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THE SITUATION ROOM
New Arizona Law on Immigration; Why Obama's Momentum Continues; Teamsters Endorse Obama
Aired February 20, 2008 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: With his wins last night in Wisconsin and Hawaii, Obama now has 1,319 delegates to Hillary Clinton's 1,250 delegates. Those are pledged and superdelegates. That makes the March 4th primaries in Texas and Ohio absolutely critical for her campaign. On the trail today, Senator Clinton was taking aim at John McCain, while Obama was taking aim at her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, Senator Clinton told us that there is a choice in this race. And you know, I couldn't agree with her more. But contrary to what she's been saying, it's not a choice between speeches and solutions. It's a choice between a politics that offers more of the same divisions and distractions that didn't work in South Carolina and didn't work in Wisconsin and will not work in Texas...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator McCain is willing, as Chuck said, to continue the war in Iraq for a hundred years. I will start bringing our troops home within 60 days.
CLINTON: Senator McCain admits he doesn't understand much about the economy. Well, I have a plan to turn our economy around and create five million new jobs.
CLINTON: Senator McCain wants more of the same. I will deliver 21st century solutions so that we can get off this track toward nowhere that George Bush and the Republicans have placed us on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Wisconsin and Hawaii thus marked 10 straight wins for Obama, 10 straight losses for Clinton, who hasn't claimed a single victory since Super Tuesday. Can she still make a comeback and what does she have to do to break Obama's winning streak? Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's watching this.
She can still -- I mean it's premature to say it's over for Hillary Clinton...
GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.
BLITZER: ... because anyone who has said it's over for either of the Clintons in the past has lived to regret those words.
BORGER: Yes, we have. And, of course, this has been a race unlike any other we've seen. But, Wolf, this mountain is really, really steep right now for her. You just showed the delegate counts. Say he's 150 delegates ahead. She's got to win Texas and Ohio by margins of 60 percent to 40 percent.
He's just had a string of 10 wins. He's got the momentum. And those super-delegates are politicians. They're not going to stick with somebody they believe is a loser and go against their constituents. So after March 4th, you could really see this all unravel pretty quickly, I think.
BLITZER: If she loses both Texas and Ohio.
BORGER: If she does.
BLITZER: If, on the other hand, she manages to win Texas and Ohio...
BLITZER: ... then this political roller coaster continues to Pennsylvania, April 22nd.
BORGER: It does, but -- it does, Wolf. And it could. But she's got to win by substantial margins. And right now those look very, very difficult for her to get. I mean --
BLITZER: Because her campaign certainly hasn't conceded the superdelegate factor...
BLITZER: ... even if Barack Obama has a decisive edge on the pledged delegates -- those who are actually elected...
BLITZER: ... they're saying the rules are the rules and the superdelegates -- almost 800 of them -- they could make the difference.
BORGER: They could make the difference. But, you know, you have to sort of take a step back if you're in the Hillary Clinton campaign right now and figure out what victory is worth for you. Is victory worth ripping apart the party?
And, of course, I don't think the people in the Clinton campaign would believe that it is. So I think they have to take a realistic approach. They have to really go all out on these next two primaries. And then they have to take stock and see where they are. And if they lose even one of them, then they're in real trouble.
BLITZER: All right. We've got 13 days to go...
BORGER: We do. Very interesting.
BLITZER: ... until Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, Vermont -- March 4th. A big day.
BORGER: Can't wait.
BLITZER: All right. We love this kind of stuff.
John McCain is stepping up his attacks on Clinton and Obama for their opposition to the war in Iraq.
Listen to what he said today in Columbus, Ohio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A brave young American that I never knew -- that I never knew. but he died in the prison camps and we (INAUDIBLE). Both of them were wrong when they said that the surge won't work. Both of them were wrong when they said that we should unilaterally withdraw from Iraq.
Both of them were wrong when they said that the Iraqi government couldn't function effectively politically. And so it's very clear that their record on handling the war against -- the struggle against radical Islamic extremism, that they are wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: McCain is increasingly targeting Obama as he pulls ahead of Clinton in the race for the Democratic delegates.
Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's joining us live now with some details of some sharp new attacks by McCain on the Democratic presidential frontrunner.
Brian, what exactly is he saying about Obama?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, more and more often in recent days, John McCain is focusing on threats against U.S. national security and pounding on Obama over his perceived lack of experience.
TODD (voice-over): Ten straight wins bring Barack Obama clear momentum and more clearly focused barbs from the presumptive Republican nominee.
MCCAIN: I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change.
TODD: Recently, John McCain has repeatedly sent strong signals of how he'd go after Obama in the general election.
MCCAIN: But we would risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate, who once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan.
TODD: That's a slap at this remark from Obama in August.
OBAMA: If we have actionable intelligence about high value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will.
TODD: When pressed on that later, McCain said Obama's position means bombing Pakistan and called the idea naive.
MCCAIN: You don't broadcast and say you're going to bomb a country without their permission or without consulting them.
TODD: Obama's camp says in going after their candidate on that score, McCain is also criticizing President Bush, who said something nearly identical in an interview with Wolf Blitzer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: If you had good, actionable intelligence in Pakistan, where they were, would you give the order to kill them or capture them?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Absolutely.
BLITZER: To go into Pakistan?
BLITZER: Even though the Pakistanis say that's their sovereign territory?
BUSH: Absolutely. We would take the action necessary to bring them to justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Just in recent weeks, a top Al Qaeda leader was killed inside Pakistan in a U.S. air strike. And the "The Washington Post" reports U.S. forces fired the missiles without telling the Pakistanis first. Despite the apparent meshing of Bush's and Obama's ideas on hitting terrorists inside Pakistan, McCain's campaign vows to keep holding the foreign policy spotlight right over Obama's head.
MARK HALPERIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: They want to paint Barack Obama right now as inexperienced to try to burn that image in with voters, just as they're starting to pay attention to this potential match-up.
TODD: Mark Halperin says McCain's campaign doesn't want to make the same mistake he says Hillary Clinton's camp made -- waiting too long to paint Obama as inexperienced on foreign policy.
Now, Obama's advisers told me they're ready to go toe-to-toe with McCain. They'll take him on for what they call fear mongering, for being an extension of President Bush and, of course over his positions on Iraq -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd. Thanks for that report. Brian Todd reporting.
Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Following up on Brian's piece, Barack Obama has apparently already struck fear into the hearts of the Republican power structure. He doesn't quite have the nomination yet, although it's a pretty good bet now that he's going to get it. But John McCain apparently couldn't wait for that formality.
If you're John McCain, it's never too early to start calling people names. That's what we do, you know, in Washington, D.C. Last night, while McCain was celebrating his victory in Wisconsin, he could have chosen to use the free air time that he was given on all three cable news networks to advance some of his ideas of how he thinks he can make the country better. But instead, he chose to call Barack Obama names -- referring to the Democrat's call for change as "empty but eloquent."
This is schoolyard stuff and you'd think a 71-year-old member of the United States Senate would know better. The reason Obama has captured the imagination of the people in this country is because he has a long list of ideas on how to improve things. And in case you haven't noticed, we could use a little improvement around here. Barack Obama was expected to draw 15,000 people to that campaign event in Dallas, Texas today where Emmitt Smith appeared. I wonder how many people showed up at McCain's last appearance.
Partisanship, name-calling and gridlock are turning people's stomachs. Barack Obama has arrived on the scene like a breath of fresh air. And if John McCain doesn't understand the significance of that, he has no more chance of being the next president than I do.
Here's the question: What are the chances we're going to be spared a negative campaign when it comes to the general election?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
CAFFERTY: Zero would be a good starting point.
BLITZER: That would probably be... CAFFERTY: It's just -- I mean, god, it gets old.
BLITZER: Yes. All right, Jack. Let's hear what the viewers have to think.
A potential first lady under scrutiny -- Michelle Obama is taking some political heat for saying she's proud of this country for the first time in her adult life. But tonight, she's clarifying her comments. But will it be enough to get critics to back off?
Plus, a major Clinton ally endorsing Barack Obama. I'll be speaking exclusively with the head of the Teamsters union, James Hoffa, to find out why he's now turning his back on a long time friend.
And triple digit oil prices, a record high once again today.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: John McCain's Republican rival says the GOP race isn't over until it's over. Mike Huckabee is resisting growing pressure to bow out, despite the all but impossible odds against him. He says he still has something to offer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to keep the message out there that conservatives want to be heard from. The immigration issue is one that Republicans care deeply about. We'd better have that discussion going into November. If I leave, we're not going to have it.
We're not talking about tax reform and we need to. A lot of Americans are hurting. Two million Americans face foreclosure. The Republicans have acted like the economy is just fine. Well, it isn't just fine. And somebody better be talking about how are we going to help the people at the middle class and the bottom of the middle class. And it's not going to happen if we just suddenly ignore that many Americans are struggling, particularly small business owners, to keep their places open.
And for many conservatives, the Human Life Amendment becomes an important reason that they are Republicans. And if there's an indifference toward the sanctity of human life, you're going to lose a lot of the foot soldiers out there that knock on the doors and make the phone calls.
Now, I understand the math about getting the nomination at 1,191 delegates. But it's always possible that nobody gets that magic number and this goes to a brokered convention. So as I've said all along, when someone gets 1,191 delegates, I accept that that person -- me or somebody else -- John McCain -- is the nominee. But until then, voters in these other states at least ought to have a choice and a voice. And they don't have that if we just declare this thing over. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Mike Huckabee saying he's staying in this contest. He's not giving up -- at least not yet. We'll see what happens in Texas and Ohio. He's continuing to fight, especially in Texas, right now.
Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, is facing some considerable backlash for a comment she made about the United States -- one that's playing right into the hands of her husband's Republican opponents and others.
Let's go back to Carol Costello. She's watching this story for us.
Carol, what is this controversy all about?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it has turned into quite a little mini controversy, Wolf. It has to do with patriotism -- or an alleged lack of patriotism, in this case. The patriotism card was played against Democrats brilliantly after 9/11 and as Democrats called for our troops to leave Iraq. And it seems, Wolf, it's about to be played out again.
B. OBAMA: Because the American people...
COSTELLO (voice-over): As Barack Obama likes to say...
B. OBAMA: Don't tell me words don't matter.
COSTELLO: His wife found out the hard way they sure do matter.
MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: Hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback and let me tell you something. For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.
COSTELLO: Say what?
M. OBAMA: For the first time, I'm really proud of my country.
COSTELLO: It didn't take long for conservative talkers to pick up on that. Rush Limbaugh's Web site shouted, "Michelle Obama Slams America!"
Even liberal talkers like Baltimore's Shari Elliker were talking about it, struggling to understand why a Harvard-educated, wealthy mom who defines the American dream would say such a thing.
SHARI ELLIKER, WBAL RADIO: Can she not -- isn't she allowed, as an American? Isn't that -- isn't that what we do in this country?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just tired of people bad-mouthing America, because this is the land of the greatest opportunity. ELLIKER: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, and for people to come out and say, well, I don't -- I'm mad at America, I don't like America, well, I just feel like if you don't like it here, leave.
COSTELLO: And while Elliker herself thinks this whole thing has been blown out of proportion, Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics is among those who say Michelle Obama made a serious gaffe.
LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Republicans have portrayed Democrats as insufficiently patriotic. It plays right into that theme, right into that old view of the Democratic Party, which Democrats have worked hard to change.
COSTELLO: And Barack Obama himself has already fought the unpatriotic charge. Remember the flag pin controversy back in October? Obama caused quite a stir when he said he would no longer wear one because it had become a substitute for true patriotism.
And then there was that attack e-mail that made the rounds a few months back, that accused Obama of not putting his hand over his heart during the "Pledge of Allegiance".
B. OBAMA: This was "The Star-Spangled Banner." It was not the "Pledge of Allegiance". Any time that you pledge allegiance, you put your heart over -- your hand over your heart. And I always have and I always will.
COSTELLO: And Sabato says don't for a minute think Obama's wife's remark will just go away. John McCain's wife, a savvy political operative herself, did not hesitate to respond when reporters asked her about Michelle Obama's comment.
CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF JOHN MCCAIN: I'm proud of my country. I don't know about you, if you heard those words earlier. I'm very proud of my country.
COSTELLO: And after taking it on the chin for a few days, Michelle Obama clarified her comments just a few hours ago in Rhode Island.
Listen to what she had to say -- Wolf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. OBAMA: You don't run for president of the United States and put yourself and your family through this if you don't feel some level of deep pride and possibility for your country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: That's right. She said she is proud of America, Wolf, and it just didn't come out quite the way she wanted it to.
BLITZER: And in the original comment, she said for the first time in her adult life she was proud -- she wanted to be proud of America. She used that phrase in her adult life.
COSTELLO: Right. She was proud of the political process. She was talking about the political process and how it's gone for her husband. That's what she was referring to, not loving America as a whole.
BLITZER: Thank you very much. Carol Costello with that report.
A protracted battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Who stands to benefit the most? We're going to show you why some say it's their Republican rival, John McCain.
Plus, who's to blame for Hillary Clinton's poor showing in the last 10 primaries and caucuses? I'll ask Democratic strategist and Clinton supporter, James Carville. He's standing by live, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's go right to Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. He's following a developing story for us.
Jamie, what's going on?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a routine training mission over the Gulf of Mexico took a turn for the worse, literally. Two F-15Cs flying over the Gulf of Mexico out of Eglund Air Force Base crashed into each other. The midair collision has now resulted in a search and rescue operation over the Gulf of Mexico, about 50 miles south of Tyndall Air Force Base, Panama City.
This happened about 3:00 in the afternoon Eastern time, when the planes were reported missing. Again, two single seat F-15s apparently involved in a midair collision. A search is underway. The fate of the pilots -- two of them -- are unknown. Typically in a case like this, sometimes the pilots are able to eject and get out of the planes, but we just don't know. It depends on exactly what happened in that collision -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And there's no indication what happened, whether it was just a pilot malfunction or whether there was a mechanical problem? Because there have been some problems with some of those older F-15s recently, haven't there?
MCINTYRE: Right, that's right. There was a situation where some of them actually broke apart -- literally broke apart. But usually when you have a mishap with two planes at the same time like this, it's almost always one ran into the other. And normally when you have a plane crash like this, the wing man is able to report what happened -- say, if a chute was spotted or whether an ejection was able to be accomplished.
But when you have two of them involved at the same time, there's nobody to report what happened. So they're hoping for the best. But so far, they haven't found the pilots.
BLITZER: All right. Well, keep us informed, Jamie. Let us know what's going on. Jamie McIntyre with the breaking news out of Florida.
While the Democrats are engaged in an all out battle, what's John McCain up to right now? We're going to show you how he's benefiting from the fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
And Obama picking up a major endorsement from the Teamsters today, despite the Clintons' long time ties to the union. Coming up, my exclusive live interview with the president of the Teamsters, James Hoffa.
Plus, new developments in the Pentagon plan to shoot down that dying satellite before it hits Earth.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, record-breaking oil prices fueling anxiety among consumers. The price of oil topped the previous record earlier today, briefly ending past $101 a barrel.
President Bush says the U.S. does not want to build new military bases in Africa. He says talk that the U.S. wants to build bases there to expand its influence is, in his word and I'm -- quoting now -- baloney. He made the comment today while in Ghana. He's meeting there with the nation's president.
Attending Stanford University out in Palo Alto, California next year will be a whole lot more affordable for some undergraduates. The university plans to eliminate tuition for students whose families earn less than $100,000 a year. And it will pay most room and board for students whose families earn less than $60,000 a year.
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
One person who may be getting an unexpected boost from the Democrats' long battle over their nominee is Republican John McCain. Let's go to CNN's Tom Foreman. He's the anchor of CNN's "THIS WEEK IN POLITICS."
Tom, you're looking closely at this story involving McCain and how he might benefit from a protracted battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. You know, this is like one of those teams that has clinched their division and they get to sit out and wait while everybody else dukes it out.
The Democratic infighting is giving McCain the one thing his campaign may really need the most right now before the general election begins -- time -- time to shore up his defenses in some critical areas.
J. MCCAIN: Thank you.
FOREMAN (voice-over): McCain is benefiting in three key areas. First, money. He's had money troubles from the start and his campaign was broke by the time he won New Hampshire. Now, however, some of the party's biggest fundraisers, including some from President Bush's campaign, are helping. McCain's team says they banked more than $7 million in January. The Democrats have much more.
J. MCCAIN: But we're reaching a point where, thanks to the Internet and fundraisers, that we're at a higher comfort level.
FOREMAN: Second, McCain is consolidating his base. A week ago, conservatives were raging.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: McCain will kill conservatism as a -- as a -- you know, a dominant force in the Republican Party.
FOREMAN: But they are quieter now following endorsements from some of the party's biggest names and the right words from the candidate.
TERRY JEFFREY, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: The best thing McCain has done in the last month was say this Sunday that he would not raise taxes. He needs clear commitments like that on other conservative issues.
FOREMAN: And, third, the Democrats are attacking -- each other.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think there are many advantages the Republicans get in terms of Obama doing their work for them against Hillary and Hillary doing their work for them against Obama.
FOREMAN (on camera): McCain can use the help. Polls show him in a very tight race against either Democrat. But that's right now.
MCCAIN: Thank you. God bless you.
FOREMAN: And he's already shown once with enough time and space, he can beat the odds.
FOREMAN: And, Wolf, that's really what people are looking at right now. McCain, really more than anybody, was "the comeback kid" in this election. He was written off and left for dead quite some time ago. He has shown that he can be scrappy. And as long as the Democrats are scrapping with each other, that gives him more and more time to get ready to start beating up on the winner as soon as that winner emerges -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Tom Foreman. Thanks very much.
And this note to our viewers. You can see more of Tom's report later on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." That begins at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Barack Obama clearly solidifying his lead over Hillary Clinton. She's desperately in need of some big wins. Let's talk about that and more with Democratic strategist and Clinton supporter James Carville.
All right, so what's been going wrong, other than the fact that she's losing?
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right. That's (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: I guess the question is why is she losing?
CARVILLE: Well, I think a couple of things. Obviously, Senator Obama has ignited out there. And I think that -- my thing is I think a failure to sort of engage this on the sort of macro issue of this time, which is this deteriorating economy. And I think if she's going to win, she's going to have to fight it out on CNN.
I guess it's tomorrow night, you know, on the debate, and in Ohio and Texas and draw that clear distinction. And if she does that, you know, she has a chance to get back in this thing.
BLITZER: Who's to blame for this? Do you blame the candidate, the strategist?
CARVILLE: I never blame Senator Clinton for anything. You know, first of all, let's say maybe she will make a comeback and we will all be sitting here saying who to give the credit for.
BLITZER: There is a history of the Clintons making comebacks.
CARVILLE: They have a history of making comebacks. Believe you me, if she doesn't make a comeback, the blame game will go on ad nauseam. Right now, I think she's made a really wise move. Maggie Williams is just a terrific leader. She's over there.
I think there is some energy and let's see, I know this, Senator Clinton is very, very scrappy. Very much of a fighter. If she can draw these distinctions, let's let the voters of Ohio and Texas weigh in and we'll see what their judgment is.
BLITZER: We've got 13 days until March 4th. What happens if she doesn't win Texas or Ohio? You have Vermont and Rhode Island, those days as well.
CARVILLE: Well, I've said on CNN that she had to win Texas and Ohio.
BLITZER: Both of them. CARVILLE: Both of them, yes.
BLITZER: If she only wins one?
CARVILLE: I think that would be a very bad circumstance for the campaign.
BLITZER: Because she would be way down in the pledged Democrats even though she has more superdelegates.
CARVILLE: Right. I think that if she's going to be the nominee she has to win Ohio and Texas. I said that earlier. I don't change my position. By the way, I think she's up to doing that. If she does and it has to go on to Pennsylvania and other states, we have to figure out something from there.
But I think there's a challenge. I think she's-- it's late, very late in the fourth quarter. She's got the ball on her own 20 and she's got to throw into some coverage here, but I've seen it done before. If anybody can do it, she can. I am actually really pulling and hoping for her.
BLITZER: The trends among her base have not been good lately. We got some numbers here among white men, people in their 50 to 64, middle class income, $30,000 to $50,000 a year, white women. Her numbers are going down; his numbers are going up in all four of those categories where she was known to be strong.
CARVILLE: Right. If the trend continues, obviously she's not going to do that well on March 4th. I think the challenge is, and I think we've got to give her a chance to do it, let the voters in Ohio and Texas weigh it. Trends can be reversed in politics.
BLITZER: Give us -- you can give her some advice publicly right now and share with our viewers, you're among the best political strategists out there right now. You've got a pretty good track record. What does she need to do?
CARVILLE: I think she needs to confront what's going on. Excuse me, but there's a recession going on. I think Senator Obama has been too willing to blame Democrats for what's happening. Really, this is a Republican recession. I saw it in the paper this morning and I understand sometimes our spouses say things we don't agree with, that incomes didn't grow in the '90s.
That's just not true. If you're going to make history, you have to understand history. You have to understand what's going on in this economy. You got to understand the crunch the American people are under.
I think that she should be not in a negative like gotcha kind of way but a very clear distinction about her record and what she proposes on what to do about this recession and how to get out of it, and what he has failed to do and how she understands history better than he does and how she can help people. BLITZER: You notice that John McCain last night really went off Barack Obama in his speech, questioning his experience, his credibility, gives a nice speech but not much there. We've heard that line before. What do you think of this latest development?
CARVILLE: First of all, people are going to -- I have been around politics long enough, you will always get attacked for something. I think that Senator Obama would correctly say that Senator McCain has already admitted he doesn't know much about the economy. So he'll have a good comeback there.
The truth of the matter is Senator Obama's nominee will be for him but I think that it's very legitimate to challenge him, to challenge Senator Obama, particularly among Democrats, to say I can do better about what is the pressing issue of our time, this recession that we're in, and how I can bring more jobs and a better economy. I think that she needs to do that. I think that Senator McCain is going to have to change the subject because he is woefully inept on economics.
BLITZER: We spoke to the Republican strategist. Mary Matalin.
CARVILLE: You did?
BLITZER: Who happens to be your wife, in the last hour. She sort of surprised me to a certain degree when she said, I think you will agree with her on this, that Hillary Clinton might be a more formidable challenger to John McCain than Barack Obama once all the political dust settles.
CARVILLE: I think, A, she would -- again, if you just look at the economy as a sort of formidable issue of our time, I think she would match much better with senator McCain than senator Obama would. She matches much better with him on issues of military policy. She has been on the armed services committee and is highly respected in that role there.
But I think Senator Obama, let me say this. This guy has been very, very impressive candidate. I think that, you know, he deserves his due also. But people from Ohio and Texas need to be heard from and I think there's nothing wrong with pressing. I think she can press him. I think she's one of the most impressive people I have ever known in my life. I love her to death. I hope she's able to press this thing and win these primaries.
BLITZER: She is very lucky to have a good supporter and friend like you.
CARVILLE: Well, I am lucky to have her for a friend. I love her dearly.
BLITZER: James Carville, thanks very much.
Barack Obama chipping away at Hillary Clinton's base. We're going to show you how he's doing and what she can do to fight back. That's coming up, more on this story. Plus, a satellite loaded with toxic fuel hurtling out of control toward Earth. We have new details of the Pentagon's plan to try to shoot it down.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Barack Obama has just picked up a major new endorsement, the 1.4 million member Teamsters union, a group with historic, very close ties to both Clintons. Let's speak exclusively with the president of the Teamsters, James Hoffa. He's joining us from Austin, Texas, where he just met with Barack Obama.
You broke the news. I assume he was very happy with your endorsement, Mr. Hoffa.
JAMES HOFFA, TEAMSTERS PRESIDENT: He was, and this endorsement is an important endorsement for him. He's excited about what it means to him in Ohio and Pennsylvania and Texas and it's one that's going to be important to all of labor and to the American people. We're excited about it.
And we came to this decision by going out and polling our members, polling our leadership. We came to the conclusion that Barack Obama gives us the best opportunity to rebuild America and to win in November.
BLITZER: Did you call Bill and/or Hillary Clinton to give them the bad news?
HOFFA: Well, I called. I have a call in for Hillary right now. I wasn't able to reach her. She's probably out campaigning. I intend to call her. I hold her in high regard. This is not about the Clintons.
This is about Obama and the momentum he has that I think everybody detects out there, that we really have a phenomenon of him having the opportunity to win in November and to basically remake America. He's speaking out on issues that resonate with our members, like reforming NAFTA, bringing jobs to America, basically getting rid of tax give-aways to those people who leave our country. Those are issues that American workers want to hear about. I think it's important he's speaking out on those issues.
BLITZER: But there is a long history and that you and the Teamsters have with the Clintons, going back to '92 and '96 when she was running for the senate. It's got to be seen as somewhat of a slap to the Clintons.
HOFFA: I hope not because I hold them in high regard but again, this is not about the Clintons. We have a good relationship. I have utmost respect for her. But the question is, who can win. The question is who is speaking about issues and who's caught the imagination of the American voter and who's caught the imagination of worker in America.
We've got to talk about issues, about bringing jobs back to the United States, rebuilding America, rebuilding our infrastructure, and I think that he has hit these tones and he's the one that is talking about issues that resonate with our members. That's why we made the endorsement.
BLITZER: Let me ask you about the timing of the endorsement. Why now, after Wisconsin, after Hawaii, before Ohio and Texas?
HOFFA: Well, because we have been looking at this and we felt that we wanted to see what happened in Wisconsin and we had a poll in the field. As the poll came in, we felt this was an important time right now and maybe we can play a larger role.
Obviously, Ohio is the next battleground state where we've got to be out there and we intend to go down and campaign, you know, with the senator there, and we are going to be talking to our members. So that's the next important step. We think it's important to play a strategic role in this campaign. We think that Ohio is the place to do it. That's why this endorsement is important today.
BLITZER: The Teamsters, as a lot of us remember, have not always endorsed the Democrats. There is a history of occasionally endorsing the Republicans as well, including the late President Richard Nixon. Why not John McCain this time? Why did you decide not to endorse John McCain?
HOFFA: Well, John McCain really is tied to the old ideas. He is lock-step with the Bush administration. We have had eight years of the Bush administration. We've gone in an unpopular war. We are in the middle of a recession. We have lost millions of jobs. Basically, tax cuts for the rich.
I think America's had enough of that. That's why we can't support McCain. We really need to have new ideas. We have to have a new beginning. We have to be able to start rebuilding America and I believe that Barack Obama gives us the best opportunity.
BLITZER: What do you say about McCain's criticism, we already heard it last night, of Barack Obama that he's inexperienced, he gives a good speech but when it comes to national security, he's really not ready for the job?
HOFFA: Well, I think that, you know, we look at Barack Obama as a person that can lead, and he's going to surround himself with the very best people. You know, John McCain made an unfortunate statement.
He said we should be in Iraq for a hundred years. I don't think anybody wants to be in Iraq for a hundred years. I think we've got to find a way to basically handle this war, end this war, move on to other ideas, start rebuilding America and the war honorably, basically start rebuilding Iraq on its own, put them on their own feet.
I think that's the idea we have. I think that type of criticism is really a cheap shot right now. I think that the man with the momentum right now is Barack Obama. BLITZER: James Hoffa, the president of the Teamsters, thanks for coming in.
HOFFA: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: A wayward satellite with a tank full of very toxic fuel. The navy may try to shoot it down as early as tonight but it's not necessarily all that easy to hit. We're going to have an inside look at the logistics involved.
She had ten losses since Super Tuesday. Hillary Clinton faces new obstacles in her quest for the presidency. We're going to take a closer look at what that means for women who hope to shatter the nation's highest glass ceiling.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In news around the world, the target is a wayward satellite 150 miles up. The mission, destroy it with an interceptor missile before it can tumble to earth, possibly releasing a cloud of toxic gas. A navy cruiser is waiting to fire at the satellite but conditions must be just right.
Let's bring back Jamie McIntyre. He's over at the Pentagon watching this story.
What's the latest, Jamie?
MCINTYRE: Well Wolf, it's been on again, off again today. Right now, sources at the Pentagon tell us that everything is set for that first attempt to shoot down that satellite tonight about 10:30 Eastern Time. That would be about 5:30 in the evening Hawaii time.
The test -- the missile firing site is just off the coast of Hawaii, the west coast, and the satellite will be passing right over there around 10:30 tonight. Again, there was some talk of winds and high seas earlier but the sources we have been talking to say it looks like everything's okay. They do have a long check list they have to go through. If everything is not optimal, they may wait another day but right now it looks like they're going to take a shot at it about 10:30 tonight Eastern Time.
BLITZER: The satellite is basically the size of a school bus. It's not a little tiny thing. It's a hefty object out there. Why do things have to be so precise in order to shoot it down if the U.S. has spent literally tens of billions of dollars developing the system that supposedly can shoot down incoming missiles?
MCINTYRE: Well, the satellite is as big as a bus but the part they want to hit, the fuel tank to destroy that hydrazine is about the size of an incoming warhead. It's only about five feet long. They want to hit it precisely but even though it's big, it's cold.
It doesn't have any heat source. They use thermal sensors to find it. They have to use optical sensors and thermal imagery to make sure they can zero in on it. So it's not as easy as it sounds but they are confident they will be able to do it.
BLITZER: All right, Jamie. Thanks very much. We will watch this story with you.
Let's get more on this story from our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's targeting the satellite online.
Where is the satellite, Abbi, right now?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, in about 15 minutes from now, it should be visible with the naked eye over New York City as it hurtles past overhead.
This Web site here is the best guess that this Web site, Heavens Above, is giving us online. It's been tracking the satellite and where it's been moving for the last couple weeks. It's operated by a man in Germany called Chris Peat who says he added this to the Web site a couple weeks ago after people started e-mailing him and asking him is this thing going to fly over my house, it is going to hit my house.
This is where it's being tracked right now. You can see this plot takes it right over New York City at about 6:08 p.m. The plot also takes it going over to that area over Hawaii by about 10:30 p.m., but if it isn't shot down, you will be able to go here and where you are and see if it will be moving overhead again tomorrow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Abbi. Thank you. We will watch this story.
Let's go to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Occasionally we ask silly questions. Here's one: What are the chances we will be spared a negative campaign when it comes to the general election?
J.D. in New Hampshire says: "The Republicans ought to think twice before going negative this time around. Both their candidate and his spouse have dirt in their past that would be best left buried. Americans are tired of the negative. They are looking for the upbeat, the positive, which is why there's an Obama tidal wave on the Democratic side."
Joyce writes: "For some reason no one running for president except Obama seems to know how not to run a negative campaign. Despite how many times he wins in the primaries, they just don't seem to get it."
Sean in Maryland: "Not likely. Unfortunately, not even the political arena can escape the Jerry Springer syndrome. The media loves controversy. The candidates know this."
More importantly, can you even imagine a kinder, gentler John McCain? Didn't think so.
Vasilis writes: "Of course we won't be spared a negative campaign. There's a reason the Republicans are more of the same and there's a reason why Barack Obama is vesting himself going against this immaturity and perennial tasteless behavior on the part of politicians. Notice I said politicians, not Republicans, because Mrs. Clinton falls into this same tactless category."
Joe writes: "Bring them on. The more attacks McCain throws, the deeper the hole he digs. Look at how well negative attacks have worked for Hillary. She went from front-runner to running out of votes. Mine included. The fun hasn't even started."
And John writes from New Jersey: "Jack, zero chance. It will make it's getting ugly out there look like a children's bedtime story."
BLITZER: That's your book. A children's bedtime story.
CAFFERTY: That is my book. A book for the little kids.
BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Jack. Thank you.
A major ruling on illegal immigration and what it may impact on your paycheck. That's coming up. Lou Dobbs standing by. We'll talk about that.
Also, are conservative Republicans finally warming up to John McCain now that he appears destined to be the party's presidential nominee for the party? I will speak to the former White House advisor, Mary Matalin. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Stick around. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: A federal judge has cleared the way for an Arizona law to take effect that would revoke the business licenses of companies caught with illegal workers. In doing so, the judge accepted evidence saying illegal immigration drives down wages for legal workers.
Lou Dobbs has a show coming up in an hour but he is here in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about this ruling.
What do you think?
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: I think it's absolutely terrific. It's about time the federal court system started working. The court took into consideration very authoritative studies showing that, as they put it, unauthorized workers depress wages in the state of Arizona by just about 5 percent. Across the nation, excessive immigration depresses wages by $200 billion a year.
This is the reality. But all of the demagogues and the fools out there on both sides of this debate in terms of the business quarter or the amnesty illegal open borders groups want to ignore these realities. The last thing they want is those people watching you and me right now and listening to us to understand what's happening economically as a result. BLITZER: The other argument they always make, you've heard it obviously a million times, is that the more the wages go up, it drives those jobs away from the United States to other countries. That's one of the arguments that they always make. In the end, it's going to hurt the American job market as well.
DOBBS: Well, we're the ones who first made that argument in point of fact. I wrote a book on it. The reality is this. Corporate America right now is driving middle class jobs out of this economy, out of our society, endangering the middle class, and at the same time, bringing in illegal labor to depress wages in this country. And they are aligned, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the business roundtable, with the socio ethnocentric interest groups and others on the left in this society to bring -- cross those open borders, more illegal labor.
BLITZER: Of the remaining presidential candidates out there, on the Democratic side or Republican side, whose stance on illegal immigration do you like the best?
DOBBS: I frankly think that each of them has come a long way from where they were when this campaign began. But the reality is, John McCain right now, and I can tell you this presumes that he is speaking honorably and with truth, has moved to a point where he's saying security first. And I think that he is to be commended for that because as you know, he was one of the sponsors with Senator Ted Kennedy for the amnesty legislation.
If he means what he's saying and if he articulates further precisely what he will do, he would have the more advantageous position. Am I pleased with any of them? I'm an independent populist. I haven't got a dog in this hunt. I want the best for this country and for our people. I'm not convinced that any one of those candidates right now in either party represents that opportunity for all of us.
BLITZER: What about Obama and -- Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton?
DOBBS: Those are the people I'm talking about. I'm talking about Obama. I'm talking about Clinton. I'm talking about McCain.
BLITZER: Because they want comprehensive immigration reform.
DOBBS: That's why I say I reject all of them and until McCain can make it clear and clearly articulate a statement as to what he will do and I mean an absolute pledge or Obama or Senator Clinton.
BLITZER: The only difference I've seen on illegal immigration involving Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is over the matter of granting drivers' licenses.
DOBBS: You would be correct.
BLITZER: That was the only one I've seen.
DOBBS: Yes, except Obama does something kind of funny. He sort of gravitates towards security first and tries to mitigate his previous position so I'm not sure where he is right now but whatever that is, whatever his position is, it's going to have to be articulated far more convincingly and with greater specificity. Let me put it that way.
BLITZER: Do you think this will be a big issue in the campaign?
DOBBS: It will be a very big issue for voters. We have seen that in all of the polls, all of the studies. These candidates will have to respond.
BLITZER: See you back here in one hour, Lou.
DOBBS: You've got a deal, Wolf. Thanks.
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