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Florida's Frontrunners Involved in Bitter War of Words; Senator Kennedy Endorses Obama

Aired January 28, 2008 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, John McCain and Mitt Romney slugging it out on the eve of a critical primary. Florida's frontrunners are in a bitter war of words over the war in Iraq.

The leader of America's most famous political family says Barack Obama can make America good again.

Can Ted Kennedy's endorsement, though, make a difference in the Democratic race?

And only a few hours from now, President Bush delivers his final State of the Union address.

But his would-be successors have their own views on what kind of shape the country is in right now.

What is the state of the union?

The Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, says it's troubled. My one-on-one interview with him. That's coming up.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at CNN Election Center.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Barack Obama gets a major boost, as party veteran warhorse, Senator Ted Kennedy, today told a cheering crowd in Washington that Obama has lit a spark of hope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I believe that a wave of change is moving across America, if we know not turn aside. If we dare to set our course for the shores of hope, we, together, will go beyond the divisions of the past and find our place to build the America of the future. My friends, I ask you to join in this historic journey, to have the courage to choose change. It's time again for a new generation of leadership. It is time now for Barack Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator Kennedy was flanked by his son, Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, and his niece, Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the slain president.

On the Republican side, the focus is on Florida right now. And there's a fierce war of words going on between the frontrunners, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I really -- one thing I really think we should give Governor Romney credit for, he is consistent. He's consistently taken both sides of any major issue. He has consistently flip-flopped on every issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is known for some things which, frankly, are not conservative Republican kind of movements, but instead have pulled the nation -- would have pulled the nation to the left. And I just don't think that those liberal answers are what America is a looking for -- not for the Republican Party, or for any party, for that matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: One of a sharpest points of contention between McCain and Romney is the war in Iraq.

But are their positions really all that different?

Let's go to Brian Todd.

He's joining us now in Washington -- Brian, what can you tell us about this McCain/Romney battle over Iraq?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you, Wolf, that battle has gotten much nastier over the past few days. But you might be surprised at their actual positions on Iraq moving forward.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): In a razor's edge race in Florida, John McCain and Mitt Romney counterpunch on Iraq. A comment from Romney in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" last April now getting picked apart.

The question -- do you believe there should be a timetable to put U.S. troops out?

ROMNEY: The president and Prime Minister Al-Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about. But those shouldn't be for public pronouncement. You want to have a series of things you want to see accomplished in terms of the strength of the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police and the leadership of the Iraqi government.

TODD: For McCain, that means one thing.

MCCAIN: Governor Romney wanted to set a date for withdrawal, similar to what the Democrats are seeking, which would have led to a victory by Al Qaeda, in my view.

TODD: Romney calls that misleading and dishonest.

ROMNEY: Those are the same kind of timetables we're dealing with right now. For instance, they're bringing our troop strength down by July, we bring down by give brigades. Timetables and milestones are what, of course, you have, as you manage a particular setting. But I've never said that we should have a date certain to withdraw. He knows it.

TODD: There doesn't seem to be much daylight between them on how to move forward. Both candidates have spoken about political and security benchmarks for the Iraqis to reach. Both say they don't tie those to troop withdrawals. Both favor maintaining a U.S. troop presence in Iraq -- not necessarily at the current levels. McCain has talked about the possibility of a lengthy commitment, like in Germany or Japan. Romney believes that should be determined by consulting commanders on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think McCain has this vision of staying there for a very, very long time that's a little bit different from Romney's. Romney has never embraced the idea that the war was a good idea, in retrospect, knowing what we know now. He...

(END VIDEO TAPE) TODD: Now on the troop surge in Iraq, McCain favored that long before it was even proposed and he took heat for it. Romney supported the surge when it was announced, but just a few weeks before that, when asked in an interview with the publication "Human Events" if he favored sending in more troops he said, "I'm not going to weigh in. I'm still a governor." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, this seems to boil down to a case of both candidates highlighting their strength -- or at least trying to do so.

TODD: They are doing that, and, in the process, kind of sniping back and forth. McCain really now pounding on his record of being strong and resolute on Iraq, even when it wasn't popular. Romney saying he is stronger on the economy. But in doing this, both point out the other's perceived weaknesses on the opposite issues -- weaknesses that may or may not be there.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.

And tomorrow it's a crucial contest. It's expected to shape, potentially, the Republican race for the White House. You can rely on CNN and the best political team on television for instant results in the Florida primary. Our coverage begins right here at the CNN Election Center at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night.

The endorsement by Senator Ted Kennedy and key members of the Kennedy clan should put some wind in Barack Obama's sails. The candidate spoke with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux just a few -- I guess a couple of hours or so ago -- Suzanne, what is Senator Obama telling you?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we talked about a number of things -- and, of course, what this huge endorsement means for his campaign and candidacy. Obviously, here, this was a huge win for Barack Obama. You really can't overstate this -- I mean the power of that picture and that moment. You have an icon. You have someone who is a member of a political dynasty passing the torch to Barack Obama. He talked about him being a source of inspiration that he has the character and leadership to move forward.

He also took a number of swipes at the Clintons -- Both Hillary, as well as former President Bill Clinton, saying that Barack Obama wasn't caught up and trapped in the old politics, that he didn't demonize those who had different opinions. And he even actually borrowed a sentence -- a phrase from Hillary Clinton, when she said she was the only one who's ready on day one to be president, well, that is something that Senator Kennedy said about Barack Obama.

I asked Barack Obama just about that -- the struggling economy and whether or not on day one he would be willing to deal with it and what he would do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's hard to say what it will be like in January of 2009. What I would do right now would be to get an economic stimulus package with tax rebates of the sort that have already been discussed by the president and Congress -- refundable, so that they're hitting low and moderate income workers, who are more likely to spend and recirculate that money in the economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Wolf, another thing I asked him about is, obviously, looking ahead to Super Tuesday, just how is he going to reach out to the Latino community?

In Nevada, we saw Senator Clinton got about 64 percent, he got 26 percent. Obviously, Super Tuesday -- California, a number of big states. The Latino community is going to be very important. And he simply said they don't yet know his record, that this is something that the country didn't yet know about Barack Obama. But the more he educates them, he believes, the more he's going to get their support. Obviously, with Senator Ted Kennedy, who has tremendous support with the Latino community, that may help -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne, I take it that Senator Obama is going to stay in Washington tonight to be there on Capitol Hill when the president delivers his State of the Union address.

Is that right? MALVEAUX: Yes, he certainly is. As a matter of fact, when I spoke with him yesterday and I asked him how does he see our state of the union, what would he say to the country, he said, well, the state of the people is strong, but the state of our union -- our government is weak.

I also asked him, as well, what is he looking for President Bush to inspire him?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I think that what would be for the president to talk about is how he recognizes that many of his policies may not have worked the way he wanted them to, but that he is committed over the next year to doing two things. One, putting the next president in the position to end this war in Iraq in a responsible way. Number two, to really dig down and figure out how do we strengthen the economy, not just for the wealthy, not just for corporate profits, not just for Wall Street, but for ordinary working Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So, Wolf, that's just one of the many things that we sat down and talked about. He is obviously very eager to get on the road, to spread his message. He will be in Kansas city. He's going to move on to California. He has a lot of work ahead. He says he realizes that this is going to be a hard, tough struggle to get the delegates needed. But he believes that he's in a much better position, a stronger position today because of this endorsement -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne, thanks very much.

And we're going to have more of Suzanne's interview with Barack Obama coming up later here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But coming up right now is Jack Cafferty with The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY:

Are you going to be able to stay with us right through until 7:00?

BLITZER: I'm going to try to stay until 7:00.

CAFFERTY: Do the whole show?

BLITZER: I'm going to come back at 8:00, though, you know, because we've got another hour to get ready for the president's State of the Union address. We'll be here probably until at least 10:30 tonight.

CAFFERTY: That will make up for you being late for the start of this...

BLITZER: He's going to speak for about an hour -- 45 minutes. But with applause, it could be an hour. Then the Democrats have to respond.

It's going to be a long night for all of us.

CAFFERTY: My guess is there probably isn't going to be a lot of applause, OK?

BLITZER: Well, there always is.

CAFFERTY: All eyes on the campaign trail, but not for tonight. For just a little while, we're going to listen to President Bush, as he mercifully delivers his last State of the Union address. Twelve months left in office, typically the last time a lame duck president manages to get everybody's attention. The speech expected to be about half domestic, half foreign affairs. The big topic is going to be the economy and, of course, the war in Iraq.

He'll talk about improved security in Iraq, other international hot spots like Iran and his efforts to jump-start the peace process in the Middle East.

When it comes to the economy, there isn't a whole lot of good news -- possible recession, housing collapse, subprime mortgage mess, falling dollar, rising unemployment, inflation at a 17-year high, the stock market pretty much in a nose dive since the first of the year. It's not pretty.

The president will call on Congress to finish the economic stimulus package quickly. But that's probably not going to happen.

Why, you ask?

Because the Democrats in the Senate are now busy reportedly trying to add their own list of additional items to the bill that cleared the House and was approved by the White House last week. Despite warnings from the White House not to do this, the Democrats in the Senate are apparently doing it anyway.

The White House insists the speech will be forward looking, not about his legacy. That's probably a good thing. The president's approval ratings have been terrible for several years now and there are dozens of unanswered questions about the legality of a lot of what his administration has done while in office. And nobody in Congress seems willing to do a whole lot about it.

So, the question is this -- with 12 months to go, how can President Bush salvage his legacy?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my new blog. Or you can go to Wolf's blog and read what he ate for lunch today -- right?

BLITZER: Correct. And it was a delicious lunch, also.

CAFFERTY: I'm sure. It was probably better than what I had. I had McDonald's takeout in my car on the way here. BLITZER: Yes. We had -- we had the White House chef preparing a delicious, delicious -- CNNPolitics.com on the Ticker if people want to know more.

CAFFERTY: I don't get invited to stuff like that.

BLITZER: No.

CAFFERTY: I wonder why.

BLITZER: I wonder. I'm shocked.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Maybe with the next president, you never know.

CAFFERTY: Yes, we'll see, Wolf.

BLITZER: Maybe you'll be a regular there.

Thanks very much, Jack.

He's got his own view on the state of the union.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's troubled. I think anything saying less than that would be dishonest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Huckabee on what's wrong with nation and how he'd fix it. My interview with him. That's coming up.

Also, is Hillary Clinton's husband becoming more of a hindrance than a help to her campaign?

Why supporters say Bill Clinton is just misunderstood right now.

And for decades, Republicans could rely solidly on the Cuban- American vote. We're going to take a closer look now at the mood in Miami's Little Havana to see if that's still true.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It will be his last State of the Union address. Just hours from now, President Bush will tell Americans what kind of shape he thinks the nation is in. But from threats abroad to an ailing economy right here at home, those who want to take the place in the Oval Office have their own views on where things stand.

And joining us now, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas.

Let's talk a little bit about the state of the union right now on this day.

The president, in earlier addresses to Congress, spoke of an axis of evil. He included Iran, Iraq, North Korea.

If you were president would you talk about an axis of evil against the United States right now?

HUCKABEE: I think I'd probably talk about an axis of opportunity, that the United States is in a unique position to try to provide real leadership to the world. We need to do that by having a very strong defense. We need to beef up our military forces to say, look, we don't intend to let anybody push this country around. We want to make you think long and hard about engaging us in a military operation. Hopefully, we'll have the kind of strength that would cause us not to have to use it.

But I also think there's an opportunity to bring other nations of the world together, to realize that terrorism is not just the fight of the United States. Fighting this whole Islamo-fascism movement is the responsibility of every sane peace-loving person on Earth, regardless of their religion, regardless of their geography, regardless of where they are as a nation state.

BLITZER: Are Iran and North Korea still part of an axis of evil?

HUCKABEE: Their leadership is. I think sometimes we need to make sure that we separate, that not everyone within their country or culture hates us.

You know, let's not forget that on September 11, when many people in the Arab world were marching through the streets and celebrating the fall of the World Trade Centers, in Tehran, the people were lighting candles and holding vigils.

So there's still a lot of the ordinary people in Iran who care for the United States and have warm feelings toward us, even though Ahmadinejad is anything but our friend. In fact, I think he represents a level of evil -- hatred toward Israel, his hatred toward the United States is evident. But it doesn't mean that that's reflected all through the rank and file of the people of Iran.

BLITZER: How far would you go, Governor, to promote democracy in the Middle East?

HUCKABEE: Well, I don't think democracy is a commodity that we can export, that we can go and force it on people. You have to have a hunger and a desire and a deep, intense passion to want it. The United States maybe can help by maybe encouraging it, but it's not our responsibility to go in and impose it on people. And that's one thing, as president, I would be very careful about. I would never feel it's the responsibility of the taxpayers of America to go and to take our money and rather than build up the strength of our own democracy, the strength of our own freedom, simply to impose it upon people who may not be ready for it or may not be clamoring for it.

But if there are people who do clamor to shake off the bounds of tyranny, it's one thing to be able to be helpful to them, but we can't do it for them. They have to be willing to do it for themselves, like other countries who are democratic countries, because that's when it really does work, is when people are willing to make great risk and make great sacrifices in order to be free.

BLITZER: Do you believe President Bush, in his foreign policies over the past seven years, has done damage to the U.S. reputation around the world?

HUCKABEE: I don't want to make it sound as if the president has gone out and tried to damage the reputation. I think his priority has been to protect America. And his primary concern has been what is going to be the best to keep our nation safe. And in the course of doing that, he may have, you know, offended some foreign governments. I'll let the historians work all that out.

But the fact is, whatever we may say about some strained relationships, let's not forget that the president's focus has apparently worked. We have not had another September 11th incident.

I don't think it that has to be an either/or. What I've said about my administration is that we would try to be respectful of the sovereignty of other nations. But we would most importantly remember that we are a sovereign nation and we would not yield one bit of our sovereignty over to anybody -- whether it was signing something like the Lost Treaty -- Law of the Sea Treaty -- which I would not sign. Whether it would be to enter into some international engagement where we give over certain of our American rights to some European judicial system.

We wouldn't do that, because I would respect the sovereignty of the other nations, but by golly, first and foremost, I'd make sure that every person on Earth knew that the United States of America would consider itself a sovereign nation, a strong nation, would not apologize for that and would do everything we can to build up the strength both economically, militarily and even morally within our own borders.

BLITZER: And, finally, Governor -- because we're out of time -- what is the state of the union, as you see it today?

HUCKABEE: I think it's troubled. I think anything saying less than that would be dishonest. The fact is we've got serious economic issues, with two million homeowners facing foreclosure. There are a lot of Americans who are in real jeopardy of losing their jobs, in part because our trade agreements are unbalanced and unfair. We've got to have free trade, but it's got to be fair, enforced on both sides. We've got to be able to bring this country back together so that we are fighting the same war, not fighting each other. And those are things that I think require the kind of leadership that I'm prepared and willing and, frankly, anxious to bring to America.

BLITZER: Governor Huckabee, thanks very much for joining us. HUCKABEE: Thank you, Wolf.

Great to be back.

BLITZER: It's getting ugly between John McCain and Mitt Romney.

But is it also getting personal?

You're going to find out what McCain thinks of Romney personally -- his candid answer to a blunt question.

Plus, they've been dependable GOP voters for decades. That would be Cuban-Americans. But that may be changing this time around. We're going to tell you why.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're getting a sneak peek of the president's State of the Union address right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's go to Ed Henry over at the White House.

I take it they're releasing some excerpt excerpts -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well, this is our first look at the president's speech. And it's important to note that these are carefully selected by the White House to put this speech in the best possible light a few hours before the speech.

Looking at it, there's really basically no new policy issues really being highlighted, but some slightly new lines on foreign policy.

On Iraq, for example, the president basically saying he believes the U.S. is winning, but stops short of using the word victory, saying: "Some may deny the surge is working, but among the terrorists, there is no doubt. Al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq and this enemy will be defeated."

He also has a direct message, he says, to the leaders of Iran, saying: "America will confront those who threaten our troops. We will stand by our allies and we will defend our vital interests in the Persian Gulf." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House.

We're going to be hearing more about this speech throughout the night.

Thanks very much.

Hillary Clinton excited by the end of an era. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the day may beautiful and the heavens are smiling on us because tonight will be the last time George Bush ever gives a State of the Union speech.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But she's also facing a growing problem inside her own campaign -- what to do about her husband.

Are Bill Clinton's attacks helping or hurting?

Plus, Barack Obama picks up key endorsements from one of the country's most powerful dynasties.

And find out why Republican White House hopefuls are having to work harder than ever for Florida's critical Cuban-American vote.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, a deadly attack on U.S. forces in Iraq. Five American soldiers are killed when their vehicle is hit by a roadside bomb in the northern city of Mosul.

Also, CNN cameras are invited along as an undercover Transportation Security Administration official is able to smuggle a fake bomb past security at TAP International Airport. Simulated explosives were canceled inside an elastic back support.

And 7,000 children a year are sent to the emergency room because of cough and cold medicines. That shocking number is the result of the first ever study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The question hovering over Hillary Clinton's campaign right now -- what to do about her husband. Many supporters see the former president as hindering her campaign instead of helping with his recent attacks on her rivals.

Let's go to CNN's Carol Costello.

She's watching this story for us.

Is Bill Clinton becoming a liability to Hillary Clinton?

That's what a lot of people are asking right now -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And they're asking it for good reason, Wolf.

You know, Ted Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama and not Hillary Clinton because, in part, he was upset at Bill Clinton's attacks on Obama.

And Hillary Clinton lost big time in South Carolina.

So what does that mean for Bill Clinton's role in his wife's campaign?

Well, despite it all, don't rule him out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): Bill Clinton, long a Democratic darling and once considered a huge asset in his wife's campaign, now seems to be a liability. The tabloids call him "wild," "he big mouth of the South." The "Daily News" screams: "Calm Down!" and has Hillary pleading with him to end the bitter talk.

Even those who consider Bill Clinton a friend say...

REP. JOHN CLYBURN (D-SC), HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: I think he really, as they would say in Gullah Geechee country, he needs to chill a little bit.

COSTELLO: But as one Democrat who's talked with Bill Clinton told me, the former president didn't chill because he thought he had enough political capital to go on the attack, to come out unscathed. He was wrong.

ANDY ZELLEKE, KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: While I think he's a pretty impulsive guy who trusts his instincts, and they're usually pretty good politically, I think what's interesting about what happened in South Carolina is the available evidence suggests that they miscalculated and his intervention actually was counterproductive.

COSTELLO: Many pundits say Hillary Clinton's 26 point loss in South Carolina is clear evidence of that miscalculation. The question now is whether Clinton has hurt his wife's campaign in the long run.

If you look at the latest numbers in the CNN Los Angeles Times political poll conducted by a Opinion Research Corporation in California taken after Bill Clinton's bitter attacks started in South Carolina, Hillary Clinton's support increased by two points from 47% to 49%. Supporters aren't surprised, saying democrats who love Bill Clinton know he's -- well, he's misunderstood right now.

REP. KENDRICK MEEK (D), FLORIDA: The real issue is the reporting of what the president is actually saying, President Clinton. Being there with him and traveling with him and hearing what he said and hearing how the questions are coming through is the clip and snip, and it's coming out the wrong way.

COSTELLO: Still according to "The New York Times," the Clinton campaign will try to try to shift the campaign back into the sunnier spouse role that he played before Mrs. Clinton's loss in the Iowa caucuses. That is a role Bill Clinton plays brilliantly, even when in the midst of attacking Obama in South Carolina.

When asked by a child what do you do when you get married ...

FMR. PRES. BILL CLINTON, UNITED STATES: When you get married, if you're really lucky, if you're really lucky, then your husband or wife becomes your best friend. And you get to live with your best friend for life.

COSTELLO: That is the potent Bill Clinton analysts say Hillary Clinton needs to win.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: But Gloria Borger, our own analyst, says Hillary Clinton must take control of her own campaign. She did appear to do that today, Wolf. As she stumped today, you certainly didn't see much of Bill Clinton.

BLITZER: Carol Costello, thanks very much for that report.

We told you about the war of words going on right now between republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney. Is it something deeper though than just politics? David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network asked Senator McCain about that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: You say you respect him, but I have to say in the 24/7 cable news wars a lot of people have made a big deal about how many of the candidates and the campaigns don't like Mitt Romney. I mean how do you feel about him personally? Some of what he's done you've obviously had a problem with. Do you like the guy?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know him well personally. I know he's a good family man. I know that he comes from a fine family. But I don't know him. I've got to tell you. I've gotten to know Governor Huckabee. I think he's one of the more decent people I've ever known. Fred Thompson is a friend of mine. Rudy Giuliani and I have a fundamental difference but I still think he was an American hero after 9/11. So I've gotten to know these other candidates and like them very much. I just haven't gotten to know Governor Romney.

BRODY: On the republicans, how are you going to bring republicans together because everybody is trying to hitch you on campaign finance reform? I won't go down the list that these people have in Washington. You've been around for a while. You know that. But how do you tangibly bring some of these folks in Washington, these groups and others, that really kind of have it in for you a little bit, how do you bring everybody together when you're president of the United States?

MCCAIN: I think the main thing is to try to reach out to all parts of our party, no matter what they are and help them recognize that one, we've got an up hill battle, okay? Let's have some straight talk. And second of all, the prospect of Senator Obama or Senator Clinton should be a uniting factor. But third of all, I really believe that the majority of our religious conservatives are more concerned than anybody else about the threat of radical Islamic extremism. They know what an evil this is. They know what a threat it is to everything we stand for and believe in. So I believe I can appeal to the large number of conservatives who feel, who I think can I prove and best able to confront that evil.

On some of the other issues, I'm proud of my conservative voting record. I'm proud of my 24-year pro-life record. I'm proud of playing a role in the nomination and confirmation of judges who strictly interpret the constitution. So I'll be going to a lot of people with my record, and I recognize that they are areas we may have disagreed on, but overall I'm very proud of my conservative record, and I hope they'll examine it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: One of the GOP's most solid alliances in Florida may be starting to crumble somewhat, the Cuban/American vote. Cuban American voters are voicing discontent with the party after decades of very strong support.

Let's go down there. CNN's John Zarrella is joining us right now. What are the Cuban American voters saying to you, John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, this is Versailles Restaurant in Miami's Little Havana. Of course it's a landmark. They are two things you have to be if you come to the Versailles. You pretty much have to be anti-Castro and you have to be a Republican. There's one thing Republican candidates could almost always count on was the Cuban-American vote. Well, times are changing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA: In Miami's Little Havana, the cup was always filled with republican votes but for some it doesn't taste quite as good as it used to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have been made a lot of promises by the Republican Party. They come here. They say, you know, down with Fidel Castro. Then they ignore us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These democrats that are out there hiding because they don't want to come out. We need to bring them out.

ZARRELLA: At a democratic Hispanic caucus Florida meeting they talk of getting out the vote. The simple fact there's a meeting at all says a lot.

Cuban Americans blamed President Kennedy and the democrats for the failure nearly 50 years ago of the Bay of Pigs invasion aimed at overthrowing Castro. Ever since, they have voted overwhelmingly republican. That was reinforced with Elian Gonzalez was sent back to Cuba during Bill Clinton's presidency. If you are a Cuban-American it was sacrilege to be anything but.

Millie Herrera says in the past she was harassed for daring to be different.

MILLIE HERRERA, DEMOCRATIC HISPANIC CAUCUS OF FLORIDA: I will not feed ground to anybody. I will not accept anybody to tell me that I am less patriotic or less beloving of Cuban-American and Cuban freedom just because I'm a democrat.

ZARRELLA: The Cuban-American National Foundation, a rock solid ally of the Republican Party since the Reagan era, is no longer handing out automatic support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our community has been changing our outlook towards the Republican Party because of the failure of these administrations to really provide some of the promises.

ZARRELLA: For decades, nearly every republican candidate and president played to the audience, vowing to bring a free Cuba and for good reason. Census figures show 1.5 million Hispanics in Florida. Thirty-six percent of them, 540,000, are Cuban-American. The majority are registered republicans and political observers say they'll stick with the GOP in the general election.

But democrats sense an opening. Bottom line, if the republican nominee wants that cup filled with votes again, he may for the first time in 50 years have to work for them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA: Now, there's actually a democratic club here in south Florida in Miami's Little Havana. It boasts about 200 members. And there is also a radio station that now has a democratic talk show. And the Democratic Party is hoping that if they can peel away some of those republican votes come the general election, in a close election like Florida could very well be again, that could make the difference.

BLITZER: John Zarrella, fascinating material. Thanks very much.

Let's take a closer look right now at the latest delegate count. A democrat will need 2,025 delegates to win the party's nomination. Hillary Clinton leads right now with 230. Barack Obama has 152 delegates. John Edwards has 61.

Take a look at the republican side. 1,191 delegates are needed for the nomination. Mitt Romney now has 73 delegates. John McCain has 38. Mike Huckabee 29. Ron Paul has six. Rudy Giuliani has just two delegates.

All that will change for the republicans tomorrow after Florida. Next Tuesday, it will change dramatically on both sides.

Rudy Giuliani places a big bet on Florida. He thought it was his best shot but now the one-time front-runner looks like a long shot.

And Barack Obama's big boost, the behind the scenes story of how he got Ted Kennedy's endorsement. Suzanne Malveaux's full interview with Barack Obama, that's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Rudy Giuliani is speaking right now in Ft. Lauderdale. He's not giving up the big vote tomorrow, Rudy Giuliani staking all of his presidential ambition right now on the state of Florida. He thought it was his best shot, but it looks like very much of a long shot right now if you believe the polls. From the very beginning Rudy Giuliani bet oh so heavily on Florida. If the former New York mayor doesn't come through in tomorrow's primary, it could be all over for him in a New York minute.

Let's go to Mary Snow. She knows a lot about New York. She's in Florida right now, though. What are they saying, Mary? What are the odds for Rudy Giuliani tomorrow in Florida?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, they're not in his favor. As you mentioned, he has spent more time here in the state than his rivals, but those polls are showing that he has been lagging. Rudy Giuliani right now is counting on the nearly half million republican voters who cast early ballots in early voting. Today he has been touring the state, including here in Clearwater, trying to get out the vote for people who are going to the polls tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We win in Florida, we're going to win every place else. Florida is going to lead the way.

SNOW: It's Rudy Giuliani's Florida gamble. And the odds are against him. Once the favorite, he's now the underdog in the polls. In his final pitch, he took aim at the two GOP frontrunners in Florida, seizing on the bitter sniping between Senator John McCain and Mitt Romney.

GIULIANI: Our message is a positive message. Our message is not name calling. Our message is not negative campaigning. This is too important.

SNOW: Giuliani has been hitting two main themes, national security and his days as mayor of New York during 9/11 and economic security, touting his plans for tax cuts. Despite his decline in polls, he told me he's looking forward to a win on Tuesday.

GIULIANI: We're very hopeful. We're very optimistic. These crowds are terrific. They are very enthusiastic and they have been working for a long time.

SNOW: Some of Giuliani's supporters though are not as confident, saying Giuliani's decision to largely stay out of early races in places like South Carolina and Iowa hurt his chances here. RICHARD MUCCIOLO, GIULIANI SUPPORTER: Even if he would have lost in those places, at least his aim would have been visible and his face would have been visible. And I think he let the other guys get the jump on him, and now he has a problem.

SNOW: But political science professor Susan MacManus says with limited money and time, Giuliani didn't have many options outside his Florida plan.

SUSAN MACMANUS, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA: I don't think it was a mistake. In politics you have to look at demographics and you have to look at the place where you have a shot of making the mark big. That was Florida for him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Rudy Giuliani is continuing to make his final pitch right now. He's speaking to crowds in Ft. Lauderdale. He's been flying around the state today and Wolf, analysts say that Florida was seen as his best bet because of the demographics here. It's a diverse population, more in line with his home state of New York. And because of his policies of support of abortion and gay rights are seen more in line with moderate republicans here. Wolf?

BLITZER: And there are lot of ex-New Yorkers that live down there as well. Mary Snow herself a New Yorker joining us from Florida. Thanks, Mary, very much.

With a year to go, how can President Bush salvage his own legacy? That's Jack's question this hour. He's coming up with your e-mail.

Plus, ethnic tensions boiling over with deadly consequences. Our own Zain Verjee takes us into a dangerous no-man's land in her native Kenya.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Check back with Jack Cafferty. He's got the Cafferty file. Jack?

CAFFERTY: The State of the Union tonight, last one. The question this hour, with 12 months to go, how can President Bush salvage his legacy?

James writes, "He's already established his legacy, broken borders, broken banks, broken laws, broken schools, broken trust in America and a badly broken oath of office. He picked up where Reagan left off. The U.S. is now well on its way to third world status. That's what we get for electing an actor and Cheney's marionette."

Alexa in Virginia writes, "In a word, nothing. He should just pray to God he doesn't get impeached in the next 12 months."

Adam writes, "Only history can determine what the legacy of President Bush will be. With the war in Iraq on the upswing, his biggest "flaw" has yet to officially fail. Certainly his popularity has dwindled to a small group of hardcore conservatives. But when has Mr. Bush cared what polls and approval ratings think? He's going to stay consistent with his message and I for one applaud him for doing so."

Jay in New York writes, "Let's see. In order to salvage his reputation, President Bush would have to catch Osama bin Laden, end the Iraq war, turn around the economy, and then put himself and his entire administration in prison for war crimes, lying to the American people, obstructing justice, and outright theft. Then he might go down as merely the worst president we've ever had in the history of the republic. His presidency has been a smug, incompetent, devious mess and as far as I'm concerned, he hasn't got a legacy to stand on."

John writes, "Is this a trick question? He simply cannot salvage it. If you have a car and it's totaled, it's totaled. The same goes for this presidency. The best he can do is sit back and just let it mercifully end."

And Jamie writes, "Bush can save his legacy just like another infamous U.S. leader with these words, "I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow." He probably won't say that.

BLITZER: No, I don't think so. He's, in fact, based on what I could tell, and as you know, I was other over at the white house today with other network news anchors, Sunday morning talk show hosts. He seems like he's determined to get as much done this next year as he possibly can.

CAFFERTY: Well, depending on what that may consistent of, we ought to all be very concerned.

BLITZER: He's going to be very busy. All right. Jack, thanks very much.

In our news around the world we're watching right now, people are being stoned, slashed and burned to death as the bloody post-election violence in Kenya is raging anew. It pits tribe against tribe, neighbor against neighbor. CNN's Zain Verjee is there to give us a closer look at this horror. Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, imagine you're home having dinner with your family and all of the sudden your neighbor bursts in, hurts you all, takes all your possessions, and burns your house down. That's the kind of thing that's happening here in Kenya, tribe on tribe violence. It's something that we saw in a very tense town in here in Kenya, only 40 minutes or so away from the capital Nairobi in a place called Naivasha.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: The latest town in western Kenya to boil over, in the Rift Valley. The Red Cross says as many as 30 people were herded into a house and burned alive, all from ethnic minority groups in the area. Several more people killed and injured, packed up by people wielding machetes. The highway to Naivasha is a no man's zone filled with danger, gangs harassing motorists. There are boulders on the streets. We've weaved our way all of through that, through the burning tires. We have seen a lot of military trucks passing us to try to break up protesters and crowds that have gathered on the streets.

Security forces fire tear gas and live ammunition to break them up. The violence in Naivasha pits the majority Kikuyu there, President Mwai Kibaki's tribe, against three other tribe tribes, most of who voted for opposition leader Raila Odinga in last month's disputed election.

A gang here in the heart of Naivasha town checking our car for their tribal enemies. One tribe needed police protection just to walk down the street. Many in Naivasha are fleeing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to try to set this up quickly.

VERJEE: The Kenyan Red Cross is setting up camps for all sides. Further up the highway, locals say at least 60 are dead since Thursday, with hundreds wounded, hacked by machetes, clubbed or shot by poison arrows.

We met a man trying to save his terrified sisters. Have you been in touch with your sisters?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

VERJEE: Are they okay?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are okay. But they are telling me it's getting worse.

VERJEE: How are you going to get them? How? Even getting inside town is a nightmare?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will. I have to. What else do you do? Do they die? Then you leave knowing they called you.

VERJEE: The tribal fight in the Rift Valley is not just about who is president. It's becoming about settling old tribal scores.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: This has really come down to one issue, and that's land. You see, Wolf, back in 1963 when Kenya got independence, one specific tribe was allocated a lot of land in the Rift Valley. The other ethnic groups and tribes said that's not fair. It belongs to them. This is really been a key source of resentment between the tribes in the Rift Valley. That's what we're beginning to see surface now. Wolf?

BLITZER: Zain Verjee, doing some outstanding reporting for us in Kenya. Thanks very much, Zain. Be careful.

Lou Dobbs is standing by to join us with his take on all the day's political news. That's coming up next. Also, Barack Obama has just picked up a major endorsement from Senator Ted Kennedy and Carolyn Kennedy. We have a one on one interview with the democratic presidential candidate. That's coming up in the next hour.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Bring in Lou Dobbs. He has a show coming up in an hour but he's here with us to talk about politics and other stuff right now. You know I was at the white house today. Your name came up not favorably because of your role as perceived in helping to derail the president's comprehensive immigration reform package last year. They weren't exactly enthusiastic with the position that you took.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: You're not talking about the other network anchors?

BLITZER: No, I'm talking about top white house officials. They're not happy that the comprehensive immigration reform got derailed in part because of what you and others were saying.

DOBBS: I'm sorry that I've upset the white house. I'm sorry that I've upset the president. But I am delighted to have the opportunity to do so. This was an idiotic proposal. This explains, by the way, why the white house hasn't been inviting me to luncheons and to the Christmas dinner. It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

The reality is we have Senator John McCain running, one of the sponsors of the comprehensive immigration reform act. We have Senator Obama, Senator Clinton, both big supporters of comprehensive immigration reform. All of them forget one thing. The facts were on the sides of those of us who were advocating representation of the American people rather than illegal aliens or Felipe Calderon or Vicente Fox. The reality is it would have only dealt with 25 percent of the illegal immigration issue. It would have cost hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars in retirement benefits for illegal aliens in this country. It would have assured that over five years, 71 percent of the visas would have gone to the family members of illegal aliens moving into a pathway to citizenship. It was ...

BLITZER: They're not happy. The president - because he made it the centerpiece of his speech last year and he made a big push for it. Obviously they're not happy it was derailed.

DOBBS: He famously said you know we'll see at the bill signing. Well, we didn't have one and I think that the American people won. I think the president has an opportunity to show good grace and talk about securing the border. You know, this is -- I can't even describe.

BLITZER: That was part one. I just wanted you to know and viewers to know they blame you in part for what happened.

DOBBS: I'm honored. BLITZER: I knew you would be.

DOBBS: I'm pleased.

BLITZER: We will be here in an hour. Thanks very much.

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