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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

McCain Clinches GOP Nomination

Aired March 4, 2008 - 21:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: CNN now projects that John McCain, not only will win the republican primary in the state of Texas but also will capture the republican presidential nomination. John McCain, will get enough delegates to ensure that he's the republican presidential candidate. Based on the exit polls, the hard numbers coming in from the state of Texas right now. CNN projects John McCain wins the republican presidential nomination. What a historic night for John McCain, given where he was only a few months ago, so many people had written off his candidacy, they thought he was virtually dead in the water. But John McCain never gave up and John McCain - John McCain, tonight, in Texas, after earlier winning in Vermont, earlier winning in Ohio, John McCain will now have enough delegates, 1,191, that's what you need to capture the republican nomination and he has managed to do it. What a night for John McCain.
A huge, huge moment, he will now go on to be the republican presidential candidate. Mike Huckabee will have to make a major decision now and he's been saying all along, that tomorrow he'll be meeting with his campaign advisers to reassess where he goes from here. The math based on our projection is over with and it's John McCain as the republican presidential nominee going forward as of right now.

Dana Bash, let's go over to you and check in to see -- get some reaction. You're over at McCain headquarters. I also want to alert our viewers that we have projected that John McCain will also carry Rhode Island. The state has ended its polling only within the past few seconds as well. So, John McCain the republican presidential nominee, Dana, based on our projections. We're going to be hearing from the nominee fairly soon, I take it.

DANA BASH, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, we can expect him to come out and speak but not before some very carefully staged choreography here at McCain headquarters in Dallas, Texas. We have been talking all evening about what's behind me, that banner that is currently cloaked underneath that banner, it has that 1,191 number, that delegate number we're told that's going to unveil before John McCain comes out here and makes his speech. A speech that we're told, that is going to be very much an acceptance speech, an acceptance speech for that republican nomination that eluded him eight years ago. That he lost to George W. Bush and that nobody thought -- nobody thought as you mentioned, Wolf, that he would get just a few months ago. But because a whole lot of things had to happen that were out of John McCain's control. He is now going to be the republican nominee. And we were talking earlier about what that means for him. And what we we're also told is he's going to go to the White House tomorrow. Plans are in place for John McCain to go to the White House tomorrow and to formally get the blessing of the man he hopes to succeed and that's George W. Bush.

I know there was a lot of debate in there among Paul Begala and others about whether that's good or bad in terms of the general elections' strategy. But regardless, what that means for John McCain is that it is official. It is official that he is going to be the man that the entire republican party, for better or for worse is going to have to get behind if they want a republican rather than a democrat in the White House. It also means that John McCain is going to really plot out, really strategize the way that he can beat the democrats while the democrats are still fighting. And we talked to the McCain advisers, they say they don't know if it's going to be Barack Obama. They don't know if it's going to be Hillary Clinton. They have certainly made guesses along the way. You've heard John McCain talk about both, maybe Obama a little bit more than Clinton lately. But the bottom line is, they think that they are in a very good position given the political realities of democrats, being in a much better position now. A very good position to watch the democrats fight as they begin to think about their strategy going forward. So, this is no question, you said it, this is a historic night. It is the night that John McCain not too long ago, never ever thought would happen. Wolf.

BLITZER: He tried to do it eight years ago. He lost to George W. Bush. He never gave up this time around even though he was way, way behind. There was disarray in his campaign. The fund-raising was in trouble. But John McCain kept on fighting and fighting and fighting. Tonight, we projected that he will win in Vermont, in Rhode Island, in Ohio and in Texas getting a huge number of delegates and moving beyond that magic number of 1,191. The republican -- the number needed to capture the republican presidential nomination. They were fully aware that this was a possibility, Dana, tonight.

And as a result, they're moving forward, they're getting ready to unfurl that banner with that big number at the same time. So, they were bracing for this and the good news is based on all of our projections, he's going to be able to accept that republican presidential nomination and move on from here.

BASH: That's right. That is the expectation. If I can just tell you while you were talking to me, I just got a message on my Blackberry from somebody who is familiar with Mike Huckabee's plans and that person tells me that the expectation is that Mike Huckabee will -- as soon as Thursday, actually, as soon as Thursday, we're told, formally drop out of the race. That's what we're told from somebody who's familiar with the Mike Huckabee plans. Again, I'm getting that on my Blackberry as we're speaking.

So, that is another indication that the way is being paved for John McCain to formally take the reins of the republican party and republican party members across the country certainly hope that he takes those reins all the way to the White House. But there is nobody you talk to inside the republican party, even inside the McCain campaign that's going to be easy. They know that this is going to be a tough a year as it gets for the republican and that this is going to be something that's going to be difficult. But you know, talking to John McCain and listening to him over the past couple of days, it's very interesting to see them already talking about the kind of strategy that they're going to have.

There's been a lot of talk about the difficulty that McCain has reaching out to conservatives in his party. That's true. But they are already thinking about the way to use it as an asset when he does reach out to independents. McCain talking yesterday about the fact that he is intent on campaigning in the state of California, which a democrat has not, a republican has not won rather in a very long time. So, they talked about it being a 50-state strategy. This is the strategy that they are now going to be able to try to employ and try to plan out very soon as soon as tomorrow. And that picture tomorrow, regardless of what it means, in terms of the reaction from democrats, the picture of John McCain with George W. Bush at the White House is going to be something to remember. Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly want to be among the first to congratulate John McCain on this historic win for him, the republican presidential nominee based on our projection. Dana, thanks very much. Let's get some more now from Mary Snow. She's watching Mike Huckabee. Getting ready, I assume, he's going to be making some sort of public announcement, some sort of statement now that we have projected that John McCain not only will carry Texas, and Vermont, Rhode Island and Ohio but will then go on. He goes on to capture the republican presidential nomination, what are you hearing, Mary, from the Huckabee people?

MARY SNOW, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're hearing for the plan for Mike Huckabee to call John McCain before he comes down here in just a few minutes to address the crowd. An aide is saying now, you know, to add up to Dana's reporting, an aide is saying that the Huckabee campaign will coordinate with the McCain campaign tomorrow before any big public announcement is made. The plan was to come down and speak. But was not expected to be a public announcement of him dropping out. But he has said, Wolf, that this would be heartbreak for him to win Texas. You know, up until today, he was hoping to win. And but the reality was there. He already planned to meet with his staff tomorrow. A lot of people here tonight even saying that they showed up knowing the reality of what was going to happen here. But they feel it was important for John McCain to know that their voice needs to be heard. We're expecting to hear from mike Huckabee directly in a few moments. Then, he's going to head back to his home in Little Rock, Arkansas. Again, the Huckabee campaign is expected to coordinate with the McCain camp sometime tomorrow before a big announcement is made.

BLITZER: Meanwhile, the democrats in the midst of trying to figure out who their nominee is going to be. The republicans now, Mary, are going to be able to rally around John McCain. And gear up for not only their convention at the end of the summer, but the presidential election, the general election in the fall, going forward, to November 4th.

Mike Huckabee, he stayed in this contest with the exception of Ron Paul, longer than any of the other candidate. Several of them, Mary, were a lot better known going into these process including Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson among others. Mitt Romney, of course, but he managed to stay in. So, even though he had limited funds and limited staff, he did rather well for a little-known former governor from Arkansas.

SNOW: Yes, that's been his point that he keeps making. You know, months ago, he was an asterisk. And here in Texas, the fact that he's been able to stay in so long, he feels is really an accomplishment.

BLITZER: Mary Snow watching this and we'll stand by together with you Mary to see what's happening. And get as soon as Mike Huckabee speaks, we're going to, of course, take that and bring that to our viewers as well. But the big story, the huge story, the historic story right now that we're watching is John McCain wins in Texas and goes on to capture the republican presidential nomination.

Based on our projection, it's still a competitive contest as we all know on the democratic side. Let's get analysis on this historic moment. Anderson Cooper is watching this with our best political team. Welcome, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN, ANCHOR: Well, thanks very much, Wolf. A remarkable moment for John McCain personally tonight.

BILL BENNETT, CNN, CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, well this is a man who's met a lot of trials in his life. A lot of downs, a lot of ups and this was a big up. He was declared out. People thought he was done. Finished.

COOPER: I mean, months ago, he was carrying his own suitcase on a commercial flight when he no longer had the money to fly...

BENNETT: Exactly right. Cutting staff and then he goes to New Hampshire and out campaigns everybody, I think at 102 events in New Hampshire and wins. And from then on, he just keeps going. So, it's a remarkable story. It's a nice lesson for resilience no matter what for the kids. Put it in the book of virtues.

COOPER: How does this change things in terms of money for John McCain, in terms of fund-raising, in terms of message, where does he go from here? I mean, it simplifies matters especially with Huckabee out of the race.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Tremendously. Now, he can start, he pared down his campaign from 150 people to a handful of people. And now, of course, he has got to build a general election campaign, tomorrow he can get start. He'll have the RNC behind him. He'll have a broad base of financial support. So, it's a big step. Meanwhile, it looks like the democrats are engaged in the land war across Russia. So, he's got quite an advantage.

COOPER: Paul Begala is a democrat, does it concern you that you now have John McCain pretty much locked in and able to focus exclusively on the general election? PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, I don't mind this democrat primary thing. It's good for the democrats. I do think that the republicans, they may have stumbled into it but they clearly nominated their best candidate, the most formidable guy to take on either Hillary or Barack, definitely John McCain. I don't think that any of the rest of them with all due respect has nearly the appeal that he has and yet.

COOPER: Appeal to people that might cross over independents and even democrats.

BEGALA: Exactly. This is why, Dana reported that he's going to go tomorrow and rush to the loving embrace of George W. Bush is madness. He has his party's support. He has earned it. He has won it. One of Clinton's law of politics is democrats want to fall in love, republicans just want to fall in line. OK. Those republicans they will fall in line. That's what they do. He doesn't need George W. Bush. And look what he's done. A minute ago, Bill made a point that McCain's appeal is that he is so authentic and original. Now, he's embraced the Bush tax cuts that he voted against. He was against them being temporarily, now he wants them being permanent. That's like marrying a girl you didn't want to date. He is rushed to Bush's social security plan, even disavowing his own social security plan on his own website. I mean, he has now become Bush's third term.

COOPER: It certainly does fall in what Obama has been trying to say about John McCain, which is when John McCain criticized him on talking about Al Qaeda in Iraq. Obama shot back saying, you know, there was no Al Qaeda before the war, before George Bush's and John McCain's war. He's trying to link John McCain to George Bush.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, John McCain and George Bush had been in bed together on this war from the very beginning. So, I think it's not going to be a tough case to make. And they give us some good pictures so we'll use them. But to get to another point, I think there are going to be a lot of democrats who are spooked by the fact that John McCain is going to have this field to himself. They're going to say, you know, how far do we need to make this conversation about our campaign go. And if Hillary Clinton loses one of these states tonight, the pressure is just going to be momentous on her to start to wade out. I think, this, you know, again, she's, the math doesn't work for her. She's behind in delegates. She's behind in votes. She's behind in states. At some point, the democrats have to come behind the eventual nominee and get focused on the candidate.

COOPER: Was John McCain in bed with George Bush on this war? It must have been a pretty unhappy bed.

BENNETT: There were a lot of disagreements. Certainly, George Bush couldn't have not had the surge, I think, without John McCain. In fact, the Al Qaeda was in Iraq before the U.S was in there. And that's in the senate intelligence report. Again, we're happy to have this debate. Again, some of the ads were already done for the McCain campaign. They were done by the democrats. Just run that Hillary ad with the red phone and just have John McCain pick it up.

COOPER: There was an argument though, whether, you know, people who were affiliated with Al Qaeda may have been in Iraq but as an organization with power on the ground, killing Americans. That's an argument.

BENNETT: It certainly drew people. And it became the OK corral. And now they're being eliminated, which is a good thing. No matter where they came from, they're being eliminated in Iraq which is a good thing. I'm polls readers, I'm not so sure that a lot of people, it's a good thing for the republicans that this debate keeps going on the democratic party because so much attention is there and attention is part of politics in elections. And so, it look like the game, it looks like the interesting game. But which way do they go now? And what are the politics, understanding that McCain is the guy they're running against, and they have to factor that in as they debate each other every time they put out an ad and make a position.

CASTELLANOS: The fight among the democratic party now is not just about two candidates, this is about two very different democratic parties, Hillary Clinton is the old industrial-aged machine, top-down democratic party superdelegates, those kind of things. Barack Obama is this new fresh communications age party that has little respect, I think, for the old guard. So, there are a lot of entrenched interest in the democratic party.

COOPER: And I remember when Bill Clinton was the new young guy with the no respect for the old guard. What happened?

BEGALA: If you look it's in all of the data that we see. Democrats who support Hillary, in the main they like Barack. Democrats who support Barack overwhelmingly, they like Hillary. There's one thing that's in the pew poll this week, it's the first time I'm seriously troubled. 25% of Hillary's voters are now saying they can vote for McCain instead of Barack. That's what become problematic. If that starts to grow, that's when it will become a problem for my party. But right now...

COOPER: It was Obama who said the same thing. Or is it 10%?

BEGALA: In the same poll. Only 10%. That's still obviously a small minorities of the two camp's supporters. Most democrats like both of them but I do, but slightly, most I like this ...

COOPER: It's fascinating that there's that crossover at all along the party lines. And it does, I mean I get your point that you've made a lot about the importance of personality, the importance of authenticity, and people's perception. I mean, you've talked about the idea of romance in politics and people wanting to fall in love.

BENNETT: Well, I think, we've seen her. She has come across much more clearly without the interference of her husband so much. He's not in the picture so much. But the thing that I was making, is the point that Paul just made, is you talk about 25% of Hillary's voters saying they could vote for McCain. Why is that? It's an important thing that she did, I think, in going to the national security issue, and arguing that she has more experience on this than Barack Obama. But understand the implications of that for a general election. It makes that issue central. And then you have to compare not Hillary Clinton to Barack but Hillary Clinton to John McCain.

COOPER: We're waiting Mike Huckabee's comments tonight at his headquarters. Mary Snow is there with a little bit of news. Mary, what have you heard?

SNOW: Well, Anderson, we have confirmed that Mike Huckabee's expected to drop out of the race tonight. We just got that confirmation from Ed Rollins, his campaign director. That was not the plan all day long and just even a few minutes ago. The campaign had been saying that he wasn't going to make any major announcements tonight. But that has obviously changed. This was a big upset tonight. Her was really counting on Texas and hoping to meet with the staff tomorrow and figure out where to go from here. We're told that he's already spoken with Senator John McCain. He's going to be endorsing John McCain. He said even earlier today that he would do so enthusiastically. And we're now waiting for him to come down and make his speech to supporters gathered here tonight. Anderson.

COOPER: We'll continue to follow that. Bill Bennett, Mike Huckabee saying he's that he is going to drop out of the race tonight via the confirmation coming from Ed Rollins. Clearly not a surprise. Where does Mike Huckabee go from here? I mean, what has he accomplished by staying in the race so far?

BENNETT: Well, it's kind of a negative accomplishment from my perspective. He is reminding people as long as he has stayed in the race, that John McCain is not pleasing still to a lot of conservatives. This moment for John McCain means a lot to people who will take a second look at John McCain. People who are resisting him, now can't resist. They have to at least look and focus on him. So, we'll see.

Again, I want to come back to the Bush thing. I understand the unpopularity of George Bush to a lot of people. But he's got to do this. It's disrespectful of this president not to have this president, who is the head of the party say John McCain, congratulations. And I think is the right time to do it. John McCain doesn't need a lot of time to establish his independence but I think you just disrespect the president.

COOPER: And they're sort of a long time between now and election day.

CASTELLANOS: A hug today is better politically than a hug in October.

COOPER: Mike Huckabee is speaking. Let's listen in.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much. Well, George Brett was one of the greatest baseball players of all time, and in his career for the Kansas City Royals, he was asked when he was nearing the end of his career how he wanted his last play in the major leagues to go? Well, everyone assumed that he would say, that he wanted to hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth to win a game, perhaps, even a world series. He surprise all of the sportswriters, because what he said was I want my last at-bat, to be that I hit an easy one-bounce to the second baseman and they throw me out at first. But I was running as hard as I could toward the bag before they got me. And he said, because I want it to be said of George Brett, that no matter what, he played his best game, he gave it his best, all the way to the very end and he certainly did just that.

Ladies and gentlemen, I call Senator McCain a few moments ago, it looks pretty apparent tonight that he will in fact achieve 1,191 delegates to become the republican nominee for our party. I acceded to him not only my congratulations but my commitment to him and to the party to do everything possible to unite our party. But more importantly to unite our country. So that we can be the best nation we can be, not for ourselves but for the future generations to whom we owe everything just as we owe previous generations all that they have done for us.

Senator McCain has run an honorable campaign because he's an honorable man. One of the things I'm proud of is that the two campaigns that I believe had been run in the most civil manner are the two in the republican party that have lasted on their feet to the final. And I'm grateful for the manner in he has conducted his campaign. And quite frankly with your great help, I'm very proud of the way that you have insisted that we conduct our campaign. And it's been one that we will always be able to say was done with honor. It's now important that we turn our attention not to what could have been or what we wanted to have been but what now must be and that is a united party, a party that indeed comes together on those principles that has brought many of us not just to this race but politics in general.

I have so many people to thank. Starting with this lady here to my right who I still believe -- by the way, I think it's fitting that she got better applause than me because she deserves it. She truly does. She's been through so much. She's a magnificent first lady of Arkansas for 10 1/2 years. And I always believed that she would be a wonderful first lady for the United States as well. And I'm grateful for her patience and perseverance through every step of this wonderful journey we've had.

I'm grateful for my family. Some of you may have heard me say this and it's true. My family didn't have to be persuaded or begged to give their permission and blessing for me to get involved in this campaign. In fact, they were ready for me to do it before I. Truth is, I was the hold out. They weren't. And what a wonderful, magnificent gift they have given me with their loyalty and their dedication, involving themselves with their sleeves rolled up every single day of this effort. Giving 110% of themselves. And for that, I will always be grateful.

I also want to say I had the best staff that anybody's ever had running for president. And by the way, I'm pretty sure it's probably the smallest staff that anybody has ever had running for president. Imagine trying to do this with about 30 people. I don't think it's ever been attempted. No one has ever gotten this far with such limited resources. But the fact is, what we have been able to do was to ask of every one of our staff that they work as if they were two, three people and they worked as if they were four. I want to say thanks to them, every last one of them.

I'm always mindful that the real story of this campaign is going to be in the faces of those who of you are here and the literally millions of faces across this country of people who never made the headlines. Never led the 6:00 news but would have been the backbone, the heart and soul of our campaign. The Apostle Paul wrote that "I fought a good fight. I finished the race and I kept the faith." And I believe tonight, that one of things that we'll be able to say is not only that we fought the good fight and finished the race, we would like to have finished it first but we stayed in it until the race was over. But I think more importantly, we kept the faith, and that for me, has been the most important goal of all. I would rather lose an election than lose the principles that got me into politics in the first place.

We started this effort with very little recognition and virtually no resources. We ended with slightly more recognition and very few resources. But what a journey. What a journey. A journey of a lifetime. It is not lost on me when I started. The prophet Isaiah said, and I've quoted it often, "look to the rock from which you were honed, the quarry from which you were dug. I know the earth from which I have come."

In almost circumstances of the son of a firefighter, who worked a second job, barely paying the rent on the rent house in Hope, Arkansas where we lived. A mother who was the eldest of seven kids, and grew up in a house, dirt floors, outdoor toilets, no electricity when she was little. Parents who liked so many across this country wanted for their kids to have a better life. I don't think they could have ever imagined that, that better life would include running for president and getting this close to getting there.

Let me say, while many among the establishment, never really believed that I belong. There were a lot of people in this country who did. And most importantly, these are the people across this nation who gave me a voice. Over the past 14 months, it was their sacrifices, the sacrifices of a truck driver in Michigan, of a housewife who sold her wedding ring on e-bay, and gave the contribution to the campaign. A janitor in Alabama, who has a wife in a wheelchair, who gave $20 not out of his abundance but out of his poverty so that our campaign could stay on track. Those are the folks who have given me a voice.

And I only pray to god that I have been able to give them a voice. A voice for the unborn children of this country. A voice for life. A voice for the hardworking people who lift heavy things every day, for the rest of us and who carry food to our tables, who pick up the bags, who makes great sacrifices and often work two jobs. For every soldier, and airman who puts on a uniform and keeps us free. For every small business owner who hopes that one day he'll be able to succeed not having to overcome his toughest competition, his own government and then maybe one day his government would facilitate his business and not complicate it. For all of the conservatives of this country and party who want less government and with what government they have to be more efficient, a little more effective, little less filled with corruption, and a whole lot filled with the kind of confidence that we pay for.

I also believe that there are people out there whom I hope I have given a voice. And that's the people who believed that we need to really overhaul our tax system and implement the fair tax and get rid of the IRS. And I believed that we've given voice to the folks who are single moms and those guys who are out there working two shifts trying to make sure they can just keep the rent paid and put food on the table for their families. All across this country we have stood at rallies and I have looked into the faces of amazing people, who love their country, who cherish their families, who work very hard at their jobs, who worship god and who give very sacrificially to others even when it would be very easy for them to keep their time and their money totally to themselves. But they know that's not what made America a great country, it's giving that did.

We'll go home tonight and hopefully bring our team together for the transition. We'll be working on doing everything we can to help Senator McCain and to help our party. To help those who run for Senate and the Congress, because there are many battles this year that we need just to fight, we need to win them for our country's sake and our future's sake.

It's time, it's time for us to hit the reset button. Sometimes when the computer stalls that's what you do, you hit the reset button. But in doing so, we also recognize the extraordinary privilege that we have had and the amazing people who have been there for the journey. We aren't going away completely. We want to be a part of helping to keep the issues alive that have kept us in this race and by the way, I know there were many who thought we wouldn't make it to March '07 much less than March '08. And we've done so because so many of you worked beyond your capacity and gave in ways I can't even begin to imagine.

Neither Janet nor I have the words to say, thanks. We can only thank you with hopefully our future actions, that we will work hard for our country. We will work hard for our party and the nominee, because we love this country and that's why we got in.

And until our country is all that we hope and pray it to be, we won't be able to walk away completely.

I've said many times here in Texas that I was inspired by the incredible story of that small group of less than 200 volunteers at the Alamo in San Antonio who took refuge in that church mission. And they saw the incredible armies of Santa Ana start massing against them.

On February the 23rd of 1836, 172 years ago this past week, those armies began a 24-hour onslaught and bombardment. On the 24th day of February, Colonel William Barret Travis wrote the letter from the Alamo that should reign and live in all of our hearts and memories, not just for Texas, but for all the world, all who love liberty.

As he said on the incredible occasion, he said, "The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion. Otherwise the garrison are to be put to the sword if the fort is taken." He said, "I've answered the demand with a cannon shot and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat."

"I call upon you in the name of liberty, of patriotism, and everything dear to the American character to come to our aid with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving enforcements daily and will no doubt increase to 3,000 or 4,000 in four or five days."

"If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country: victory or death."

These were people who understood that their battle was not about them. It was about the principles of liberty that they deemed even more important than their own lives.

Tonight, I hope that our battle was never about us. It was about our country and its liberty. And now we join with Senator McCain and the rest in our party to continue that battle, to continue that fight, not for who gets elected, but for what we do in maintaining liberty and freedom when we get elected and when our country's flag still waves proudly on the wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a great American, Mike.

HUCKABEE: You're a great American as well. Thank you folks. God bless you. We love you. Thank you very, very much for going the journey with us. Thank you.

BLITZER: No miracle tonight for Mike Huckabee. The math finally catches up. Mike Huckabee announcing, as you just saw, he's dropping out of this Republican presidential nomination. Now that John McCain, the senator from Arizona, has wrapped it up, he comes up with more than enough delegates needed to become the Republican presidential nominee. A dramatic, historic night on the Republican side. We're about ready to make a projection on the Democratic side.

Hillary Clinton, we can now project, will win the Democratic primary in Rhode Island, an important win for Hillary Clinton. She breaks Barack Obama's streak of some 12 wins, including Vermont earlier tonight. Hillary Clinton goes on and captures the Democratic presidential nomination in Rhode Island. This is not a huge surprise. A lot of the polls in Rhode Island had made this abundantly clear that she was ahead.

Hillary Clinton will win in Rhode Island. Thirty three delegates, by the way, are at stake in Rhode Island; 21 of those delegates will be elected, pledged tonight; 12 per delegates in Rhode Island. Hillary Clinton comes up with a win, a badly-needed win. Now we wait for the suspense in both Ohio and Texas to see what happens in these contests.

Right now, the polls are closed in Texas. The polls are closed in Ohio. We know who's won on the Republican side. We don't know who's won on the Democratic side. Let's show you what we know right now, first of all, in Ohio.

With 12 percent of the precincts now in, Hillary Clinton maintaining her edge with 60 percent to 38 percent for Barack Obama. If we zoom in on the actual numbers, you can see how it breaks down; 157,696 for Hillary Clinton in Ohio, 97,821 for Barack Obama in Ohio. She's ahead. Remember, only 12 percent of the precincts have reported.

In Texas, the other suspense, right now four percent of the precincts have completely reported. Barack Obama with a slight advantage, 53 percent to 46 for Hillary Clinton. If we zoom in on numbers, you're going to see a large turnout, because a lot of people voted early in Texas; 548,984 for Obama to 472,558 for Hillary Clinton. Only four percent of the precincts have completely reported in Texas. This is relatively early.

There's a long process that's going on in Texas. Remember, this is the primary. There are two separate races in Texas. There is the primary and the subsequent caucuses, which are taking place right now. One of the candidates could win the primary. The other candidate could win the caucus. They're dividing up the delegates in a two- pronged process in Texas. Two-thirds of the delegates will be determined by the primary. One-third will be determined the caucus's winner. We're watching this very, very closely.

Let's walk over to John King. He's watching it about closely as anyone right now. As we take a look at what's happening in Ohio right now, 14 percent of the precincts have reported, and it's, what, 60 percent to 38 percent for Obama.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You would look at that number normally, Wolf, and you would say, wow, she's running up a big early lead. One of the reasons why we should be very cautious to viewers and it is very preliminary is because where would Barack Obama get his votes? Number one, Franklin County, which is where the city of Columbus is, only five percent of the vote in. As you can see, he's winning there almost 60-40. So the votes just starting to come in there. That could be a potentially large pool of votes for Barack Obama.

One of the reasons we want to be cautious very early. Another area where Obama has concentrated heavily down here in the Cincinnati area, Hamilton County, a little more than seven percent of the state's population. No results in at all down there yet. Another place where Barack Obama could close the gap. So you want to look carefully.

BLITZER: The light blue is Hillary Clinton. Those are counties that she's leading in right now.

KING: That's right. Oops, sometimes the map wants to go on its own. If you look at this, I want to come down here. We filled in around Cleveland. I want to show you. These dots aren't confusing dots. We did this for a reason. We were talking about earlier about some precincts that were left open. I'm going to switch to the Google Map feature. We can pull this out. These are the presents. Remember, we said earlier, when Jim Acosta was on the phone, the precincts were being kept opened later because of problems with ballot and the like, well, here they are. They are in the Cleveland Metropolitan Area. You see a bunch of them up here, several more down here. This is downtown Cleveland right here. These are the polling places that were left open so people could vote a little bit later because of problems with ballots and likewise.

That's one of the reasons, again, Wolf. Let's drop out of the map feature. The light is Hillary Clinton. These are not very populous areas where she's winning out there. They're critical in a close race for her to run up the totals here. But where Obama would get his votes, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, the votes are yet to come in. So if you're the Clinton campaign, you're happy with this early number, but you're very interested in how the vote come in down here, down here.

This is a community, Youngstown, where both of them have competed heavily. Still none of the votes in there at all. We're still waiting. The results coming in a bit slow tonight out of Ohio. That is not a surprise. That happens in this state quite a bit. Looking at the map right now, Senator Clinton's winning where she needs to win. The big cities, the more populated areas, still waiting on the votes.

BLITZER: Let's take a quick look at Texas right now, because the precincts are beginning to report. There's been a lot of early voting right now. With four percent of the precincts completely reporting, we can show our viewers, 53 percent to 46 percent in Obama's favor, at least with four percent of the precincts. We want to caution everyone, that's still very early.

Light blue are the counties where Hillary Clinton's leading. The dark blue are the counties where Barack Obama is leading.

KING: Again, the caution is for same reasons, although Obama ahead in the early count here. But because it's such a small count, if you're looking at this map right now in both campaigns, there's reasons to be somewhat optimistic. This is the corridor Senator Clinton needs to do well in. A heavy concentration of the Latino vote down there. She is winning most of those counties very, very early.

Let's be very careful. Let's blank the screen and let's pull it out little bit. As you see, this is right here, Travis County, where Austin is, the most liberal city, the capital of Texas, no votes at all yet. That should be an Obama stronghold. We need to wait on that. We come up here. Again, Dallas County, Wolf, 10 percent, almost 11 percent of the population. This is where Obama needs to run up the numbers. In the very preliminary results, he is doing that. Again, two percent of the vote, need to watch that as that comes in.

Over here in Ft. Worth, which is where Senator Clinton is, you move out of the African-American population here, she needs to do well out this way. No results in as yet. We still have a lot of waiting to do. One more place down here, the city of Houston, Harris County, should be big for Barack Obama, the African American population there, zero percent reporting so far.

BLITZER: It's very early. She's relying obviously on the Latino vote in Texas, which is a lot of it down here in the southern part of the state.

KING: The way it is filling in early suggests a very close race. IT is very hard to project any trends, because the big population centers are still out.

BLITZER: Those are the two big question marks of night, Texas on the Democratic side, Ohio on the Democratic side. It's a huge, huge issue for both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to see who wins in both of those states. In Texas, adding to the confusion, a second caucus in addition to the primary.

Remember, you can do this at home right now if you want to go to CNNPolitics.com. You can watch all of this. You can do it by yourself, just what John King was doing. Go to CNNPolitics.com in Iowa and Texas. You can see these votes coming in even as we see them county by county and of course, state by state.

We're standing by. We're getting ready to hear from John McCain, the new Republican presidential nominee. He's wrapped things up for his candidacy tonight, a dramatic historic night for John McCain. You just heard Mike Huckabee concede. He's dropping out of this contest, setting the stage for John McCain to deliver his speech.

Later tonight, we'll be hearing from Hillary Clinton as Barack Obama as well. So we're waiting for the results from Texas and Ohio, waiting to hear from these candidates. In the meantime, let's go back to Anderson Cooper. He's got some analysis with our experts. Anderson?

COOPER: Wolf, thanks very much. We want to talk about whether or not Hillary Clinton has been able to be rebuild or re-energize her traditional coalition. Gloria Borger, what are you looking at in Ohio to check that out?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First of all, I'm looking -- again these are preliminary numbers here, Anderson. You see a large female turnout. That's always good for Hillary Clinton. One thing, we talked about in the past is that white men are very important in this race, particularly since African-Americans are going for Barack Obama, women going for Hillary Clinton. What are those white men doing?

If she can win with white men, many of whom could have been John Edwards supporters, then she'll do well. What we're seeing in the state of Ohio, so far, at least, she's holding her own, even doing better than Barack Obama with white men. That could be an indicator that those voters decided in the end that they would go with her because of the economic security issues, because that's what those voters and those John Edwards supporters cared so much about.

I think she looks to be reassembling a bit of her coalition, at least in the state of Ohio. COOPER: How do you think she has she gone about doing that? Is it just getting down and dirty, getting in there and just keeping on fighting?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: What we forget is that for four straight days, Senator Clinton was on message. She didn't have a different message every day. She talked about her experience. She drove it home on NAFTA. She drove it home on national security. For four straight days, voters in Ohio heard Senator Clinton talk about national security, talk about NAFTA, talk about economic security. She drew a big contrast with Barack Obama and he did not respond in time to recapture the momentum that he gained throughout the month of February.

COOPER: It's interesting. Tonight, hearing Donna using the term Senator Clinton. I remember on Super Tuesday, we were all talking about the Clintons. Everyone was talking about them as plural. You don't hear that anymore. They have really done an effective job -- I don't know where Bill Clinton has been. I saw a picture of him in the back of a pickup truck talking to small crowds. I don't know if that's what all his events are like, but he seems to have disappeared.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's staying on message, which is very uncontroversial one, which is please support Hillary. He is not talking about Jesse Jackson anymore. He's simply talking about electing Hillary Clinton.

COOPER: She has done well when the attention has just been on her.

TOOBIN: And this is the first week of the campaign where Barack Obama has had some bad days. He's spent a day talking about the Rezko trial or not talking about the Rezko trial and not answering questions. His campaign completely mishandled the situation with the contacts with the Canadian embassy.

Despite that, he's doing awfully well in Texas. He's not getting blown out in Ohio. So the delegate status quo looks unlikely to change a great deal.

COOPER: We don't really now the situation in Ohio. A very small number of precincts have actually reported and right now it's 60 percent to 30-some odd percent.

TOOBIN: The exit polls suggest it's certainly not going to be 60 to 40.

BRAZILE: She did have a man at her side in Ohio and that was the governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland. We shouldn't downplay the fact that he's very popular. He's someone that, especially in those rurals, he's very strong. She also had the support of some of the strongest unions in Ohio. I think that, combined with the fact that she was on message for four straight days, gave her an advantage in Ohio.

BORGER: I think what we've also seen, if we step back, is that there's a natural reflex in this nominating process so far against the front runner. Someone gets to top of the mountain, thinks they're going to stand there and put down the flag. And voters go, not so fast.

COOPER: Isn't that America? You elevate someone and then knock them down?

BORGER: We saw that happen with Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. She came back from -- in New Hampshire. I think that you could see that tonight in Texas or Ohio, in a large state. It was partly this kind of scrutiny that Barack Obama was getting. It was hard for him to punch back.

COOPER: There was some talk earlier in the evening between Carl Bernstein and Paul Begala about whether or not this was negative campaigning, whether or not this was a negative campaign. There was this kitchen sink effort, which seems to have worked. Call it negative or attack or however you want to describe it.

BRAZILE: The Obama campaign should have anticipated that this was coming. Look, Hillary Clinton won't go down without a fight. She knows how to fight and hold her ground. If the Obama campaign expects to win, they'll have to prepare to counter these attacks.

TOOBIN: And they will have to have better answers on Rezko. They have essentially refused to talk about it. They'll have to not to have another mess up like they did with Canada. Even in spite of all those problems, he's more that holding his own tonight. He's not doing as well as he had been. He's not on his winning streak anymore. But, you know, she has a lot to make up. She hasn't done it yet.

COOPER: Let's bring in two partisans, I guess you could say, Paul Begala, a Clinton supporter, and Jamal Simmons, an Obama supporter. What has your candidate done wrong over the last week or so?

SIMMONS: I think the analysis you just heard is actually pretty dead on. The issue with the NAFTA problem is that Barack Obama went out and said this didn't happen and then there was evidence that perhaps something else more happened. There was more to the story than he led on when he first gave it. That goes to his issue of credibility.

I think he'll do better over time on that issue. He learns pretty fast. Initially, it was a problem.

COOPER: John McCain's coming out. We'll bring you his speech live as soon as it happens. Paul Begala, what has your candidate done right?

BEGALA: Look, the last time you said, what's she done wrong. I said, losing. She's finally hanging a couple of W's on the wall. Rhode Island is a small state but she had huge support. I mean a W as wins, the good W's that we like. She had good -- She's using the institutional support that Barack has used against her as the experienced candidate. He's used that very effectively against her, but sometimes it helps. Donna talked about Ted Strickland, the governor of Ohio. Look at Rhode Island, Jim Langevin, the congressman, and Sheldon Whitehouse, a young superstar senator there, they helped push her over.

COOPER: Let's listen in to Senator John McCain as he speaks on this, the most important night, perhaps, of his political career.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you, Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island. I am very grateful for the broad support you have given our campaign. And I am very pleased to note that tonight, my friends, we have won enough delegates to claim with confidence, humility and a sense of great responsibility that I will be the Republican nominee for President of the United States.

I want to thank all of you here and all the Republicans, Independents, and independent thinking Democrats, in all parts of this great country, who supported our campaign for the nomination, and have brought us across the finish line first, an accomplishment that once seemed to more than a few doubters unlikely.

I want to commend again, my friend, Governor Mike Huckabee, and his supporters, for their passionate commitment to their campaign that Governor Huckabee so ably represented. And I want to thank all my former rivals for the nomination and their supporters for their steadfast dedication to keeping America free, safe, prosperous, and proud.

And, of course, I want to thank my family: my wife, Cindy; my children, and our dear friends who have been throughout this campaign, and will remain in the challenging months ahead, an unwavering source of support and love.

Now, we begin the most important part of our campaign: to make a respectful, determined and convincing case to the American people that our campaign and my election as President, given the alternatives presented by our friends in the other party, are in the best interests of the country we love. I have never believed I was destined be President. I don't believe anyone is pre-destined to lead America. But I do believe we are born with responsibilities to the country that has protected our God-given rights, and the opportunities they afford us.

I did not grow up with the expectation that my country owed me more than the rights owed every American. On the contrary, I owe my country every opportunity I have ever had. I owe her the meaning that service to America has given my life, and the sense that I am part of something greater than myself, part of a kinship of ideals that have always represented the last, best hope of mankind.

I understand the responsibilities I incur with this nomination, and I give you my word, I will not evade or slight a single one. Our campaign must be, and will be more than another tired debate of false promises, empty sound-bites, or useless arguments from the past that address not a single American's concerns for their family's security. Presidential candidates are judged on their records, their character and the whole of their life experiences. But we are also expected to concentrate our efforts on the challenges that will confront America on our watch and explain how we intend to address them.

America is at war in two countries, and involved in a long and difficult fight with violent extremists who despise us, our values and modernity itself. It is of little use to Americans for their candidates to avoid the many complex challenges of these struggles by re-litigating decisions of the past. I will defend the decision to destroy Saddam Hussein's regime as I criticized the failed tactics that were employed for too long to establish the conditions that will allow us to leave that country with our country's interests secure and our honor intact. But Americans know that the next President doesn't get to re-make that decision.

We are in Iraq and our most vital security interests are clearly involved there. The next President must explain how he or she intends to bring that war to the swiftest possible conclusion without exacerbating a sectarian conflict that could quickly descend into genocide; destabilizing the entire Middle East; enabling our adversaries in the region to extend their influence and undermine our security there; and emboldening terrorists to attack us elsewhere with weapons we dare not allow them to possess.

The next President must encourage the greater participation and cooperation of our allies in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The next President must lead an effort to restructure our military, our intelligence, our diplomacy and all relevant branches of government to combat Islamic extremism, encourage the vast majority of moderates to win the battle for the soul of Islam, and meet the many other rising challenges in this changing world.

I will leave it to my opponent to argue that we should abrogate trade treaties, and pretend the global economy will go away and Americans can secure our future by trading and investing only among ourselves. We will campaign in favor of seizing the opportunities presented by the growth of free markets throughout the world, helping displaced workers acquire new and lasting employment and educating our children to prepare them for the new economic realities by giving parents choices about their children's education they do not have now.

I will leave it to my opponent to claim that they can keep companies and jobs from going overseas by making it harder for them to do business here at home. We will campaign to strengthen job growth in America by helping businesses become more competitive with lower taxes and less regulation.

I will leave it to my opponent to propose returning to the failed, big government mandates of the sixties and seventies to address problems such as the lack of health care insurance for some Americans. I will campaign to make health care more accessible to more Americans with reforms that will bring down costs in the health care industry down without ruining the quality of the world's best medical care.

And I will campaign to reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil with an energy policy that encourages American industry and technology to make our country safer, cleaner and more prosperous by leading the world in the use, development and discovery of alternative sources of energy.

These are some of the challenges that confront us. There are others just as urgent, and during this campaign I'll travel across the country in cities and rural areas, in communities of all ethnic backgrounds and income levels, offering my ideas and listening to the concerns and advice of Americans.

Americans aren't interested in an election where they are just talked to and not listened to; an election that offers platitudes instead of principles and insults instead of ideas; an election that results -- no matter who wins -- in four years of unkept promises and a government that is just a battleground for the next election. Their patience is at an end for politicians who value ambition over principle, and for partisanship that is less a contest of ideas than an uncivil brawl over the spoils of power.

My friends, nothing is inevitable in America. We are the captains of our fate. We are not a country that prefers nostalgia to optimism, a country that would rather go back than forward. We're the world's leader and leaders don't pine for the past and dread the future.

We make the future better than the past. We don't hide from history. We make history.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

That, my friends, is the essence of hope in America, hope built on courage and faith in the values and principles that have made us great. I intend to make my stand on those principles and chart a course for our future greatness and trust -- and trust -- in the judgment of the people I have served all my life.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

So, stand up with me, my friends. Stand up and fight for America, for her strength, her ideals, and her future. The contest begins tonight.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

As you know, like all campaigns, it will have its ups and downs, but we will fight every minute of every day to make certain we have a government that is as capable, wise, brave, and decent as the great people we serve. That's our responsibility.

And I won't let you down.

Thank you. And God bless you. And God bless America. Thank you. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(MUSIC)

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