine if Syria was building a nuclear reactor at a site Israel attacked back in September. Today the International Atomic Energy Chief Mohammed ElBaradei said an IAEA team will visit between June 22 and the 24th. Syria wouldn't confirm that to CNN.

And the voice may be silenced but his signature sound will certainly live on. Rock and roll pioneer Bo Diddley died today in Florida. He was 79 years old. He died of heart failure after months of ill health. Diddley's sound and signature home-made square guitar, dark glasses and black hat, made him famous and a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee. He was enormously talented too. He inspired music acts ranging from Buddy Holly to the Rolling Stones to U2. Public and private services are planned for this weekend.

BLITZER: He was a real talent, no doubt about that. Inspired a lot of musicians out there. Thanks very much, Carol.

Major heart surgery can certainly change one's life. But is Bill Clinton a drastically changed man after his?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people who work for him now say that he seems to be angry all the time; angry when he gets up in the morning, and angry when he goes to bed at night.


BLITZER: The "Vanity Fair" writer, Todd Purdum, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM to report some shocking claims other are making about the former president, including one so shocking Bill Clinton's office is immediately shooting back a denial and a dismissal. We're going to go in depth.

And Barack Obama leaves his church. But why -- but might the controversy surrounding his membership follow him, possibly all the way to November? What's going on? Stay with us, your in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, John McCain has fresh and tough political attacks against Barack Obama on this day. He goes to a staunchly pro-Israel group to deliver them. You're going to find out just what McCain is saying.

Also, Barack Obama leaves his church and hopes to put one controversial chapter in his campaign behind him. But why might political damage from his association with that church linger on? Brian Todd working the story.

And dozens of children taken from a polygamist ranch. They are now going home. But are those homes they're going back to really safe? I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Bill Clinton has certainly campaigned fiercely and argued fiercely for his wife to become president. But is he campaigning more aggressively than he has at any time before? There's a new magazine article listing rumors and shocking claims about Bill Clinton. It's a piece that the former president's office sums up, and I'm quoting now, "journalism of personal destruction at its worst".

And joining us now from our Washington bureau, the national editor of "Vanity Fair" magazine, the former "New York Times" correspondent Todd Purdum.

Todd, thanks very much for coming in. You've written quite an explosive piece in "Vanity Fair" about the former president of the United States entitled, "The Comeback Id". Let me read one line that sort of jumped out and then we'll talk about.

"There are those friends who worry that Clinton has never been the same since his quadruple bypass surgery in 2004. And the unexpected follow up operation six months later to remove accumulated scare tissue on his lung."

All right. What's the point? You're saying this president, this former president changed his personality, his thoughts, his abilities as a result of that surgery?

TODD PURDUM, NAT'L. EDITOR, "VANITY FAIR": Some people at least raised that question with me. These are people who worked for him for a long time, who knew him before the surgery and have dealt with him since.

It's somewhat speculative obviously. No one can be sure. One of the things that is known, though, is that heart bypass surgery has a whole range of side effects that can sometimes be subtle, difficult to diagnosis, that can affect your mood, can cause you to be depressed or irritable. Can produce dehydration, other kinds of symptoms. And some people wonder if some of that is in play with President Clinton.

BLITZER: In their rebuttal, the Bill Clinton office -- they issued a lengthy rebuttal today, which you have seen -- among other things, they say this: "Purdum, who is not an M.D., quotes one doctor who has never examined President Clinton, and who provides a hypothetical analysis -- from at least several hundred miles away -- to support this claim. This theory is false and is flatly rejected by President Clinton's doctors, who say he is in excellent shape and point to his vigorous schedule as evidence of his exceptional recovery."

You want to respond to that?

PURDUM: He certainly keeps a vigorous schedule. And I don't say that he doesn't.

I do say that his aides say that he tires more easily than he used to and he doesn't have the same kind of stamina. And I made it clear that the doctor I quoted, who is a very prominent cardiologist at Johns Hopkins, has been involved in President Clinton's care. And I quote a range of other medical literature in sort of general terms about this phenomenon.

I don't suggest that anyone can say, except perhaps his own doctors, over time, with certainty that this has affected President Clinton. But, again, this article involves reporting with a whole bunch of people who have worked for Bill Clinton over many years. And this is one of the things they raised with me. I didn't go raising this.

BLITZER: Well -- well, let me ask you, because you have been a longtime Clinton observer...


BLITZER: ... yourself, like me. You go back to '92, when we both covered the White House, after he was elected. You were working for "The New York Times" at the time.

Do you see a different personality, a different Bill Clinton post-surgery, as opposed to pre-surgery?

PURDUM: I think there are definitely some things that are different about his personality at this time and in this race than when he was running on his own account.

I think there's a good deal of evidence that he's quite a bit angrier than he used to be. You and I know that he used to have what aides called summer thunderstorms. He would have a big burst of anger, but he would quickly go back to normal.

Some people who work for him now say that he seems to be angry all the time, angry when he gets up in the morning and angry when he goes to bed at night. He's clearly very angry at the media and he's very angry at the way he sees Senator Clinton's campaign has been treated.

So, I think, in some ways, it's probably a lot harder when you're out there campaigning for someone you love than when you're campaigning on your own account. And it's maybe a lot harder to watch someone you care about take a punch than to take a punch yourself.

BLITZER: In the article, you point out you're married to Dee Dee Myers, the former White House press secretary, who worked for Bill Clinton, worked for him during the campaign back in '92 as well.

In their rebuttal today, this is what they say, the Clinton office: "This piece was written by Todd Purdum, who is married to Dee Dee Myers, former White House press secretary. Purdum's disclosure of this in the piece does not, as 'Vanity Fair' apparently concluded, remove the obvious conflict of interest."

If you had still been working at "The New York Times," would "The New York Times" have allowed you to write this kind of article about Bill Clinton?

PURDUM: I think it's very well known that I continued to cover the Clinton White House after Dee Dee and were engaged to be married. We started dating long after she had left the White House.

She went to work for Bill Clinton 17 years ago this fall. And she stopped working for him almost 14 years ago. So, I think everyone in Washington knows that we have that connection. And she speaks for herself, and she does it beautifully, here on CNN and other places. And she played no role in my reporting for this article. And I just don't really think it's a conflict.

BLITZER: Probably the most explosive part of the article includes this notion of some sort of intervention, which was necessitated by the suggestion you make that he's still philandering, or whatever.

Here's what you write: "Four former Clinton aides told me that, about 18 months ago, one of the president's former assistants, who still advises him on political matters, had heard so many complaints about such reports from Clinton supporters around the country that he felt compelled to try to conduct what one of these aides called an intervention, because, the aide believed, Clinton was apparently seeing a lot of women on the road."

You quote these anonymous sources. And it sounds like rumor, basically.

But go ahead and explain what the point is.

PURDUM: Well, I'm very careful to say that there is no clear-cut evidence that President Clinton has done anything improper. What I am careful to say and what is the truth is that this former senior aide was concerned enough that prominent Democrats around the country were complaining about hearing reports of this in their own backyard that he felt President Clinton should be made aware of it and should know that it was out there in the slipstream, in the water, so to speak, and that it could have an effect in the campaign season.

That's all I say. I don't say anything more.

BLITZER: But does that rise up to the threshold required to make to make -- to make what obviously is a very serious insinuation, that he's still cheating on Hillary Clinton?

PURDUM: Wolf, I don't make that insinuation. I don't make that insinuation in any place in the story. And I'm quite careful to say that I'm not.

What I'm saying is that some of his own aides are concerned about these reports. That's all I say. And I think the point here is, I'm not quoting Ken Starr's operatives. I'm not quoting opposition researchers for Barack Obama. I'm not quoting Republican lawyers or private eyes.

I'm quoting people who work and used to work and still work for Bill Clinton. And these are their concerns. They're not my concerns. They're not anyone else's concerns. These are their concerns.

BLITZER: And are you comfortable just quoting anonymous sources to make this insinuation?

PURDUM: First of all, I reject the notion that I'm making an insinuation.

But I'm very comfortable quoting the people I quote, because I know who they are, and I know that they're very senior people who have known President Clinton for a very long time and worked for him at very high levels. Yes, I feel very confident about that.

BLITZER: I guess one of the biggest complaints that the Clinton people are making is that you sort of ignore all the good deeds, all the good work he's done through his foundation, through his -- through his through his library to help millions of people around the world. The philanthropy, you sort of gloss over that, and you focus in on all the negative things that you come up with.

And I want to give you a chance to respond to that.

PURDUM: Well, I do acknowledge that he has done undisputed good work all over the world. And many of my colleagues at other magazines have written extensively about that topic.

But that's -- that's not this story. Asking why I don't focus on that is a little bit asking like why the musical "South Pacific" doesn't have a song about the Normandy invasion. It's just a different topic.

But there's no doubt -- and I say in the piece very straightforwardly -- there's absolutely no doubt that President Clinton has done fabulous work since leaving the White House.

But, as we saw in the White House, some of that fabulous work is all tangled up with some parts that are less fabulous. And that's always been true about Bill Clinton, as it's true for every -- every person. It's just that it seems usually to be a little bit larger than life than him, as so many other aspects of his personality are.

BLITZER: One final question, Todd, before I let you go, the political fallout from this article. You have been watching politics for a long time. What do you expect it to be in this, the final days of the Democratic presidential primary?

PURDUM: I don't think -- I'm the worst person to say what political fallout it would be.

But I do think that what the article reflects is that this is what senior Democrats have been talking about privately, and they talk about it all the time. And it's not that I have made something up or gone looking for -- for news here. This is simply reflecting what people around the president care about.

BLITZER: Todd Purdum is the author of "The Comeback Id," a new article in "Vanity Fair."

Todd, thanks very much for coming in.

PURDUM: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton keeps talking about the popular vote, a number that technically doesn't count in this primary. Will her argument get her anywhere with those still undeclared superdelegates?

Also ahead, is there any new reason for Democrats to hope for an Obama/Clinton ticket? Jamal Simmons and Leslie Sanchez, they're standing by for our "Strategy Session."

And is Bill Clinton providing a clue about his wife's next political move? We will tell you about a very intriguing remark he made on the campaign trail.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: So, are you one of them, one of the many millions of people who voted for Hillary Clinton this primary season? And it's been a long one. Her campaign says, it may still be an uphill battle, but Hillary Clinton is pressing the fact that, in this case, she should get the nomination because she won more of those votes.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is here. He's watching this story.

What should we make of this argument that she makes that she got more of the popular vote against Barack Obama?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that is precisely, of course, what she's arguing. And there are two problems with that argument. One, is it true? And the other, does it matter?


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): This Hillary Clinton ad running in Montana and South Dakota makes a new claim.


NARRATOR: Seventeen million Americans have voted for Hillary Clinton, more than for any primary candidate in history.


SCHNEIDER: The candidate said it herself on Sunday.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, when the voting concludes on Tuesday, neither Senator Obama nor I will have the number of delegates to be the nominee. I will lead the popular vote.


H. CLINTON: He will maintain a slight lead in the delegate count. SCHNEIDER: Is it true? It depends on how you count the popular votes.

Clinton leads 17.9 million to 17.7 million only if you give Barack Obama zero votes in Michigan, where his name was not on the ballot. If you give him the 238,000 uncommitted Michigan votes, the Illinois senator pulls ahead. In both cases, the two candidates are about half-a-percentage point apart. That lead is a good deal more slight than Obama's nearly 4 percentage point lead in delegates.

Does it matter? The only count that matters is the delegate count. The Clinton campaign is arguing that the delegate count distorts the will of the people.

Obama argues, he played by the rules.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We achieved a majority of the pledged delegates that are assigned in this election.


SCHNEIDER: On Saturday, the Clinton campaign painted a picture of party insiders manipulating the rules in order to steal the nomination.

HAROLD ICKES, SENIOR CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER: They actually took votes won by Hillary Clinton in a primary and gave them to Barack Obama. It is stunning. It is just outright hijacking.

SCHNEIDER: Superdelegates will have to buy that argument. They're the ones who decide the nomination.


SCHNEIDER: It's unlikely that superdelegates will buy the argument that the delegate selection process was manipulated by party insiders. They're the party insiders.

BLITZER: Are there any indications how these undeclared superdelegates are -- what they are going to do?

SCHNEIDER: Well, take a look over here, at the way the superdelegates have been going. Since Super Tuesday, on February the 5th, 225 superdelegates have come out for Obama. That's the dark blue line. Ninety-nine have announced for Clinton. So, he clearly has been gaining momentum in that constituency.

BLITZER: All right. He doesn't have a lot -- doesn't need a whole lot more either.


BLITZER: We will watch it, together with you, Bill. Thank you.

In our "Strategy Session," Bill Clinton sounds wistful, as the primary season draws to an end. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This may be the last day I'm ever involved in a campaign of this kind.


BLITZER: But has the former president been an asset or a liability in his wife's campaign.

And what if -- what if Obama and Clinton were to run together on the same ticket? How would John McCain counter what some Democrats call their dream ticket? That's coming up in our "Strategy Session." Jamal Simmons and Leslie Sanchez, they're standing by.


BLITZER: Might some people's dream become a reality, the possibility of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton actually teaming up on a presidential ticket? There's buzz out there right now.

Let's discuss in our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, the Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons -- he supports Barack Obama -- and our Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez. She supports John McCain.

All right, guys, thanks very much for coming in.

I guess, to some people, it's a nightmare.


BLITZER: But it's -- it is a dream to a lot of people out there, that if, in fact, he determines -- and it's a very personal decision that presumably he would have to make that she could help him, what would happen?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I guess the question is whether or not it's a dream for Barack Obama and a dream for Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton may actually think, you know, I have -- she spent the last year, year-and-a-half getting out from under the shadow of Bill Clinton. She may not want to get back underneath the wing of -- get back underneath the wing of Barack Obama.

Instead, what she may want to do is go ahead and go back to the United States Senate or do something else. But, you know, at the end of the day, I think most Democrats would be happy either with Hillary Clinton in the vice presidential slot or with Hillary Clinton back in the United States Senate and really helping out there.

BLITZER: What do you think, Leslie?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think it sounds like a nightmare. I would agree with that.

I think these forced marriages tend to have a lot of challenges. Historically, you can look at it. Go to LBJ and John F. Kennedy. That was a lot of challenges, definitely with Ronald Reagan and...


BLITZER: It helped -- it helped John F. Kennedy become president, though.

SANCHEZ: Well, it did. It's very difficult, but look at the Reagan relationship with Bush 41. There was still a lot of animosity. Still -- probably still is some animosity between those two camps, in terms of how they worked together.

But, ultimately, at the risk of sounding sexist, this may be -- the dowry to take on Hillary Clinton may not be large enough for all the things she may ask for, because not only do you get her, but you get her husband. Is she going to want to -- she's not going to be a passive vice president. She's going to want to you maybe have veto power over Cabinet positions and exert herself in this campaign, which could be tremendous -- or in this presidency -- which could be tremendously difficult.

SIMMONS: The other issue I would bring up is that perhaps what she should do -- or what Barack Obama may need to do is to look at someone who can help bring in new voters, bring in more independents, maybe some moderate Republicans.

It's not something people really expect Hillary Clinton to have a great ability to do. She may be able to help unite the party. But, ultimately, when people learn more about John McCain and his bad health care plans and war plans, that may unify people around the Barack Obama candidacy...


BLITZER: Because that will be a challenge the Democrats are going to have, is unify, because it's been a passionate, very competitive race. And, obviously, there are a lot of hard feelings on both sides right now. We will see what they can do. Wednesday is going to be a very important day, because the Democrats are having some sort of unity event here.

And both of these Democrat -- Democratic candidates will be right here in Washington.

Looking back over these many months, a year, if not longer, of this campaign...


BLITZER: ... it's been going on for a long time -- has Bill Clinton been an asset or a liability to his wife's campaign?

SANCHEZ: Definitely a lead weight. I mean, there's no doubt about that.

Look at it this way. Hillary Clinton would not be senator of New York had it not been for her husband. Definitely, what she has been able to accomplish...

SIMMONS: I'm glad you said that.

SANCHEZ: Yes, well, I will say it. I will say it. I will say it again.


SANCHEZ: She would probably be practicing law in Arkansas if her husband had not become president.

In all fairness, though, he's been a disaster on the campaign trail, really been an albatross, not to use all these analogies, but in terms of the difficulty that he's placed in her. And I think we're just now starting to find out of the heavy-handed techniques that Terry McAuliffe, Harold Ickes, Bill Clinton, I think that's all going to start to surface.

BLITZER: You once worked for Bill Clinton. I remember when you were at the White House. Now you support Barack Obama.

What do you think about your former boss? Has he been an asset or a liability to Hillary Clinton's campaign?

SIMMONS: The truth is, he's been both. He really helped very early on by helping to bring people in. He really helped with -- with trying to convince a lot of superdelegates to come over to the side.

He also has hurt, though. He hurt in South Carolina with some of the things that people interpreted from his conversations about African-American. A lot of people felt he was sort of dismissive of Barack Obama and felt like that really wasn't as helpful. And it kind of hardened feelings around -- or against Hillary Clinton's campaign.

But, on the other hand, he did a lot of raise money. She would never have been able to raise as much money without Bill Clinton being on the trail. And he helped bring in a lot of...


BLITZER: Did you reed the Todd Purdum article in "Vanity Fair"?




BLITZER: What did you think?

SIMMONS: I think -- I think we don't have enough information about it. But I think, at the end of the day, Barack Obama is going to be the nominee. And Hillary Clinton and whatever else -- issues there are that came out of that article, we won't even have to go into them, because she...


BLITZER: Hillary Clinton may be -- not be gearing up for a general election campaign after Montana and South Dakota tomorrow night. But Barack Obama certainly is.

He's very aggressively going forward with plans in a whole bunch of battleground states.

SANCHEZ: No, definitely. No doubt about that.

But I think it's going to be interesting to watch what the Clinton campaign does do. Does she suspend this campaign? We have always talked about she just needs a very small strike force to kind of autopilot her way to the convention. She needs to do something about that $11 million debt and the additional debt she owes to her venders.

I mean, if she -- ultimately, I think it's going to be strategic, her next step, not only in terms of raising money, but also there could be some potential fallout continuing once people know more about Barack Obama.

BLITZER: What do you think about that?

SIMMONS: You know, I think...

BLITZER: I mean, the whole notion that Republicans are waiting; they have got some October surprise to unleash against Barack Obama?

SIMMONS: You know, I think, if the Republicans had an October surprise, they wouldn't be -- they wouldn't testify that they had it. They would just use it.

But, at the end of the day, both -- either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, or any other Democrat that was running, would have to run up against that machine. I don't think there's anything else out there that the Clinton campaign wouldn't have found and wouldn't have used. They went pretty hard at Obama.


SANCHEZ: And I don't think you need an October surprise. I think there's a really good contrast between these two. John McCain has fundamentally a different direction he wants to take this country, very strong on national security, has the experience, and enough of a maverick to stand alone and appeal to independents and conservative Democrats. It's a good race and a good challenge...


BLITZER: They disagree on a lot of domestic policy issues...


BLITZER: ... and foreign policy issues. On the substance, there will be a good debate...

SANCHEZ: Exactly.

BLITZER: ... between these two candidates, assuming they are the two candidates.


BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Tomorrow, Montana holds its Democratic primary. What does the Democratic Senator Jon Tester think? Who does he think will win? He's here to talk about that and more. And he will tell us why he's still undecided between Obama and Clinton, and just how he will make up his mind.

And Senator Ted Kennedy undergoes major brain surgery. We will have the latest on how it went. We will speak with our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, himself a neurosurgeon. We will talk about what happened.

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


BLITZER: We're just getting this in, in our Political Ticker. Let's go right to Carol Costello.

Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these are new developments in the corruption trial of Tony Rezko, a political fund- raiser with ties to Barack Obama.

The "Associated Press" reporting that a judge in Chicago has told jurors to keep on deliberating, after they revealed they cannot agree on a count against Tony Rezko. Now, it's not clear if that means jurors have reached verdicts on 23 of the 24 counts. Rezko pleaded not guilty to charges he schemed to get kickbacks from companies wanting state contracts.

We will keep you updated as we get more information -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Carol, thanks very much.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is: Will Hillary Clinton admit defeat and go gracefully when the time comes? Barbara writes: "Has Hillary done anything gracefully? If she prolongs this process, she will make a fool of herself. And hasn't she done enough damage to the Democratic Party? I watched the committee meet on Saturday. Hillary's supporters are vicious. I am exhausted with this process."

Marilyn writes: "She is a class act. Of course she will. Hopefully, she will not be gone, because Barack Obama cannot win without her."

Bill in Pennsylvania: "It doesn't matter if it's graceful, not graceful, or if she's dragged out kicking and screaming. Just go. No more Clintons, and, next January, no more Bushes. Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, we will be free at last."

Erik in Pasadena writes: "Not a chance. Get ready for legal challenges, backroom deals. This one is going to go all the way to the convention, folks."

Bob in Rochester writes: "I doubt it. I have this mental picture of someone in the Secret Service dragging a screaming Hillary away from the podium at Obama's inauguration. Sad, truly sad."

Marc in Toronto writes: "I guess we will find out in the next 36 hours. If the superdelegates are smart and endorse Obama in numbers before the polls close tomorrow night, we could have an Obama victory speech in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the site of the Republican National Convention later this year."

Shelley in California writes: "If she is wise, she will. Her future, her family's legacy are on the line now. She has accomplished much, and can, in the future, accomplish more, but only if she moves from thinking about her personal goals to thinking about her country."

And Michael in Maine writes: "Jack, Hillary reminds me of that great country and western song: How can I miss you if you won't go away?"


CAFFERTY: If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at, and look for yours there.

BLITZER: A lot of -- a lot of wisdom in those country songs.

CAFFERTY: Love country songs.

BLITZER: Me, too.

All right, Jack, thanks very much.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, a final push before the final primaries. Hillary Clinton makes a last-ditch effort in South Dakota and Montana. But Bill Clinton seems to be hinting that it's a last hurrah. Senator Ted Kennedy undergoes surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumor. Kennedy's doctor calls it a success. Our own doctor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, tells us what it means and what lies ahead.

And a victory for polygamist parents, as their children return to a compound in Texas. But, concerned about their safety, state investigators may be returning as well for unannounced visits.

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