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Three States Hold Presidential Contests; Fidel Castro Resigns
Aired February 19, 2008 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, what happens in only three hours could turn this race on its head. There are three presidential contests we're watching tonight. Scores of people are involved. Hundreds of thousands of people will be voting, maybe millions, for candidates anxiously awaiting results.
Hillary Clinton hoping to steal some of Barack Obama's resent momentum, while John McCain hopes to seal what many say is his political fate. And one candidate says there won't be movement toward reform in Cuba "until Fidel Castro is dead." How are the candidates reacting to news that Castro is now resigning as president?
All that, plus the best political team on television.
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
In three hours, Wisconsin polls will close and we could have a better indication about which way this presidential contest is heading. There are caucuses and primaries in three states. Altogether, 94 delegates are up for grabs on the Democratic side, 56 on the Republican side. The biggest race, Wisconsin, where Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are now battling for 74 delegates, the Republicans 37.
Washington State is worth 19 delegates on the GOP side. Democrats awarded their delegates earlier this month in their caucuses in Washington State. So, there are no delegates available tonight, even though hundreds of thousands of Democrats are voting today.
And then there's Hawaii holding Democratic caucuses today with 20 delegates available there. The candidates will be closely watching these states, although none will actually be in those states. They're off campaigning ahead of two other big contests two weeks from today. But what happens today could change their strategies.
CNN's Jessica Yellin is in Youngstown, Ohio.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, ahead of today's primary, the candidates adopted a more populist, confrontational tone, as they vie for very vote and every delegate. (voice-over): In the lead-up to the Wisconsin primary voters saw Clinton and Obama part two, the angry sequel. Clinton unveiled her first negative adds, both campaigns sent out nasty mailings, and there was that back-and-forth over words.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is a difference between speeches and solutions, between rhetoric and results.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She says, well, speeches don't put food on the table. Well, you know what? NAFTA didn't put food on the table.
YELLIN: Here, the contest took a populist turn as the candidates appealed to voters suffering economic hard times.
CLINTON: Because our economy is not working the way it needs to.
OBAMA: And workers are left holding the bag. Something has to change.
YELLIN: The state's demographics hold advantages for each candidate. In Clinton's favor, 55 percent of the state's Democratic voters have no college degree. Half make less than $50,000 a year. And there are a few African-Americans but plenty of Catholic voters.
But there's a real bright side for Obama, too. Twenty-seven percent of Wisconsin's voters are independents, a key constituency for him, and they can vote in today's primary. And the state does have a history of electing iconoclasts. Both campaigns publicly set expectations low, but actually invested real time, money and surrogates here, and for Clinton in particular, a strong showing could be game-changing.
STUART ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": But even if she doesn't win, if she shows pretty well, if it's a close race, she's probably going to get a little bump out of this. There will be a renewed sense that this campaign really has some stuff left, some energy left.
YELLIN (on camera): But if Clinton does not have a strong showing today, it will be that much harder for her to build momentum before next month's do-or-die contests in Ohio and Texas -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jessica Yellin. That would be on March 4th.
Many people believe John McCain will become the Republican presidential nominee, but McCain is not taking a lot of chances. He's also in Ohio right now. Dana Bash is joining from us Columbus. She's watching this part of the story.
He's there, but he also spent a lot of time in Wisconsin. Is that right, Dana? DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. And that stop really was vivid proof of the dual missions of the McCain campaign right now, that is, not to get flat-footed in the GOP race, but while competing in the primary, take a few test drives for the general election.
BASH (voice-over): This last minute campaign day rally is aimed at avoiding an embarrassing finish and planting a seed in a swing state.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will be back and we will carry the state of Wisconsin in the November election.
BASH: Speaking of November, these days, John McCain's campaign schedule has been as much if not more about following the money as votes, 10 fund-raising events in 10 days, all over the map. Since last Tuesday, McCain has raised money in Virginia, D.C., Wisconsin, Texas, and several in Ohio. This week, he will be traveling for cash in Illinois, Michigan, as well as Indiana.
J. MCCAIN: We're going to be very aggressive and try to balance both our fund-raising as well as our campaigning, but we have got a lot of work to do.
BASH: McCain advisers say their goal is to raise tens of millions of dollars to use up through the Republican Convention in early September. That money would officially be primary money, which is unlimited, but will be focused on building McCain's case and operation for the fall campaign against the Democrats.
CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF JOHN MCCAIN: He will be a tremendous president of the United States, my husband, John McCain.
BASH: Training for that fight is as well under way and took a surprising turn when the biggest whack of the day at Democrats came from McCain's wife, Cindy. She was asked about this Monday comment from Michelle Obama.
MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country.
BASH: Cindy McCain said this.
C. MCCAIN: I just wanted to make the statement that I have and always will be proud of my country.
BASH: Now, Cindy McCain usually limits her campaign role to humanizing her husband, talking about the kind of man that he is, and her decision to jump into the fray today, especially in talking about one of the spouses in this campaign, certainly is new territory for her. But, you know, she was asked to elaborate today here in Ohio. She declined to do so. All she would say again is that she is proud and always has been to be an American. And, for the record, Wolf, the Obama, trying to clarify Michelle Obama's remarks, says, so is she -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Dana, thank you.
Fidel Castro defied 10 U.S. presidents, but a major challenge facing the next commander in chief will be how to deal with Cuba to you now that he's announced he's stepping down. All the White House hopefuls are speaking out today about what they would do as president. Let's go CNN's Brian Todd. He's watching this story.
Any surprises, Brian, actually coming from these presidential candidates?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Among three of the four major players left, Wolf, no big surprises. They don't favor a significant change in policy, but we can expect a big shakeup in how America deals with Cuba if one candidate who happens to have a lot of momentum at the moment wins the White House.
TODD (voice over): He unseated himself before any American president could, but the next American president could face similar challenges with Fidel Castro's brother, Raul. And Barack Obama is the one White House hopeful who says he will immediately take a new tact with the old communist regime.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I'm president, I will grant Cuban-Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send remittance to the island.
TODD: Right now a Cuban in the U.S. can only visit immediate relatives on the island once every three years. Obama also says he would open direct talks, unprompted, to send a message that relations could be normalized, sanctions could be reduced, if the Cuban regime moves toward Democratic freedom.
Hillary Clinton supports the tough sanctions now in place, and signals the Cuban have to move on reform before she would talk.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The people of the United States would meet a new government to talk about what needs to happen if that new government takes some action that demonstrates they're willing to change.
PETER KORNBLUH, NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Hillary Clinton has calculated that she does not want to make the mistake of losing Florida like Al Gore did to just a handful of Cuban-American votes. When she's president would she follow in the steps of her husband, who did try to start to open trade and exchanges with Cuba? I think she will. TODD: As governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee felt the sanctions on Cuba hurt his state's rice industry. Now he wants to keep the sanctions in place. John McCain's stance? Tough sanctions, no carrots for Cuba until the regime takes clear steps toward democracy. A position consistent with the GOP's traditional hard line, but also informed, an aide says, by John McCain's experience as a POW.
MCCAIN: There's a person that I want you to help me find when Cuba is free. And that's that Cuban that came to the prison camps of North Vietnam and tortured and killed my friends. We will get him and bring him to justice, too.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TODD: That was at an event sponsored by the Latin Builders Association in Miami last month. Now, analyst say, with Florida holding such a crucial position in the race, few candidates want to risk the presidency on a drastic change in Cuba policy. One analyst says the older generation of Cuban exiles there, traditionally aligned with the GOP, still has a lot of influence and money -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you -- Brian Todd reporting.
Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File."
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, ask a feminist why Hillary Clinton is struggling to get the Democratic presidential nomination and you might be told that she's bumping up against the ultimate glass ceiling. Her career, her resume are beyond impressive, and, yet, in the last several weeks, she's begun to lose the nomination battle to a man whose charisma and style belie his comparative lack of experience.
When it comes to voting for presidents, Americans tend to pick people we like. It's just the way we are. Give us a choice between a Jaguar convertible and a Toyota Prius and most of us will grab the glamour and the glitz every time.
Add in the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman and it gets even tougher. The conventional wisdom is for a woman to be taken seriously, she has to come across as tough and competent. Hillary Clinton is certainly both of those, but on some level, those very qualities that might make her a great president are probably working against her.
It's nothing new. Jack Kennedy was "Jack Who?" until the debates against the far more seasoned political professional Richard Nixon. But once the public got a glimpse of Kennedy's charisma, Nixon didn't stand a chance.
So, here's the question: Which is more important in a presidential campaign, style or substance?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, where you can post a comment on my blog. BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much. Jack Cafferty will be back shortly with the best political team on television.
They're pledging not to poach each other's delegates. But, with their race so close, can Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama resist the temptation? Coming up, even the pledged delegates can actually change their minds.
He seems to be almost hopelessly behind, but Mike Huckabee is hanging on. The best political team on television takes a closer look at what he may have in mind.
And voters will let you know what's on their minds as they cast their ballots. We're watching the exit poll results. They're coming in right now from Wisconsin -- Bill Schneider going through them.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It's a war of words over words. The Democratic candidates are at it again and there's no telling where all this might lead. Yesterday, at this time, I spoke with the Wisconsin governor, Jim Doyle. He's a Barack Obama supporter.
Joining us now is Lisa Caputo. She's Hillary Clinton's former White House press secretary.
Lisa, thanks for coming in.
LISA CAPUTO, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY FOR HILLARY CLINTON: Happy to be with you.
BLITZER: What about this whole notion of these -- not the superdelegates, but the pledged delegates sort of going, being able to change their minds? Technically, they can change their minds if they want to.
And even though both of the campaigns, the Obama and Clinton campaigns, say they're not going to try to poach the pledged delegates, what do you think is going on?
CAPUTO: I think that clearly people are trying to size up where everybody stands. But I think the campaigns will stay true to what their vows are on this and that they will let the will of the people speak and the delegates will be informed by the will of the people.
BLITZER: Because this caused a little bit of a stir today. Roger Simon, the political writer, writing on the Web site Politico, writing, "Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign intends to go after delegates whom Barack Obama has already won in the caucuses and primaries if she needs them to win the nomination."
CAPUTO: Right. I think the Clinton campaign put out a statement. I mean, that was being put out by the Obama campaign. It's been written about. And the Clinton campaign has made it very clear that they will let the will of the people speak.
BLITZER: Is it a good idea or a bad idea to see this whole process go forward to the convention at the end of August in Denver?
CAPUTO: Well, I think that is an excellent question. And I think nobody in the party wants that to happen. I think that everybody in the party wants to see this resolved, hopefully, sooner rather than later, and well before the convention. No one wants to have any kind of brokered convention. No one wants to have this settled at the convention.
And I think what you will see happen on March 4th should start to dictate a trend line here going into Pennsylvania and I would hope that, by late April, May, we should know where we stand as far as a nominee.
BLITZER: Because she's lost, what, eight contests in a row so far to Barack Obama.
BLITZER: And we don't know what's going to happen in Wisconsin tonight, or Hawaii, for that matter. But if she loses another two tonight, 10 in a row, that's quite a bit of political momentum for Barack Obama.
CAPUTO: Well, it may be momentum, Wolf, but you have to remember, she's focused on the big states. She didn't discount Wisconsin by any stretch of the imagination. She played to win in Wisconsin, was up on the air with ads going after Obama asking him to debate. He declined the offer to debate.
She's really focused on those big states on March 4th, Ohio and Texas, where there's a huge amount of delegates in play, and then onto Pennsylvania, and I think that those...
BLITZER: Pennsylvania is at the end of April.
CAPUTO: Pennsylvania is April 22nd. So, her focus is on those big states. But, mind you, she is -- she opened an office today for example in Rhode Island. So she's starting to play in some of these other states that haven't...
BLITZER: Because Rhode Island is March 4th, together with Texas and Ohio.
CAPUTO: Exactly. Exactly.
CAPUTO: And, remember, Hawaii's a caucus. So...
BLITZER: But why wasn't she doing better in some of these states where she's lost over the past week or so, these eight states, a state like Maryland, for example? Why can't she be more competitive in these states, or Virginia?
CAPUTO: Honestly, Wolf, I think it's been widely reported. They just didn't infuse the resources in the ground game in those states the way the Obama campaign did. And I think, clearly, everybody knows the Obama campaign has run a superb field operation. Now you're seeing the Clinton campaign under the helm of Maggie Williams infusing the resources into the ground game into the big states.
BLITZER: So, you this shakeup on the staff inside the Hillary Clinton campaign is going to have a difference?
CAPUTO: I think -- I wouldn't call it a shakeup. I think that you're seeing just a shift in strategy now. And that's what you're seeing at play.
BLITZER: What happens if she loses tonight in Hawaii and Wisconsin? What does that do to her supporters? How demoralized people like you get, because you're a big supporter?
CAPUTO: Her supporters -- I have to tell you. I talk to them all the time. They are just in full force out trying to raise money, rallying people. She's in New York tomorrow. In fact, I should tell you, you should expect to see her unveil a speech tomorrow that will really point out the choice between the two candidates that America faces. And I think...
BLITZER: And what specific area, what specific issue, other than he's all talk, as she says, and she's got substance?
CAPUTO: ... I think it's T.B.D. I can only say that it's scheduled to be tomorrow. But I think her supporters remain steadfast to her, certainly her fund-raising people and her former staff and people who have been longtime supporters of herself, and everybody is really focused on those big states. No one expects to win tonight.
CAPUTO: If the Clinton campaign pulls out a victory tonight, that's a coup. That's a real coup. No one expects to really win Hawaii. That's a caucus state. And we all know that Obama's forte has become the caucuses. Where they're playing hard and playing hard to win is in those big states on March 4th.
BLITZER: Well, why shouldn't she win in Wisconsin? That's a state that has got a diverse population. Milwaukee is a big city. Why couldn't she win in a place like -- if she loses. I'm not saying she is going to lose. Why can't she win in a state like Wisconsin?
CAPUTO: I think she's -- her goal tonight is to be competitive in Wisconsin. Again, I mean, Chelsea Clinton was out there campaigning. She's there today.
BLITZER: In Hawaii.
CAPUTO: In Hawaii, but was out in Wisconsin over the past several days. Senator Clinton was out there. So, actually, the weather boded in Hillary Clinton's favor, because she was forced to stay in the state and campaign. So, I think if she stays competitive there and can collect some delegates, that gives her nice some momentum into March 4th.
BLITZER: Lisa Caputo, thanks for coming in.
CAPUTO: Nice to be with you.
BLITZER: Lisa Caputo is a former press secretary at the White House for Hillary Clinton.
Coming up in Hawaii, Wisconsin and Washington State, you can be part of the best political team on television. We want your I- Reports. Send us your video, your pictures, your experience. We will feature some of them in our election coverage. Just go to CNN.com/ireport. And go to CNNPolitics.com. You can read my daily blog there.
It was an historic announcement from Fidel Castro. After five decades in power, the Cuban leader is resigning, but even more of a surprise, how he chose to tell the world he's stepping down.
And surging oil prices break a new record. Will you feel the pain at the pump? We are going to tell you just how high oil prices are going. And what's behind this latest hike?
Stick around -- lots more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: So, what are voters like you thinking on this Election Day? We have some new exit poll numbers just coming in from the voters in Wisconsin. We're taking a closer look at what insight they might offer for tonight's race. Bill Schneider standing by.
Also, will Hillary Clinton break or continue her recent losing streak? And might she ultimately do, as one report claims, try to peel off some of Barack Obama's pledged delegates?
And could Mike Huckabee be throwing a wrench into the Republican Party's plans? How does the national party feel about his insistence on staying in this race?
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, all eyes turning toward Wisconsin. Voters can start a Hillary Clinton comeback or make it nine in a row for Barack Obama. It all hangs in the balance as the polls remain open for just two-and-a-half-hours or so from now. Once the voters have spoken, there's no guarantee the Democrats' superdelegates will follow suit. We're taking a closer look at the fight for loyalty.
And, on the Republican side, Mike Huckabee casting himself in the role of David. But could John McCain, who has a Goliath-size lead in the delegates, can he maintain that lead? What's going on? And what's Huckabee's plan after tonight? All of this, plus the best political team on television.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The exit polls are now coming in from the voters in Wisconsin. They have been voting there all day and they have been giving us a good idea of what's on their minds as they cast their ballots. They also give us some clues into what to look for in tonight's results.
Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's watching the story for us -- Bill.
SCHNEIDER: Wolf, you know that Wisconsin is an open primary, as several other states are, which means that anyone can vote in the Democratic or Republican primaries.
Let's take a look at who voted today or who is voting today in the Democratic primary in Wisconsin -- 64 percent of them, almost two- thirds, are in fact, Democrats, people who call themselves Democrats. But 27 percent are not Democrats. They're independents. That's always been a good constituency for Barack Obama. And they are well represented. More than a quarter of the Democratic voters are independents.
And you have got nine percent who are Republicans. I wonder who they're finding to vote for between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Could be very interesting.
Now, what does the Democratic primary look like? This is a state that is overwhelmingly -- Wisconsin is overwhelmingly white. Take a look -- almost 90 percent. Eighty-eight percent of the Democrats voting in Wisconsin are, in fact, white Democrats.
This is a whiter state than most of the states that voted on Super Tuesday or in other primaries so far. African-Americans are only eight percent. And, of course, they, too, are a base for Barack Obama, but they're not well represented in Wisconsin.
If Barack Obama has a chance to win Wisconsin, he has to do it in a state where there are not very many white voters -- sorry, African- American voters. And if Hillary Clinton is depending on Latino voters, she's not going to find very many of them in the Wisconsin Democratic Party. Only 4 percent of the Democrats in Wisconsin voting today are of Latino descent.
This is a test -- this is a primary in which white voters have the overwhelming preponderance of the votes. And not very different from the Republicans. Ninety percent of the Republican primary voters today in Wisconsin are also white.
Now, here's a big difference between the two parties. Take a look at men and women voting in the Democratic primary. Democrats are 57 percent women, 43 percent men. Women clearly the preponderant vote in the Democratic Party. Of course, one of their leading candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is a woman and it's drawing a lot of woman voters.
Now compare that with the Republican voters today in Wisconsin. A very different picture. Republican voters are 58 percent men, 42 percent women. So the cliche, you know, that one party is the woman's party, the other party is a party that appeals to men, well, that's partly borne out by the data, although, of course, both parties are divided. But the Republican voters today preponderantly male, the Democratic voters preponderantly female. The gender gap lives and you can see it in the difference between the two parties' voters -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider going through all these exit poll numbers. Thank you. He's going to have more coming up.
Hillary Clinton, they say, doesn't necessarily have to win Wisconsin, but she sure could use a strong showing tonight to regain some of the momentum she's lost in recent weeks.
Let's talk about that and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, Jack Cafferty and our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. They're all part of the best political team on television.
She needs a win at some point. She's lost eight in a row. If she loses Wisconsin, and loses Hawaii, that would be 10 in a row going into March 4th, Texas and Ohio.
CAFFERTY: You know, Wisconsin isn't that big in terms of delegates, but it could be huge. Wisconsin is right in Hillary's wheelhouse. She ought to do well there tonight. It's blue collar, it's white, it's lower middle income. These are the -- these are core elements of her constituency and she should do well there.
You've got to figure Obama is probably going to win Hawaii. He was born there. That's his home. But when your guy has lost eight in a row and the nomination is hanging in the balance in the next two or three weeks, you've got to get a win. And if she gets Wisconsin, she's got some mojo going to these bigger states. If she loses Wisconsin, it's going to be tough.
BLITZER: You know, she's from -- originally from Illinois, which is not that far away from Wisconsin. It's right next to Wisconsin.
GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Very far away. You know, she's got to prove tonight that she can regain the momentum in this race. And that would mean winning by a substantial margin. If he were to win by a substantial margin, he kind of knocks out all her arguments about the fact that he's unelectable and he's backed by mostly African-Americans, et cetera, et cetera. If he can win white male voters, it's going to be really, really important to him. And tonight, Wolf, is the gateway to Texas and Ohio.
BLITZER: I suspect she doesn't really care if she wins by a -- she'd love to win by a margin... (LAUGHTER)
BLITZER: ... a wide margin, she'd just be happy to win.
BORGER: Oh, yes.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. But I -- also, one word I would like to ban from the political discourse is expectations. You know, that's one of these fake concepts set up by the campaigns, abetted, to a certain extent, by journalists. You know, winning is winning.
BORGER: Welcome to my world.
TOOBIN: Well, that's right. But I mean I just think it's fake.
TOOBIN: You know, if she wins, she wins. If he wins, he wins. And I don't think the margin -- you know, the loser can take any credit from a small margin.
BORGER: But it does matter in terms of delegates.
TOOBIN: Well, yes, it does in terms of delegates.
TOOBIN: But I mean in terms of the sort of bragging rights. The only bragging right is if you win.
BLITZER: Because of the way they divide up those delegates.
BORGER: Good point.
CAFFERTY: If she wins, she wins one in a row. If he wins, and wins Hawaii, he wins 10 in a row. And it's all about winning, like Jeff says.
BLITZER: Yes. You know, we all knew the superdelegates -- almost 800 of them -- they could change their minds. They can vote any way they want. But I suspect a lot of people didn't really know that the pledged delegates -- those elected in the primaries and the caucuses -- they could actually do whatever they want at the Denver convention.
Here's what the Democratic National Committee says this, "At the convention, while it is assumed that the delegate will cast their vote for the candidate they are publicly pledged to, it is not required. Under the delegate selection rules, a delegate is asked to, in good conscience, reflect the sentiments of those who elected them. This provision is designed, in part, to make the detention a deliberative body."
BLITZER: These rules... TOOBIN: Yes, they're very deliberative.
BLITZER: ... that they come up with...
TOOBIN: If you've ever been to one (LAUGHTER).
BLITZER: ... are pretty weird, Jack.
BORGER: I know.
CAFFERTY: If anybody thinks that any of these delegates have enough stones to overturn whatever the people ultimately decide in this election, then they need to get into some sort of therapy right away. You can't do that -- not this time. You know, if you've got McCain running against Bush running against Romney, that's different. You can't do that this time. This...
BLITZER: But both of these campaigns are...
CAFFERTY: ... this is different.
BLITZER: ... saying today they're not going to try to wean away... those pledged delegates.
CAFFERTY: Of course they're not.
BORGER: No. No.
BLITZER: ... those pledged delegates.
BORGER: But, you know, one thing we have to keep in mind about these superdelegates is they're not kamikaze pilots. They're elected officials. If you go against your constituents, you're going to be challenged in a primary the next time around. You can be sure of it. So these folks want to smooth things over. It's not in their interests to make huge fights.
BLITZER: But what about the pledged delegates? Forget about the superdelegates -- the pledged delegates.
BORGER: There are no rules. I mean, you know, this said "good conscience," "fair reflection." There are no rules.
TOOBIN: But the --
BORGER: Sure it could change, but it would rip the party apart.
TOOBIN: Yes, it's not --
BORGER: It's not going to happen.
TOOBIN: There are no rules, but there are expectations.
TOOBIN: And there is no way... CAFFERTY: There's that word again.
TOOBIN: Oh, sorry.
TOOBIN: I know, I told you that word should be banned. See, I'm glad you're paying attention, Jack.
TOOBIN: Very good. Expectations gone. No, but these delegates vote the way their -- the voters tell them to vote, period.
BLITZER: Guys, stand by. We're going to continue this discussion. And our viewers have high expectations of what they -- what they can get in the next...
CAFFERTY: They're in a lot of trouble.
BLITZER: ... in the next round.
TOOBIN: I'm not going to be able to say any other order word for the rest of the night.
BLITZER: It's all but impossible for him to win the nomination. That's what a lot of people are saying.
So why is Mike Huckabee still hanging in, in the Republican contest? We're going to show you how his ongoing campaign is starting to pose some problems, though, for John McCain.
Plus, he's the presumptive nominee -- you're going to find out how that could be hurting John McCain right now in Wisconsin.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Mike Huckabee's continuing campaign is starting to pose some problems for the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain. Let's get back to the best political team on television.
Jack, I'm going to play a little sound bite. I spoke to Mike Huckabee last night, after the former President Bush basically urged him it's time to read the handwriting on the wall, he said. But listen to what Huckabee told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I've been reading the handwriting from all my supporters, not the people who are supporting McCain. Of course they're going to tell me to get out. But here's what the people are writing on my wall -- stay in. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It's a pretty good story right now, what's going on on that...
CAFFERTY: It's a great story.
BLITZER: ... on that Republican front.
CAFFERTY: Except if you're John McCain. It isn't such a great story if you're John McCain. I mean, it's not like he's getting 10, 11 percent of the votes, like Ron Paul. He's getting 30, 35 percent of the votes. In the polls, he's close in Texas. Not only is that annoying and embarrassing to John McCain, but if Huckabee gets 35 percent of the votes, then McCain's only getting 65 percent of the Republican votes and he's not going to be president of anything with that number.
TOOBIN: It's a -- it's also a very difficult political challenge for McCain, because, you know, everybody hears our delegate projections. Everybody knows he's the presumptive nominee. So it's hard to rally the troops to go vote in a primary when you know the outcome is preordained. Yet the Huckabee people are motivated and go. So actually what McCain does is difficult.
BORGER: And it's interesting, because McCain and Huckabee have always been friends on the campaign. I think now Huckabee is becoming more than an irritant. He's becoming embarrassing for John McCain, to a certain degree. And I think in the end, though, they're going to kiss and make up. And Huckabee will endorse John McCain. He's not going to...
TOOBIN: No question.
BORGER: ... he's not going to stop short of doing that. So they will be unified. But in the meantime, it makes it uncomfortable for McCain and I can't figure out why Huckabee is doing it.
TOOBIN: And it's costing McCain money.
CAFFERTY: And time.
TOOBIN: Money in advertising.
CAFFERTY: This is valuable time for the Republicans. While the Democrats squabble and struggle and fight it out to see who's going to be the nominee, the Republicans, for all intents and purposes, have it figured out. This is time they can raise money, they can pull the party together, they can organize a strategy, yada, yada, yada. Instead, they've got to go around swatting Mike Huckabee at every turn. BLITZER: And, you know, we spoke to Ed Rollins, his campaign chairman, earlier here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Gloria. And he said they might not win in Wisconsin, but they might get 40 percent.
BORGER: Yes, and...
BLITZER: That's huge.
BORGER: And so why are -- why are they doing this? Do they want to hurt the McCain candidacy? Because they know that McCain is going to get the nomination. Huckabee is not going to be the vice presidential nominee. So why are they doing this if it isn't about Mike Huckabee?
TOOBIN: So answer the question.
BORGER: It's about -- I think...
TOOBIN: That's a good question.
BORGER: ... I think it's about Mike Huckabee. I think it's about his stature in the party four years from now or eight years from now. It's a little fight with Mitt Romney -- who can get more delegates. It's all of that. It's much more about Huckabee than McCain, in a way.
CAFFERTY: Plus, he doesn't have a job, so why not do this until it runs out?
TOOBIN: And I think that's a factor.
CAFFERTY: It is, surely.
TOOBIN: I mean Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, they go back to being senators. Bill Richardson goes to being governor of New Mexico.
CAFFERTY: He's got buptkus (ph).
TOOBIN: If you don't have a job, you know, why not?
BORGER: And he was giving speeches, right, just the other weekend in the Cayman Islands.
TOOBIN: In the Cayman Islands, no less.
BORGER: Maybe there will be more of those.
BLITZER: Well, he says, you know, until somebody on the Republican side has the magic number -- what is it, 1,191...
BLITZER: And even if it takes all -- going all the way up to the convention in St. Paul, he's staying put. He's not leaving because he wants to make sure the issues he cares about are, in fact, being discussed in this campaign.
BORGER: Yes, but he's made his point, don't you think? He's made the point. OK, now, time.
CAFFERTY: But you know what?
BORGER: Time. You made it.
CAFFERTY: Every primary that he stays in, it gives the voters in that state an opportunity to do just what you talked about, which is to register their approval for his Republican point of view as opposed to McCain's Republican point of view. And they're not the same.
TOOBIN: And he is talking about that national sales tax, which is his distinctive proposal. And, you know, he does get more publicity for it the longer he -- the longer he stays in the race.
BLITZER: But what about the Republican establishment? They're getting irritated...
BLITZER: ... because this is the moment where McCain could be solidifying his base...
BLITZER: ... rallying the troops, starting the fundraising. Instead, he's got to worry about doing -- you know, he's probably going to win in Wisconsin, let's say, but making sure that he's not embarrassed.
BORGER: Well, maybe that's a good enough reason for Huckabee to stay in, if the establishment wants him not to. But, yes, they're saying, you know, it's time for you now to go gently into that good night and to endorse John McCain.
He's already spoken up for his issues. People know what Mike Huckabee stands for. And he has made his point, that it's a very important part of the Republican base. He's made the point.
CAFFERTY: What are they going to do if he wins one of these?
BLITZER: Well, he's won a few of them.
CAFFERTY: What if he wins another?
CAFFERTY: What if he wins -- (CROSSTALK)
TOOBIN: And he won Kansas recently.
TOOBIN: He won Kansas after he was officially out of (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: He might do very well in Texas, where there is a...
BLITZER: ... religious, you know, conservative base among Republican voters out there.
BLITZER: We'll see how he does in two weeks.
TOOBIN: We sure will.
BLITZER: All right guys, we're going to leave it right there. But we've got a long night ahead of us. The polls in Wisconsin closing at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll see what we can report at that time.
Guys, thanks very much.
Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show. That begins right at the top of the hour. He's giving us a little preview.
Lou, what are you working on?
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Sitting right here, Wolf. Thank you.
Coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN, we'll have much more on today's primary contests. We'll have the first exit poll results for you, the best political analysis anywhere.
We'll also be examining the increasingly nasty battle over charges that Senator Obama plagiarized another leading Democrat's speech. We'll take a look at the controversy over remarks by Obama's wife, Michelle -- remarks that have sparked outrage in some quarters.
And what about the other spouses in this campaign? We'll be taking a look at that, as well.
Also, crude oil prices closing at an all time high -- over $100 a barrel as of today -- more evidence of the crushing burden on working men and women and their families in this country. We'll have that story.
And Texans are now seething over a proposal to build a so-called NAFTA superhighway across their state from our border with Mexico. Some are saying it's part of a plan by corporate and political elites to create a North American Union without the consent of either the voters or the Congress.
Please join us as we examine that issue and many more, and all the day's news at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: All right, Lou. Thank you very much.
As we mentioned earlier, the ailing Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, announced he's stepping down. His letter of resignation first appeared online on the Web site of Cuba's state-run newspaper. Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.
What else is on this site -- Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is the post that's been getting international attention. The Web site, at times today, crippled under all the traffic. This is the Web site of the state-run newspaper "Granma," which has been reporting the party line on Fidel Castro's health now for more than a year-and-a-half.
The announcement in July 2006 from Fidel Castro that he was to undergo surgery and following that report after optimistic report about his recovery -- photos of him hanging out in bed with Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez and even pictures of him holding a newspaper to demonstrate that photos of the recovery were current.
Since then, the summer of 2006, the posts have been fewer about his health. This post here now widely linked to blogs and news sites around the world. From Cuban-American blogs we've checked in on today, the feeling is muted that what might be to come might be more of the same -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, thank you. We're following the condition of a former First Lady Nancy Reagan, recovering from a fall. Now there's a new development. We're going to have the latest for you.
Also, which is more important in a presidential campaign -- would it be style or substance?
Jack Cafferty with your e-mail. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In today's political ticker, the former first lady, Nancy Reagan, has been released from the hospital two days after falling at her L.A. home. A spokeswoman saying the 86-year-old Mrs. Reagan is "very happy to be back in her home and is already resuming her daily activities." The former first lady fell Sunday morning, was taken to the hospital, where doctors determined she did not break a hip, as feared. We wish her, of course, a speedy recovery.
An emotional President Bush calling on the world to confront evil and do something -- do everything it can to stop it. In Rwanda today, he visited a memorial to the hundreds of thousands of people killed in the genocide of 1994. The president announcing the United States will contribute $100 million toward a peace mission in Sudan's violence- torn Darfur region. Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can check out CNNPolitics.com. The Ticker is the number one political news blog on the Web. That's also, by the way, where you can read my latest blog post. Go there right now. You can read it at CNNPolitics.com.
Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour, Wolf, is: Which is more important in a presidential campaign, style or substance?
Jorge in Monterey, California: "Style. It's that simple. You want another four or eight years of a divided country? I personally will go away to Canada or Europe. I will not stay in this country for a McCain or Clinton administration. No more politics as usual."
Melissa writes: "This is a no-brainer. For the last seven years, we've suffered under the regime of Bush -- the man who was the style against McCain and Kerry's substance. They told us we should ignore his lack of experience because they would surround him with the best and the brightest the country has to offer. See where that's gotten us? I'll take substance every day of the week."
Billy writes: "The question presents a false choice, inasmuch as it assumes Obama lacks substance. Both are important. Obama has both and he deserves to be the next president.
Jane in Wisconsin writes: "Substance is most important. We're living in a dangerous time. Giving a good speech is not going to solve any problems. Calling for change is fine. But change is not always for the better and we need specifics about what kind of change we're talking about and how it will be accomplished."
Miguel writes: "We need both. I've long said Hillary's strength is Obama's weakness -- and vice versa. We're at a critical point in our nation and world history. We need a combination of both to clean house and restore the American dream."
And Bill in Toronto writes: "Most of us have the attention span of an amoeba. And so in this era of sound bite slogans, style is more important than substance for a political candidate, within reason, all things considered."
And that's my final word -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thank you.
Barack Obama may have a chance to write a new chapter in American history, but Jeanne Moos says it's already time to rewrite the dictionary. It's Moost Unusual.
You'll see it right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Senator Barack Obama may one day be able to write a new chapter in American history. But Jeanne Moos says it's already making it necessary to rewrite the dictionary. And she finds that Moost Unusual.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): ... Senator Obama argues about the importance of...
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just words. Just words.
MOOS: Guess who's become a word -- lots of words?
CHRIS WILSON, REPORTER, "SLATE" MAGAZINE: I really like Obamazon, which would be an ardent female Obama supporter.
MOOS: Or Baracklamation -- anything that Barack says.
WILSON: Obamatose, which would be a deep slumber dreaming of Obama.
MOOS: We're going to have nightmares if this keeps up. Barackie-talkie -- means of communication for all Obama staffers. OK, these are made up words appearing on slate.com's Encyclopedia Baracktannica. But a language expert who calls himself chief word analyst is dead serious when he says...
PAUL J.J. PAYACK, PRESIDENT, GLOBAL LANGUAGE MONITOR: Obama has become an English language word.
MOOS: Here at The Global Language Monitor, they track words using special software that counts how frequently they appear in global media.
PAYACK: The number one use of Obama as a word now is Obamania, OK?
MOOS (on-camera): OK.
PAYACK: The second is Obamarama.
MOOS (voice-over): Not since the word Nixonian has a potentially presidential name entered the lexicon with such frequency. We're being Obamafied. They even come out of Obama's own mouth, for instance, to describe Republicans who support him.
OBAMA: And we call them Obamacans.
MOOS: On Slate, they range from animal -- Barackerspaniel, a canine Obama supporter -- to vegetable.
WILSON: We had Baraccoli, favorite vegetable of an Obama supporter.
MOOS: Quit groaning.
WILSON: There's definitely a growing factor here. MOOS: You can even sponsor a llama at an animal shelter named Barack O'Llama. While most words being created are complimentary, like Barackstar, there are ones that could be insulting, like Obamination. But when it comes to word count...
PAYACK: Obama has become the magical word.
MOOS: And when the magic fades, well, "New York Times" columnist David Brooks already has a term for that...
(on camera): O.C.S.
(voice-over): Obama Comedown Syndrome. We're already hitting Barack bottom and there are months to go until the election.
OBAMA: I'll rename the tenth month of the year Barack-Tober.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: And you've helped make our politics pod cast, by the way, one of the most popular on iTunes. To get the best political team to go, you can always subscribe at CNNPolitics.com or at iTunes.
Thanks very much for joining us. I'll be back in one hour -- one hour from now -- to anchor our coverage from right there at the CNN Election Center. We're standing by for the results from Wisconsin, Hawaii. All that coming up.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Now picking up our election coverage, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT".
Lou is here in the CNN Election Center -- Lou.
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