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The Situation Room
McCain Issues Challenge to Obama; Hillary Clinton to Quit by Week's End
Aired June 04, 2008 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, John McCain throws down a challenge to the Democrats' new nominee in waiting. Will Barack Obama agree to hold forums with McCain over and over again?
Plus, Hillary Clinton right now in limbo. Is she getting close to conceding defeat? Insiders are telling us what they know about her next moves.
And the vice presidential question: Who might be on Obama's short list, especially if Hillary Clinton does not make the cut?
All that coming up, plus the best political team on television.
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Fasten your seat belts. The general election campaign is on. And now that Barack Obama has clinched the Democratic nomination, Obama is getting a hero's welcome on Capitol Hill.
John McCain is trying to steal some of his opponent's thunder by laying down a challenge to take part in 10 -- repeat, 10 -- joint town hall meetings, the Republican hoping to get their rivalry started on his own terms.
Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He's watching this story for us.
Brian, this is a direct challenge from John McCain to Barack Obama.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can't get much more direct than this, Wolf. And this could be a real harbinger of things to come -- John McCain and his team taking the challenges right to the Democrat, this one literally hours after Obama declared himself the nominee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President of the United States, John McCain. TODD (voice-over): Right out of the primary gate, John McCain tries to set the tone for the fall campaign, not with big media productions, McCain says, no spin rooms, just two Americans running for the highest office on Earth responding to the concerns of the people.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This morning, I sent Senator Obama a letter inviting him to join me in town hall meetings around the country.
TODD: Ten of them would do, McCain says, once a week between now and the Democratic Convention in late August.
He proposes having a few hundred people at each, chosen by an objective organization. McCain pointed to a deal between John F. Kennedy and Barry Goldwater to hold those kinds of debates for the 1964 campaign. Kennedy was assassinated before any of those events could take place.
In a statement, Obama's campaign welcomed the idea in principle, but suggested a different format -- quote -- "less structured and lengthier than the McCain campaign suggests, one that more closely resembles the historic debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas."
In those debates, the candidates had seven or eight minutes to argue their points. Obama's advisers say they will discuss all of this with the McCain campaign. But one analyst says this may not be ideal for Obama right off the bat.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He does not need to rush and continue to do arena-like events around the country or even to answer this call by McCain to start doing town halls. He shouldn't be doing town halls in the summer anyway. He needs to now become a much more serious candidate about where he wants to take the country.
TODD: For his part, McCain was asked if this challenge was an effort to nullify Obama's speechmaking ability.
MCCAIN: We do fine. I'm very happy with the kind of campaigning we do. I just prefer a town hall meeting. I prefer that, because that gives me the chance to hear people's hopes and dreams and aspirations.
TODD: (AUDIO GAP) symbolic gesture. He joked that his campaign would appreciate the savings in splitting those costs. He said it would also save energy -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It would, though, in practical terms, save him some money, if in fact Obama were to agree.
TODD: It sure would. Now, regular debates carried by the networks would compensate for Obama's fund-raising success. They would provide McCain regular media exposure, of course free of charge. So that does benefit him, then.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian Todd, reporting for us.
Hillary Clinton is the odd woman out, as Obama and McCain right now zeroing in on one another. A lot of speculation right now about when Clinton might concede defeat to Obama and whether Obama might tap her as his running mate.
Our CNN contributor Roland Martin saying that one person close to Obama says it's highly unlikely that Clinton will be the vice presidential nominee, but we're watching this story very closely, lots of speculation under way right now.
Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, also is taking a closer look at what's going on.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In his first day as presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama assured Jewish leaders he is a friend of Israel. But she may have done him the most good.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know -- I know Senator Obama understands what is at stake here. It has been an honor to contest these primaries with him. It is an honor to call him my friend. And let me be very clear. I know that Senator Obama will be a good friend to Israel.
CROWLEY: Hillary Clinton is getting there, not quite out of the race, not quite in it. And despite punditry criticism that she did not get more out of this race last night, Barack Obama will not crowd her.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought Senator Clinton, you know, after a long-fought campaign, was understandably focused on her supporters that she had flown in from New York. I just spoke to her today, and we're going to be having a conversation in the coming weeks.
CROWLEY: They have spoken briefly already. A longer conversation may happen this week, just before a Clinton speech also likely this week. They are trying to figure out the when and the where, but the what is a given.
GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I think, very soon, she's going to do the right thing and get behind the party, get behind Senator Obama. Whether she's vice president or not, she's going to work very hard for this ticket.
CROWLEY: She is also still thinking about a long-term plan. The goal is twofold: Let go of the campaign, short term, and bring her supporters into the Obama fold, long term. They see it as a multistep process, which could stretch into the summer.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: There's plenty of time. I mean, we are going to be unified.
CROWLEY: The thinking in camp Clinton is that she cannot just give a speech saying nice things about Obama and go away. They believe her supporters will feel abandoned and unwilling to move to his side.
BLITZER: Candy Crowley reporting for us.
One of Hillary Clinton's more prominent supporters thinks she could have been far more generous, his words, to Barack Obama in her speech last night. That would be the New York Congressman Charlie Rangel.
He tells CNN Clinton should have been clearer about her plans once Obama clinched the nomination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D-NY), HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: It seemed to be inconsistent that she's willing to do all that has to be done in order that we win in November. So, the question is, who is we? If Obama's the candidate, it just seems as though there's no choice except to endorse.
I'm not getting enough feedback, because the New York congressional delegation are with her to the end. But we thought the end was the end. So, we have got to get some direction as to what's going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Charlie Rangel.
I think everybody loves Charlie Rangel, because he's always a straight shooter.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty.
You like Charlie Rangel, don't you?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I like him a lot. And I love the line, the delegation was with her until the end, but we thought the end was the end.
It doesn't get any better than that.
The game is definitely on. Voters have two very different candidates now to pick from to be our next president.
John McCain, Barack Obama presumably won the nominations because they're the strongest candidates of their respective parties. However, that said, both men have issues that they will have to overcome if they want to win. Exit polls from the primary season show that both these candidates' problems begin with the economy. It's the number-one issue for voters in this election. McCain and Obama didn't get even half of the votes cast by people who cited the economy as the issue they are most worried about.
When it comes to Republican John McCain, he has his work cut out for him. He never got strong support from the traditional Republican base, people who strongly oppose abortion, are born again, or evangelical Christians, or support tough sanctions against illegal aliens.
Also, even though McCain gets high scores for experience, a quality only about 25 percent of Republicans were looking for, more want a candidate who shares their values. And McCain only managed to get about a quarter of those.
As for Obama, he hasn't scored well among working-class whites and Hispanics, getting only about one in three of each of those two groups' votes. He also has to get the backing of white Democratic women, who heavily supported Hillary Clinton. And then of course there's the question of race, and whether it will, in the end, keep voters from supporting Barack Obama.
As for voters over 65-years-old, that's the age group where Barack Obama was the weakest in the primaries, and where John McCain was the strongest.
So, here's the question: Who do you think are John McCain's and Barack Obama's greatest weaknesses?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.com, where you can post a comment my blog.
Before they get busy pointing out each other's weaknesses, we will let our audience take a run at it.
BLITZER: And they did.
CAFFERTY: Well, OK.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
For anyone thinking Hillary Clinton should bow out, one of Barack Obama's supporters says this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: In all due respect, give this woman a break.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But giving Clinton a break is not what some people are doing. We will talk about it with Senator Chris Dodd. What should Hillary Clinton do next?
And why would John McCain compare Barack Obama to President Bush? Are we starting to see a remarkable new line of political attack?
And age, might it be an issue in this presidential election? We're not talking about Barack Obama and John McCain's age. We're talking about something else.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: John McCain says a Barack Obama presidency would put national security at risk. But how effective an argument will that be in this general election?
BLITZER: And joining us now, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut. He's been a Barack Obama supporter, former presidential candidate himself.
Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
DODD: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: John McCain really went after Barack Obama today on foreign policy. You have been a member of the Foreign Relations Committee for a long time.
Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Every statement of his was to withdraw our troops, set a timetable for withdrawal. My friends, if we had done that, then al Qaeda and these jihadists and extremists would have just laid back in wait until we left.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: His basic point is that Obama is inexperienced, is naive, and can't be trusted to deal with America's national security.
DODD: Well, listen, with all due respect -- and we all respect John McCain, but -- but John McCain is interested in pursuing a continuation of the policies of President Bush in Iraq. They have been a disaster. We have lost lives. It's draining our treasury. It's empowering Iran.
It's put our other allies in the region at risk. In fact, the situation has only gotten worse. We're less secure, less safe today than we were certainly immediately after 9/11, in my view. And I think a continuation of those policies is exactly the wrong direction that we need to be going in, in this country.
The reason that Barack Obama was able to attract as much support in this country, why there's so much interest in his candidacy around the world is because he offers a different direction for America. In the next 20 weeks, you're going to have him lay out those ideas about how we get back on our feet at home, and how we increase optimism and confidence here, but also how we reassert our leadership in the world.
BLITZER: He says that Barack Obama was totally wrong on the surge, the surge in military forces in Iraq. And McCain says that it would have been a disaster if the surge had not been implemented, and now there's light at the end of this tunnel. What do you say?
DODD: Well, I have heard those words, light at the end of the tunnel, now for five years. And we hear them over and over again. You would think that John McCain might have learned a lesson with that kind of language.
The surge obviously bought a little space, but what was done with the space that we created by putting additional troops on the ground? Did the Iraqis take advantage of it and work out their differences, Shia and Sunni, try to put together a government that would represent the aspirations of the Iraqi people? No, it didn't happen, despite the fact we committed billions of dollars to that effort.
Once the troops are gone, what is Iraq going to look like? Do they have the desire to really be a nation state?
I can't give them that. John McCain can't give them that. We have given them the opportunity do that. And they have squandered it, in my view.
BLITZER: All right.
DODD: So, we need a different direction. And Barack Obama offers that.
BLITZER: He also is hammering away on this notion that Barack Obama would be willing to sit down, without preconditions, with Ahmadinejad of Iran.
Listen to McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: And Senator Obama wants to sit down, without any precondition, across the table and negotiate with this individual.
My friends, that's not right. And that's naive.
MCCAIN: And that shows a lack of experience and a lack of judgment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. What do you say about that?
DODD: Well, again, this is fabricating this. I was involved in these debates. I remember that debate in particular. And it was a disagreement about how to approach, whether or not we ought to be finding ways to engage diplomatically with people with whom we have profound and significant disagreements.
I'm old enough to remember Richard Nixon meeting with Mao Tse- Tung, Ronald Reagan meeting with Soviet leadership. Democratic and Republican administrations for as long as I can remember that have been responsible leaders have understood the importance of reaching out and negotiating, using diplomatic forces where possible with people we have profound disagreements.
That's the difference. John McCain has said, he won't do that at all. I think that's tragic. Our greatest successes have come with American presidents who have been willing to try and do that.
We don't take military force off the table. Barack Obama's not done that. But he has suggested we need to be following the examples of a Ronald Reagan, of a John Kennedy, of a Bill Clinton and others who have utilized their talents, their diplomatic forces to make a difference for our country.
John McCain apparently is unwilling to do that. That's a lack of judgment, in my view, not the kind of judgment you want in the White House with the next president of the United States.
BLITZER: Are you disappointed Senator Clinton didn't concede last not?
DODD: No, I'm not at all.
Wolf, in all due respect, give this woman a break. She's been through a two-year ordeal. You have got family, friends, supporters and others who have been passionately involved in her campaign. She deserves some time to let things settle, to take a breath, to take an assessment of where she is, what she wants to do next. And, frankly, she ought to be given that time.
This will all resolve itself in a matter of days, in my view. And I think people pushing for her to make an answer instantaneously don't understand how difficult a campaign like this is, how much she has committed, committed her family to this process.
She's a great Democrat. And she wants a Democrat in the White House. I guarantee you, as you and I have discussed, she will be standing with Barack Obama campaigning for his candidacy shoulder to shoulder throughout this campaign.
BLITZER: Is it appropriate for her supporters to be pushing her now to be on his ticket?
DODD: No, no, that's fine, but that's Barack Obama's decision. And he will make that decision. He's got a good team that are making assessments for him.
I'm confident he will listen to a lot of people. He's got a lot of time to make that choice. But I understand why Senator Clinton's folks want to push for her maybe to be on that ticket. That's understandable to me.
BLITZER: Senator Dodd, thanks very much for joining us.
DODD: You bet, Wolf.
BLITZER: And, as we just heard, Barack Obama has a job posting to be filled. And now that he's ready to be the Democratic presidential nominee, he's looking for a running mate. But if Hillary Clinton doesn't get picked, who should Obama pick? The best political team on television standing by to weigh in.
And a man with past ties to Barack Obama is convicted of doing something illegal. Will there be any impact on the campaign?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: John McCain is trying out a startling new line of criticism against Barack Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: He voted for the energy bill promoted by the president and Vice President Cheney, which gave even more breaks to the oil industry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, can Senator McCain convince voters that Obama is more like President Bush than he is?
Plus, Obama talks to CNN about his expected place in the history books as the first African-American presidential nominee of a major party.
And should Democrats do away with convention superdelegates? It's a hot question for the best political team on television.
We will be right back.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Democrats have him joined at the hip with President Bush, but John McCain insists he's his own man, a maverick independent from the White House. So, which is it? We will have a reality check.
Also, he calls it an honor and humbling, and it is also historic, the significance of the first African-American to clinch a major party's presidential nomination.
And find out what Obama's running mate options are if not Hillary Clinton. Then who? All of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
John McCain has a message for you: Don't believe something Barack Obama is saying. Obama insists McCain is running for President Bush's third term. But the Republican nominee in waiting has an answer to that.
CNN's Joe Johns is in Baton Rouge, Louisiana -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Barack Obama is linking John McCain to President Bush every chance he gets, and McCain is saying, enough already. McCain's argument is, he's a well- known quantity with the American public, and one of his defining issues is independence.
(voice-over): Will the real John McCain please stand up? Is he the man who walks in lockstep with the president, as the Obama campaign would have you believe, or is he the independent-minded maverick, unafraid to break with the White House over and over again?
MCCAIN: We have disagreed over the conduct in the war in Iraq, and the treatment of detainees, out of -- over out-of-control government spending and budget gimmicks, over energy policy and climate change, over defense spending that favored defense contractors over the public good.
JOHNS: All that is true. McCain takes it a step further, asserting that Barack Obama is closer to Bush on energy policies than he is.
MCCAIN: In fact, he voted for the energy bill promoted by the president and Vice President Cheney, which gave even more breaks to the oil industry.
JOHNS: That's a remarkable line, a Republican attacking a Democrat by tying him to a Republican president. And it shows just how dangerous the McCain camp believes a close association with Bush could be.
So, while the Arizona senator may argue he has asserted his independence from the White House on the big defining issues of campaign '08, the war, the economy, and health care, Obama will try to make the case that the president and John McCain are joined at the hip.
OBAMA: While John McCain can legitimately tout moments of independence from his party in the past, such independence has not been the hallmark of his presidential campaign.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: It's not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush 95 percent of the time, as he did in the Senate last year.
JOHNS (on camera): And that will be one of the Obama campaign's signature lines just as long as President Bush remains so unpopular in opinion polls -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Joe, thank you. We will be hearing a lot of that, I'm sure.
John McCain also today challenging Barack Obama to a series of 10 town hall debates before the presidential conventions.
Let's discuss this and more with our senior political analyst, Jeff Toobin; our own Jack Cafferty; and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. They're all part of the best political team on television.
Ten town hall meetings, sort of along the lines, McCain said, was proposed by the late President John F. Kennedy and Barry Goldwater back in '63. Unfortunately, tragically, JFK was assassinated so they didn't have those town hall debates.
What do you think of this idea?
CAFFERTY: My guess is they're not going to have them this time, either. A couple of reasons. The first one is crowds. That speech that John McCain gave in New Orleans last night, there might have been 300 people in the room. There were 17,000 people in the auditorium in St. Paul and another 15,000 waiting outside.
If I'm Barack Obama, I'm not going to invite John McCain into my ticket selling ability and let him bask in the glow of 32,000 people for a town hall meeting.
Two, it saves him a little money -- McCain -- if Obama goes along. That's another reason that, you know, if I'm running Obama's campaign, I'll say no.
But in John McCain's defense, I would look for any venue besides standing behind a podium reading the teleprompter. That was painful to watch last night.
BLITZER: His speech last night.
CAFFERTY: It was just awful.
BLITZER: He also joked about how they could save some money on this joint town hall campaign swing.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'll bet.
BLITZER: Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I even suggested we travel to them together on the same plane. It would probably help out on energy savings, you know -- and
MCCAIN: Given our expenses, I know my campaign would agree to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: He's not kidding.
BLITZER: He's had a lot more trouble raising money than Barack Obama.
BORGER: Right. He's not kidding.
Look, I think it's a great idea. Honestly, I mean I don't know whether Obama would agree to it or not. I mean the campaigns have large groups of advisers who are smarter than I am at these things to decide whether it works to their advantage or not to their advantage.
But in a town hall setting, both of these guys do pretty well. And I think if the American public could ask questions and they could be on issues -- and we always get criticized for not talking enough about the issues in presidential campaigns -- why not -- why not do it?
Why not treat the American public to the debate that they deserve on the issues?
I'm all for it.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's a terrific idea. I think 10 is probably a lot. I don't think there will be 10 town hall debates. But this is what campaigns should be about. They haven't been historically. They are certainly going to do the three debates that the presidential commissions pretty much require.
BLITZER: That's after the convention.
TOOBIN: After the convention.
But why not? You know, with as few preparations as possible, with as few interference -- people interfering. Let them just go talk about the issues to each other. I think it's a great idea.
BLITZER: He spoke to reporters up on Capitol Hill today. And he discussed what were discussing all along, over the past 24 hours -- the historic nature of what has happened in our country.
I want to play this little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And I've heard from a number of people already that -- both black and white -- that their kids, seven, eight, nine years old, take for granted now that of course a black can run for president. Of course a woman can run for president. There's a -- there's a matter of factness to it that, I think, bodes well for the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I think that's a pretty good point.
CAFFERTY: I think it's a terrific point. And, you know, it didn't -- the full weight of what was going on didn't really even hit me until yesterday -- yesterday afternoon, when it looked like he was going to get enough super-delegates to go over the top and become the nominee. And I'm walking out of the office and I thought, wow, this is really a special moment. This is huge.
And it had, you know, you think about it and you get caught up in covering the thing and talking about it. But there was a moment coming out of my office yesterday where I got stopped dead cold by the significance of what was going on.
BLITZER: Because for our generation it's a huge deal -- a woman almost getting the nomination an African-American getting the nomination. For younger people nowadays, you know, when I've spoken to them, they say what's the big deal?
We don't -- they don't understand what all of us appreciate.
BORGER: Well, that's great. Right. And by the way, without those younger people, this probably couldn't have happened, because those are the people who came out for Barack Obama. Those are the people who kind of grew up thinking that this was a possibility.
But it also gave me this sense about our nation's amazing ability to self-correct.
BORGER: You know, I don't think this could have happened 20 years ago for either a woman getting this close or for an African- American. And this nation has that ability. When we make mistakes -- it may take us a while -- but we do self-correct. TOOBIN: What I thought was interesting was that for all that we were talking about this yesterday, Obama said nothing about it. And when he had the nation's attention, he made sure to talk about the people's problems, not his own significance.
Hillary Clinton has talked a lot about the significance of being a woman and talking and the historical resonance of that. Obama has shied away from that. And I think that's probably a better political strategy. Nobody's going to miss the significance...
TOOBIN: ...but better to talk about other people than himself.
BLITZER: Let someone else talk about it for themselves.
BLITZER: All right. Fair enough.
Guys, stand by.
He's barely clinched the nomination and Barack Obama is already under pressure to tap Hillary Clinton as his running mate.
But if not her, who?
We'll take you inside the veep stakes.
And find out why some top Democrats want to do away with super- delegates, including some of the super-delegates themselves. They want to do away with themselves. We'll discuss here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Barack Obama's search for a running mate is picking up steam, with much of the surrounding Hillary Clinton.
But if not her, then who?
Let's get back to the best political team on television. If it's not Hillary Clinton, who does Barack Obama pick?
CAFFERTY: Easy question...
BORGER: Thank you for coming to me with that question, Wolf.
CAFFERTY: The ball's in your court.
BORGER: I honestly don't know the answer. There are the usual suspects. There's the governors that could win her -- win him important states, governors that supported Hillary Clinton, like Ted Strickland, Ed Rendell. And then there are senators like Joe Biden, who could beef him up on foreign policy. But I don't think we have any idea at this point. They're just getting the list together. We've learned today that Caroline Kennedy is joining with Eric Holder and Jim Johnson to be a part of this team. So I think they're just getting it together. I'm sure Hillary Clinton is on that list.
BLITZER: All right. Before we move on, ABC News is now reporting that Hillary Clinton will drop out on Friday.
BLITZER: Not a huge surprise.
BLITZER: All of us have been bracing for this to happen in the aftermath of the math, as we like to say, last night.
But what are you hearing?
BORGER: Well, I have been told all along that last night she would not drop out and that it would probably be by the end of the week, that she spent the day yesterday calling supporters. There's a list -- a huge list of governors who went with her early, of union officials who went with her early, of state officials who went with her early, talking -- she had a conference call today with Congressional delegations, did it yesterday with the New York State delegation.
I think she's trying to kind of hear from them, as she started her campaign, hearing from her supporters. And I was told by the end of the week because a lot of senators are also pushing her. They've told Obama privately they're going to endorse him. But they made a pledge to her that they're not going to go out for him publicly until she gets out.
BLITZER: And when we spoke earlier with James Carville, he said just wait 24, 48 hours...
BORGER: Right. Exactly.
BLITZER: ... Seventy-two hours. This will play itself out.
We haven't independently confirmed this yet, Jeff, but it seems to make a whole lot of sense.
TOOBIN: Which raises the question of why she just didn't do it in the first place. That rather graceless speech yesterday alienated the Obama campaign, I don't think burnished her reputation at all.
If she's just leaving 72 hours later, why didn't she just do it in the first place?
BLITZER: Well, technically, she might just be suspending her campaign -- that's what they say -- in order to keep some of the financial operation in business so they can raise money.
BORGER: Right. But it's... BLITZER: She's still got a debt, Jack, to repay.
CAFFERTY: But there's some talk that one of the bargaining chips on the table might be trying to get the Obama organization to pick up some of those bills.
BLITZER: To help her with that, yes.
CAFFERTY: If she had been a little bit more gracious last night, just a little bit more gracious, I don't think anybody would have cared if it had been Friday of this week or Friday of next week. It was the -- it was the almost willingness to ignore his accomplishment on national television, on the night that this thing finally ended, that just flat made people angry.
BLITZER: But she was more gracious today speaking at that pro- Israel...
BORGER: She was.
TOOBIN: She was.
BORGER: And I have been told that people inside the campaign realize that there was a tonal difficulty...
BORGER: ...and that she perhaps did...
TOOBIN: You think?
BORGER: A slight...
BORGER: ...a slight tonal difficulty, that she...
CAFFERTY: Tonal difficulty?
BORGER: ...that she did make a -- well, that's a nice way of saying it -- that she did make a mistake. And that's why you heard her today telling APAC Obama was a friend of Israel and she will continue -- you know, she's getting there. I agree with you, Jeffrey, it could have been -- and you. It could have been a different kind of speech.
BLITZER: You know, the whole criticism of her -- I got a ton of e-mail saying why can't you let her -- she's been on this campaign trail for a year-and-a-half, she's worked so hard, give her a few days to let her come to grips with the enormity of this defeat.
TOOBIN: You know, the e-mail volume yesterday for me, too, was the biggest I've ever gotten here at CNN. I mean people are so engaged with this campaign.
Frankly, I don't think anybody would have begrudged her a statement that, you know, we have a lot -- you know, we've accomplished a lot in this campaign and we'll think about it in the future. But talking about how she won the big states and being introduced as the next president of the United States, it looked like she wasn't dealing with reality and she was being ungracious to the winner.
CAFFERTY: We posted this question on The Cafferty File during the 4:00 hour of this show. Six thousand e-mails in 45 minutes. It was Katrina-like, the amount, the volume of e-mail that poured in on this question. We posted it on the CNN.com Web site on the politics page. Tremendous interest and response. And most of it hostile and negative.
TOOBIN: Well, I don't want to judge from my own e-mail -- extrapolate too much, but the hatred of Hillary Clinton in some of these was extraordinary. But the hatred of Barack Obama in some of them was extraordinary, as well. So even in my little sample, there was evidence of...
BLITZER: Yes. You can't ignore the fact...
TOOBIN: ...of a breached...
BLITZER: ...Gloria, that these two finalists on the Democratic side, they both got almost about 18 million votes...
BORGER: Right. Right.
BLITZER: ...the same, virtually the same number, depending on which primary you include.
BORGER: Right. Right.
BLITZER: You don't include the caucuses. But basically they did...
BORGER: Incredibly close.
BLITZER: And within the delegate count, they were -- he got more.
BLITZER: He went over the top. She didn't.
BLITZER: But it was still very close.
BORGER: Look, if this we're a parliamentary system and Obama were forming a coalition government right now, they would be partners. She would be vice president. BLITZER: They may still do that.
CAFFERTY: If frogs had wings, they wouldn't bump their butts when they jump.
BORGER: OK. OK.
CAFFERTY: I mean, they...
BORGER: OK. But...
CAFFERTY: You know, it is what it is.
BORGER: But it's -- but it's not.
BORGER: And, you know, Al Gore, when he got out of the race...
BORGER: ...I think back to Al Gore and I think back to the concession speech that he gave and how gracious that was and how it enlarged him to such a degree. And I thought she had an opportunity last night not to concede. She didn't -- nobody is rushing her into the concession. It's just to give a different kind of speech.
And I do believe that a lot of Clinton folks understand or think now that it was -- that they made some mistakes.
CAFFERTY: The contrast...
BLITZER: Just to recap, Jack, ABC News is now reporting she'll drop out formally on Friday. Maybe she'll suspend -- I guess that may be the technical word they're using, for legal reasons, in order to continue to raise some money to help pay off her campaign debt.
But we haven't independently confirmed this yet. We do have our reporters checking it out. It could be an exciting day...
BORGER: (INAUDIBLE) on the phone.
BLITZER: ...obviously, on Friday, to see how she does it.
CAFFERTY: That's the key.
BLITZER: Will there be a joint appearance...
CAFFERTY: What's she (INAUDIBLE) yes.
BLITZER: Will the two of them -- will the two of them raise their hands together...
BLITZER: ...and send that powerful message to Democrats, you know what, it was a tough, bitter campaign and now it's time to move on...
CAFFERTY: That's what everybody is waiting for.
BLITZER: ...and to consolidate...
BORGER: And they'll do it.
BLITZER: And work against John McCain.
TOOBIN: Just a self- legal point about the money issue. The Obama campaign can't pay off her debt. They can't simply write a check. They could help her fundraise. They could use their list to solicit funds. But she's on the hook for that money herself -- or her campaign is. And so she's got to deal with that. And the Obama campaign can offer some help, but not all that much.
BORGER: And by the way, she's the one who's got the second best fundraising list in the country. She can also help him eventually. Some estimates are he'll need to raise $350 million.
BLITZER: Assuming they don't accept public financing and all of that.
TOOBIN: He's not taking public financing.
TOOBIN: That ain't happening.
BORGER: She can help him do that. So if you think you're going to -- you want the money shot of them with their arms in the air, you're going to get it. It's in both of their self-interest right now to do that. She, to a certain degree, I think at this point, has made his life a little miserable. You know, he wants the pressure off.
CAFFERTY: Did you say the money shot?
BORGER: The money shot. You know, yes.
BORGER: Don't you think?
BLITZER: Let me play a...
TOOBIN: They just...
BLITZER: Let me play this little clip... TOOBIN: Jack and I will keep that to ourselves.
BLITZER: I want to play this little clip of what Hillary Clinton said last night and then we'll discuss this breaking news. ABC News reporting that Hillary Clinton is going to drop out of this race on Friday.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: ...where do we go from here. And given how far we've come, and where we need to go as a party, it's a question I don't take lightly. This has been a long campaign and I will be making no decisions tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And you know a lot of her supporters -- and some of Obama's supporters say you know what, she's entitled.
BLITZER: Even Chris Dodd, you heard him this hour, say let her breath a little bit. She's been through a lot. She'll make the right decision. James Carville, in the last hour, he said exactly the same thing. Give her another day or two or three and then this thing will play itself out.
BORGER: I don't think anybody was quarrelling with that, Wolf. And everybody knew -- you know, you need some time. I mean you're living in this pressure cooker for two years and you have to make these phone calls. There are people you need to talk to, people you need to inform in advance, people you need to listen to.
TOOBIN: Wait, wait...
BORGER: Everybody understands that.
CAFFERTY: Hang on a second.
BORGER: Wait a minute. Everybody understands that. But the speech last night...
CAFFERTY: The math...
BORGER: ...was the problem.
CAFFERTY: The math was prohibitive for her for weeks.
BORGER: I agree.
CAFFERTY: For weeks. There's weeks you can make phone calls saying, you know, it doesn't look like we're going to make it here and in the event we don't, here's what I plan to do. So I mean there's...
BORGER: Well, I...
TOOBIN: I think she could have done a lot differently.
CAFFERTY: I do, too.
BORGER: Well, yes.
TOOBIN: And if she had gotten on a plane and gone to Minneapolis -- or gone to St. Paul...
BORGER: Well, even better.
TOOBIN: And brought a -- you know...
BORGER: Even better.
TOOBIN: She would have been canonized in this party.
BORGER: Even better.
CAFFERTY: And on the ticket.
BORGER: I think the thing that...
TOOBIN: Yes, maybe.
BORGER: I think the thing that people were sort of, you know, scratching their heads about was this notion that you ought to write into the Web site and sort of tell me -- share your thoughts with me.
BLITZER: You know...
BORGER: Well, what was that about?
BLITZER: We were talking earlier -- assuming Hillary Clinton does go ahead and drop out on Friday, as ABC News is now reporting. The whole notion of her being on the vice presidential -- being the vice presidential running mate for Barack Obama, the whole notion, you know, could take on a significance, because who else could help Barack Obama, Jeffrey, more than Hillary Clinton?
TOOBIN: I think that's...
BLITZER: I mean is there one person out there who could really ensure, for all practical purposes, that he's going to get the election?
TOOBIN: Certainly not. And I think just because this is what we do, we overestimate the importance of vice presidential nominees in general. Think back to the last two elections.
Did John Edwards make a dig difference in '04?
Did Joe Lieberman make a difference in 2000? Not much.
So I don't think this decision will ultimately be all that significant. But she's there. She's the most famous woman in America. She finished a close second. It's an obvious question to ask. But I also don't think it's an obvious answer that's she's the best choice.
BLITZER: All right, hold on a second.
I want to pick Lou Dobbs' brain, as well. He's coming up at the top of the hour.
Oh, there you are, Lou.
Tell us what you think about this news that Hillary Clinton -- we haven't confirmed it independently. ABC News reporting Hillary Clinton is going to drop out on Friday.
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Yes, I think that that -- it sounds right, whether it's Friday or whether it's this weekend, whatever the date. You know, this is -- it's a forgone conclusion that she will be exiting, whether she suspends the campaign or whether she actually ends her quest officially.
You know, it sounds right. It feels right. We all know that she's going to do the right thing for the Democratic Party. She's been a Democratic Party leader for far too long to be either impulsive or petty beyond what is natural, in my opinion.
BLITZER: Yes. And you're going to obviously have a lot more coming up with this at the top of the hour.
BLITZER: Lou's going to stay on top of this story.
Clearly, it's, you know, when you think about the history that has been made just over the past 24 hours -- and maybe some more history about to be made. And we're watching it. We have this front row seat, in effect, Gloria.
BORGER: Yes, we do. And I think, again, nobody is surprised that she's going to withdraw on Friday. It's kind of inevitable. And I think at this point, particularly after last night, it's in her interests to do it the right way, particularly if she's interested in the vice presidency.
It's very clear that what happened last night did not please the people in the Obama campaign. This was not the best way to make your job application for vice president. So I think that she is probably going to strike all the right notes and do all the right things that she should have done yesterday. And I think she'll do it at the end of the week.
TOOBIN: Better late than never. CAFFERTY: She has the ability, if she does it the right way, to create a juggernaut for him next week coming out of the weekend. If she does this the right way, he is going to have so much momentum that -- that he'll be a little tough to get reigned in between now and November -- if she does it the right way.
TOOBIN: I guess -- I guess then we could stop covering it. We won't even cover it for the next two months.
BLITZER: It's interesting. Some of the...
BLITZER: Some of the elder statesmen of the Democratic Party have totally different -- you know, Mario Cuomo the, former governor of New York has been pushing this dream ticket now for weeks and weeks and weeks. And Jimmy Carter now saying it's a bad idea -- a very bad idea, you know and so...
TOOBIN: Nancy Pelosi thinks it's a terrible idea.
BLITZER: Nancy Pelosi does.
TOOBIN: Dianne Feinstein thinks it's a great idea.
BORGER: Look, there's no evidence in our history -- and, again, this has been a history changing election. But there's no evidence that vice presidents really make that of a difference. There's no evidence that she would actually bring along that demographic of women and blue collar, white men.
Would they go back to McCain?
Would having her on the ticket alienate Independent voters?
You know, I remember when Michael Dukakis put on -- Lloyd Bentsen on the ticket.
BLITZER: Which was great vice presidential pick.
BORGER: It's hailed (ph) -- the best vice presidential choice. The man ready to be president on day one.
And who did George Bush have on his ticket?
BORGER: Dan Quayle.
And who won?
CAFFERTY: Remember, too, his message has been about change. Let's -- you know, the government's broken, Washington's dysfunctional.
Let's break with the past and start a new chapter.
If he takes Hillary and Bill and Chelsea back into the White House with him, that's going to serve as a certain reminder, that maybe change is a little more elusive than we all thought.
TOOBIN: Yes. But I think if you're talking about the first woman to be vice president, there's a change message there. I don't think Hillary Clinton reads every -- reads to everyone as just more of the same.
BLITZER: There will be some...
CAFFERTY: No, no. But she is...
BLITZER: There will be some Barack Obama supporters -- and I hear from them all the time -- who will be severely, severely disappointed.
BLITZER: And they'll -- I don't know what they'll do about it...
TOOBIN: Beside themselves.
BLITZER: ...but they'll be severely disappointed.
CAFFERTY: There's a Joe...
BLITZER: But there will be a lot of Hillary Clinton supporters who will come aboard who right now who don't like Barack Obama all that much.
CAFFERTY: There's a Joe Biden. There's a Bill Richardson. A couple of long shots. He could put Chuck Hagel on the ticket. I know it doesn't work mechanically when you get to the convention to have a Republican and a Democrat, but Hagel is right in his wheelhouse. And Colin Powell is out there someplace, too. Those are a couple of long shots. But certainly Biden and Richardson would be a good fit.
BLITZER: And Michael Bloomberg is a long shot, too, maybe. Maybe not such a long shot.
CAFFERTY: You're still on that Bloomberg thing. You've been talking about Michael Bloomberg for months.
BLITZER: You don't like him?
CAFFERTY: I do like him. He's a great man. But I don't think he's going to be in this ball game.
BORGER: You know, but one thing we haven't talked about, we talked a little bit about it in our coverage last night, is a vice president is about governing. A vice president is an important personal choice for a candidate, because this has to be the person that you sit at those private lunches with once a week and you have the ultimate trust of that person and that person trusts you. You have to believe they will never undermine you and they will always act in their own self-interest, but in you're self-interest.
TOOBIN: Ever since...
BORGER: It's a very personal choice.
TOOBIN: Ever since Walter Mondale...
CAFFERTY: Except for Cheney.
TOOBIN: ...Walter Mondale under Jimmy Carter, vice presidents have really been involved in governing. It really wasn't true much before Mondale. But it is an important job. It didn't used to be. You know, John Nance Garner famously said it was not worth a bucket of warm spit.
But it is a very important job. And Dick Cheney, whatever you think of him, has been a very important part of the Bush administration.
CAFFERTY: Isn't it kind of up to the president, though, how important he allows the job to become?
TOOBIN: Yes. Although, I think it...
BORGER: But there's no way it's not important.
TOOBIN: ...institutionally I think it's hard to go back to the old days...
CAFFERTY: Well, that's probably true.
TOOBIN: ...where you just go to funerals and preside over the Senate.
BORGER: Since Mondale.
BORGER: It's no more.
BORGER: It's such an important job now, because it's so huge. And since Fritz Mondale, it's been changed.
BLITZER: And whether -- whether or not, as you point out, whether or not you like Dick Cheney, you agree with him or don't disagree with him, I think it's fair to say he's been a pretty influential vice president.
BORGER: Yes, right. TOOBIN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BLITZER: And his staff has been pretty influential, as well.
BORGER: Right. And, again, there's -- there is, in Hillary Clinton's case, there is the question of Bill Clinton and what would his role be. And after this campaign, everyone understands that you buy one, you get one free.
CAFFERTY: And it isn't free.
BLITZER: The question is, you know, let's just say she's not going to be on the ticket.
What role do you think, Jack, Bill Clinton should play in terms of campaigning for Barack Obama? Would he help or hurt?
CAFFERTY: I think she should campaign. I think Bill Clinton ought, you know, to write his memoirs or something.
TOOBIN: I disagree completely.
BLITZER: He's already done that.
TOOBIN: I disagree completely.
CAFFERTY: He has...
TOOBIN: I think Bill Clinton...
CAFFERTY: ...made so many big mistakes trying to, you know, get his wife elected. He doesn't like Barack Obama.
Why would you want a guy out there who doesn't like you trying to sell your message?
She should campaign for him. If I was Barack Obama, I wouldn't want Bill Clinton anywhere near my sales pitch.
TOOBIN: If we just take a step back, the Clinton presidency remains popular. Everybody is going to catch their breath. Hillary will drop out. Everybody will come together. I think Bill Clinton's a tremendous asset to the Democratic ticket.
BLITZER: And I think in terms of fundraising, as well. He still goes out there and gets a huge crowd and he's got a big following.
BORGER: Yes. He does have a huge following in the Democratic Party.
BORGER: So, like everything else...
TOOBIN: And among Independents, too.
BORGER: Like George Bush is going to be used in a very targeted way by John McCain to raise money and to help him in certain areas, certain states...
BLITZER: I asked the question because a lot of historians have now looked back at Al Gore's campaign in 2000. He didn't use Bill Clinton as much as, potentially, he could have used him, maybe even in Arkansas. Had he carried that one state, in Arkansas, it could have made a difference in terms of who the president of the United States was.
You studied that history. You wrote a book about it.
TOOBIN: I did. And Arkansas is one of the great unanswered questions, if Bill Clinton had campaigned in 2000 for Al Gore.
BLITZER: But Al Gore really didn't want him to campaign then.
TOOBIN: He didn't want him. But the polling data said Bill Clinton was radioactive and they went with the polling data rather than...
BORGER: I have a vice presidential suggestion.
CAFFERTY: Nobody said that -- go ahead.
BORGER: Al Gore.
TOOBIN: Al Gore. Absolutely. You don't know unless you ask.
BLITZER: Because he's been there and done that.
BORGER: Been there, done it. TOOBIN: But...
BORGER: It could be very powerful.
CAFFERTY: Look what...
TOOBIN: Absolutely. Good idea.
CAFFERTY: Look what Bill Clinton said in response to that "Vanity Fair" article -- this is the Obama campaign's effort to smear me. That guy is a scumbag, he's a slime ball, he's this, he's that.
BLITZER: He said of the writer.
TOOBIN: Of the writer. (CROSSTALK)
BLITZER: Not of "Vanity Fair".
CAFFERTY: But he said, you know, the Obama campaign is out there trying to tear me -- he doesn't like Barack Obama. He's made that very clear. I don't think he'd be an asset.
TOOBIN: But these politicians, they say bad things about each other all the time and then they get back together. I don't think...
BLITZER: And, you know, and here's the other factor, Gloria, that in all of these exit polls -- in Pennsylvania and Ohio, in West Virginia, Kentucky -- so many of those Hillary Clinton supporters were asked if she doesn't get the nomination and Obama does, who will you vote for?
And anywhere from a third to sometimes even a half...
BLITZER: ...who say they'll either vote for McCain or they won't vote.
BORGER: He has work.
BLITZER: So he needs to find a way to bring those Hillary Clinton supporters into his orbit.
BORGER: He has a lot of work to do and she can help. And this is where she is really important right now. Because she can help him repair the breach with those voters like no one else.
And for her own political future, she's got to do that. And she understands that. I mean this is not a political couple that was born yesterday. They -- they really understand that. And I fully expect her to try and do that.
Now whether these voters will follow her is another question. But I kind of believe that over a period of time, that it will soften a little bit and they will change their mind.
BLITZER: So just to recap -- let's just recap for a second. Assuming this is true, that she'll drop out of the race on Friday, that means no convention floor fight in Denver. Some of her supporters are saying, "Denver! Denver!" You heard them screaming that. No challenge to the DNC Rules Committee meeting on Michigan and/or Florida. That's all going to go away. It's going to -- it's going to fall into place, if you will, in the coming days.
CAFFERTY: Well, the Democrats are flirting -- they're flirting with getting their stuff together and actually mounting a successful campaign for the nation's highest office.
TOOBIN: But I hope that the congeniality at the top doesn't stop the Democrats from looking at issues like caucuses versus primaries...
CAFFERTY: Oh, absolutely.
TOOBIN: ...the preeminence of Iowa and New Hampshire. I mean all those structural issues remain big problems.
BLITZER: I just want to alert our viewers that Suzanne -- our Suzanne Malveaux is now hearing she'll drop out by the end of the week -- maybe not necessarily Friday, but by the end of the week. That could be (INAUDIBLE)...
BORGER: Well, you know what?
BORGER: I have to say, Candy Crowley...
CAFFERTY: Maybe tomorrow.
BORGER: Candy Crowley has reported that. Suzanne has reported that. I've reported that. I just heard from a source who said I don't really know -- I haven't found anyone who can confirm this at this point, but we've all been hearing the end of the week. But we don't know.
BLITZER: All right. So we're going to leave it right there.
TOOBIN: It depends when the week ends.
BLITZER: We're not going to...
BORGER: Did you like how I was reporting...
TOOBIN: It depends on what the definition of the end of the week is.
BLITZER: Saturday would be the last day of the week.
BLITZER: All right, guys, standby.
BORGER: (INAUDIBLE) as we speak.
BLITZER: ...because we're going to continue to watch this story.
Lou is going to have a lot more coming up -- in fact, right now Lou's standing by to pick up our coverage -- Lou?