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Candidates Continue Mad Dash For Votes Ahead of Super Tuesday; Interview With Michelle Obama

Aired February 1, 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: Everything counts. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are on a mash dash for votes only days before Super Tuesday. They could be coming to a place near you.
And John McCain and Mitt Romney also crisscrossing the country right now. But wait until you hear what McCain is doing to edge out his rivals.

And a CNN exclusive this hour: Barack Obama's wife talks to CNN. She talks about her husband's historic presidential bid to our own Soledad O'Brien.

All that, plus the best political team on television. I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And they're off. It's the day after Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had their first one-on-one historic debate right here on CNN. Now they're looking for momentum, both of them eying the delegate bonanza in the Super Tuesday states.

Today, Obama went to New Mexico, but he began his day in Los Angeles.

That's where CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is.

Suzanne, he once again criticized Senator Clinton for her Iraq war vote.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he certainly did.

That is one of the strengths that his campaign has. At least what's that what they believe that resonates with the voters. He got a key endorsement today, "The Los Angeles Times" giving him the nod. They have not even weighed into a presidential campaign back since 1972.

We have also been told by the campaign expect Oprah Winfrey to come back out here in Los Angeles on Sunday to join with Obama's wife, Michelle, to try to get those critical female voters to turn California in his favor. All of this, as you know, Wolf, makes a difference.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice over): Obama is on the move, leaving California and its mother load of delegates, some 370, behind. He insists he's not conceding the state to Hillary Clinton. He's just got a lot of other places to go.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But we have got 22 states.

MALVEAUX: Coming off his first one-on-one debate with Clinton, a visibly tired Obama said he was satisfied his experience was no longer an issue.

B. OBAMA: I feel like voters who watched last night recognized that I know what I'm talking about.

MALVEAUX: In the race to the finish, everything counts. A big unknown is where the former candidate John Edwards' supporters will go. One good sign for Obama, California's SEIU, one of the largest labor unions in the state which backed Edwards, announced it's now endorsing Obama.

The liberal activist group MoveOn. org jumped on the Obama train, too. The far-reaching organization has more than three million members across the country, nearly two million in Super Tuesday states ready to mobilize. Obama is still working hard to win the coveted endorsement of John Edwards, but says he is not making deals.

B. OBAMA: I have specifically asked him for his endorsement. We haven't had specific conversations about an Obama administration post.

MALVEAUX: One of Obama's stops today, New Mexico, home state of former candidate Governor Bill Richardson.

B. OBAMA: We have no plans of receiving an endorsement, but I would love to be pleasantly surprised.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, it certainly would be a surprise for Obama. That is because CNN has learned that Bill Richardson on Sunday is going to be watching the Super Bowl with his former boss. That is the former President Bill Clinton -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, does that mean he's perhaps going to endorse Hillary Clinton? Are we getting that -- those kinds of vibes?

MALVEAUX: We don't know. We have been told that it doesn't mean that he's necessarily going to endorse Hillary Clinton, but it will be very interesting to see what kind of conversation they have over that game.

BLITZER: We will see.

All right, thanks very much for that, Suzanne Malveaux.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is not leaving anything to chance in California. At a rally moments only ago in San Diego -- you saw part of it live here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- she talked about the potential for the United States to do something it's never done before.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And isn't it thrilling to know that one of the people on the stage last night will make history as our 2008 Democratic nominee?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: And if we work together, you were looking at the next president of the United States of America!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: From San Diego, Senator Clinton heads off to San Jose, later to San Francisco, for other campaign events.

On the Republican side, to the winner go the spoils. Since John McCain won the last few presidential contests, his campaign says it's raking in the cash. McCain campaigned today in the Midwest.

CNN's Dana Bash is joining us now from Villa Park out in Illinois.

Dana, how is McCain spending all that new cash he's raising?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, we don't know exactly how much money he's raised.

Interestingly, Wolf, he is the one Republican campaign that hasn't reported how much money he raised in the last quarter of last year. But we do know from a source that he raised about $12 million just in January alone. That is a lot of money for the long underfunded McCain campaign.

Now, how is he spending it? He is buying a lot of ads on TV. In fact, CNN is told that he has bought not just ads on national cable but also in 20 of the 21 Super Tuesday states.

And to illustrate that, just look at the map up on the wall to see how big of a buy this is for John McCain. He's not buying TV time in the state of Utah. That's obviously a big Mormon state, very likely to go for his rival Mitt Romney.

Now, what is he saying in these ads? Interesting, Wolf. He's going directly at what he understands is his biggest weak spot in this Republican primary contest, and that is the fact that conservatives, simply, many of them, at least, simply don't trust that he's one of them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD) NARRATOR: Guided by strong conservative principles, he will cut wasteful spending and keep taxes low, a proud social conservative who will never waver, the leadership and experience to call for the surge strategy in Iraq that is working.

John McCain, the true conservative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, behind the scenes, the McCain campaign, they are trying very, very hard to try to shore up support among the conservative movement, especially some of the national conservatives who simply say that John McCain has been wrong on a lot of key issues for them.

What they're doing is they're trying to push out endorsements from some high-profile conservatives. In fact, we saw Steve Forbes. They announced today that the former presidential candidate endorsed him.

And also Ted Olson. Some of our viewers might not know who he is, but he is a former solicitor general for President Bush. He is somebody who has a lot of credibility on the issue of judges. That, as you know, Wolf, is a very important issue for many conservatives, and one that they really look for the position of a certain candidate to determine whether or not they would vote for them in the primary season -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But not only Romney is pounding away at Senator McCain, saying he's a liberal, but, you know, the radio talk show hosts, the conservatives, they're pounding away, the Rush Limbaughs, the Ann Coulters.

They keep going after McCain, saying he is simply a liberal and don't trust him.

BASH: They absolutely are. You saw in "The New York Times" today some prominent conservatives are sort of shrugging their shoulders and saying if John McCain is going to be our nominee, we might have to get behind him.

But there are a lot of people out there, conservatives, who say if John McCain is our nominee, we simply won't go vote. And Mitt Romney, what his strategy is, Wolf, is to try to tap into that, exploit that position. And that's why, even today, just a short while ago in Denver, he was speaking to reporters and he hammered away at the fact that he thinks that John McCain is wrong on the issue of drilling for oil in Alaska; he was wrong on key pieces of legislation that he sponsored, like campaign finance reform, like immigration, and like climate change.

Interesting, we have seen throughout this period that Mike Huckabee has sort of had an odd alliance with John McCain. Today he actually defended John McCain, Wolf. He said that, I don't consider him a liberal. He said, Mitt Romney accusing him of being a liberal is absurd -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It's a problem for them. The only conservative in the race that the base of the Republican Party likes is Huckabee. And, after Iowa, he's not getting it done.

BLITZER: And they don't even love him so much, because they think, on some economic issues, he was a liberal.

CAFFERTY: They just -- they don't have anything to be too happy about, do they, the right-wingers?

BLITZER: That's probably true.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

All right. We're headed into a week of supersized events, first up, of course, Sunday, the Super Bowl, where the undefeated New England Patriots go head to head against the New York Giants in search of a championship, a perfect season, and a record of 19-0. It's never been done before.

Two days later, Super Tuesday. It's been done a lot. Voters in more than 20 states go to the polls perhaps finalizing their party's presidential nominees. So, which event are Americans more pumped up about? Well, it turns out it's almost a tossup. There was actually a poll done on this. A new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll shows that 40 percent of those surveyed say that they're more excited for the big football game, while 37 percent say they're more worked up about the Super Tuesday primaries.

The poll found that those who were more psyched for the football game include football fans -- duh, no surprise there -- those who have not gone beyond high school, men, and independents.

As far as the people who are more excited about Super Tuesday, that would include nonfootball fans, college graduates, women, and Democrats. And when it comes to the Republicans, they're about equally divided between the two events.

So, here's the super-silly Friday night question: Are you more excited for the Super Bowl or Super Tuesday, and why?

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

Which are you more excited about?

BLITZER: Super Tuesday. Super Tuesday for me.

CAFFERTY: I'm not surprised at your answer.

BLITZER: Thank you. CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: It's the truth, too.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: She's the other powerful woman on the trail, and now she has some eye-opening looks at what it's like to be part of a presidential campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: I think the truth is, is that most Americans don't opt into this. And it's not because they don't want to help the country. It's just that this is a pretty taxing way to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Coming up, Michelle Obama, in an exclusive interview with CNN, she talks about her husband, the race for the White House and why she says there's nothing rational about politics. She speaks with our own Soledad O'Brien.

Plus, Hillary Clinton's interactive town hall reaching out to voters online on this, the eve of Super Tuesday.

And what kind of depraved mind or terrorist mastermind could come up with this, strapping explosives to mentally disabled women and then blowing them up in crowded markets?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Both she and her husband could make history. He could become the first African-American president. She could become the first African-American first lady.

Michelle Obama is an outspoken supporter of her husband's presidential bid.

Our special correspondent Soledad O'Brien sat down with her just a little while ago for an exclusive interview.

Soledad is joining us now live from Chicago.

A fascinating woman, and I guess you got an up-close and personal look, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely.

And if I had to put a couple words to it, I would say, first and foremost, she's unflappable, very down-to-earth, very calm. And, on top of that, maybe the best word is a realist, very straightforward and blunt about how she is taking the campaign so far. When I asked her, is this -- this wasn't really what you wanted to do, she was very straightforward about how she was initially resistant to Barack's campaign.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: You have talked about politics being Barack's dream, but not your dream.

M. OBAMA: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

O'BRIEN: Are there moments in this campaign -- or have there been moments where you have said, what are we doing here; this is grueling?

M. OBAMA: Oh, yes, yes, no, every day.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Really?

M. OBAMA: Absolutely. You know, I mean, there is nothing rational about politics. And I say this a lot of times in my stump. I say, you know...

O'BRIEN: Kind of a strange position for someone whose husband is running to be president.

M. OBAMA: Right. Right. But it's also honest, I think.

And I think people should understand, not out of a sense of sympathy, but I think the truth is, is that most Americans don't opt into this. And it's not because they don't want to help the country. It's just that this is a pretty taxing way to do it.

But, with that said, I also say, this has been one of the most worthwhile things that I have ever done in my life.

O'BRIEN: What makes it worthwhile?

M. OBAMA: You know, you don't get an opportunity to travel around the country, to go into people's homes, into their communities, into their barbershops and beauty shops, and to talk. That's part of our challenge in this nation, is that we are so isolated from one another. And that isolation just reinforces what we perceive to be divisions.

But the truth is, is that, when you sit down and talk to people, have a conversation, you make a joke, you're working in the same environment, you realize that folks are suffering the same challenges. They have the same hopes and dreams. Folks are not that far apart.

And it's reassuring to be reminded that there is more that unites us than divides us, because it makes you hopeful that, with better leadership, you can get people to recognize the work that we can do together.

O'BRIEN: Did you support Barack's presidential ambitions from the get-go?

M. OBAMA: Not -- no, it took a little while.

(LAUGHTER)

M. OBAMA: It took a little while to get...

O'BRIEN: Did you say, no? Honey...

M. OBAMA: Oh, yes. Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

M. OBAMA: I said, no, no, you can't be serious, because we had just come off of, a few years ago, a tough U.S. Senate race. And, you know, in your mind, you're sort of like, OK, that was one really hard thing that we did, and now we're done. We're going to press the easy button for a little while, right?

I knew he couldn't stay there for a long time. He doesn't -- Barack doesn't do anything that's not easy.

O'BRIEN: What made you come around? What was his convincing argument, that you're now on the campaign trail...

(CROSSTALK)

M. OBAMA: Well, first, there were sort of, you know, hurdles, practical hurdles. How does this work? How do we structure it? How do I negotiate my work? Financially, how do we make this happen? How will the kids feel?

So, there were a whole list of those kind of really practical things. And then, when those were answered satisfactorily, then it became, what's going on in me, right? Why am I afraid of this?

O'BRIEN: Why were you afraid of it?

M. OBAMA: Because I am, like most Americans, cynical about what you can do.

And there was a level of selfishness. This is going to be hard for me. But when I took off those hats and started thinking and hoping and dreaming for the things I would want for this country and the kind of leadership that I would be looking for, I thought, if I weren't married to Barack, I would desperately want him to do this.

So, the sacrifice that I'm going to have to make, the little burdens that we're going to have to overcome, are nothing compared to what I think he can do. So, ultimately, it was -- I became more selfless about thinking about the future of the country, and I started thinking about my girls. And...

O'BRIEN: Yes, well, about your girls, you look at modern-day presidents, and you think, Amy Carter, hounded by the president.

M. OBAMA: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Chelsea Clinton mocked by "Saturday Night Live," the Bush twins, people blogging about where they saw them with pictures. They couldn't do one thing without the media being in their faces all time.

(CROSSTALK)

M. OBAMA: Right.

O'BRIEN: Are you worried about that? Your girls are, what, 6 and 9?

M. OBAMA: Yes. Yes. No, we think about it often.

But we have done the best that we can do to keep their lives as normal as possible for as long as possible. That's one of the reasons why we have kept their routines on track throughout this process. They're not on the campaign trail with us. When they're with us, it's usually because they're on break or they have decided this trip sounds interesting, which has been never.

(LAUGHTER)

M. OBAMA: They have never found...

O'BRIEN: Because they're 6 and 9.

M. OBAMA: ... anything that we are trying to do interesting at all. They would prefer to be going to their birthday parties and their play dates, and because they're still in their world. We have lived on the South Side of Chicago all their lives. They're in the same school that they have always been in. They have the friends that they have always had.

O'BRIEN: Which would all change if you move into the White House.

M. OBAMA: And I think my 9-year-old is a little -- has a little trepidation because of that. I think she realizes that.

But, you know, we're going to have to work through that. But you're right. It will all change. And we're going to do our best to make sure that we protect them and make sure that they continue to be the center of our lives, even in the midst of all this turmoil.

But we're going to have to work really hard to make that happen. And, in the midst of this campaign, what I have done is, I don't campaign every day. I'm not gone for weeks on end. I will not go on a trip that will have me away for more than two days.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: One of the things Michelle Obama says that she will tackle if she is first lady would be the work/life balance, or lack thereof maybe, Wolf, is a better way to put it, that all women who are trying to balance a lot of things in their lives face.

We're going to have much more of our conversation with Michelle Obama 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and again at 10:00 p.m. in OUT IN THE OPEN -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

We're just getting an e-mail also from the Obama campaign, Soledad, that Michelle Obama, together with Oprah Winfrey and Caroline Kennedy, they will be doing a rally on Sunday in Los Angeles, a rally for Barack Obama. That should be quite a rally, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Caroline Kennedy.

O'BRIEN: Yes, they're concerned. It's going to be tight.

BLITZER: All right. Good work, Soledad O'Brien reporting for us.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will fly to Britain next week to discuss Afghanistan. We are going to tell you which NATO country might withdraw troops from the war on terror, as it's called, and under what special conditions.

Plus, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney feeds his campaign again. Stay with us to hear how much it's costing his portfolio -- the best political team on television standing by with that and a loot more.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: For some Democrats, it's the dream team, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton running on a ticket together. Is that even possible?

Also, is Mitt Romney getting a good return on his investment? He's poured millions of his own dollars into his campaign.

And historic profits by ExxonMobil bringing plenty of criticism, but experts say it actually could help the economy. We're watching this story.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now: They embraced. They even bonded a bit at their debate. But could Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama join forces in a Democratic dream team? It's no secret that running for president can be incredibly expensive. But when Mitt Romney is spending millions of his own dollars, is he throwing good money after bad?

And ExxonMobil pulls in record profits. Would you believe $1,300 a second? Is that good for America?

All this, plus the best political team on television.

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

With only four days to go until Super Tuesday, Democrats are buzzing about last night's debate and the possibility, possibility that no matter what happens on Super Tuesday, they could end up with a dream team in November.

CNN's Carol Costello joins us once again.

Carol, what is this all about?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, well, think of it, Clinton-Obama, or Obama-Clinton, for many Democrats, those tickets, well, they give them heart palpitations. They're that excited.

And you know what? Anything is possible in this race.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): It was Wolf's last question, and it drove the crowd wild.

BLITZER: Would you consider an Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama ticket going down the road?

B. OBAMA: Well, obviously there's a big difference between those two.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

COSTELLO: Jokes aside, Obama's response, then Clinton's, sent a tiny ripple of joy through the largely Democratic audience.

BLITZER: Is the answer yes -- it sounds like a yes, that she would be on your short list.

B. OBAMA: I -- you know, I'm sure Hillary would be on anybody's short list. So...

BLITZER: All right. What about, Senator Clinton, what do you think about a Clinton/Obama, Obama/Clinton ticket?

CLINTON: Well, I have to agree with everything Barack just said.

(LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: That means it's a yes, right?

CLINTON: So, clearly, we are both dedicated to doing the best we can to win the nomination, but there is no doubt we will have a unified Democratic Party.

COSTELLO: That's right -- neither Clinton nor Obama ruled out the idea.

Is it possible?

DAVID GERGEN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's a special sort of magic about these two together that came out last night that suddenly, it's within the realm of possibility.

COSTELLO: That possibility is potent for Democratic voters who love both candidates, who feel the combo could unify the party and guarantee a win for the Democrats in November. Even Michigan's governor, Jennifer Granholm, was hip to that idea -- and she's endorsed Clinton. She told me: "I would love to see her ask him to run as her vice president. And if he gets it, I would hope he would do the same."

If they did run together, it would break all traditional rules. Usually, a liberal candidate chooses a moderate running mate or a senator picks a governor from a different part of the country. Then there's the question of ego.

Could she play second fiddle to Obama when some say she struggled for power in her husband's White House?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN'S CONTRIBUTOR: Because I don't think there's a chance in hell that after her experience in the White House with Al Gore that she would ever be a vice presidential candidate with anybody.

COSTELLO: Could he put up with her?

One analyst says it's more like could Obama put up with him -- as they say, three is a crowd.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COSTELLO: Course, it all depends on what happens on Super Tuesday. But the Democratic National Committee could put heavy duty pressure on either candidate to be a bridesmaid, so to speak, so the Democrats can, indeed, win the presidency -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol Costello reporting.

Thank you.

So could Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama really join forces in this so-called dream team? Would that actually be a risky ticket for the Democrats?

Let's get some analysis now.

We'll talk about it with our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin; our own Jack Cafferty; and our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. They are all part of the best political team on television.

Jack, what do you think?

CAFFERTY: I think it would make more sense for him to be her vice presidential candidate. It would position him as vice president for his own run at the White House in eight years -- assuming she was elected to two terms. And it would help her get elected. Don't forget that Hillary Clinton has high negative ratings across the country, as well as positive.

The flip side, though, I'm not sure it works as well. I don't think you forget about calling Obama's campaign a fairy tale. I don't think you forget so easily about the really low rent crap that Bill Clinton spit out about Jesse Jackson after Barack Obama wiped up the floor with his wife in South Carolina. I'm not so sure that goes away so easily and my guess is he might not ask her. But it would make sense for her to ask him if she's the nominee.

BLITZER: All right, Jeff, what do you think?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, one thing -- and one of the very few things that Clinton/Gore and Bush/Cheney have in common is that they broke all the traditional rules of how you pick a running mate. So I think those rules are sort of meaningless at this point, about geographic balance and ideological balance.

I think there's a real possibility. I agree with Jack that Clinton/Obama is a much more likely ticket than the reverse. But I do think if Hillary is the nominee, Barack is a very likely vice president.

BLITZER: Candy, this debate last night was in marked contrast to the one they had only a couple of weeks ago in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Here are little clips from last night.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have to agree with everything Barack just said.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we agree that we have to keep people in their homes.

CLINTON: Obviously, we do agree. OBAMA: I absolutely agree with Senator Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right.

That was certainly in marked contrast to what happened only a few weeks ago.

What do you think about this dream team?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: About the dream team?

I think probably it's more dream than anything else. I'd put the emphasis on that. Listen, when you talk to Hillary Clinton about what she wants in a candidate, she says I want someone that is ready to take over, if needed, into the Oval Office. Her entire campaign is predicated on his not being ready. I think that's a difficult turn there.

Stranger things absolutely have happened. All things are possible. But if I had to bet on it, I'd bet against it right now.

BLITZER: Jack, why was this debate last night a lot more cordial and friendly than the earlier one?

CAFFERTY: Two reasons. People didn't like the earlier debate between the two of them and people, I don't think, liked the Republican debate a few days before, where John McCain got pretty ugly with Mitt Romney on questions concerning the war in Iraq and some other things.

People, at this point in the game, want information.

What are you going to do for me?

This country is in a lot of trouble.

How are you going to fix it?

And what they don't want is a lot of sniping and cheap one line barbs and snarkiness. And so I think, you know, the experts in both campaigns said you know what -- don't do that again, you'll both get hurt.

BLITZER: A lot of people, Jeff, think both of these candidates were helped last night by their friendlier tone.

TOOBIN: Well, I think it was pleasant to watch. But you can't -- this is a zero sum game. They both can't be helped. One of them is going to win on Super Tuesday, one of them is going to lose or we'll have a very confusing set of results. I just think there was little way they thought they could help their cause by being snarky, as Jack said. Another factor I think had something to do with it -- and I'm really not kidding -- the fact that they were so physically close together, I think, made it harder to get in each other's faces. Remember, in the South Carolina debate, they were at podiums. It was a much more stilted, formal setting. I think it would have been very awkward to really go after each other and it would have looked like McCain and Romney, which was not an attractive scene, the night before.

BLITZER: Candy?

CROWLEY: Well, I think we -- what you have to look at is why do people go after a candidate on a stage. It's when they're behind. I think what you saw was a reflection, first, that both of them do think they get hurt. Obama, when he goes after someone, tends to look aloof. When she goes after someone, she tends to feed into that stereotype she's cold and calculating.

But beyond that, both these campaigns think they're on a pretty good road right now. You know, the Obama campaign, you know, thinks it's on the move up. The Clinton campaign thinks they're well positioned for Super Tuesday. So nobody wanted to mess that up. And when you don't want to mess things up, you stay above the fray. And both of them felt that way.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We have much more to talk about, including Mitt Romney. He's reaching deeper and deeper into his pockets. I wonder what his five sons think about that. The Republican candidate puts millions of his own dollars into this campaign. The best political team on television will check out if that's a good return on his investment.

Plus, we talked about the new era of niceness between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

But just what was all that whispering about?

They were whispering to each other. I was very close by. Jeanne Moos, though, brings us in a lip reader to figure out what it was all about.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Mitt Romney has far outspent his rivals by reaching deeper and deeper into his own pocket.

Has it been a good investment?

Let's get back to the best political team on television.

Jack Cafferty, I'll give you some numbers. Romney spent 34 million in the last quarter to $10.5 million for McCain, Huckabee $5.5 million.

What do you think?

CAFFERTY: I think Barack Obama had a great line last night when he said he's not getting much of a return on his investment. You know, he touts himself as a manager, a business veteran. He knows how to run companies, he knows how to manage, he knows about the economy. He's dumping money down an open manhole here. He's not going to win the nomination -- it doesn't look like. And I suppose stranger things have happened, but it doesn't look at this point like he's going to overtake McCain.

And Wolf alluded to his five sons. If that was my old man, I'd be saying hey dad, you know, what about the inheritance, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: It's one thing if you're going to be the president, but come on.

BLITZER: The good news for Romney -- he has an estimated $250 million or so.

All right, what do you think, Jeff?

TOOBIN: I don't think it makes a bit of difference. You know, some self-financed candidates win. Mike Bloomberg won here. Some lose -- Ross Perot, Al Chechi (ph) in California. I don't think voters care much about the money.

I think Romney's problem is his candidacy and John McCain. I don't think the money matters at all.

BLITZER: What do you think, Candy?

CROWLEY: Well, I think a couple of things. First of all, I think if you look at what they have to do over the next four days, money helps. You can go in with ads when you can't go in with your plane. Obviously, McCain doesn't have that kind of money. So when have you money, your reach is further.

Having said that, when have you momentum, that tends to bring money. McCain brought in a lot of money in January, which isn't reflected in those new figures. So he certainly has enough to go into these states. But I think when you look at it, there are some of those states that can be swayed. And if the only way you can get there is ads, Mitt Romney has got the money.

BLITZER: Jack, what turned this around for John McCain?

CAFFERTY: Boy, you know, I don't know. I mean it's -- I think some of the early results had a lot to do with him being kind of the guy left standing. Huckabee went in and did very well. I think New Hampshire was -- New Hampshire and South Carolina were probably the two main events that re-legitimized, if you will, the candidacy of John McCain. It's a bit of a mystery. I mean I can remember sitting on this program last summer and saying these words: "stick a fork in McCain, he's done." And he was. Had he no money, he had no future, he had no friends, he had nothing. And now he's the consensus frontrunner. And I'm not real sure exactly how it happened, except there isn't a consensus Republican candidate out there that the Republican Party is falling in love with. And so here's a kind of a comfortable old shoe, if you will.

BLITZER: You have to give him a lot of credit, Jeff, John McCain. He's 71 -- I think -- years-old. He's working as hard as ever and he's obviously doing very well.

TOOBIN: Tough and likable -- but also weak and divided opposition. Remember, John McCain still has not gotten more than 40 percent of the vote in any state. So, I mean, it -- he's won, but he's benefited from a very weak field.

BLITZER: You've covered him for a long time, Candy. You know him well.

What do you think?

CROWLEY: Well, I think first of all, that many times John McCain's comfort zone is discomfort. We all know he is better when he is down.

But I think a couple of things really helped him. First, what Jeff alluded to -- Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are splitting the vote, basically, among conservative Christians.

The other thing that helped him was that in New Hampshire and in South Carolina it was not a closed primary. So anybody that wanted to in South Carolina -- provided you hadn't voted -- you weren't going to vote in the Democratic primary -- you could go in. So McCain could get some momentum off Independents. And so then rolled into Florida.

But I think key here, of course, is the split of the votes so far and McCain's ability to use the Independents to kind of roll down into Florida.

BLITZER: But he won in...

CROWLEY: And it makes him the frontrunner.

BLITZER: But, Candy, he won in Florida and Florida was a Republican only primary.

CROWLEY: Right. Absolutely. And what I'm saying is he got some momentum as he went down in there. But, again, Wolf, if you look at those counties, county by county, what you see is Mike Huckabee taking votes away from Mitt Romney.

BLITZER: All right.

TOOBIN: And with Huckabee still in the race, that bodes very well for McCain on Super Tuesday. BLITZER: Because he'll take away more votes from McCain than he will -- from Romney than he will from McCain. That's right.

TOOBIN: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: Right.

BLITZER: All right, Jeff Toobin and Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

Jack is staying with us for The Cafferty File.

Coming up, a major report out today is bad news for the economy. American employers cut 17,000 jobs last month -- the first drop in four years. Economists actually thought employers would add jobs in January. The losses were in all areas -- manufacturers, construction firms and professional services. Even the government says it doesn't know what happened, but they're watching it very carefully.

There's at least one company, though, one company that's doing extremely well. That would be ExxonMobil. It made record-breaking money last year -- the biggest annual profit by any American company in history. The company broke its own record setback in 2006.

Let's go to Brian Todd.

He's watching this story for us.

This is the kind of news that brings oil companies, Brian, a lot of the criticism.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As always, Wolf. An ExxonMobil official told us companies like his don't set prices, it's marketplace. Well, the marketplace has been pretty good to ExxonMobil.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Numbers that might make you want to pull away from the pump. ExxonMobil makes the highest yearly and quarterly profits ever for any American company -- nearly $11.7 billion in the last three months of 2007; $40.6 billion for all of last year.

Don't bother doing more math. We can tell you that's $1,300 a second. It's got some politicians again accusing oil companies of gouging.

JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Children living on the street in America while ExxonMobil makes $40 billion.

TODD: For those in Congress who deal with energy issues, the problem is not so much the profit.

REP. ED MARKEY (D-MA), ENERGY & COMMERCE COMMITTEE: What's wrong is when after reporting the highest profits in the history of any company, in the history of the world, that they then turn around and ask for bigger tax breaks. TODD: Exxon says for every dollar it makes in profits, it pays $2.50 in taxes and denies critic's charges that it's keeping supplies down. Oil analysts say we'd all better hope these companies make big profits.

Why?

Because it costs money to find more oil. Analysts say much of the reserves we're now tapping into in the Gulf of Mexico and the Middle East may not be available much longer. The head of Europe's largest oil company recently wrote: "After 2015, easily accessible supplies of oil and gas probably will no longer keep up with demand."

Demand from places like China and India. The U.S. government projects those supplies will last much longer, but analysts say oil companies are already trying to explore and drill in harder to reach places, might even have to go into environmentally off limits areas like the Arctic before long -- and none of that's cheap.

TOM WALLIN, ENERGY INTELLIGENCE: Very deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico or offshore West Africa, you know, these -- the incremental costs of bringing on these kinds of reserves are, you know, way, way above the cost the companies have been facing, say, 10 years ago.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: Another huge challenge for the oil giants -- refining. It's very expensive and difficult to build refineries. The process in itself is getting more expensive and less profitable and it's difficult to find places to build them in the U.S. where communities won't resist. In fact, a new refinery has not been built inside the United States since the 1970s -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.

Brian Todd reporting for us.

And as Brian just noted, ExxonMobil reported an annual profit of more than $40 billion last year. That breaks down to more than $4.5 million an hour.

If you wonder what kind of money that can buy, based on their average cost, you could purchase more than a million hybrid vehicles or, at the current national average of $2.98, you could buy in excess of 13.5 billion gallons of gasoline. Just a little comparison.

It's the biggest weekend of the year for the NFL, as Super Bowl Sunday approaches. And one of the most powerful Republicans in the Senate wants some answers from football officials.

Plus, Jack Cafferty asks are you more excited about Super Tuesday or the Super Bowl?

He'll have your e-mail in The Cafferty File, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The fun and games of Super Bowl only two days away, but a powerful Republican senator wants serious answers from the NFL. It involves the recent New England Patriots cheating scandal. Arlen Specter wants the league to explain why it allowed a key piece of evidence to be destroyed. Specter is calling it inexplicable.

Reacting to the news, the Patriots' coach calls it a matter for the league.

The Patriots play the Super Bowl New York Giants this Sunday in Arizona.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can check out CNNPolitics.com. That's where you can read my nearly daily blog. You can go there right now and read about the debate last night.

Let's go back to Jack.

He's here in New York.

CAFFERTY: Does Arlen Specter not have anything else to do?

Why don't you go and investigate the White House?

Why don't you take a look at what's been done to the Constitution for the last seven years?

You're going to investigate the NFL?

Idle thoughts.

BLITZER: OK.

CAFFERTY: Are you more excited for the Super Bowl or for Super Tuesday and why?

Michelle writes: "Super Tuesday, because one is a game that won't matter as soon as it's over, the other is a game that will have to play out for at least four years or more."

J.R. in Olympia, Washington: "Jack, it's so sad. I switched my usual day off from Monday to Wednesday, planning for a late Tuesday TV blog-filled Wednesday. A gal at work asked me who I was rooting for and I said Obama. Of course, she was wondering whether it was the Patriots or the Giants."

Dennis writes: "Ask this same question on ESPN. A battle over the future or a battle over who can get to the end of the field? Pathetic that this question could ever even exist. However, it does prove out how out of whack our priorities are. Besides, the National Hockey League is way better."

Diane in New York writes: "Silly question. The Super Bowl is more exciting, with more intelligent people participating. At least in this contest, there'll be winners. Super Tuesday has nothing but losers." Robb in New Jersey: "What's the spread on Super Tuesday? I'm sticking with Obama and taking the points. At least there's enough interest in this election season to mention these two things in the same sentence. Maybe, just maybe, the American population are finally going to get involved in a political process that actually affects their lives. Whatever you do, watch the game Sunday, but before you go to work on Tuesday, vote."

Ed writes: "Although I'm a political junkie, I still have to go to the Super Bowl. The commercials are better."

Matthew says: "Once the Super Bowl is over, it's over. Super Tuesday is part of something larger than any of us. Finding a worthy leader of this great nation is imperative, especially considering what we've had for the past seven years."

And Bryan in Maryland writes: "Super Tuesday -- how many Americans remember who won the Super Bowl in 2000?"

Do you?

I don't.

BLITZER: Yes. No.

CAFFERTY: You do?

BLITZER: No. I remember who won the election. But I do know that our Super Bowl -- our Super Tuesday commercials this Tuesday are going to be incredible.

CAFFERTY: They're going to be good?

BLITZER: Great commercials.

CAFFERTY: They are?

BLITZER: Yes. They don't want to watch us, they can stick around for the commercials.

CAFFERTY: For the commercials. All right.

BLITZER: Excellent.

See you.

CAFFERTY: Very good.

BLITZER: See you Monday.

CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- a hug and some whispers, right after they're asked if they'll run on the same ticket. Jeanne Moos and a lip reader take a closer look right here in THE SITUATION ROOM (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: At the end of last night's debate, the candidates whispered in each other's ear.

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look at what they said -- or might have said -- to each other.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He gallantly moved her chair for her. He boyishly touched her arm. It sounded like a first date.

CLINTON: Yes, we're having a wonderful time.

OBAMA: Yes. Absolutely.

MOOS: When the debate ended...

BLITZER: That has to end our conversation this evening.

MOOS: That's when the conversation really got interesting. Senators Obama and Clinton both ripped off their microphones and began whispering -- smiling, touching and whispering some more.

(on camera): In your wildest imagination, what might they be whispering to one another?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama asking Hillary would you make me your vice or would you be my vice?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for not beating me up too bad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's asking how is his wife doing?

MOOS: Although they could be talking about the Super Bowl?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we pulled that off. We deceived the American public and they think we're friends now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's for the cameras. It's nothing.

MOOS (voice-over): Actually, nothing is what we got out of both campaigns when we asked what the sweet nothings were all about, though the Clinton campaign joked "from snub to hug in two days flat," referring to Obama supposedly turning his back on Hillary at the State of the Union.

Not since George Bush and John McCain hugged has there been such memorable contact between same party rivals. At least Obama didn't kiss Hillary on the top of the ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like she's saying I'm so going to kill you.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm so going to -- you're so dead -- or dead meat maybe. I'm just trying to do a little lip reading.

MOOS: Let's get a real lip reader to read their lips. George Overlander (ph) works with the League for the Hard of Hearing. George thinks that Hillary says...

GEORGE OVERLANDER: It's another big break (ph).

MOOS (on camera): This is our big break.

(voice-over): Then Barack says...

OVERLANDER: Find out who has blank after we win.

MOOS (on camera): After we win?

(voice-over): And Hillary seems to agree.

OVERLANDER: Yes, that's right. Yes, that's right. Exactly.

MOOS: But those who don't read lips prefer the idea that he's giving her lip.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he's saying I'm going to kick your ass, but he's got a big smile on his face.

MOOS: While some speculate about a political marriage...

BLITZER: A dream ticket. A dream ticket for the...

MOOS: Others are more romantic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are acting like lovers a little bit. Maybe she's getting even with Bill.

MOOS: Ah, but Hillary left holding someone else's hand. That doesn't stop us from letting Barry White do the lip reading.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BARRY WHITE (SINGING): I'll take the bad times, I'll take you just the way you are.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

WHITE (SINGING): You and the baby (ph).

(END AUDIO CLIP) MOOS: ...New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: (LAUGHTER)

All right, Jeanne Moos.

Among my guests this Sunday on "LATE EDITION," the Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Mike Hike A -- Huckabee. "LATE EDITION" starts at 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

That's it for us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT".

Kitty Pilgrim sitting in for Lou -- Kitty.

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