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THE SITUATION ROOM

Romney Endorsing McCain; Clinton's Blue-Collar Appeal; Lawmakers Storm out of House

Aired February 14, 2008 - 16:00   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, the breaking news we're following, the Republicans closing ranks. Mitt Romney set to endorse his once bitter rival, John McCain, try to give him a boost in the process.
The announcement only moments away. We'll carry it for you live.

Hillary Clinton plays to her blue-collar base. She's cranking up her populist message in Ohio. Will that help her defeat Barack Obama in that critically important state?

And a walkout here in Washington. House Republicans protesting what the Democrats are doing and not doing. President Bush steps into the fray.

We're going to tell you why everyone is so riled up right now.

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

And let's begin with the breaking news in the presidential race. Republican John McCain is getting powerful new backup in his call for party unity. McCain's former and often bitter opponent, Mitt Romney, is throwing his support behind the likely GOP nominee. And Romney is asking the 286 delegates he won to do the same thing.

We're standing by for the announcement. We're going to bring it to you live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But first, let's go to CNN's Dana Bash. She's watching this story for us.

Dana, what's the mood out there? What's the sense in the Republican camp how much good this is likely to do for John McCain?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you can imagine, Wolf, the McCain campaign is hoping this is going to be a huge help for him, particularly in the one area where he needs it and needs it big time. And that is in order to court and to reach out to conservatives, many of whom still are very distrustful of the McCain candidacy. And frankly, distrustful of his candidacy because Mitt Romney told them to be.

Remember, it was for weeks and weeks, even up until just last week, Mitt Romney was campaigning against John McCain as somebody who is simply too liberal. He used that word over and over, "liberal," to be the Republican nominee. But Mitt Romney, we are told from sources who are familiar with these discussions, decided, made his final decision actually this morning, that he was going to throw his weight officially and formally behind John McCain because he -- just like he said to a convention of conservatives last week when he dropped out, he thinks it's critical for the party to be united behind John McCain in order to better compete against the Democrats in the fall.

But, you know, Wolf, this is as much about Mitt Romney as it is about John McCain, because Romney is thinking about the fact that he has his future here. He wants to potentially -- potentially run again for president. And you know the way the Republican Party traditionally works. They reward team players, and Mitt Romney is very much trying to be a team player today.

BLITZER: Now, all those 286 Romney delegates, Romney says he's freeing them up to go vote for McCain. Do they have to vote for McCain right now based on what Romney wants?

BASH: They don't. Each state is different in terms of the way that they regulate the delegates.

Some states allow Romney to free them up. But now, some states simply don't allow that until after the convention. So, each state is different.

It's quite complicated as to how that happens. We're actually looking into what this exactly means mathematically, if anything now, for John McCain as he's trying to get to that 1,191 in order to officially become the nominee.

So, it's a little bit unclear. But, you know, I think this is as much of a perception and a message event, as opposed to a mathematical event.

There's no question, particularly, Wolf, given the fact that Mike Huckabee obviously is still in this race. In fact, one of Mitt Romney's former aides, former aides to his presidential campaign, told us that this is trying to give Mike Huckabee a nudge and show him from their perspective that he's being a pest, and show Mitt Romney that -- show that Mitt Romney is a foot soldier in the McCain revolution. That's a little bit of a play, of course, on what John McCain says over and over on the campaign trail, that he's a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana. Stand by, because we're going to be going to that event shortly.

As soon as it begins, we'll take it live, the speech coming up, the speech from Mitt Romney and John McCain. Romney endorsing McCain. Once the event actually begins, we'll go back there and bring it to you live.

The 286 Romney delegates that would bring -- bring it very close to the magic number of 1,189 (sic) needed for the nomination, but it's not there -- 1,191 needed for the nomination. But it's not yet there. They get close, but not close enough.

Still, it's a huge development for John McCain.

Coming up, also, I'm going to be speaking live with Mike Huckabee. And I'll ask him what he thinks of Romney's endorsement of McCain, whether he's feeling more pressure to drop out of this Republican race. My interview with Mike Huckabee coming up this hour as well.

Even as McCain works to rally Republicans, he may be bracing to lose a senior campaign adviser. Mark McKinnon telling reporters he won't work for McCain in the general election if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee.

McKinnon says he would not be comfortable with the inevitable McCain campaign attacks on Obama. But McKinnon says he would still support and vote for his friend John McCain.

McKinnon is a former Democrat who went on to work and produce ads for President Bush's campaign back in 2000, as well as 2004. Did incredibly important work for George W. Bush in both of those campaigns.

Hillary Clinton has the Democratic campaign trail to herself largely today, while Barack Obama takes a break. She's focusing her attention on Ohio, hoping for a badly-needed win in that crucial March 4th battleground.

Let's go to Jessica Yellin. She's in Columbus right now watching this story for us.

So what's her message today, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, her message is that she will do more to help the people of Ohio who are hard hit by the economic downturn. She knows that she has to win here, and win big.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice over): She started the day talking to auto plant workers in northeast Ohio and launched into her opponent.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a big difference between us -- speeches versus solutions, talk versus action.

YELLIN: She insists he's voted with the Bush administration.

CLINTON: My opponent voted for that energy bill with its billions of dollars of tax breaks for the oil industry. I voted against it.

YELLIN: And she says he has not done enough to help working Americans.

CLINTON: My opponent doesn't have much experience creating jobs.

YELLIN: Senator Clinton is appealing to hard-hit Ohio voters desperate for an economic turnaround. She has the support of the state's governor. Her husband won here twice. And her plans to solve the subprime mortgage crisis, bring health care reform, and stimulate the economy go over well.

Polls taken before Obama's recent winning streak show Clinton with a healthy lead in this state. But the Obama campaign is just now turning its full sights to this state.

JOE HALLETT, "COLUMBUS DISPATCH": This steamroller that Obama has going, you know, this momentum he has, it just almost appears unstoppable. And even though she has a large lead in the polls here...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CLINTON: Now, Wolf, Senator Clinton is also intensifying this line about special interests, saying that she will do more to fight corporate powers. She's taking a page out of the John Edwards campaign playbook, because John Edwards' blue-collar populist voters in this state could make all the difference and determine whether she wins or loses here in Ohio and nationally -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're going to be speaking with Sherrod Brown, one of the senators from Ohio. That's coming up later here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thanks very much, Jessica, for that.

Jessica Yellin and Dana Bash are both part of the Emmy Award- winning best political team on television. Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out our Political Ticker at cnnpolitics.com. The ticker, that Web site, now the number one political news blog on the Web, and that's also where you can read my latest blog post.

If you want to go read it, it's been posted just a few seconds ago.

Jack Cafferty has got "The Cafferty File" with us -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I've been very busy, but I plan to read it later. What did you write about today?

BLITZER: I wrote about John McCain seemingly wrapping this up and Mike Huckabee taking a day off and going to the Cayman Islands to deliver a paid speech. I sort of think that speaks volumes about what's going on.

CAFFERTY: Yes, I think you might be right.

Here's something else that speaks volume about what's going on. In politics, the base is everything, and there are signs that Hillary Clinton is starting to lose hers. Suddenly, in the Potomac primaries this week, Clinton began to lose advantages that she had held up until this point among groups like women, whites, older voters, working class voters. It's an ominous sign, and if it continues her dream of being the next president could be doomed.

Exit polls show that Clinton is losing ground with groups that have been strongholds of her support. In Virginia and Maryland, she got the backing of only about four in 10 women, and three in 19 men. She got the votes of 45 percent of people 65 and older, and just more than one-third of people who earn less than $50,000 or who have a high school diploma or less in terms of education.

Obama, on the other hand, won huge margins among African- Americans, young voters, higher income and better-educated voters, and the combination of those two things didn't leave Senator Clinton anywhere to turn for support. Thus, the lopsided victories in the Potomac primaries for Obama. If the trend continues in the upcoming primaries in Texas and Ohio it's pretty much over.

Meanwhile, a "TIME" magazine piece asks this question: "Is it too late for Hillary?"

The story explains how the Clinton campaign was built on inevitability, calling it a "haughty operation so confident it would have the nomination wrapped up by now that it didn't even put a field organization in place for the states that were to come after the megaprimary on February 5th."

The article says that while Clinton was busy running as a pseudo incumbent, Obama seized on the theme of change, built a fundraising and ground operation that has topped Clinton's in almost every way.

So here's the question: Why has Hillary Clinton suddenly begun to lose her advantages among women, whites, older and working-class voters?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. See you in a few moments.

House Republicans are making a statement with their feet. We're going to tell you what prompted them to walk out of Capitol Hill today from the chamber. This hour, questions of political stunts and charges of contempt.

Plus, instead of walking out, President Bush is offering to stay put. It's all part of an effort to turn up the heat on the Democrats, with spying legislation on the line.

And Clinton and Obama still slugging it out, while Republicans dramatically closing ranks. Will the Democrats pay for all of this?

Remember, we're standing by live to hear form Mitt Romney and his endorsement of John McCain momentarily.

That and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're standing by to hear live from Mitt Romney and John McCain. Momentarily, they will be together. Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential candidate, formally endorsing John McCain this hour.

We're going to go to that news conference as soon as it begins.

In the meantime, there were some angry words and actions earlier today here in Washington. There was a mark of contempt as well, a bold walkout. And a president of the United States essentially telling the United States Congress, don't waste his time.

It all involves a bill to helps eavesdrop on terrorists that lawmakers are fighting over. The president says while politicians play politics, the terrorists are plotting attacks.

Let's go to Capitol Hill. CNN's Brianna Keilar is standing by with details.

Brianna, what's going on?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, here's what happened. House Republicans walked off the floor and out of the Capitol today, accusing Democrats of ignoring that intelligence legislation that's set to expire on Saturday. House Democrats were involved in another issue entirely, bringing a contempt vote against former White House counsel Harriet Miers and current White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten, for what Democrats say is their lack of cooperation in the investigation into those fired U.S. attorneys.

And here's a look at what led up to this walkout.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: We will not stand here and watch this floor be abused for pure political grandstanding at the expense of our national security. We will -- we will -- we will not stand for this, and we will not stay for this. And I would ask my House Republican colleagues and those who believe that we should be here protecting the American people not vote on this bill. Let's just get up and leave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: So Republicans and President Bush say that letting this intelligence legislation expire puts American lives in danger. Democrats say that's not true. Both sides saying that the other is disingenuous in those claims.

Let's listen to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. STENY HOYER (D), MAJORITY LEADER: We are pursuing the politics of fear. Unfounded fear. Four hundred and thirty-five members of this House, and every one of us, every one of us wants to keep America and Americans safe. Not one of us...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: So the major sticking point in all of this is retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that helped the Bush administration in eavesdropping after 9/11. Basically, Republicans and President Bush want that immunity, and Democrats do not -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brianna. Thanks very much.

A dramatic walkout by Republicans from the House of Representatives.

I just want to remind our viewers, we're standing by to hear from Mitt Romney. He's going to be endorsing John McCain momentarily. We'll go there live once it starts.

And later, we'll be speaking live with Mike Huckabee. We'll get his reaction to this Romney endorsement.

In the meantime, President Bush says this battle could delay a major trip he's planning to Africa. The battle over surveillance that's going on in the Congress right now.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Elaine Quijano. She's following this for us.

He obviously is very anxious for the House to follow the lead of the Senate and pass this legislation, Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Wolf. You know, President Bush tried ratcheting up the pressure essentially on House Democrats today, arguing once more that failing to pass this legislation dealing with surveillance will put Americans as risk.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUIJANO (voice over): President Bush raised the stake in the debate over the government's spy powers, challenging the House to approve surveillance legislation and offering to put off his trip to Africa that was scheduled to start this weekend.

BUSH: I'm prepared to delay my departure and stay in Washington with them if it will help them complete their work on this critical bill.

QUIJANO: The president warned that letting the surveillance bill expire on Saturday would leave the U.S. vulnerable.

BUSH: Failure to act would harm our ability to monitor new terrorist activities and could reopen dangerous gaps in our intelligence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The bill is passed.

QUIJANO: The president wants the House to approve surveillance legislation passed by the Senate this week that includes immunity for telecom companies that cooperated with the government post-9/11. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is showing no signs of giving in. She argued the president does have the necessary tools to fight terrorist and accused the president of using scare tactics.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: President Bush tells the American people that he has nothing to offer but fear, and I'm afraid that his fear mongering with this bill is not constructive.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUIJANO: Now the political brinksmanship is continuing this afternoon. Senator Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, sent President Bush a letter accusing the president of trying to "manufacture a crisis" over this legislation. Now, White House allies plan to hit back. Senate Republicans are planning to hold a news conference on this issue in about 20 minutes -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Elaine, thank you very much.

Elaine Quijano at the White House.

Seek and destroy. The U.S. will shoot down a 5,000-pound satellite now in space, possibly crashing down debris and toxic fuel to Earth.

Here's the question -- are any of us at risk?

And clash of interests. What happens if Florida and Michigan could help Hillary Clinton and cost Barack Obama potentially the nomination?

We're going to tell you what that is.

Also, we're standing by to hear Mitt Romney formally endorse John McCain. You're looking at these live pictures. This is where that event will happen, in front of that huge American flag.

Once it begins, we'll go there live.

And later, we'll hear from Mike Huckabee. We'll get his reaction live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: We have an important programming note for our viewers. Tomorrow we'll be coming to you live from New Orleans.

Two years after Katrina, the NBA is holding one of its biggest events of the year in the city this weekend, the NBA All-Star Game. We're going to go down there and take a look and see how New Orleans has fared so far. How is it coming along? How much further it needs to go.

We'll take a close look at what the presidential candidates are promising to do to try to fix these problems, these ailing problems in a huge part of the Gulf Coast down there. That's tomorrow, a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM, coming to you live from New Orleans.

A major day in Republican politics with Mitt Romney backing John McCain. How does that make Mike Huckabee feel?

We'll go live to Boston to hear the endorsement. Then Mike Huckabee will be joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll get his reaction. He's standing by live.

And worried about the economy? Two of the country's top money experts say it might not necessarily get as bad as we think. You'll hear what the chairman of the Federal Reserve is saying right now.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, the presidential candidates campaigning hard across the country for votes. But what are the health risks involved in their efforts?

Also, Ohio's economy is struggling. Unemployment is high. So what are the candidates promising in that state to win that state?

And in the wake of Benazir Bhutto's death, and with Pakistan's upcoming election this weekend, I'll be speaking with one of her former advisers. Mark Segal, he'll be here to discuss the investigation of her assassination and what might happen in Pakistan's vote.

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

We're standing by to hear from Mitt Romney and Mike -- excuse me, John McCain. There they are. The former Republican presidential candidate speaking.

Let's listen to this endorsement.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much for joining us today, particularly on such short notice. This isn't my first joint appearance with Senator McCain, but it promises to be one of the most pleasurable.

I am honored to give my full support to Senator McCain's candidacy for the presidency of the United States. I'm officially endorsing his candidacy. And today, I'm asking my delegates to vote for Senator McCain at the convention. As all of you saw over the past year, things can get pretty rough in a political campaign, and in the thick of the fight it's easy to lose sight of your opponent's finer qualities. But the truth of the matter is that in the case of Senator McCain I could never quite do that. Even when the contest was close and our disagreements were debated, the caliber of the man was apparent.

This is a man capable of leading our country at a dangerous hour. Senator McCain understands the war we're in, the necessity of victory, and the consequences of surrender.

For him, national security is not just another agenda item. It is the abiding concern and responsibility of the nation.

This is a man who tied his political fortunes to the fortunes of our country at a time of war. Such courage is not always rewarded in politics, but it was this time, and that's a credit both to the man and to the party he will lead in the election of 2008.

This is a man who has served and suffered for his country. John McCain's greatest test was long ago, but the loyalty and love of country and strength of heart that saw him through are still the qualities that define him.

With their rhetoric, our Democratic opponents are very skilled at striking heroic poses. But with our Republican nominee, we're going to offer America the real thing.

I'm happy to introduce someone who is well known to you, a true American hero, the next president of the United States, Senator John McCain.

(APPLAUSE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thank Governor Romney for his endorsement. More than that, I thank him for the hard, intensive, fine, honorable campaign that he ran for the nomination of our party.

And I think it is also extremely important to me that not only do I have his endorsement, but that we join together now and travel this country not only on behalf of my candidacy, but on behalf of our Republican candidates for the House and for the Senate and for governor and all of the other races that we are committed to and are so important to the future of this country.

I'm grateful for the fact that Governor Romney has served the state of Massachusetts. I am grateful that he ran a hard, tough and, frankly, a campaign that helped me become a better candidate not only in the primary, but also in the general election.

Governor Romney will help me draw the stark differences that exist between myself and the things that he and I stand for and believe in and the Democratic candidates: Whether we have higher taxes, as the Democrats will want to impose, or lower taxes; whether there will be a government-run health care system in America, or whether families will make choices on health care; whether we will retreat and declare -- withdraw from Iraq, or whether we will continue this surge and now the political process that's moving forward there. There will be stark differences.

I look forward to campaigning with Governor Romney. And I look forward to his continued very important role of leadership in our party that he has exercised in the past and will exercise even more so in the future.

Governor Romney, I thank you. We all know it was a hard campaign.

Primaries are tough. And we know it's a hard campaign. And now we move forward. Now we move forward together for the good of our party and the nation, and I'm honored -- I am very honored to have Governor Romney and the members of his team at my side. And that's a vital ingredient for victory in November.

Now we would like to answer any of your questions.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: We usually try to do one at a time.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Governor Romney, Governor Romney, you cited the war in your agreement with Senator McCain (INAUDIBLE) But there were other issues that you made the bedrock of your candidacy -- immigration, campaign finance reform -- where you outlined stark differences.

Are you saying now those are now all papered over and conservatives could go ahead and vote for him, even despite their deep disagreement on those?

ROMNEY: I think you're very well aware of the issues where we disagreed. We debated those extensively. I still have my views, the senator has his views.

But as a party, we come together. We can't possibly incorporate all the views of all Republicans in one individual because we have differing views.

But what I said when I was at CPAC a week ago was that I recognized it's time for us to put aside our differences and focus on the places where we think we have common ground and to select our nominee and to go forward together on a unified basis.

Right now, the Democrats are fighting. Let's us come together and make progress while they're fighting.

And on the issue that matters most to America right now, which is the global jihad, the effort on the part of some people to cause the collapse of all civilization as we know it, that is an issue where Senator McCain and I see eye-to-eye, where I support his view, and there's no question in my mind this individual should be the next president of the United States, not Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

That's why I'm endorsing his campaign. That's why I'm asking my delegates to vote for him, to make sure that we have a nominee who has the support of the entire party.

MCCAIN: Could I just -- wait a minute -- I would just like to add one comment.

Look, there are specific issues that Governor Romney and I may disagree on. We share a common philosophy, a common goal, a common set of principles that have guided our Republican Party: less government, lower taxes, less regulation, strong national security.

We had differences on specific issues. But there is never any doubt about the common philosophy and principles and dedication to the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan that we share.

That's why I campaigned with him for office, and that's why he was kind enough to be...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: That's all.

Go ahead.

You know, if you shout and everybody shouts, then it's hard to answer the questions.

But if you just raise your hand, I will recognize you.

QUESTION: There seems to be more of an unusually acrimonious personal relationship between you two, though, if you have watched the debates.

Was this hard to do, to get over that?

MCCAIN: Well, let me just say, there's always strong disagreement, but -- and there may have been, but it was always characterized by respect and appreciation for Governor Romney, and I will always hold that.

And that's what we do, in the Republican Party. But I respect him enormously, and I think he ran a very tough, good campaign.

QUESTION: Governor?

ROMNEY: Yes, you will probably notice, in the debates, if you go back and look at the tapes -- I'm sure you're as interested in doing that as I am...

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: ... that we always had good laughs together, particularly when we were seated or standing next to each other. We were talking about funny things that were happening. We shook hands. We said hi to each other's wives. And we have a good personal relationship and respect for each other.

We disagreed on some issues. And that's the nature of a good, spirited debate. But, overwhelmingly, the goals we have are goals that we share. And those goals talk about keeping America safe, keeping America prosperous. And we share those views. And those views are very different than those who would be the nominee from the Democratic Party.

MCCAIN: Thank you very much. Thank you all. Thanks very much.

ROMNEY: Thanks, you guys.

MCCAIN: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: So, there it is, John McCain getting the endorsement of Mitt Romney, despite some of the bitterness that clearly developed during the course of the campaign. They're on the same page right now, an important endorsement for John McCain.

Let's get some reaction from Mike Huckabee, another Republican presidential candidate. He's not dropping out of this race. He's still in it. He's joining us on the phone right now.

So, what do you think, Governor, about this Romney endorsement for McCain?

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wolf, there's a lot of "me, too" going on right now in the Republican Party, from the beltway and from those who, I think, really believe that the party establishment needs to kind of pull together.

But there's still a lot of Republicans around this country who have yet to vote, many of them who feel like their voice is still needing to be heard, whether it's people who are strongly pro-life, whether it's people who want to make sure that small-business owners are not forgotten, and just a whole lot of people out here in the heartland that I think feel themselves to be somewhat invisible to many feel in our party.

And this election is ought -- or at least it ought to be about choices and voices, not coronations.

BLITZER: Because, as you know, Romney won almost 300 delegates. If you assume that most of those delegates are now going to now go to John McCain, he's getting really, really close to the magic number he needs for the Republican nomination. It's going to make it mathematically, obviously, extremely difficult for you.

HUCKABEE: Well, the question is, will they go there? If -- we heard all along that the reason they were with Romney was because they were splitting with me over the conservative wing of the party.

Now, the question is, do they go to the most conservative person, the person who believes in the Human Life Amendment, the person who wants to make sure that we don't raise taxes, who has signed the no- tax pledge? If they -- if that's what drove them to their original decision, there's as strong a likelihood that they would come with me.

But that's a decision that they're going to make, obviously.

BLITZER: Did you try to get Romney's endorsement?

HUCKABEE: I did not go out and actively seek it, because I felt like that that was his decision to make, and I would respect it.

When I talked to him after he withdrew, I certainly indicated that I would be happy to have his support. But, as far as trying to go and put the muscle on him, I didn't think that that was realistic.

And, frankly, I didn't think that most people who are looking out there kind of for their own future are going to jump on my -- on my team, because most people are right now saying, it looks like that McCain is the inevitable nominee.

But I'm not most people. I don't represent these folks that are, again, looking at the "me, too." I'm kind of like the leader of the "not me yet" movement. And that's fine.

BLITZER: And because some people are now saying -- and you have, I'm sure, heard this criticism, Governor -- that you're now just going through the motions of staying in this campaign, but you see the -- you see that there's limited light at the end of this tunnel. And you're even taking this -- this visit to the Cayman Islands to deliver a speech this weekend.

Explain what's going on.

HUCKABEE: Well, first of all, I'm doing five events in Wisconsin. I have been up since 5:00. And I will get in about midnight. If that's a light schedule, somebody ought to let me off the hook.

I'm doing more events than anybody else running for president. I'm sloshing through six inches of snow in La Crosse. I'm headed to Wausau and then to Green Bay and then to Milwaukee before this day is over. I have already been in three communities so far.

I have got a full day tomorrow. I have got one day that I will be off the trail for a speech that I have had on my calender for several months. Unlike some of these guys -- in fact, every other presidential candidate is getting to campaign on the taxpayers' dime, because they're still getting their Senate and congressional salaries, even though they're not necessarily taking care of the taxpayers' business.

I'm the only one who is paying my own health insurance, the only one who is having to cover my own expenses with whatever I can earn with speaking and -- and writing. And that's my only source of income.

So, I don't think people would begrudge me one day to go earn a living, when all these other candidates are living off the taxpayers.

BLITZER: We don't begrudge you, Governor. You have got to make a living. All of us have to make a living. And you have got to do it. You have got to put -- you have got to pay the bills when all is said and done.

HUCKABEE: Well, not only that, but I will be back on the campaign trail on Sunday. So, I will be on the trail Friday. I will be off Saturday. I will be back Sunday. That's about as solid as one can get.

And, in fact, my schedule is busier than probably anybody else's running, because we have got a lot of ground to make up, and we know that.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And your message -- your message, Governor, right now is, you're in this; you're not going anywhere?

HUCKABEE: No, it's not just out of stubbornness.

I owe it to the people who got me here. The only people who have told me to quit are the people supporting the other candidate. I have not had my supporters tell me that they're ready for us to throw in the towel, because my supporters are not the causal Republicans who can throw down a $2,300 check and not miss it.

I have got janitors and truck drivers and homemakers, for whom a $20 check was a real sacrifice. And they did it because of what I stand for, the principles and the message. It's not just the politics to them. And I owe it to them, until somebody has 1,191 delegates, to stay in the fight.

Now, when that happens, then I will accept the verdict. But I sure hate to leave the courtroom when the verdict is not in, the jury is still sitting in the jury room.

BLITZER: Governor Huckabee, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck.

HUCKABEE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

And on this day Valentine's Day, the Democratic and Republican parties are offering some online attacks, instead of the hearts and flowers we often see. John McCain seems ready to go after the Democrats, while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama still are battling one another. We are going to take a closer look at the fallout this fall. That's coming up in our "Strategy Session."

And the Pentagon prepares for a shootdown mission. We will have a full report on that broken spy satellite and the possible danger right here on Earth.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You just saw it live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Mitt Romney endorsing John McCain. And then we spoke live with Mike Huckabee, saying, he's in this. He's not going anywhere.

Let's get some analysis from our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

What do you make of this development, Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it's interesting. This week in Maryland, John McCain made a breakthrough. He, for the first time, carried conservatives.

What that indicates is, the Romney voters were already going to John McCain. He was picking up most of them, not Mike Huckabee. Mike Huckabee's support is rather limited. He can do very well in Southern states, but he hasn't yet broken beyond being a reasonable candidate. He might have been hoping to inherit some of Romney's conservative votes, but he's not getting them, except perhaps in the South.

BLITZER: All right, Bill, thank you very much.

Let's get some more analysis right here in our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, Donna Brazile, our Democratic strategist, a CNN contributor, and Cheri Jacobus, a Republican strategist.

Cheri, let me get your Republican assessment, what this means. I know you like John McCain. What do you think? How important is Mitt Romney's endorsement?

CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it's significant, particularly in light of the fact that Mike Huckabee has not fully come on board yet.

You know, Romney was the guy that McCain was mostly locking horns with during the primary, so this is kind of a nice valentine. It shows a sincere unity in the party now. This is not -- you know, it's not fluff. It's not made up. These are two grownups coming together for the good of the party. And I have every confidence -- at least I'm keeping my fingers crossed -- that Mike Huckabee will very soon follow suit.

BLITZER: Because he says -- you just heard him -- he says he's in this, at least for the time being. He's not going anywhere.

What do you think? Is Romney and that endorsement going to really help unify the Republican Party, at the time when the Democrats are still in the midst of a big fight?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it will help elected officials, like the House leaders that came on board yesterday to endorse John McCain. But you still have the movement conservatives that are looking for a champion, looking for somebody who will not just talk about their values, but go out there and fight for their principles.

So, I think Huckabee is still trying to make up ground where perhaps the ground is now leaving him.

BLITZER: You know, there was a lot of bitterness during the course of the campaign between Romney and McCain. Today, they were insisting they're on the same page on national security, the threat from global terror, and all of that.

Here's a clip of what Romney said at one point during one of those debates, when he was really, really angry at McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Is it not fair to have the person who's being accused of having a position he doesn't have be the expert on what his position is?

How is it that you're the expert on my position, when my position has been very clear?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And here was another excerpt of McCain going after Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Give Governor Romney credit for, he is consistent. He has consistently taken both sides of any major issue. He has consistently flip-flopped on every issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Cheri, obviously, a very different tone coming from these two men today.

JACOBUS: Oh, sure. Sure.

BLITZER: But, you know, how do they sort of paper over those differences going forward?

JACOBUS: Well...

BLITZER: Because all -- a lot of people out there remember the bitterness, the tone, the rancor in that debate.

(CROSSTALK)

JACOBUS: You know, but you have this in primaries. You have had this on the Democratic side -- the Democrats' side, I think, far worse.

And I don't think there's any papering over. I think, like I said, you have grownups that are true leaders in their party who understand what the priorities are join what we need to do. And I think that the main issues of this campaign were laid out today. It's national security. It's the war in Iraq. And it's fiscal conservatism, which is what people want.

And that's where Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or the two together are going to have a real problem, because this endorsement today, as I said, it was sincere. These are the grownups. And I think that Mike Huckabee has played an important role in the party in terms of giving the conservative base a place to go temporarily as a halfway house.

BLITZER: Donna...

(CROSSTALK)

JACOBUS: But he's going to have to -- he's going to have to step up to the plate.

BRAZILE: I guess -- I guess, because of the hour, Wolf, you showed the PG clips and not the rated-R clips that we have seen throughout the debate, where Mitt Romney has accused John McCain as being a relic of the past, a dinosaur, someone who does not represent change.

Look, I -- look, it's Valentine's Day. He threw a heart. And McCain was able to cash it in. The truth is, there are a lot of differences between these candidates. They're putting those differences aside.

And, look, everyone flip-flops every now and then. Romney did it again today. But don't worry. This is about change. And the Democrats are prepared to have this debate with the Republicans.

JACOBUS: No, Donna, this is -- these guys have come together, as all key Republicans have, on the issues that matter not just to the party, but to this country. And the Democrats have not done that yet. So, this is going to...

BRAZILE: So, McCain now supports Romney on immigration?

(CROSSTALK)

JACOBUS: This is going to be about...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: McCain will support Romney on stem cells, on abortion?

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Well, there's plenty of differences.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: No, these are big issues that you can't paper over the differences...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But how worried -- Donna, how worried are you that, at a time when the Republicans are unifying themselves, the Democrats are still fighting? Is this a problem for the Democrats right now?

BRAZILE: No, Wolf, we're not fighting. We're debating. The Democrats are still having a debate. The Republicans are still having a debate.

No one is worried on the Democratic side. People understand that, in March, we will have a little madness in Texas and Ohio and things will start clearing itself up.

BLITZER: All right, guys, we're going to have to leave it right there.

BRAZILE: See how cool I am?

BLITZER: You're very cool.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Happy Valentine's Day.

BLITZER: Happy Valentine's Day to both of you ladies. Thanks very much for coming in.

JACOBUS: Thanks, Wolf.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BLITZER: By the way, we're -- we're about to get some results. It's been a long time since Super Tuesday, but the New Mexico Democratic Party is about to announce the winner of their caucus on Super Tuesday. It's been too close to call all these weeks. We're going to share the information. That's coming up.

And it sounds like something from a movie, but it's news from the Pentagon -- the military getting ready to shoot down a satellite that is tumbling toward Earth.

And imagine the longest business trip you have ever taken, a year-and-a-half of nonstop travel, long days, no sleep. That's what it's like on the grueling race for the White House. And it takes its toll -- coming up, why one candidate compares the campaign trail to waterboarding.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're about to get news from New Mexico. It's been days and days since the New Mexico Democratic caucuses were conducted, but the vote has been so close, we don't know the results, who won, whether it was Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

But, momentarily, we're about to get the official announcement from authorities in New Mexico, Democrats. They're about to announce the winner. Once they go to those microphones, we will share it with you and we will bring it to you live, the New Mexico Democratic caucus results. Will Hillary Clinton be the winner? Will Barack Obama be the winner? We should know momentarily. As soon as we see those gentlemen and ladies come to the microphones, we will go there live.

Let's in the meantime go to our Political Ticker.

The Democratic and Republican national parties aren't exactly feeling the love for one another on this Valentine's Day. They're wasting no time going after the other party's presidential front- runners online.

Let's turn to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

What are they exactly doing on this Valentine's Day, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, from the Republican National Committee, pushing these online Valentine's cards that you can pick to send to and go after either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

And not to be outdone, for the Democratic Party online here, a new Web video, yes Valentine's-themed again, this one basically John McCain hearts George W. Bush. So, these are Valentine's Day gimmicks. But these are the parties looking ahead to November, as the voters are still making up their minds about the nominee.

From the Republican Party, this is them trying to brand Barack Obama as a tax-and-spend liberal at the Web site. But, before his wins on Tuesday, they were doing the same thing to Senator Clinton. And from the Democratic Party, front and center, it's John McCain -- Howard Dean sending out a fund-raising e-mail this week saying: We know who we're up against. And while our process plays out, let's not get -- let John McCain get a head start -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Abbi, thanks very much.

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

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Why has Hillary Clinton suddenly started to lose her advantages among women, whites, older, and working-class voters? Some disturbing signs that showed up in the returns in the Potomac primaries.

Fred in New York writes: "Just look at South Carolina. You could see the worst Clinton elements surface. The public has responded in kind, with rejection. The large states she won, New York, California, are attributed to great organization and hard-core, loyal devotees, a throwback to machine old-time politics. The Clinton mythology has now been exposed and destroyed. Everyone, including the committed superdelegates, will eventually bail out."

Chris in Pennsylvania writes: "The reason Hillary is losing her base, if she is, is because the media keep pushing and pushing hard for their candidate, Barack Obama. Every time I turn on the news, all I hear is what a loser Hillary is and what an inspiration Obama is. Can I ask, what does he inspire everyone to do, specifically? Since Obama doesn't answer in specifics, don't count Hillary out."

David says: "I think there are two answers here. The first, as Obama has become better known, voters who had identified as Clinton supporters have been convinced by Obama's rhetoric. It seems clear, the longer he's out there on the trail, the better he is known, and the better he does. I also think voters in those contested bloc, minorities, lower-income voters, have been turned off by the campaign tactics of the Clinton machine, marginalizing Obama as the race candidate, Hillary's self-donation of $5 million dollars to the campaign, et cetera. None of this has been consistent with her message, and I think people are taking none of that."

Andy writes: "I think people are seeing Hillary for what she is, a power-hungry monger who is staying with her philandering husband to promote her own future plans. I don't trust her. And I feel Obama is seen as a more trustworthy alternative with a good family, who would make a good president."

And Adam writes Canada: "Didn't you Americans have a revolution 200-years-plus ago because you were sick of dynasties?" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

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