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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

McCain Apologizes for Supporter's Anti-Obama Comments; Howard Dean Blasts McCain; Fight Over Campaign Financing

Aired February 26, 2008 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for joining us tonight. We're counting down, just one week from tonight, the contests that even Bill Clinton says will be make or break for Hillary Clinton.
As the clock ticks toward March the 4th, three issues are front and center tonight, John McCain apologizing, Hillary Clinton talking about being misunderstood, and Howard Dean not worried about a brokered convention yet.

Let's start with the reason why Senator McCain is apologizing. He's right in the ELECTION CENTER wall. But I before talk with Cincinnati radio talk show host Bill Cunningham, let's hear what he said that called for such an urgent apology from Senator McCain.

It happened this morning when Cunningham was warming up for the crowd before a McCain campaign rally in Cincinnati. Cunningham's remarks, especially about Senator Barack Obama, had plenty of heat. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CUNNINGHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, my fellow Americans, now we have a hack, Chicago-style Daley politician who is picturing himself as change. When he gets done with you, all you're going to have in your pocket is change.

At some point, the media will quit taking sides in this thing and maybe start covering Barack Hussein Obama the same way they covered Bush, the same way they covered, and the same covered they cover every Republican.

I will look forward to that day when truth comes. An angel visited me at night and said, Willie, let's go ahead one year. It's a wonderful life. It's going to be Barack Hussein Obama's wonderful life a year from today. It's about February the 26th, 2009. Barack Obama's in the White House. Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House. And Harry Reid is the Senate majority leader.

Obama just came back from meeting with Ahmadinejad. He's got a meeting the next week with Kim Jong Il in North Korea. Then he's going to saddle up next to Hezbollah. They're going to have a little cookie and cream party. All is going to be right with the world when the great prophet from Chicago takes the stand and the world leaders who want to kill us will simply be kumbaya together around a table of Barack Obama. It's all going to be great.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: But Cunningham also got a cheer from the crowd when he said there's been a difference between Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush as first ladies.

Senate McCain wasn't on stage during any of Cunningham's remarks. He came out a few minutes later, delivered his usual stump speech. But right after the rally wrapped up, the senator walked over to reporters and within the space of three minutes apologized three times for Cunningham's remarks about Senators Clinton and Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I regret any comments that may be made about these two individuals who are honorable Americans. We just have strong philosophical differences. And, so, I want to disassociate myself from any disparaging remarks that may have been said about them. I will take responsibility, and any offense that was inflicted, I apologize for. I will take that responsibility.

Whatever suggestion was made that was in any way disparaging to the integrity, character, honesty of either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton was wrong. And I condemn it. And, if I have any responsibility, I will take responsibility, and I apologize for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Once the dust settled, an Obama spokesman put out this statement, "We appreciate Senator McCain's remarks. It is a sign that, if there is a McCain-Obama general election, it can be intensely competitive, but the candidates will attempt to keep it respectful and focused on issues."

Senator McCain insists that he's never met Bill Cunningham and will make sure that nothing like this happens ever again.

Well, we're going to meet Bill Cunningham right now. He joins me from WCET Radio in Cincinnati.

Bill Cunningham, what was the purpose today in repeatedly using Barack Obama's full name, Barack Hussein Obama?

CUNNINGHAM: I have repeatedly used the name of William Jefferson Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton. And the purpose was to identify that particular person, a name which is a great Muslim name. Hussein is a great Muslim name. I meant no offense and none was taken.

John, I was asked about a week ago by the John McCain camp to come in to the Republican faithful -- you had to have a ticket to get in this get-together -- and to throw them some red meat, to get them fired up, to get them active.

And so I gave a little bit of a stump speech. And I, for one, regret that John McCain is the nominee of the conservative party, because John McCain's not a conservative. He ought to be attacking Obama politically, and not attacking Bill Cunningham, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity, both of whom came to my assistance today.

ROBERTS: Well, let me ask you in a second, Bill, then what were you were doing at the event today.

But let me just backtrack just a second here. You said that Hussein is a very famous Muslim name. Barack Obama is not a Muslim. It is his middle name. Is there a purpose in repeating his middle name as you did to try to associate him with the Muslim faith?

CUNNINGHAM: No. He's at the United Church of Christ. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright in his church in Chicago gave a lifetime achievement award to Louis Farrakhan a few months ago. That largely was no covered by the media.

I have nothing but respect for my Muslim brothers and sisters. His name is proudly Barack Hussein Obama. And people that object to that, they're the racists. They're the ones objecting to the name Hussein. I revel in it. I worship it. The ones who oppose that particular utterance of that name, they are the ones with the problem, not me. His name is Barack Hussein Obama.

In fact, Barack was told years ago to change his proud name and he refused to do so. So, I will use the name given to him by his father and by his mother, because that is his name.

ROBERTS: John McCain said today in response to a question by our John King that it's inappropriate to use his middle name, it's disparaging. What do you say about that?

CUNNINGHAM: I think that's ridiculous. Bob Kerrey, Democratic senator from Nebraska, has used his name. The name is well known. I think John McCain has a big problem with conservatives. He's not a Reagan conservative. Why is he attacking me, a conservative radio talk show host, been in Cincinnati for 24 years, and not attacking Obama, and going after Hillary?

He thinks he's in some club. He thinks he's part of the Senate courtesy group. And this is going to be a fistfight. And if McCain doesn't start fighting soon, John Roberts, he's got no chance to win this thing. He's not going to win. He ought to attack Democrats and not -- and quit attacking conservatives like me.

ROBERTS: Have you ever met John McCain?

CUNNINGHAM: Twice.

ROBERTS: He said he's never met you.

CUNNINGHAM: He has got a bad memory.

ROBERTS: When did you meet him?

CUNNINGHAM: I met him at the home of Bob Ryan (ph), who is a friend of mine in Cincinnati. And I met him at the Kenwood Country Club in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the presence of Senator Mike DeWine. I met him twice. His people called me specifically. His people said, you're the guy we want, because you have met John. Come.

I have met him in Bob Ryan's home in Cincinnati. I met him with Senator Mike DeWine at the Kenwood Country Club. But I'm not going to meet him again. I have had it up to here with John McCain. He's off the list. I'm joining Ann Coulter in supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, because let me just be very clear on this here, because this is a very important point, because John McCain was very emphatic today when he said -- quote -- "I have never met Mr. Cunningham, but I will certainly make sure nothing like that ever happens again."

So, you have -- for sure, you have met him?

CUNNINGHAM: Twice, in the home of Bob Ryan and with Senator Mike DeWine, who called me at my home to come to Kenwood Country in Cincinnati, Ohio, about six or seven months ago, specifically called me...

ROBERTS: OK.

CUNNINGHAM: ... the former senator, U.S. senator, and said, Bill, come and meet John McCain. He wants to meet you. We sat around, shook hands, talked a little bit, exchanged some chitchat. John McCain is developing, maybe because of his advancing years, a bad memory.

ROBERTS: Well, let me ask you this question. Was he aware that you were going to be the opening act today?

CUNNINGHAM: I don't know what he knew. But his staff, his people briefed me. They told me what they wanted me to say. I said, no problem.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: Wait a minute. Well, hold it. Did they tell you that they wanted you to say that Barack Obama was a political hack?

CUNNINGHAM: No.

ROBERTS: In the mold of Bill Daley?

CUNNINGHAM: No. No.

(CROSSTALK)

CUNNINGHAM: What it was, they told me to fire up the crowd. You're talking to conservatives. You're talking to individuals who are ticketed to be there. Get them fired up and give them some red meat.

And I did. In fact, when I left, John, the crowd was cheering. All was well, no problem whatsoever, until about an hour later, when John McCain threw me under the bus, under the Straight Talk Express. I got thrown under the bus.

ROBERTS: Sorry. Correction here. I meant Richard Daley, not Bill Daley, the former Cabinet secretary.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: Also, you suggested that Barack Obama took illegal loans from Tony Rezko.

CUNNINGHAM: Right.

ROBERTS: What evidence do you have that he took illegal loans?

CUNNINGHAM: Three things. His house was purchased for $300,000 less than market value. He got a sweetheart deal by buying a slither of the land next door. And there will be allegations next week in the Tony Rezko federal criminal indictment trial, who is a friend and compatriot of Obama's in Chicago, to the effect -- and, by the way, he's being prosecuted by Patrick Fitzgerald, the guy who is the prosecutor of Scooter Libby.

The guy who prosecuted Scooter Libby is going after one of Obama's supporters in Chicago. And there have been allegations of improper financial dealings between Rezko and Obama, which have largely not been reported, but have been remarked today in "The Chicago Sun-Times," a pretty good story.

ROBERTS: All right. Bill Cunningham, we have got to run. But thanks very much for being with us tonight. Thanks for telling your side of the story.

We have reached out to the McCain campaign, by the way, to get some clarification on this idea. And, hopefully, we will get it within the next 48 minutes as to whether or not John McCain actually did meet Bill Cunningham in the past.

Again, he insisted that he has never met Mr. Cunningham. But how is it possible that any presidential campaign would give a microphone to someone without knowing what's going to be said? And haven't we heard similar words about Barack Obama from Hillary Clinton's surrogates?

Joining me now, three members of the best political team on television. Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is in Cleveland tonight. Chief national correspondent John King is with the McCain campaign in Cincinnati, questioned the senator today after Bill Cunningham's appearance. And Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" joins us now from Washington.

John, is it -- is it possible to believe that local organizers didn't know the tone of what Bill Cunningham's statements were going to be today? He's been out there in the public saying a lot of what he said today on the stump. JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it's a great question. And what they say is that they didn't know he was going to say Barack Hussein Obama, use Hussein twice, after saying the prophet from Chicago. So, clearly, they took it that he was somehow trying to suggest Barack Obama is or was a Muslim at some point.

They say they did bring him to cause some red meat. Rob Portman, the former congressman, came in and said Bill Cunningham has helped us in the past, helped George W. Bush win two elections here in Ohio, close elections. So, they knew they were taking a risk. And they're apologizing to Senator McCain afterwards and acknowledging that risk backfired.

To the point you just made, I quickly e-mailed a couple of McCain people when Bill Cunningham said he had met Senator McCain. One e- mailed back saying he would look further into this. He's guessing that that was at a fund-raising event and they perhaps shook hands, that those were fund-raising events and they perhaps shook hands. But they will look into it.

But, look, the McCain local supporters say they brought him here to do exactly what Bill Cunningham just said, to fire up the crowd. And they also acknowledge -- they say Senator McCain didn't know exactly what he was going to say. They didn't know exactly what he was going to say, but that he's been a magnet for controversy in the past and maybe they shouldn't have done it.

ROBERTS: Howie Kurtz, the spokesperson for the McCain campaign, Jill Hazelbaker, told me today that what was said was clearly inappropriate. She also said -- quote -- "It's going to be a long campaign. It will occasionally have people say something that we disagree with."

What do you make of all of this?

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, it's horrible staff work, advance work on the part of the McCain campaign, because Bill Cunningham is well known as conservative flamethrower in Cincinnati.

But Senator McCain diffused it to some degree I think by racing over to reporters, by disassociating himself, by apologizing for what Cunningham said. Had he not that, the headlines tomorrow morning would say, McCain remains mum as Ohio supporter rips Barack Hussein Obama, talks about illegal loans and all of that.

Now, McCain got some criticism, as you may recall, a couple of months ago, when a supporter of his at town meeting in New Hampshire who used the B-word to describe Hillary Rodham Clinton, and McCain didn't say something. I think he may have had that in the back of his mind and feeling that he had to intervene quickly and make clear that he wasn't in any way even implicitly endorsing the remarks of Bill Cunningham.

Candy Crowley, what do you think is going to be the impact on the McCain campaign? Has he gotten this off this table by coming out apologizing so quickly and so profusely in the wake of it?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think yes, for the reasons Howie just mentioned. He was so quick to get out there and say, listen, I renounce this. This is not something I want to be associated with. And you know the rhythms of campaign. It will be something else tomorrow. It's pretty early on. So, I think he took care of it.

ROBERTS: Right. John -- John King, let's go back a little bit. We remember that Bob Kerrey had used Barack Obama's full name. And Bill Cunningham alluded to that. He said it after a Hillary event during an interview, I believe. He said, "It's probably not something that appeals to him, but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim."

The Obama campaign saw that as kind of a veiled swipe at Barack Obama. And when you were guest anchoring on "THE SITUATION ROOM," you interviewed Bob Kerrey. Here's what else he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB KERREY (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I've watched the blogs try to say that you can't trust him because he spent a little bit of time in a secular madrasas. I feel quite the opposite. I feel it's a tremendous strength.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: First of all, there's no such thing as a secular madrasas, because a madrasas is by its very nature a religious school. And that was perceived, John, as another hit against Barack Obama as well.

KING: It certainly was. And as Senator Kerrey said there, he said he didn't mean it that way. But the Obama camp certainly took it that way. It came at a time when there was some Internet traffic that the Obama campaign blamed on the Clinton campaign suggesting he is or was a Muslim.

So, look, we're going to have to deal with this obviously until the end, especially if Senator Obama goes on to win the Democratic nomination. And the Obama campaign very quickly applauded Senator McCain for what he did today.

But, John, as you know, the candidates can set their own rules. But in this age of the Internet and blogs and every else and supporters going on television, and supporters going rouge, as Mr. Cunningham did today in this hall behind me this morning, this is an issue we're going to deal with all of the way to November...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: Yes, go ahead, Howie.

KURTZ: There's nothing wrong with Bill Cunningham complaining about lack of aggressive media coverage of Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton's people do that every other hour it seems. And some journalists agree that there has been an imbalance in the way the two are covered. It's the inflammatory language and the use of middle name, I think, that made this objectionable to some listeners and to John McCain.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: But hang on. Let me ask Candy Crowley a last quick question here. Howie just said again the use of the middle name. It's his middle name, correct? Is there anything wrong with calling him by his full name?

CROWLEY: You know, I sort will take something that Obama said today on a different subject, which is I don't think that this gentleman brought up Barack Obama's middle name to try and help him.

We know that there's a lot of stuff out there on the Internet that questions Obama's background. And I think this drives to that. And I do agree with John that we're going to hear this sort of throughout the campaign. Because there's a group out there that's in fact worried about Obama's background.

And the only thing the Obama camp can do is sort of move ahead. And as John, they sort of said McCain handled it well. We take him at his word, and move on from it. Because this is not a subject the Obama campaign really wants to have come up all the time.

ROBERTS: Controversial topic and a spirited discussion.

John King, Howard Kurtz, Candy Crowley, stay with you. We have got more to cover with you tonight.

Gentlemen, thanks for being with us this evening.

Senator Hillary Clinton's talking about misunderstanding and forgiveness. And she is opening up on a subject that she usually doesn't talk about.

Also what the voters are thinking in a make-or-break state for both Democratic campaigns. And what Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean is not worrying about, at least not yet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: One week and counting now to the round of Democratic primaries that could either knock Hillary Clinton out of the presidential race or what could be the starting point of a history- making comeback. Voters in Ohio and Texas are among those facing a choice that will have repercussions all the way to this summer's Democratic Convention. So, what are they thinking?

Well, there's only one person to ask that question of, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He joins us now from Washington.

Bill, what's at stake in Ohio for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, 141 pledged delegates. It's one of the last remaining big states to vote where she can try to catch up to Obama in pledged delegates.

This is the kind of state she ought to do well in, a strong partisan Democratic base, seniors, blue-collar voters, union voters, voters in economic distress who want a candidate who can deliver.

The big issues are supposed to be her issues, jobs, health care, foreclosures. But, recently in Ohio, some important unions have endorsed Barack Obama, including the Teamsters, the service workers, the food and commercial workers. If Obama wins Ohio, there's really nowhere else for Hillary Clinton to go.

ROBERTS: How are the latest polls there looking, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Hillary Clinton has a lead in Ohio. But the lead is diminishing. The latest poll of polls in Ohio, that is the three latest polls taken over the last week, show Clinton leading Obama by 10 points as of last weekend.

But, over the last few weeks, Obama has been narrowing the gap. She's been ahead in Ohio all along. But her lead has been diminishing. And it's also a state that allows independents to vote in the Democratic primary, also good for Obama.

ROBERTS: Hasn't his support pretty much doubled in the past month there?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, he has. And the trend line shows him catching up with her, although you saw in that poll of polls, he hasn't quite closed the gap yet.

ROBERTS: As we see these states are leading indicators of what's happening on a national level, what is happening on national level?

SCHNEIDER: Precisely the reverse. What is happening in the national -- well, the trend is the same, Obama catching up. But, on the national level, you have the reverse pattern. Right now, in our polls nationally, Obama leads Clinton by 10 points.

Now, if this national trend is infiltrating Ohio, as it appears to be from the trend line in Ohio, then there's a real possibility that Obama can catch up with Clinton by March the 4th.

Now, one major reason he's doing that, he's got this momentum, is he's perceived, Obama is perceived as more electable than Clinton. Democrats say, Obama has the best chance of beating McCain. Republicans say, McCain would have a harder time beating Obama than Hillary Clinton. So, that's creating momentum among partisan Democrats like the ones in Ohio.

ROBERTS: And for a lot of people, it's as much about as electability as it is about the issues for them.

Bill Schneider for us from Washington tonight -- Bill, as always, thanks very much.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

ROBERTS: It's good to see you.

The last place that you might expect to find Senator Hillary Clinton is on Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. But there she was on this morning's "700 Club" Showing her softer side as she talked about forgiveness, misunderstanding and what she says are distortions of her record in mailers being sent out by Barack Obama's campaign.

Here's what she told CBN's David Brody.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I think there's a big difference between talk and action. And there certainly is a difference between the words of Senator Obama's speeches and the actions of his campaign.

You know, when you send out these mailers, which are kind of below the radar screen, and they're filled with misleading and false and discredited information, it seems like the politics of hope is hoping no one will notice, that people will not call you on it. And I don't think that's the kind of campaign we should be running.

DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: Are you misunderstood? And if you are, why?

CLINTON: I have to believe I am, because time and time again, people who have been criticizing me in very harsh and personal terms, once they have gotten to know me, have apologized to me, have asked even for my forgiveness.

And I think what happened during the '90s was incredibly hurtful for the country and for people directly involved to be caricaturized and, you know, in a sense, dehumanized. And I learned a lot during that time about how important it is to be constantly trying to live by the golden rule, to just put it very simply, but profoundly, and not to take so much of it personally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Well, CBN viewers are not the only ones seeing a softer, more introspective Senator Clinton today. That same soft side was on display at a Clinton town hall rally in Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: One of the incredible honors that I have running for president is to try to help people. I can't help everybody. But I try. Because people need a lot of help. There are a lot of people who really need help. And we can't treat each other like we're invisible.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: Barack Obama let someone else do the talking today. Senator and former presidential candidate Chris Dodd endorsed him today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: This is a moment of unity in our country, a time when we need to come together as a Democratic Party, and to get behind the candidacy that expresses the aspirations, the hopes, the ambitions of millions and millions of Americans. And I believe that Barack Obama has shown that, demonstrated not only in the campaign, but also in his service to his state and to his country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: The Obama-Clinton race could be over a week from tonight. Or the voters could make it more confusing than ever.

Once again, our Candy Crowley is in Ohio.

And, Candy, are these next two contests really do or die for Hillary Clinton or is this just a way for the Clinton campaign to try to motivate people out to the polls?

CROWLEY: Well, I think both, absolutely. I mean, you know, we have seen the best political strategist in the country today -- that's the former President Bill Clinton -- say, she has to win Texas, she has to win Ohio to win the nomination. So absolutely they believe that. But it also is a way to get people out.

Look, this is important. As Bill Clinton said the day he made that statement, it's up to you, he said, talking to Texas voters. So absolutely, it's a way. It's a realistic view of what's happening here. But it's also a way to drive people out to vote.

ROBERTS: Harold Ickes with the Clinton campaign says, if she loses Texas and Ohio, she is going to have to sit back and make a decision about whether or not she goes on. But what if she splits? What if she loses Texas, she wins Ohio? What then?

CROWLEY: Well, I agree with Harold Ickes. This, in the end, is Hillary Clinton's decision to make, whatever happens. But when you look at the math, if she splits, it's still not there. And a lot of people sort of look at the scenario and say, as Howard Dean has said, as others have said, and you saw Chris Dodd saying, time for us to have some unity here.

A lot of Democrats fear that if this goes to the Denver convention where they have to broker something, it is not going to be good for the party and they could well lose the White House. So, there is a lot of momentum behind the idea that, one way or the another, this needs to stop at some point. I don't think a split decision in Texas and Ohio is going to propel her forward and I don't think many in the campaign think that either. ROBERTS: After the New Hampshire primary and her substantial win then, she said that she found her voice. But since then, people have taken a look at what she's been saying on the stump, saying, well, she's speaking with a number of different voices. It's the angry Hillary on one side. It's the introspective Hillary on the other side. She seems to have tried everything. Yet Barack Obama keeps gaining. What's left for her to try?

CROWLEY: Well, honestly, if you talk to people inside the Clinton campaign, they don't offer anything particularly new. They say, listen, her strength is that experience. That will sink in with voters. They believe Ohio is a different place from Wisconsin, or Virginia, or Maryland or any of the last 11 victories he had.

They say these are a working-class voters with real problems. You saw her in that town hall meeting going, I don't think you're invisible. It an old line, but it's something that they believe is now being spoken to a new audience, which can give her new life.

ROBERTS: All right, well, we will see if it works. Candy Crowley for us tonight in Ohio -- Candy, thanks very much.

So, is Howard Dean worried about a brokered convention? I asked him about that today. Hear his answer.

Plus, a new attack that caused John McCain's campaign to take offense.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Right now, John McCain is in a battle with the Federal Election Commission over public financing for his primary campaign. Last fall, McCain applied for matching funds when his campaign was nearly broke. But after a few big wins, the money started pouring in. And now, McCain has opted out of public financing.

Taking the public money would hold him to campaign spending limits, limits that he won't have if he uses private donations. But the FEC is raising red flags about McCain's request to withdraw. And Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is calling for an investigation.

Earlier today on "AMERICAN MORNING," I sat down with Dean and asked him why he's getting involved.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: John McCain is posing as a reformer, and it turns out reforms as far as he's concerned are good for everybody but him. I have a letter from the FEC, which excuse me from public financing. We would just want him to get the same thing. He has benefited unlike our campaign from the material -- materially from getting public financing.

One, he used the possibility of public financing as a bank loan. Two, he got on the ballot free of charge in a lot of states and we had to pay for it. Thirdly, the thing that's most disturbing about all this is when you're running for president of the United States, to defend yourself by saying, but he did it too, is not a defense. We want John McCain to obey the law, otherwise you might as well call it the Feingold Act, not the McCain-Feingold Act.

ROBERTS: Let me come back in the side of this -- of federal financing, public financing being used as collateral for this $4 million loan. The McCain campaign denies that they ever used it as collateral. There's an article in "The AP" today that talks about it. Quotes attorneys for Fidelity and Trust Bank is saying, "The bank does not now have, nor did it ever receive from McCain's campaign committee, a security interest in any certification of matching funds." They're saying it didn't happen. Not good enough for you?

DEAN: That's not the same thing as saying they didn't use it as collateral. All you have to do is promise to get the public financing in order to use it as collateral. That's not the same thing as a security interest. Look, miggling (ph) around the edges is exactly what John McCain does. He says one thing and does something else. He's done it on earmarks. He's fought earmarks then had two very expensive ones for Arizona. One of which was not even asked for. On and on it goes.

ROBERTS: Well, we'll see where this goes. The FEC says that he's got to make clear what happened with that loan. The FEC also contending that he needs four out of six votes from commissioners to allow him to get out, and they're only two commissioners right now, four vacancies still there. So it may take a while to get this whole thing resolved.

But let me turn to what's happening on the Democratic campaign trail. Things are getting pretty nasty there between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton after they made nice in the last two debates.

Listen to what Hillary Clinton said about an attack mailer that Barack Obama put over the weekend regarding her position on NAFTA.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So shame on you, Barack Obama. It is time you ran a campaign consistent with your messages in public. That's what I expect from you.

ROBERTS: You counseled both campaigns to keep it positive not too long ago. Are you concerned that they are now, you know, deteriorating again into this name calling and bickering back and forth and that's not too good for the party?

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN: It's not about this. No, I'm not concerned about this particular exchange. The only concerns I've had are when people make personal attacks. This is not a personal attack. This is a discussion about whether some of these flyers are accurate or not.

ROBERTS: Yes.

DEAN: That kind of stuff goes on in campaigns all the time. Look, we've got 20 million people, John, voting. We've been in 40 states. We think this is -- I think this is a great -- have been a great primary campaign. I really do. We want to make sure that the voters pick the right person. I'm sure they will. I have no idea who that's going to be. But I'm not worried about this yet at all. Yes, it's tough, but you got to be tough if you're going to run for president.

ROBERTS: Are you worried, though, about the idea of a brokered convention?

DEAN: A little. Not a lot because it hasn't happened since 1952.

ROBERTS: Yes.

DEAN: But there are -- you know, the convention is very late, and we don't want to go into that convention divided because if you go into the convention divided, you're going to come out of the convention divided. So -- but I do think -- I do think the voters are going to pick a candidate in the next few weeks, and I think that's great. And then, we'll go into the convention united and we'll come out and we'll elect the next president of the United States in November.

ROBERTS: All right. Howard Dean, chairman of the DNC, thanks for joining us. Good to see you.

DEAN: Thanks for having me on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Howard Dean from earlier today on "AMERICAN MORNING." In an e-mail to CNN tonight, Senator McCain's press secretary, Jill Hazelbaker, had this to say in response to the funding controversy.

"Howard Dean and DNC leadership are calling John McCain a liar and questioning his integrity, and I have yet to see the press ask Barack Obama whether or not he thinks that is appropriate, and whether or not he feels that's the level of dialogue that we want in this campaign. We had an issue today where a person -- It's Cunningham she's talking about -- introduced McCain at an event and made a highly inappropriate statement about Senator Obama. McCain's response was to immediately denounce Cunningham's statement and apologize to Senator Obama. I'm waiting to see whether Obama will denounce Dean's comments and apologize to McCain."

Well, superdelegates could decide who gets the Democratic nomination. So what's driving their decision? Electability, the voters? I'm about to ask three of those crucial superdelegates.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Senator Barack Obama picked up a key endorsement from former presidential candidate Chris Dodd today. What is even sweeter for Obama, Dodd is also a superdelegate, one of nearly 800 whose votes could decide the Democratic nominee. At last check, Obama is leading Clinton in the critical delegate count with 1,362. Clinton, meanwhile, is trailing with 1,269.

But when it comes to superdelegates, Obama has 178 pledged and Clinton has 238. In a contest this close in an election that could shape history, should superdelegates make the ultimate call?

Joining me now are three of those superdelegates; Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas, an Obama supporter, Norma Fisher Flores, who is a Clinton supporter, who is also a Democratic National Committee woman for the state of Texas, and David Hardt. He is the president of Young Democrats for America and an undecided superdelegate.

Norma Flores, let me start with you. Why are you supporting Hillary Clinton?

NORMA FISHER FLORES, CLINTON SUPERDELEGATE: The reason I'm supporting Senator Hillary Clinton is because I feel that she has the most experience, and she will make changes...

ROBERTS: Yes.

FLORES: ... where the prior administration has let Americans down.

ROBERTS: You know, -- a question --

FLORES: She will --

ROBERTS: A question a lot of people are asking is what is it about Barack Obama that has attracted so many people? Hillary Clinton was asked about that today in this interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network. Let's listen to what she had to say about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H. CLINTON: I think that there is a certain phenomenon associated with his candidacy and I am, you know, really struck by that because it is, you know, very much about him and his personality and his presentation. But I think, it dangerously oversimplifies the complexity of the problems we face.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Congressman Doggett, she says there is a phenomenon about Barack Obama. But she also seems to suggest that he is short on substance and leaves a lot of questions unanswered. What do you say?

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D), TEXAS: It's not a phenomenon. It's phenomenal that we have a candidate who can excite and involve so many independents, so many new young voters in this process. I think he has extraordinary depth and vision about where he wants to carry this country, and he has the kind of practical experience as a state legislator, as a community organizer to understand the needs of working families. We're blessed with two good candidates, but I think that Barack Obama is really moving out front because he has excited and energized so many new people with his vision for America.

ROBERTS: David Hardt, why do you remain uncommitted at this point, and how heavily have you been lobbied by both campaigns to support one or the other?

DAVID HARDT, UNDECIDED SUPERDELEGATE: Well, it's a very, very difficult decision. I'm sure the other guests can attest to that. You know, I always -- I often say that my brain leans towards Clinton and my heart leads towards Obama. You know, as an activist, I've been very proud of what the Clinton's had done for our country overtime.

ROBERTS: Yes.

HARDT: But I'm also very enthused of what I see coming out of Senator Obama's camp, and he's an exciting candidate. And as a young person, it's -- the best word I could use to describe is infectious. And to answer your second question, I got a lot of courting from both sides.

I've had a personal call from Senator Clinton, a personal call from President Clinton, a private meeting with Chelsea Clinton. I've had high-profile members of Senator Obama's camp call, and I've had a few members of Congress call on behalf of Senator Obama. So, it's really exciting.

ROBERTS: Yes. Certainly a good feeling to be wanted.

Norma Flores, do you think that superdelegates should pick who the nominee will be? Because it's increasingly looking like neither one of these candidates is going to get the requisite 2,025 pledged delegates, and it will come down to the supers.

FLORES: Well, for the first time that I can ever remember, I believe it may come down to the superdelegates. And that is what it's looking like at this particular point.

ROBERTS: Right. Are you comfortable with them making the decision? You know, we've had this amazing Democratic process. All these people coming out to these primaries in record numbers, and it's going to be left up to a bunch of members of Congress and high-ranking party members to pick who the nominee will be. Is that good for democracy?

FLORES: I don't look at it like that. I wish -- I wish we didn't have to do that, but that's what we were elected for. And that's why we are -- that's why we're superdelegates.

ROBERTS: Congressman Doggett, what do you think about that whole question? And is this whole process about what's best for democracy or what's best for the party?

DOGGETT: John, I want to get David's number so I can put a call into him, to bring him along. But, you know, these superdelegates are not fools. They're people that have been involved in our party, or they've been elected to public office. And the best way to lose an election is to thwart the popular will and I believe the superdelegates will be broadly reflective of what they think would be best for the party. Certainly apply their judgment. But seeing the tens of thousands of people that are pouring out in something I've never seen in my lifetime for Barack Obama, I believe more and more of those superdelegates, as has happened recently, will be coming onboard the Obama campaign.

ROBERTS: David Hardt, we've heard what's going on inside the Congressional Black Caucus. A lot of superdelegates who are with Barack Obama are pressuring superdelegates who are supporting Hillary Clinton to change their vote. Should that be going on?

HARDT: Well, it's every candidate's prerogative to reach out to every superdelegate they can and get every delegate vote they possibly can. And so, you know, if he can pull people over, that's certainly his right to do so. But, I wanted to touch on what you had said earlier.

ROBERTS: Sure.

HARDT: What the question was earlier. You know, I always tell people when they ask, what gives you the right to have this automatic delegate spot at the convention. And I always tell people that I knock on doors in 110-degree Texas heat every summer, and we are the people, as superdelegates and party leaders, that keep this party together and keep it going even in the toughest of times. And so, I think we earned our right to have a vote and have a seat at the table.

ROBERTS: Right. So based on that, should the superdelegates be picking who the nominee is if it comes down to that?

HARDT: Well, we're not really picking who the nominee is.

ROBERTS: Sure, you would be. You'd absolutely be picking who the nominee is if it ends up that nobody's got the requisite number of pledged delegates. You absolutely would be picking who the nominee is.

HARDT: It's one delegate one vote, and my delegate count goes with the entire state of Texas delegate count. And at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you're an automatic superdelegate or an unpledged delegate, they still have to get to that wonderful magic number to win the election.

ROBERTS: I won't go the extra mile and ask you what happens if it comes down to you being the tiebreaker.

David Hardt, Congressman Doggett, Norma Flores, thanks for being with us tonight. Appreciate it.

DOGGETT: Thank you very much.

ROBERTS: And remember, CNN ELECTION CENTER will be the place to be for next Tuesday's March 4th primary showdown. And here's something that you don't see every day. Why were people shackling themselves to Hillary Clinton's New York City Senate office today? Find out next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: At least three people are under arrest tonight after a protest at Hillary Clinton's Manhattan Senate office this afternoon. Police were called in to deal with a dozen or so free-trade demonstrators. Some of them had chained themselves to the doors. Free trade has recently become a hot topic on the campaign. The Clinton spokesman says the senator respects the protesters' right to free speech.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up in a few minutes time.

Here's Larry now with a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": I don't usually say this about a guest, but this is a compliment of the highest order. She's a shadow of her former self. Valerie Bertinelli is here to talk about losing weight in front of the world. And wait until you hear what she has to say about other things.

That's "LARRY KING LIVE" at the top of the hour.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Campaign loves to pump up the music to pump up a crowd. But that popular Sam and Dave song you just heard got Barack Obama in some trouble because songwriter Sam Moore says the campaign did not get his approval before they played it.

And Moore shut off a stern level telling Obama to "cease and desist" from using it at campaign events saying, "The song was being performed at your rallies without my permission. I have not agreed to endorse you for the highest office in our land. I reserve my right to determine who I will support when and if I choose to do so. My vote is a very private matter between myself and the ballot box." Obviously, his music is as well.

Obama is not alone either. Campaign rally songs have led to some unfortunate sour notes.

Here's Tom Foreman in a report from "THIS WEEK IN POLITICS."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Boston songwriter Tom Scholz has more than a feeling he doesn't like his '70s hit song being used by conservative Mike Huckabee. After all, Scholz likes Obama. He's fired off a letter. I think I've been ripped off, dude. Hillary Clinton has a history of bad choices on her jukebox. Sure, husband Bill has scored some rough headlines in this campaign. But using nine to five as a theme?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (SINGING): Taking care of business --

FOREMAN: She has also cozied up to "Taking Care of Business," which is about a lazy rock star working at nothing all day. And in 2000, she played Billy Joel's "Captain Jack" to announce her bid for the Senate.

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: "Captain Jack" will get you high tonight, and take you to your special island.

FOREMAN: Camp Clinton said it was a mistake. They meant to play "New York State of Mind." But rival Rudy Giuliani's state of mind hit hard, hit fast.

GIULIANI: But say yes to drugs. I think it's a very, very dangerous message.

FOREMAN: John McCain considered the ABBA hit "Take a Chance on Me" and found the rights were too expensive. No worry. It might not have happened anyway.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the word gets over there to Stockholm that we're using ABBA's music, there's going to be worsening of U.S./Swedish relations, I'm afraid.

FOREMAN: But the man who has already won the White House twice, President Bush, may hold a record, so to speak. In his 2000 run, he had to back down and stop using songs by Tom Petty, John Mellencamp and Sting. Ouch.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Catch Tom Foreman every weekend on "THIS WEEK IN POLITICS," every Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. right after "LATE EDITION."

"LARRY KING LIVE" coming up at the top of the hour. Actress Valerie Bertinelli talks about her very public weight gain and loss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: For the "Most News and the Most Politics in the Morning," join Kiran Chetry and me for CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" beginning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern tomorrow.

What is the attraction of swimming around in shark-infested and potentially deadly waters without a shark cage? We'll talk with a filmmaker who went diving with the sharks. That's coming up at 6:00 a.m. Eastern.

That's all for tonight. Thanks for joining us. Campbell Brown is here tomorrow night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.

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