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Kennedy Endorses Obama; Interview With Illinois Senator Barack Obama

Aired January 28, 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: Happening now: a powerful speech, a crowded rally, and an endorsement that might -- repeat -- might make a difference. Barack Obama talks to CNN about the Kennedy backing.
President Bush just a few hours away from giving his last State of the Union address -- coming up, what he will talk about and whether or not -- will it impact his legacy?

And John McCain and Mitt Romney battling it out in Florida right now, just one day before the big primary there. You should hear what they're saying about each other. In fact, you will. The best political team on television has complete coverage.

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

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Right now, Barack Obama has something the Clintons surely wish he didn't, support from members of a powerful Democratic dynasty. Amid a rousing ovation, the brother and daughter of John F. Kennedy said Obama can inspire Americans, much like the late president did.

Let's go to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. She is joining us now.

Suzanne, it appears that Ted Kennedy even took some veiled swipes -- not-so-veiled, should we say -- at Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, for that matter.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he certainly did. We heard both sides of this. It was a really rousing support. He was practically gushing for Barack Obama.

But we also heard him as well take some swipes at the Clintons for what was viewed as perhaps some ugly politicking that had happened over the last couple of weeks. He said Barack Obama is not engaged in that kind of -- trapped in that kind of ugly politics. He says that he doesn't demonize people and that people really do know his true record on the Iraq war, that he was against the war from the beginning, all of that referencing what happened just the last couple of weeks, when both Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton took Barack Obama's record, put it on some commercials, and there were some statements that were made, the Barack Obama camp saying they were misstatements, a lot of back and forth. But, clearly, you cannot overstate the power of this picture, to see the icon, the Democratic icon, to see the lion of the Senate, Senator Ted Kennedy, as well as the other members of this political dynasty, backing Barack Obama, essentially passing the torch.

Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROLINE KENNEDY, DAUGHTER OF JOHN F. KENNEDY: ... people who've told me that they wish they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way they did when my father was president. This longing is even more profound today.

Fortunately, there is one candidate who offers that same sense of hope and inspiration.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: But I believe there is one candidate who has extraordinary gifts of leadership and character matched to the extraordinary demands of this moment in history. He understands what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the fierce urgency of now.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

E. KENNEDY: He will be a president who refuses to be trapped in the patterns of the past. He is a leader who sees the world clearly, without being cynical. He is a fighter who cares passionately about the causes he believes in without demonizing those who hold a different view.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Wolf, it really was an incredible moment. It was electrifying and, obviously, a very important symbolic moment. The big question, whether or not this is really going to give Barack Obama the kind of gravitas that he is hoping for from the Democratic establishment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're going to have your interview with Barack Obama. That is coming up in just a little while right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Suzanne, thanks very much for that.

The site of today's endorsement speech, by the way, was symbolic. Back in 1963, only months before he was assassinated, President Kennedy gave the commencement speech at American University in Washington that focused on peace.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 10, 1963)

JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This generation of Americans has already had enough, more than enough, of war and hate and oppression.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Today, when Senator Kennedy compared Senator Obama to his brother, he said they both embody the ideal that America's best days are ahead.

Florida's Republican primary is tomorrow. And, if the polls are right, we're in for a long, suspenseful night of vote counting, maybe the old-fashioned way.

Our poll of polls, which combines recent surveys from several organizations, shows John McCain and Mitt Romney only one point apart, well within any statistical margin of error.

Let's go to Dana Bash. She is in Florida watching all of this for us.

It looks like this fight is also getting by the hour a little bit nastier and nastier.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It sure is. And you just showed exactly why, because it is so close between these two men.

The McCain and Romney campaigns, they both know that this could make or break their campaign tomorrow. It could give one of them momentum finally towards the Republican nomination. And that is, as you said, Wolf, why it is getting more pointed and more personal by the hour today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice over): Dawn had barely broken as Mitt Romney used the dirtiest word in the Republican lexicon to describe John McCain -- liberal.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you want that kind of a liberal Democratic course as president, then you can vote for him.

BASH: Two can play at that GOP game, and they did.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As the liberal governor of the state of Massachusetts, he raised taxes by $730 million.

BASH: Romney's closer is a twofer -- hit McCain as a creature of the Washington he called broken and highlight McCain legislation that's infuriated conservatives -- immigration, campaign finance reform, climate change.

ROMNEY: Those three pieces of legislation, those aren't conservative. Those aren't Republican.

BASH: McCain was quick to point out that as Massachusetts governor, Romney embraced the same policy positions he now calls unacceptable.

MCCAIN: He's consistently taken both sides of any major issue. He has consistently flip-flopped on every issue.

BASH: There, with not by accident echoes of GOP attacks on Democrat John Kerry four years ago.

Beyond all that, Romney and McCain are competing in Florida's crucial Republican primary as very different candidates on very different core GOP issues. Romney on the economy, as the multimillionaire businessman who says he knows how to fix it and Senator McCain doesn't get it.

ROMNEY: And I frankly can't imagine how you can have a president of the United States who doesn't understand how the economy works.

BASH: McCain is playing the war hero, digging away at Romney lack of national security experience...

MCCAIN: And I didn't manage for profit. I led for patriotism.

BASH: ... calling security, the war, the transcendent issue.

MCCAIN: But the point is that our nation's security is our foremost obligation to our people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And the debate is also raging on the airwaves in paid advertising.

Mitt Romney has spent about $30 million in TV ads. That's five times as much as John McCain. But, Wolf, John McCain now has some less expensive radio ads out there. He's going at Mitt Romney's signature issue. That is the economy, essentially saying that he doesn't really have credibility on that issue -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much.

And, in another major story we're following, President Bush readies to do something for the last time. Take a look at this graph. It shows President Bush's approval rating from the beginning of his term to today. In fact, we're going to turn to this camera and we will show it to you right now.

Many people are wondering if this address will -- what the impact of this address will be. But it's the improving war, worsening economic conditions all having an impact on the president, if in fact all of that is going on.

Let's go to our White House correspondent. He's joining us now with a preview -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the White House knows that the political situation for the president is tough. There's no real point in them unveiling major new plans that have no chance in a Democratic Congress.

So, instead, he will focus on unfinished business, declaring he believes that the surge in Iraq is working, and trying to reassure Americans about the sliding economy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): In his final State of the Union, President Bush will urge Democrats to move quickly to complete action on a $150 billion plan to stimulate the economy and warn them, the Senate's decision to add tax rebates for senior citizens and unemployment compensation could blow the whole deal up.

JOSH BOLTEN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: If it could delay or derail the adoption of a good package, the president would be very concerned. Right now, we're confident that members of the Senate will understand that it's important when you have got a good bipartisan compromise on the table to move on it rapidly.

HENRY: The president's chief of staff, Josh Bolten, also told CNN the White House is not distracted by the presidential campaign.

BOLTEN: A lot of us here in the White House, including the president, are political junkies, so it's kind of side entertainment, but everybody's head, especially the president's, is in the game.

HENRY: Bolten noted, the president will reveal plans to sign an executive order directing federal agencies not to fund earmarks, lawmakers' pet projects dropped into the process at the last minute.

ED GILLESPIE, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT BUSH: In the future, departments and agencies are to ignore any earmarks that were not specifically passed by the United States Congress or signed by the president.

HENRY: White House aides say the president is not nostalgic, but they suspect he and his wife will be emotional because their intensely private daughters, Jenna and Barbara, decided to attend the speech for the first time.

ANITA MCBRIDE, CHIEF OF STAFF TO THE FIRST LADY: What Mrs. Bush conveyed to me, that the girls talked to their dad and would like to be there for his final State of the Union speech.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now, on the earmark issue, Democrats fired back today that roughly half of these pet projects come from Republicans, and they're going to have to tighten their belts as well. And, in fact, some conservatives are disappointed the president didn't go farther with this initiative.

"The Wall Street Journal" editorial page today saying -- quote -- "You can't claim to have kicked the habit if you keep hitting the vodka bottle in your desk drawer" -- that targeted at Senate Republicans, saying it's time for Republicans on the Hill to step up and cut spending as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Ed Henry over at the White House. We will check back with you.

Let's check in with Jack right now for "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Interesting analogy.

Barack Obama crushed Hillary Clinton in Saturday's South Carolina primary. I mean, this was a good old-fashioned beating, 55 percent to 27 percent.

His overwhelming victory was propelled by landslide margins among blacks. He won 78 percent of the African-American vote.

But, when it came to the white vote, Obama got 24 percent, and trailed both John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. So far in this campaign, Obama's highest support among white voters came in New Hampshire, where he got 36 percent, and in Iowa, where he got a third of the white vote.

Results from South Carolina also suggest that racial attitudes play a part in how effective voters think the candidates would be once they're elected. Whites were far likelier to name Hillary Clinton, rather than Barack Obama, as being the most qualified to be the commander in chief, the likeliest to unite the country, and the most likely to win the general election.

But, as for blacks, they named Barack Obama over Clinton by even wider margins in all three of those areas. So, despite his overwhelming victory this weekend, it seems like Barack Obama is going to have to find a way to try to capture more of the white vote. Clinton continues to maintain a big lead in the national polls. And, when it comes to the major Super Tuesday states, places like New York, New Jersey, California and others, she has wide, and, in some cases, double-digit, leads in those polls over Obama.

So, here's question: What does Barack Obama have to do in order to attract more white support?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, where you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. Jack Cafferty's got "The Cafferty File."

Barack Obama gets a big endorsement from Ted Kennedy. We're about to get the inside story of how it happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He did make a point, which I think was quoted somewhere, where he said, you know, these opportunities don't come around that often to change the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Our Suzanne Malveaux speaks with Senator Obama about Kennedy, the campaign and the economy. That's coming up next.

Also, Hillary Clinton got a warm welcome today in Massachusetts without Ted Kennedy, but Clinton has some Kennedys of her own.

And U.S. troops go after one of al Qaeda's last big strongholds in Iraq, but an ambush takes a terrible toll.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story right now.

Senator Ted Kennedy, the flag-bearer for liberal Democrats, says he feels changes in the air and gives his political blessing to Senator Barack Obama. Obama himself tells us just how that endorsement came about.

He spoke with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Senator Ted Kennedy, who's an icon of the party, longtime friend of the Clintons, endorses you over Hillary Clinton. He says that you offer hope, you offer inspiration.

Is there any position that you take on an issue that's different than Hillary Clinton that won him over?

OBAMA: You know, I think you would have to ask him that.

But you heard his speech today. I don't think this was an endorsement against anybody. I think that Senator Kennedy felt that I was tapping into a spirit in this country of thinking big, dreaming big, trying to bring the American people together, trying to get young people reengaged in the process of remaking this country.

And I think that that excited him. And I am extraordinarily humbled and thrilled to have his support.

MALVEAUX: Take us behind the scenes a little bit. The voters -- obviously, this is one of the biggest endorsements that you could get. What did he say to you?

OBAMA: Well, you know, we had been talking for the last year.

Before I made my final decision to run, I sat down with him. And, you know, he was not committing to any endorsements, but he did make a point, which I think was quoted somewhere, where he said you know, these opportunities don't come around that often to change the country.

And, since that time, we have been in periodic conversations. I have given him updates about the campaign. And I think, after Iowa, he starred to believe that maybe this was a possibility to really make big change in this country and eventually decided to come my way.

MALVEAUX: Senator Kennedy borrowed a line from Senator Clinton, saying that you're the one who would be ready day one to be president.

A lot of people are suffering, with the economy. What do you think is the biggest problem with the economy now, and what would you do day one as president to fix it?

OBAMA: 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 most likely to spend and recirculate that money in the economy, but also to extend unemployment insurance.

We have got a lot of folks out there who have been unemployed for a long time. Providing extra unemployment insurance puts money in their pockets that they will spend. It also allows them to continue their job search. Those are the short-term things that we can do, as well as trying to stabilize the housing market.

I have proposed a $10 billion foreclosure fund to help families avoid foreclosure. But we have a long-term structural problem with this economy. And it's a combination of atrocious regulation by the Bush administration, where they didn't provide oversight in the credit markets and the mortgage markets. We have to strengthen that.

A tax policy that has been skewed towards the wealthy and towards well-connected corporations and lobbyists. We need to change that tax code, so that we're providing tax relief, middle-class tax cuts, to ordinary Americans. And we have got to have an energy policy that stops spending $1 billion a day overseas, and instead starts investing in clean technologies that can provide jobs for the future.

MALVEAUX: Last question -- President Bush is giving his State of the Union address. Obviously, you inspire many people. That's what they say. President Bush has an approval rating of 34 percent. You will be in that audience tonight. What does he need to say to inspire you?

OBAMA: Well, I think that what would be wonderful 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.

If we can -- if I heard that from him, that would inspire me, because it would indicate that you can always teach an old dog new tricks. But whether the president actually is willing to take a clear-eyed look at some of the problems, both internationally and domestically, it's hard to say. My guess is probably not.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Senator.

OBAMA: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: In tonight's State of the Union speech, President Bush will highlight U.S. progress in Iraq. But that progress certainly comes at a terrible cost, including what happened earlier today. We have new details.

Plus, a country where a post-election crisis is getting worse and deadlier.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton at a crossroads. She moves on to Massachusetts, as Ted Kennedy moves into the Obama camp. Some say her husband is costing her support. So, where does Hillary Clinton go from here?

And President Bush only a few hours away from delivering his last State of the Union address before a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress. Does he have any aces up his sleeve? The best political team on television standing by to take a closer look.

And how the candidates are gearing up for Super Tuesday a week from tomorrow. More than 20 states are at stake. We're going to show you what the candidates are doing online.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now: Hillary Clinton as a crossroads, upstaged in South Carolina by Barack Obama, her own husband drawing criticism with his attacks. So, where does she go now as Super Tuesday approaches?

Also, Barack Obama, touched by the legacy of Camelot, picks up a key endorsement from Caroline Kennedy and Senator Ted Kennedy. What does it mean, though, for his campaign.

And Rudy Giuliani betting everything on Florida. Can his risky strategy actually pay off? And is he out otherwise? All this, plus the best political team on television.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Senator Hillary Clinton's pulled into the Super Tuesday state of Massachusetts today. She found an enthusiastic welcome today, even though it didn't include U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.

As we have been reporting, he's endorsing Senator Barack Obama.

Let's go to CNN's Jim Acosta. He's watching the story for us from Springfield, Massachusetts.

What was the reaction? I assume great disappointment from the Clinton camp, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.

While Hillary Clinton was in Massachusetts, the state's most powerful leader was down in Washington endorsing her chief rival. Even for a politician who's built up a suit of armor over the years, that's got to hurt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): There were no Kennedys at Hillary Clinton's side in Massachusetts, only a shadow. At the very moment the state's iconic Senator Ted Kennedy and former first daughter Caroline Kennedy were sharing the stage with Barack Obama, Clinton stood alone, taking aim at Washington's other big event of the day.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight will be the last time George Bush ever gives a State of the Union speech!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ACOSTA: Off stage, her campaign is working feverishly to stress that, even though Clinton lost what may be described as the Kennedy primary, she has already picked up a couple of delegates, Former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. * SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight will be the last time George Bush ever gives a State of the Union speech claim.

ACOSTA: Off-stage her campaign is working feverishly to stress that even though Clinton lost what may be described as the Kennedy primary, she has already picked up a couple of delegates -- former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Townsend and Robert Kennedy, Jr. .

ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR. ATTORNEY, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: I respect Teddy's and my cousin Caroline's judgment about the issue. But I think that -- it's my opinion that Hillary will make the best candidate and the most effective president.

ACOSTA: Democrats have privately grumbled for days that the Clinton campaign's pointed attacks against Obama before the South Carolina primary backfired -- angering the party's leaders -- Ted Kennedy foremost among them. Former President Clinton's remark that seemed to equate Obama's campaign with Jesse Jackson's candidacy generated the most heat.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in '84 and in '88. And he ran a good campaign. And Senator Obama has run a good campaign here. He's run a good campaign everywhere.

ACOSTA: What's unclear now is how Team Clinton may alter its tactics. Instead of giving them hell, will they give them more Hill and while they're at it, maybe a little less Bill?

The candidate rejects the notion she needs to turn down the temperature.

H. CLINTON: I've never been in a campaign that didn't get somewhat heated.

ACOSTA: But now she knows there will be no smooth sailing to the nomination -- unlike that serene boat ride with the Kennedys so many years ago.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ACOSTA: The Clinton campaign points out it did pick up the endorsement today of Florida Senator Bill Nelson. But in terms of impact with the party liberals, he is no Ted Kennedy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Jim Acosta with that report.

So where does Hillary Clinton go from here?

Let's get some analysis.

Joining us to talk about that, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; CNN's own Jack Cafferty; our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin -- all part of the best political team on television. And you are. I truly believe that.

All right, let's -- let's talk a little bit about Hillary Clinton. She's got to focus right now -- a week from tomorrow, Super Tuesday. This race for the nomination could be decided. Then again, maybe not.

CAFFERTY: Well, one of the things the polls indicated in South Carolina was that Bill Clinton had a lot to do with the outcome in that state. And it wasn't and it didn't accrue to Hillary's benefit. People who said they didn't make up their mind until the end were influenced by Bill Clinton. Most of them voted for Barack Obama. So his role, I would think, is a huge question mark. The ultimate irony...

BLITZER: Does everybody

agree with Jack that he did not help her in South Carolina?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, he did not help her in South Carolina.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think he over stayed his influence so much. I mean, yes -- I mean I think we have a tremendous interest in Bill Clinton. I think this campaign is not about him. I know Hillary thinks he's been more center stage than perhaps the Clinton campaign would like. I really don't think it's about him. I think it's about her.

BORGER: But it's the comma. I mean that -- that's the problem. The campaign, when it's about her, has done pretty well, because remember in New Hampshire when she said I found my voice?

Well, that kind of worked for her, when she found her voice. When her voice became Bill Clinton in South Carolina -- remember, she left the state for a couple of days and Bill Clinton became the de facto candidate. And when he became the candidate, that's when the problems started.

So I've been talking to Democrats today -- both who support Hillary Clinton and who don't -- and there seems to be kind of universal advice, which ought to be that she needs to take back her campaign from her husband and say I'm running it -- my show, my campaign.

TOOBIN: I don't doubt that. The only issue is, you know, we have a role in this, too. We decide who to put on television, whose voices gets hurt. So it's not like Bill Clinton wasn't campaigning before. I think it matters how we emphasize things, not just what the campaign does.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jack?

CAFFERTY: Well, I don't think he -- making cracks about Jesse Jackson in South Carolina 20 years ago with that silly smirk on his face that we just saw is not only not helpful to his wife, it's just not helpful period.

You know, who cares what Jesse Jackson did 20 years ago anywhere?

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: That was -- that was a low moment for him in the campaign.

CAFFERTY: That was -- that was really scummy stuff.

BLITZER: Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy -- they endorsed Barack Obama today. And a lot of people think that could help him in the Latino community. BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: Look at these poll numbers from the Nevada entrance poll that we showed. Among Latinos, Hillary Clinton got 64 percent; Edwards, 8 percent; Barack Obama, 26 percent. He needs some help because she's very popular right now among Hispanics.

BORGER: Yes, I think Ted Kennedy is going to be very important in that sense. They're going to park him out in California. They're going to use him in New England. And, also, what Ted Kennedy does is he -- you know, with the Democratic establishment that was mad at Bill Clinton for the Jesse Jackson remark, etc. I think Kennedy is kind of the bridge to the rank and file Democratic voters, the union voters, Latino voters -- rank and file Democrats who may be going for John Edwards right now. They're going to -- they're going to give Barack Obama another look because of Kennedy.

TOOBIN: They are.

CAFFERTY: The irony, though, is Ted Kennedy is the ultimate insider. And Barack Obama has been campaigning from day one about I'm going to be different. I'm going to be for change. We're not going do business as usual. Plus, if he's elected president, guess who he owes a chip to?

BLITZER: Ted Kennedy.

TOOBIN: Well, but that...

BORGER: Yes, he has credibility in the party. He does.

TOOBIN: But if you love politics, you couldn't help...

BLITZER: As all of us do.

TOOBIN: As all of us do -- you couldn't help but love that scene today. I mean it was just -- it was a generational passing of the torch. It was the Kennedy mystique being bestowed upon a new young man. I have to say, one of the things Obama said that resonated with me -- because we're the same age -- he said, you know, I didn't know President Kennedy.

I don't have any memories of President Kennedy, either.

Is the Kennedy name the same magic that it was many years ago?

BLITZER: It is for Demo...

TOOBIN: I mean a lot of people in America have no...

BLITZER: ...for Democrats, and especially of a certain age. And they vote in much bigger percentages than the younger Democrats.

CAFFERTY: The older...

BORGER: Right. Right. (CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Yes, I know. But he is a campaign geared toward younger people. I just wonder whether that matters as much as we (INAUDIBLE)...

BORGER: You know, but

in a race in which you're counting delegates and you're counting Congressional districts in California and all over the country, Kennedy can make a difference. And I guarantee you, now that he's committed himself to Obama, he's going to be tireless.

TOOBIN: There's no question it's good news...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He's the one...

TOOBIN: ...the question is how good news.

BLITZER: Kennedy was, what, 44 or so when he became president?

TOOBIN: Yes.

CAFFERTY: He was the youngest ever elected at the time.

TOOBIN: Yes.

BLITZER: Barack Obama is only 46...

TOOBIN: Yes.

BLITZER: So they're the same age, basically.

CAFFERTY: I have a question.

Where's Oprah?

BLITZER: She helped him in...

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Well, why isn't she out there again?

CAFFERTY: Where is she now?

TOOBIN: No, that's a good -- that's a...

BORGER: She may be. You never know.

BLITZER: She's got a show.

TOOBIN: You know, we've got a week to go.

BLITZER: She's got a day job. BORGER: She's got a TV show.

BLITZER: Like all of us.

All right...

CAFFERTY: She caught some hell for that and all of a sudden she disappeared.

BLITZER: All right, stand by. We've got more to talk about, including the war that's going on between Mitt Romney and John McCain. As Jack Cafferty would say, it's getting ugly out there. We love his book, by the way.

We're going to show you more of their increasingly bitter battle.

Plus, all the candidates are gearing up for Super Tuesday -- on the Internet. We're going to show you what they're doing, as well.

Stick around.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's a beauty contest for the Democrats -- no delegates actually at stake. But for the Republicans, very different. The Republican presidential candidates have a tremendous amount riding on tomorrow's Florida primary.

We're back with the best political team on television.

And it's getting ugly, Jack, between Mitt Romney and John McCain out there. They're trading barbs left and right.

CAFFERTY: Well, it's funny. You know, all of a sudden, John McCain is being decried by the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Guys like Rush Limbaugh are saying if this guy gets the nomination, the party is going to be ruined forever.

But it's all about electability -- who can be elected in November. And at this point, it looks like McCain might be the least objectionable of the Republican candidates in the race.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So he does best.

TOOBIN: It's not all about electability.

CAFFERTY: It's not?

TOOBIN: I mean there are real conservatives out there who have principled positions, who say that, you know, on immigration, on campaign finance reform...

CAFFERTY: (INAUDIBLE).

TOOBIN: ...who simply say you know what?

He's just not one of us.

CAFFERTY: I understand that.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: And that's why Romney will stay in, even if he were to lose in Florida -- that Romney is going to stay in. I was talking to one of his advisers today who said, look, there is this concerted campaign out there against McCain run by Rush Limbaugh, etc. etc. why should we get out?

We've got a lot of conservative support out there and they're going to help us.

BLITZER: Is it a big deal that Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, endorsed John McCain?

BORGER: Yes. Yes. I think so.

CAFFERTY: I think it is, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: It certainly was a surprise to Rudy Giuliani that he endorsed McCain.

BLITZER: He wooed him.

BORGER: Yes.

TOOBIN: But even in the primaries that McCain is winning, he's getting 30, 35 percent of the vote. That's not a lot of the vote. And if Romney can get him one-on-one -- you know, the conservative against the moderate -- it's a very conservative party. So that gives him...

BLITZER: See, I've always felt -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- and I'm interested in your opinion -- that Giuliani, who has really seen his numbers go down. But no matter what he gets, that hurts McCain, because they're sort of competing for that same moderate, independent wing of the Republican Party.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: And I sense that whatever Giuliani gets -- if he hadn't been in this contest that might have gone more to McCain than, let's say, Romney.

BORGER: It could. Although, in fact, Giuliani doesn't have that much so, and it could play...

BLITZER: But if he gets 10 or 15 percent, that could make a difference. BORGER: But it could...

TOOBIN: Sure. In a race this close, sure.

BORGER: ...but because, honestly, nobody uses the word moderate.

Have you heard any Republican describe himself as a moderate?

CAFFERTY: No.

BORGER: That's the kiss of death.

CAFFERTY: But in a general election, they're going to need Independent voters to be electable.

BORGER: Right. But right now, they're out conservating -- is that a word...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: They're out conservating each other.

BLITZER: But there are moderate Republicans in Florida...

TOOBIN: There are. But the party...

BLITZER: ...who are transplants from New York or New Jersey who have retired and moved down there.

BORGER: Sure.

TOOBIN: But the party has really changed. This is not the Republican Party of Nelson Rockefeller, of William Scranton, of George Romney. This is it the Republican Party of George W. Bush, which is much more conservative. And the question is, you know, is the country as conservative as they are?

BORGER: Well, but...

TOOBIN: We'll learn in November.

BORGER: ...by the way, McCain is conservative. He has an 82 percent conservative rating from the American Conservative Union.

CAFFERTY: Yes...

BORGER: You would not have that (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: But you know what?

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: When I interviewed...

CAFFERTY: That's based on his votes and stuff.

BORGER: Yes, but he is conservative.

CAFFERTY: There are a lot of areas where he's not that conservative at all.

BLITZER: You know what?

TOOBIN: And he's temperamental, too. He's had bitter fights with these people and...

BORGER: Right. Immigration being the peak.

BLITZER: Romney can't give a speech without talking about McCain as if his last name were either McCain-Feingold or McCain-Kennedy...

BORGER: Right.

CAFFERTY: Exactly.

BLITZER: Or McCain-Lieberman.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: You know, that -- he's really going after him on all of that.

CAFFERTY: And that has nothing to do with his votes. That -- but those are -- those are the tags on him that say he's not as conservative.

BLITZER: On the campaign finance reform or immigration...

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: ...or global warming, which are not necessarily issues that endear him with the conservative base.

All right, what is -- let's go around the table. We'll start with Gloria.

BORGER: Uh-oh.

BLITZER: What does the president -- he's still got a year in office almost -- what does he need to do in his last State of the Union address that's coming up in a couple of hours?

BORGER: I think he needs to lay out the agenda, such as it is, for his last year. I think he's got to keep his head in the game. He's not going to be talking about legacy or any of that tonight. He's going to talk about things that he can do, actually -- that he can get done -- and talk about the stimulus package, which is very important to the economy, if you listen to some economists.

BLITZER: Let me get Jeff next and then I'll wind up with Jack.

TOOBIN: Well, I think the stimulus package is pretty much a done deal. You know, he can still invade Iran. I mean he is the commander- in-chief. This is a White House that cares deeply about anti-terrorism and they seem to -- you know, he's invaded a lot of countries over the past seven years.

So, I mean, I think his relevance remains high when it comes to foreign policy.

CAFFERTY: His relevance?

BLITZER: Two countries, as far as Afghanistan and Iraq.

TOOBIN: Two countries. Yes, two -- but two long, long, long invasions.

CAFFERTY: Who's the last president that started two wars all by himself?

When was the last one?

BLITZER: Well, the Afghanistan one, you could argue, was started on 9/11.

CAFFERTY: Well, OK. Yes, you could argue that. He's going to talk about the success of the surge in Iraq. And he's going to use the success of the surge to justify the illegal invasion of a sovereign nation that hadn't done anything to the United States. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no Al Qaeda presence. There have been hundreds of thousands of people killed and millions of people pushed out of their...

TOOBIN: But I don't think...

CAFFERTY: Let me finish -- pushed out of their homes because of what he did. And he's going to stand there tonight and say this was terrific. This is a success. Baloney.

BLITZER: Where (INAUDIBLE)...

TOOBIN: I don't think he's going to use those words...

CAFFERTY: No, no, no.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Say it was an illegal invasion of a country...

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: Well, that's what it was.

TOOBIN: Well, (INAUDIBLE)...

CAFFERTY: I mean come on.

TOOBIN: That's a long...

BORGER: Well, but he's going... (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And in Iraq, no evidence whatsoever any connection to 9/11...

CAFFERTY: No.

BLITZER: ...unlike Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden was hiding out and the Taliban and all of that.

TOOBIN: But, again, this Republican primary -- the country is opposed to this war, yet the Republican candidates are fighting over who's more pro-war.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Right. But they're not fighting over who's more pro-Bush, that's for sure.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens.

CAFFERTY: No one mentions Bush's name.

BORGER: Nope.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Guys, stand by, because we've got a lot more coming up, including our special coverage at 8:00 p.m.

Tonight, Jack's not leaving. He's got The Cafferty File coming up, as well.

Remember, stay tuned to CNN for this important presidential address that -- we will have special coverage before and after. Join me for a special preview, 8:00 p.m. Eastern -- a little bit more than an hour from now. Then at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, we're going to bring you the president's State of the Union Address.

Just after that, we'll hear the Democratic response. We'll get full analysis. After that, a special edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360," coming up after all of that.

Our coverage begins, by the way, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here at the CNN Election Center.

With most early races already over, Democratic presidential candidates are now focusing in on Super Tuesday, February 5th. More than 20 states are at stake.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi, how are the candidates gearing up online?

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these campaigns have been building up their online supporter base for a year now. And ahead of February 5th, they're really putting these online supporters to work. This is the headquarters for February 5th states for the Hillary Clinton campaign. They're saying a fundamental component of their online operation right now is this volunteer calling tool. This means people can log onto the Web site and make calls in the Super Tuesday primary states, letting people know about Hillary Clinton and signing them up for the campaign.

These online voter tours, they give you a script. They're being used by these campaigns all over the place.

But something particular to Barack Obama that you'll find online for the last year is the social networking component of his site, where people can make their own groups online -- connect with other voters, other supporters in their hometown. And this is a hive of activity right now. I spoke to one of the supporters in Chattanooga, Tennessee, who's been organizing and calling this part of the campaign, their online component, critical -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show, that begins right at the top of the hour.

What are you working on -- Lou?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Thank you, Wolf.

We'll have much more on the presidential campaign, the Republican showdown in Florida, the battle in the Democratic Party between the Kennedy and Clinton dynasties.

Also, Senator Barack Obama pandering to be socio-ethnocentric special interests and the amnesty lobby in a blatant effort to win Latino votes. We'll have a special report from one of the most important Super Tuesday states for you.

And startling new evidence tonight of the crisis facing this nation's middle class -- the worst decline in new home sales on record.

So why is the Senate holding up that stimulus package?

And one of our spy satellites out of control, on a collision course with the planet Earth. The satellite may contain hazardous materials. No one knows where it will strike. We'll have the report for you. All of that, all the day's news and much more, coming up at the top of the hour, right here on CNN.

Please join us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou.

We certainly will.

John Edwards is talking about a tidal wave in Tennessee. Edwards campaigning in that Super Tuesday state. You're going to find out what he's referring to.

Plus, endorsement mania -- we're going to show you who's backing whom.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In today's Political Ticker, Hillary Clinton could have some history on her side as she tries to become the Democratic national nominee. At a mock convention, the students of Washington Lee University said she'll win the nomination. According to the Politico Web site, the students have been right in 18 out of 23 times in choosing nominees since their first convention. That would be way back in 1908.

John Edwards takes his presidential campaign to the Super Tuesday State of Tennessee, telling voters there they can be part of what he's calling a tidal wave of change in the country. He's criticizing the economic stimulus package now before Congress, saying it leaves too many people out and would take too long to provide any relief.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com. That's where you can read my daily blog, as well. I wrote today about my luncheon over at the White House.

Jack Cafferty -- he's joining us right now with The Cafferty File.

CAFFERTY: Did you really have white asparagus?

BLITZER: Yes, white asparagus. It was delicious.

CAFFERTY: Oh, I'm sure. Yes. That's great.

BLITZER: All right.

CAFFERTY: I had takeout from McDonald's on the way.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: The question this hour -- what does Barack Obama have to do to attract more white support?

We got this from Robert in Connecticut: "As a white male living in Connecticut and from Texas, whose entire Democratic family and circle of friends has successively been turned off by the Clintons' divisive and untrue assertions of late, I think Obama does not have to do much. I think all he needs to do is let the Clintons keep immolating themselves by reminding our party how divisive they are. Obama seems like he could unite not only our party, but possibly the country as a whole."

Beth writes: "What's being lost in this discussion of racial polarization is that 50 percent of the under 30 white vote is going to Barack Obama. If it's saying something about our country's view of race, it's saying something positive -- that the upcoming generation, my generation, for all its flaws -- is not as held up by race as our elders."

Carol in San Jose says: "I'm a white female. I'm for Obama -- and for Obama to get my vote, he would have to show me or tell me what he has actually done. I know he's an inspirational speaker, but how is he going to accomplish what he speaks about? Details, please."

Jackie in Texas: "Barack Obama stands a good chance of getting more of the white vote by doing exactly what he's doing -- campaigning with a message that crosses lines." Kevin writes: "Nothing. I believe that in the more progressive states, Obama will find more white votes of both sexes -- especially if Bill keeps yapping."

And Kurt in Denver says: "Everyone needs to wake up and realize this election is not about black or white, it's about something bigger -- the United States. As long as we keep viewing things as black, white or brown, the country will never reach its full potential. Obama should keep himself true and honest to the people, not just for white support but for the support of everyone."

Good advice.

BLITZER: Good advice. Very good advice.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

Barack Obama signs up Ted Kennedy. But that's just the latest in a parade of endorsements for all the candidates -- from Rambo to Oprah.

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Movie stars, martial artists and a lot of Kennedys -- they're all lining up behind their favorite candidates right now.

CNN's Jeanne Moos says let the endorsement games begin.

Here's her Moost Unusual look.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ted Kennedy may have been...

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: ...delivered to the Obama camp. This isn't the campiest endorsement. How about actress Scarlett Johansson joking she's engaged to Obama, when asked about her real boyfriend?

Or a fashion designer like Kimora Lee Simmons, better known for how she dresses...

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: And for addressing political issues, endorsing Hillary Clinton.

There's Kevin Bacon trying to bring home the bacon for John Edwards...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN BACON (SINGING): I'm coming loose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Talk about footloose.

Performer John Mayer seemed loose all over, arguing with actor Justin Long about Mayer's favorite candidate, Ron Paul.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ron Paul. I'm talking about Ron Paul.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not Ru Paul. Ron Paul.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Ru Paul's only platform is the kind you wear on your feet. Of course, there was Oprah's endorsement of Barack Obama and his payback campaign promise delivered on Letterman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN," COURTESY WORLDWIDE PANTS INC.)

OBAMA: Three words Vice President Oprah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Of course, the campiest endorsements of them all pitted Rambo against Chuck Norris. Chuck is for Huck. But when Norris suggested McCain is so old, he could die in office...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK NORRIS: I'm just afraid that the vice president will wind up taking over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: ...McCain called in reinforcements. MCCAIN: Now that Sylvester Stallone has endorsed me, I'm sending him over to take care of Chuck Norris right away.

MOOS: Sort of the opposite of Rambo's is Tony Morrison's endorsement. The African-American writer, who first called Bill Clinton America's first black president, has now endorsed the guy who really would be the first black president if he won.

There are those who proudly opt for the anti-endorsement. Rudy put out this Web ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM RUDOLPH GIULIANI FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rudy Giuliani is not endorsed by "The Tampa Tribune". He's not endorsed by the liberal newspapers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS (on camera): And then there's the endorsement from beyond the grave.

You know how the Republicans are always invoking Ronald Reagan?

(voice-over): Well, guess who the Kennedy clan endlessly invoked?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Kennedy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Kennedy.

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: And John Kennedy...

OBAMA: In the days of John and Robert Kennedy...

CAROLINE KENNEDY: When my father was president...

REP. PATRICK KENNEDY (D), RHODE ISLAND: As we had with my uncle...

OBAMA: Portraits of John and Robert...

MOOS: Cross-dressing is one thing, but all this cross endorsing keeps up, cartoonist Jeff Danziger may turn out to be prophetic with his "Monica Endorses Obama".

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: You've helped, by the way, make our politics pod cast one of the most popular on iTunes. To get the best political team to go, you can subscribe easily. Just go to CNNPolitics.com. And that's where you can also read my daily blog. If you go there right now, you might enjoy it. Maybe not.

We'll be back one hour from now with complete coverage of President Bush's State of the Union address. Until then, thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thanks very much for joining us.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou?

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