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THE SITUATION ROOM
Clinton's 'Rocky' Fight: Battling on Against Obama; McCain: Lessons Learned; 'Vote Their Conscience': Pelosi on Superdelegates
Aired April 1, 2008 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Hillary Clinton puts herself in the role of Rocky, vowing a fight to the finish against Barack Obama. Is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi OK with that? This hour, the speaker tweaks her message about the Democrat's decision. Party chairman Howard Dean joins us right here with his take on when the race should end.
Plus, John McCain's high school lesson. The Republican nominee in waiting walks down memory lane. And he tells our Dana Bash why voters should not think he's heartless about the housing crisis.
And oil industry executives are called on the carpet. Lawmakers point angry fingers about skyrocketing fuel prices. Is anyone accepting the blame?
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
On this April Fool's Day, Hillary Clinton is trying to get the last laugh on Barack Obama in Pennsylvania. Whether she's likening herself to a movie character, or kidding about Obama's bowling skills, Clinton is proving again today that she's dead serious about staying in the presidential race.
Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is covering the Democrats in Pennsylvania.
And Candy, a lot of back-and-forth, but also some lighthearted moments on the trail today.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. You know, a lot of back-and-forth geographically. They are pretty much working the same area today.
Issue-wise, they are talking about the same issues, largely the economy. Hillary Clinton has a plan out to create three million new jobs through rebuilding the nation's roads and bridges. So, they are going back and forth on issues, but one of the things they are not doing is going after each other. At least not in a serious way.
CROWLEY (voice over): The acidity level seems to have dropped. She's teasing him, sort of, about his well-documented gutter ball in a Pennsylvania bowling alley. SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, I am challenging Senator Obama to a bowl-off. A bowling night right here in Pennsylvania. Winner take all. I'll even spot him two frames.
CROWLEY: And he's all compliments, sort of, about her campaign.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a lot of respect for Senator Clinton. I think that she deserves to be able to run as long as she wants.
CROWLEY: And she does want. Clinton, who enjoys a double-digit lead in Pennsylvania, relishes the underdog role -- the image that people are trying to muscle her out of the race. She's taken to entering events now to the theme song of "Rocky."
CLINTON: Let me tell you something, when it takes to finishing the fight, Rocky and I have a lot in common. I never quit.
CROWLEY: Amidst the lull in the rough stuff, the two Democratic candidates are touring Pennsylvania, economic plans in hand. As Capitol Hill grills big oil, the candidates are grilled by voters about those gas prices.
OBAMA: We can go after the windfall profits of some of these companies. I want to be honest with people also. That the only way we are going to deal with this long term is to reduce our consumption of oil.
CROWLEY: Often giving nearly identical answers.
CLINTON: ... to investigate price gouging, I would talk about moving toward energy independence.
CROWLEY: At least on the trail, it has mellowed out a bit. And you get the sense they have heard the worry of party leaders that, while the two of them battle it out to the final delegate, John McCain is getting a free ride.
OBAMA: Senator McCain has been saying, I don't under national security.
CROWLEY: Now, what both the candidates did was go after McCain. Barack Obama, after McCain's policy in Iraq, accusing McCain of wanting to be in Iraq for another 100 years. As you know, John, that is a distortion of what McCain said, and they push back very hard in the McCain campaign when they hear this.
Hillary Clinton went after McCain on the economy, saying -- repeating his phrase from a long time ago that he doesn't really know much about the economy, and she said he is proving that now by blaming homeowners for the mortgage crisis -- John. KING: Candy Crowley for us in Pennsylvania.
And I'm guessing by the tone of that, Senator McCain's not invited to the bowl-off.
Candy, thanks very much.
KING: While Senator McCain -- Senator Clinton is likening herself to Rocky Balboa, that may not sit well with the man who created and played the legendary movie role. Actor/director Sylvester Stallone revealed back in January he's supporting Republican John McCain.
And McCain today is defending himself against attacks by both Clinton and Barack Obama. And he's doing it on friendly turf -- his old high school right here in the Washington, D.C., suburbs.
Our Dana Bash went along with him and got a one-on-one interview.
Dana, how does McCain manage to conduct this biography tour he wants to have, but also respond to all these attacks coming in from the critics?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, John, they would love for us to focus on one thing and one thing only, and that is what he says in his daily messages this week. But this is also built around the idea that the Democrats would focus really on each other.
Now, as Candy just reported, they are focusing a lot on John McCain, so they are making him available to people like me and other reporters in order to fire back.
BASH (voice over): It was back to school for John McCain. His high school in suburban Washington. The message of the day? Lessons learned.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will not lie, will not cheat.
BASH: But as McCain walks down memory lane, Democrats are blasting him as out of touch for demanding a limited government role in fixing America's housing crisis. In an interview with CNN, McCain tried to clarify.
MCCAIN: Well, actually, I think the government should facilitate a lot of things. And there have been numerous proposals, many of which I have supported, and some that I will be coming forward with. What I worry about, of course, are massive bail-outs that will then reward people who didn't behave well.
BASH: He promised to unveil an economic plan soon. Meanwhile, new violence in Iraq is threatening McCain's "The surge is working" message. Military officials blame Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Just two weeks ago in Baghdad, McCain told CNN this about al-Sadr...
MCCAIN: His influence has been on the wane for a long time.
BASH: And now?
MCCAIN: I said there would be ups and downs. I said that Sadr was still a major player. And his influence is going to have to be reduced and gradually eliminated. That's why I did not call for a withdrawal of troops on a timetable, because there's a lot of unpredictabilities associated with wars.
BASH: At his old school, McCain joked with students about his legendary temper.
MCCAIN: I've been known to forget occasionally the discretion expected of a person of my years.
BASH: But how will that play in his campaign?
(on camera): A voter out there reads your books, listens to you, humor or not, about talking about your temper, and they say, do I want this guy with his finger on the button? What do you say?
MCCAIN: Well, I say that everyone's life is a work in progress. I have a better and more impressive record of bipartisanship and working across the aisle and legislative solutions and leadership than anybody that's running against me. When I see wasting needlessly of their tax dollars, when I see people behaving badly, they expect me to get angry. And I'll -- and I will get angry.
BASH: Now, I also asked McCain something that we were talking about yesterday, whether or not this bio tour talking about memories from World War II would remind voters of a potential liability. That, of course, is his age.
Well, the 71-year-old candidate insists that that also brings experience. Experience that he insists the Democratic candidates who are much younger simply don't have.
KING: We'll see how all that plays out and we'll see how the senator brags about his not so stellar grades at Annapolis, the Naval Academy, tomorrow.
Dana Bash, thank you very much.
And time now for "The Cafferty File." Jack joins us from New York.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Was he not a good student at Annapolis?
KING: Not so good.
BASH: Fifth from the bottom.
KING: Fifth from the bottom I'm told. Fifth from the bottom.
CAFFERTY: Fifth from the bottom? Wow. I'll be checking that report card out.
For the second time in two weeks, Chelsea Clinton has been asked a question about the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Campaigning for her mother at North Carolina State University yesterday, a student brought up the scandal that led to the impeachment of her father, Bill Clinton.
The student said Chelsea should have answered the question because it happened while her father was president of the United States. But the former first daughter was having none of it, saying, "It's none of your business. This is something that is very personal to my family. I'm sure there are things personal to your family that you don't think are anyone else's business either."
Chelsea also said that she doesn't think people "should vote for or against my mother because of my father." The student yesterday defended asking Chelsea the question, saying, "I feel it is our business because he was president at the time."
Yesterday's encounter followed a similar one at Butler University last week, when a student asked the former first daughter whether the Lewinsky scandal had hurt her mother's reputation. And again, Chelsea responded with, "I don't think that's any of your business."
While campaigning for her mother, Chelsea has refused to answer questions from the press as well.
So, here's the question: Chelsea Clinton says the Lewinsky scandal is none of the public's business. Is she right?
Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
You know, there's a better answer for her. And she's probably going to keep getting this, John, as she keeps traveling around to college campuses. She could say, you know what? I don't want to talk about it, instead of it's none of your business, which is a little confrontational. She'd just simply say, that's not something I'm here to talk about. Case dismissed.
KING: It's a great question. And it's a fascinating dilemma to watch her.
She has every right to draw the line where she wants to put it. And students, of course, it's a public campaign, and she's out there campaigning for her mother. They have every right to ask the question. So we look forward to the answers. And as you log on to Jack's blog, I wrote a little bit about something on our Political Ticker on this very issue today. You might want to check that out as well.
Thanks, Jack. We'll see you in a bit.
CAFFERTY: All right, John.
KING: And Hillary Clinton may be spoiling for a convention fight, but the party chairman says the Democrats should have a winner sooner rather than later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: I do believe that the unpledged delegates need to make their preferences known long before the convention. There's no reason that we shouldn't know who our nominee is by the 1st of July.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Coming up, Howard Dean talks about his timeline and the danger if Democrats keep on fighting.
Also ahead, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, offers a new take on the role of superdelegates. Is she softening her stand after criticism from Clinton supporters?
And later, oil executives on the hot seat on Capitol Hill, are they getting breaks while gas prices are soaring?
Stay right here. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
KING: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today is diving back into the debate over superdelegates and their role in choosing the Democratic presidential nominee. Her remarks come after some powerful Hillary Clinton supporters complained Pelosi's stand on superdelegates seem to favor Barack Obama.
Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
Bill, did she change her position, shift her position? What was it?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, not really. She was ambivalent about the role of superdelegates because the party rules are ambivalent.
SCHNEIDER (voice over): Could the superdelegates make Hillary Clinton the nominee even though Barack Obama is winning the popular vote? Speaker Nancy Pelosi's answer? Yes. REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Of course delegates are always going to vote their conscience. They are going to vote the politics of who can win.
SCHNEIDER: And no.
PELOSI: Any outcome that could appear to overturn the will of the voters could have a detrimental impact on us.
SCHNEIDER: So which is it? Well, both. Superdelegates give professional politicians a role in the nominating process. Voters hate professional politicians. In the past, the function of superdelegates has been to provide closure.
TAD DEVINE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: If one candidate had begun to move out, even if the other candidate had succeeded or done well early on, that these superdelegates could move towards that candidate and put the candidate over the top.
SCHNEIDER: Like in 1984, when the superdelegates put Walter Mondale over the top. But...
DEVINE: For them to choose a candidate who came in second would be unprecedented.
SCHNEIDER: In 1980, when Jimmy Carter beat Ted Kennedy, the party had a so-called "robot rule" that required all delegates to vote the way the primary voters instructed. After Carter was defeated, that rule was replaced by a new standard.
DEVINE: The standard of conscience, saying that the delegates shall in good conscience reflect -- fairly reflect what voters say in primaries and caucuses.
SCHNEIDER: If the superdelegates were to reverse the will of the voters, they would have to provide a powerful moral reason to do it.
MARK HALPERIN, THE PAGE, TIME.COM: For them to switch would require some huge event that would make them say, you know what? Obama can't be elected. He can't beat McCain.
SCHNEIDER: Now, that puts the burden on the Clinton campaign to make the case that this is now a whole new race -- John.
KING: As in wait for Pennsylvania, I assume.
Bill Schneider. Bill, thank you very much.
Now, here's where the fight for superdelegates stands right now. A CNN survey finds 243 superdelegates are supporting Senator Clinton, 212 are backing Senator Obama. That leaves more than 300 superdelegates still up for grabs.
And check this out -- 71 of Clinton's superdelegates are from states that Obama has won so far this primary season. That includes Washington senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye, and Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, to name a few.
Fifty-one of Obama's superdelegates come from states Clinton won. That includes Massachusetts Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano.
Now, many people call today April Fools' Day, but one Democratic congressman says, "The biggest joke of all is being played on American families by big oil." Some lawmakers are angry at rising fuel prices. So are some independent truck drivers. They've threatened an all-out strike that could cause all of us to pay more for the items we need every day.
And amid this outrage, lawmakers grilled big oil company executives on Capitol Hill today.
CNN Senior Correspondent Allan Chernoff tracking this from New York.
Allan, the executives, though, justified those big profits.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT: John, the executives of the five biggest oil companies certainly did not apologize for their profits, but those profits, some congressmen say, should be plowed into alternative energy.
CHERNOFF (voice over): Oil executives on Capitol Hill, they knew they'd be getting an earful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I believe you're going to see a backlash from your customers, the American people who are sick and tired of paying huge prices at the pump, only to see your companies swimming in their money.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your approval ratings are lower than ours, and that means you are down low.
CHERNOFF: The point of the hearing was not merely to criticize oil company profits, but to prod energy companies to invest more in renewable fuels like wind, hydropower and solar energy. Oil companies say they are developing alternatives to fossil fuels like crude oil.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, Chevron is the world's largest producer of geothermal energy.
CHERNOFF: But congressmen argued oil companies aren't spending nearly enough, especially the nation's biggest energy conglomerate, ExxonMobil.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't have it both ways, Mr. Simon (ph). You can't on the one hand be nickel and diming renewables at ExxonMobil, and at the same time be recording $40 billion worth of profit. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, we continue to look at that area. If we identify an area where we think it can have the impact that you're alluding to, we will do that.
CHERNOFF: The House recently approved a bill to take billions of dollars in tax benefits away from oil companies and invest the money in environmentally-friendly energy sources. But the oil industry has been lobbying the Senate to prevent passage of a similar bill.
CHERNOFF: And the Bush administration is opposed. So, while President Bush is in office, nothing is likely to change -- John.
KING: Disappointing many Americans out there, and certainly those truck drivers.
Allan Chernoff tracking this from New York. Allan, thank you very much.
The big five oil companies say that even though they make a lot of money, it's not out of line with what other major corporations make. Last year, for example, ExxonMobil had a profit margin of 11 percent. We compared that to some other big companies.
Microsoft showed a 27.5 percent profit. On the manufacturing side, Caterpillar showed almost eight percent. Wal-Mart had about a three percent profit margin.
The Bush administration says it will skirt some laws to help finish a border fence between the United States and Mexico. How will this issue and the broader race of immigration reform play out in the presidential campaign?
And President Bush is pushing some goals that infuriate Russia, and today he's making his demands clear despite Moscow's objections.
KING: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a fresh debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Both say they'd do better at easing the amount of money we all pay for gas. But how are they promising to do that?
TV channel surfers in Pennsylvania, beware. Seemingly every place you turn has a Barack Obama commercial. Why isn't the same true for Hillary Clinton?
And Chelsea Clinton says it's none of your business. But with some people determined to keep asking her about the Monica Lewinsky affair, might her refusal to answer backfire?
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
For some, it's an agonizing decision between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Which has the right experience, judgment, issues positions, and chance to win this fall? If you think you have a tough time deciding, imagine what the Democratic superdelegates are going through.
Some are even being pressed, pressured to vote a certain way. And some wonder what one key Democrat thinks about all this.
KING: Governor Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, thank you for joining us today in THE SITUATION ROOM.
I want to start with this continuing debate over the role of the superdelegates in the Democratic nominating process. Speaker Pelosi had said some time ago -- back on March 16th, she said this: "If the votes of the superdelegates overturn what's happened in the elections, it would be harmful to the Democratic Party." Essentially making the case that, whoever has the most pledged delegates at the end of the process should be the nominee.
This morning on ABC, she said that's still her preference, that the superdelegates not overturn the will of the Democratic electorate. But she also said this: "These superdelegates have the right to vote their conscience and who they think would be the better president, or who can win."
There are many Democrats out there who think perhaps leaders in the party, the speaker, even yourself, by constantly talking about the what-ifs and what should the superdelegates do, are perhaps adding to the confusion and the anxiety. Might it be best, sir, for all of the leaders of the party to let the next 10 contests just play out, see what the voters think, and to borrow a phrase from Bill Clinton, maybe just chill out?
DEAN: Well, I think that's what we've decided to do. That we are -- this talk about shutting the process down prematurely was a, you know, relatively small number of people. But I do believe that the unpledged delegates need to make their preferences known long before the convention.
You know, they can do it whenever they want. But the truth is, if you go into a convention divided, you usually come out of a convention divided.
There's no reason that we shouldn't know who our nominee is by the 1st of July. So, we're going to have the voters say, and then as the 400 -- as you know, 470 of these unpledged delegates have already made their preferences known. If the other 330 would make their preferences known sometime between now and the 1st of July, we could unify the party, go into Denver United, and then go on to win the presidency in the fall. And that's what I hope happens. KING: But one of your leading candidates, Senator Clinton, said just today, no thanks to the idea that this should all be decided by July 1st. She said that she doesn't think it will be, and she doesn't think that's right.
Now, in that after July 4th period, as you know, there could be lawsuits about Florida and Michigan. There could be credential committee challenges to seating those delegates. So, if one of the delegates says, no, I don't think it will be decided by July 1st, what is the prospect it will be?
DEAN: I think the voters will decide, whether anybody likes it or not. Whether I like it or Senator Clinton likes it or Senator Obama likes it, the voters will make their decision. And I think that's a good thing.
KING: Where is the bar for you, as chairman of the party? Many have said it should be whoever has the most number of pledged delegates. But some also see a scenario where it's possible that, say, Senator Clinton wins the six of the final 10 contests, including a big state like Pennsylvania, a critical state like West Virginia, which made George Bush president in 2000.
She wins, say, six of 10. She is slightly behind Obama in pledged delegates, but has momentum at the end, and is winning white, rural, working-class voters, who are critical to the Democratic Party. Is it the pledged delegates or is it momentum and electability that matter most to chairman Dean?
DEAN: Well, that's what you all talk about for 24 hours a day on cable television. I don't involved -- get involved with all that stuff.
That's all hypothetical this and what if that, and all that -- I don't have to fill 24 hours a day of talk. I just have to follow the rules. Here's how it's going to be. One candidate is going to win with about 50.2 percent of the vote, and the other is going to lose with about 49.8 percent of the votes.
I want to make sure that the candidate who doesn't win this nomination feels that they have been treated fairly, that, according to the rules. If they have been treated fairly according to the rules, it's going to be a lot easier to unify the party. And that's what we need to do.
KING: And are you already getting complaints from constituencies, whether it's Clinton supporters, whether it's African- American supporters of Senator Obama, saying, we don't think we're being treated fairly or we're worried about that?
DEAN: Oh, sure. Of course.
KING: And do you worry, as Governor Cuomo said in his essay yesterday, that he sees a disaster, he sees people either people voting for the Republicans or staying home?
DEAN: Look, that's not going to happen.
John McCain is a terribly flawed candidate. He's got two big problems. First of all, he's wrong on the three biggest issues. He wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years, he said, like Korea. He thinks that the president's management of the economy has been great. He's supported the president's tax cuts. His approach to the mortgage crisis is, let them eat cake.
And he has supported the president's veto of the children's health care bill. Health care, the economy, and Iraq, you can't get three bigger issues than that. He's got a more fundamental issue. And that is character issues. This is a guy who was for some kind of gun control. Now he's against it. He was against the Bush tax cuts. Now he's for it. He was for immigration. Now he's against it -- a guy that will say whatever it takes to get him elected president of the United States.
The voters aren't looking for that. They are looking for something new and something different. So, the only way that John McCain can win is if we're not united. And I think we will be united. John McCain will appoint right-wing activists to the Supreme Court, because he's going to have to pay off the right wing of his party.
This is four more years of George W. Bush. And I think the voters are no mood to have four more years of George W. Bush.
KING: Well, Governor, Senator McCain obviously disagrees with you on some of the characterizations.
DEAN: Yes, like which ones? Like which ones, John?
KING: I will let him speak for himself. And he's free to do...
DEAN: Because he hasn't done a very good job explaining...
KING: ... in the campaign that is coming.
But I want to refer to something you said. You just made a number of policy disputes and characterizations in contrast with Senator McCain. And that's what this campaign would and should be about. One comment you have made that even some Democrats cringed a little bit about is, you called him a blatant opportunist.
You can talk about his position on taxes, his position on Iraq. What about John McCain is a -- quote -- "blatant opportunist"?
DEAN: The fact that he was willing to support President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest people in America after he opposed them, the fact that he was willing to talk about ethics and campaign finance reform, and , when it came to him on taking public financing, he tried to get out of it, and is still trying, the fact that he was in favor of some restriction of gun rights, and now says he was never in favor of it, or he's against it, that he's changed his mind.
These are fundamental -- if you are going to switch yourself on basic issues, switch yourself around on basic issues, that is a problem. And that means that you're willing to say whatever it takes in order to win the presidency. That is not -- we have seen that for eight years. We don't need to see it for another four.
KING: Let me ask you, lastly, the Bush administration said today it would take a number of extraordinary steps, waiving some environmental laws, other waivers to laws to complete the construction or speed the construction of the fence along the U.S./Mexican border.
They are essentially using their waiver authority to accelerate this process. As you know, the fence is quite controversial. But many Americans believe it is necessary to secure the border. Is this a good step by the administration to do this quicker, or would you fight it?
DEAN: I have no idea why the president is doing this. I haven't thought his immigration policy made any sense at all for a long, long time.
Look, we need to bring order to the border. We need to uphold the immigration laws of the United States, which the president spent the first six years ignoring. Then we need to understand that these folks are, by are large, hardworking people, just like our grandfathers and great grandfathers and mothers that came over here to make better lives for themselves.
It's one of the big divides between the Democratic and the Republican Party. Of course we want to enforce the immigration laws. What we don't want to do is scapegoat immigrants. And I think that's what the Republicans are busy doing.
KING: Chairman Howard Dean of the Democratic National Committee, thanks for coming in today, sir.
DEAN: Thanks for having me on, John.
KING: Take care, Governor.
KING: And chairman Dean is getting a new vote of confidence for something you just heard him discussing, his plan to have all superdelegates make their votes public by July 1.
Just a short time ago on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threw his support behind that idea.
It's not just the Democrats who are weighing in on the superdelegate process. We're also hearing what the Republicans have to say.
Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.
Abbi, what does the Republican National Committee have to do with the Democratic superdelegates?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, John, you get the impression that the Republican Party is really enjoying the whole superdelegate discussion from this new Web site that they have launched, pulling together news articles and political cartoons about the superdelegate process with their message, "The power to choose does not belong to the Democrat voter."
Well, there's a response from the Democratic National Committee on that one: "It's not surprising that the RNC can't understand a process that includes people from all walks of life all across our country."
Well, one of the superdelegates themselves is also weighing in on this. This is a new blog, mrsuper.org, from an undeclared and anonymous superdelegate, who, he says, wants to debunk myths online about the whole process. And he points out that the Republicans have their own version of superdelegates, which is true, though they go by different name, and they are a smaller percentage of the total.
On the Democratic side, the superdelegates make up about 39 percent of the total needed to win. On the Republican side, the unpledged RNC member delegates, they make up about 10 percent -- John.
KING: I bet some of those Republicans wish they could be in the spotlight, too, Abbi.
KING: Abbi Tatton, thank you very much.
Abbi, a quick piece of fix-it. Earlier, we said that Senator Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary in Connecticut. Senator Obama won the contest in Connecticut. We wanted to make that correction.
And still ahead: President Bush is in Eastern Europe today. And what he's saying could launch a showdown with Russia. Find out why just ahead.
And the Department of Homeland Security is bypassing dozens of laws. See why it's renewing the immigration debate -- coming up.
Plus, John McCain one-on-one with CNN. We will ask him about his age and whether he thinks it's a factor in choosing a president.
KING: President Bush is overseas in Romania this hour to meet with NATO allies. He landed in Bucharest after a stop in Ukraine, where he drove home some sharp disagreements with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
CNN's Elaine Quijano is traveling with the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire!
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Afghanistan and the resurgence of the Taliban loom large, as President Bush prepares to head to his final NATO summit, priority one for the president, drumming up additional troops for the fight in Afghanistan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire.
STEPHEN HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We all need to do more, and I think the president's message is going to be one of the importance of success in Afghanistan.
QUIJANO: But Julie Ann Smith (ph), a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said more NATO troops alone won't address Afghanistan's deeper challenges.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even if NATO succeeds in securing, say, 2,000, 3,000 more troops, we still are facing a situation where, without the required reconstruction assistance, NATO will not be able to succeed.
QUIJANO: Also on the president's agenda, laying the groundwork for a missile defense system and enlarging NATO to include the eventual membership of former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia. Both moves have Russia fuming. So, President Bush has plans to end his trip by accepting an invasion from outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet at the Russian port city of Sochi on the Black Sea.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What President Bush is trying to do on this visit is, as he leaves office, try and patch up the relationship with Russia as best he can before the next U.S. president gets into office.
QUIJANO (on camera): President Putin is first expected to attend the NATO summit to argue against Ukraine's and Georgia's membership bids. Just how confrontational Putin is in voicing that opposition may set the tone for the meeting in Russia with President Bush.
Traveling with the president, Elaine Quijano, CNN, Kiev, Ukraine.
KING: In the "Strategy Session": While speaking at his high school alma mater, Senator McCain declared, he's mellowed through the years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I believe, if my detractors had known me here on the Hill, they might marvel at the self-restraint and mellowness that I have developed as an adult. Or perhaps they wouldn't quite see it that way. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: But has the maverick senator from Arizona (AUDIO GAP) temperament behind him?
And a sweeping move by the Bush administration may put the issue of immigration reform front and center once again on the campaign trail. Is that helpful to any of the candidates? All that just ahead -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
KING: The Bush administration says it will skirt some laws and issue some environmental waivers to help finish a border fence between the United States and Mexico.
In today's "Strategy Session," we want to look at how this and immigration reform in general could influence the presidential race.
In their last debate, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama expressed their thoughts on the border fence.
Here's Senator Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: So, what I have said is that, I would say, wait a minute. We need to review this. There may be places where a physical barrier is appropriate. I think, when both of us voted for this, we were voting for the possibility that, where it was appropriate and made sense, it would be considered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And here's what Senator Obama had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Well, this is an area where Senator Clinton and I almost entirely agree.
I think that the key is, consult with local communities, whether it's on the commercial interests or the environmental stakes of creating any kind of barrier.
And the Bush administration is not real good at listening. That's not what they do well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining me here, Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.
Gentlemen, thanks for coming in.
How does it play out on the campaign trail? And, Steve, I want to start with you.
Both of the Democrats say, now, wait a minute. If we're elected, we are going to look at this again. We don't think you need the full, big fence, maybe a little bit of fence, but not as much. That plays well with the Democratic base, to say, forget about the fence and or at least sharply revise it.
But a lot of more conservative independent voters, the white, rural people talking about this, they want that fence. How do the Democrats deal with this?
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think, in areas where the fence is necessary, they have said that they are willing to consider a fence, but that the local communities should be consulted.
And it's interesting that a government that generally -- a Republican Party that generally thinks that -- that federal government shouldn't Stephen in and trample all over states' and local communities' rights want to build a fence all across the southern part of the border. I actually think it's sign that they don't believe John McCain will follow through with one of their big commitments, building this fence, which, of course, they promised to the Republican base a long time ago.
KING: McCain is not in step always with his own party on immigration reform. He now says border security first. But that's a lesson learned for him. Does he want this stirred back up in the campaign?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think Senator McCain has said it very clear that secure the border first is his priority.
But, look, we're building this fence not to protect America's environment and to protect the snail darter. We're building this fence to gain -- regain control of our borders and protect Americans lives. America is at war and our ports and borders are not secure.
And at a time of war, you know what? You put the nation's security first. And that's what I think the administration is doing. And that's what Republicans are supporting.
KING: But earlier in the campaign, when you were working for one of Senator McCain's primary rivals, you were making the case that he wasn't tough enough on border security. And you know there's a big debate in the party. Do you want to be tough to support the voters who want a very strict immigration policy? And if -- but if you do that, do you risk losing Latino voters, one of the fastest growing growth populations and growth target electorates in the United States of America?
Some had thought McCain might reverse some of the damage done during the immigration debate. Will this revive it?
CASTELLANOS: Earlier in the campaign -- gee, how did I do with that argument, by the way? (LAUGHTER)
CASTELLANOS: No, look, I think most Republicans understand that this is a country with -- with strong hands and a big heart. We want to always keep the door open to legal immigration in this country, because that's -- hey, that's where we all came from at one point or another.
But we also have to have secure borders and -- and control of our borders, because, otherwise, we're not even a nation, especially at this critical time.
KING: The three candidates left, they would sort of differ in what they emphasize, but, if you go back to when the immigration debate was on the Senate floor, they essentially had the same position. So, does this cut -- does the Bush administration getting more active, putting this back on the table, does it cut any way in the campaign?
MCMAHON: Well, I do think it cuts. As you know, the Hispanic cut is going to be one of the key swing votes in this election.
George W. Bush actually did quite well among Hispanic voters. I think this fence that he's putting up and that they are now insisting upon trampling laws to get accomplished before he leaves office is a sign to the Hispanic voter that, you know, we don't necessarily care about where you or where you came -- you or where you came from. We certainly don't care about your family that might be trying to improve their lives. We want to shut everybody out and shut everything down.
Obviously, we need to get control of our borders. But the signal that this sends to Hispanic voters, that you're not welcome, your family's not welcome, and what are you doing here anyway, isn't a very reassuring one.
And I will remind you that there's still 13 million or 14 million or 18 million people who are here illegally. And the Bush administration plan, building the fence or not, doesn't really address that problem.
And I think the Democrats are open-minded enough to say, where you need border security, even if it's a physical barrier, we're open to that. But you have got deal with the people who came here who are raising their families here, who have had children, who are American citizens that are here.
MCMAHON: And you have got to be fair to those folks as well.
KING: Want to move on.
But go ahead. You are shaking your head. CASTELLANOS: Well, I don't think you want to insult Hispanic voters by saying that, somehow, they don't respect America's law and that they don't believe we should -- we have a border, that we should enforce it.
They are here for the same reasons, same values and the same economic opportunities we all are. So, no, I don't think it jeopardizes Republicans' appeal to the Hispanic vote at all.
I think what is interesting, the Democrats are putting themselves in an untenable position, and saying, you know, we're for the fence, except when we're against the fence.
CASTELLANOS: And I think we have heard that argument before. It really doesn't seem to work too well.
MCMAHON: That was John McCain's...
CASTELLANOS: Is that what I'm hearing?
MCMAHON: John McCain actually has the reverse of that argument.
KING: Let me turn the page. You heard Senator McCain joking a bit earlier. He's on this biography tour. And campaigns do that for a reason. They want to tell their life story. They want to tell it in a way that they hope either addresses problems and concerns or connects with voters about future-oriented issues.
So, he's at his old high school today. And this is Senator McCain himself making jokes about, even then, he had a bit of a temper. He was known for being a bit rambunctious and even a problem. His nickname was "The Punk," I think, in high school.
Alex Castellanos, for him to be bringing this up himself, is that a sign that they know it's an issue they need to confront? And is humor the way to do it?
CASTELLANOS: One thing about Senator McCain -- and I think one of the most appealing things about him -- is, he's a postmodern candidate. He can poke fun at himself. And I think that makes him a very accessible and human candidate.
You know, we think politicians are these somewhat distant, stiff figures. And he's a very accessible man and a very accessible candidate. He is not afraid to poke fun at himself. He is a passionate guy. He's passionate about this country, which he served and suffered for quite a bit and he's seen other Americans serve and suffer for, I think, in ways we can only imagine.
So, I -- I have a great deal of respect for his passion for fighting for those things that he and he's seen other Americans defend.
KING: Is temper an opening for Democrats? Or would their time be better spent on the issues, not trying to...
MCMAHON: I mean, temperament is obviously beneath the surface for John McCain.
The Bush campaign in 2000 took advantage of the fact that what they said was a temperament issue with John McCain. I think he's trying to address that. But I agree with you. I think, fundamentally, this is going to be about John McCain. Is the John McCain that you thought you knew, the maverick that you thought you knew, the real John McCain.
Or is he somebody who is willing to compromise and tailor his positions in this case to get the Republican nomination, to move to the right, and to become a clone of George W. Bush, which many people thought he's done, whether it's on the war or on immigration or on taxes or on a whole range of issues.
Social Security, he now wants to privatize Social Security. He never did before. These are the -- this is the debate that we're going to have, whether or not we should stay in Iraq for 100 years or whether we should try and get the troops out in 100 days.
CASTELLANOS: Here we go. Here we go.
KING: On April 1, we're going to call a truce right now, gentlemen. Many months to go. I'm sure we will revisit the 100 years' comment and John McCain's temper and much, much more.
Steve McMahon, Alex Castellanos, thanks very much for coming in.
KING: Is the pro wrestler turned politician ready to jump in the political arena again? We're looking into the potential for former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura to run for another elective office.
And one on one with John McCain -- he talks with CNN about the economy, Iraq, and what he would do to resolve problems with both. He sits down with our Dana Bash. And we will bring that to you just ahead.
KING: Checking out our Political Ticker this Tuesday: A leading teachers union is showing its support for Hillary Clinton with a shot of ad spending. The American Federation of Teachers reports buying more than $329,000 in radio ads to support Senator Clinton's campaign.
And "The Washington Post" reports the union may have a TV ad soon to complement that radio buy.
In Minnesota, there's a new push to let visitors to the Republican National Convention this summer drink into the wee morning hours. The statehouse is reportedly considering a measure to approve a 4:00 a.m. last call for alcohol, two hours later than usual. "The New York Times" reports the extra drinking time would apply to establishments within a 10-mile radius of the convention site in St. Paul.
Ohio's National First Ladies Library is just saying no to Bill Clinton. The library says it won't make a special exhibit for the former president if he becomes the first spouse. The library's founder notes, it's a first ladies library. She says Bill Clinton or any other future first man would have to build their own library.
Of course, Bill Clinton already has a presidential library in Little Rock.
Would former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura consider getting back into politics? The ex-Reform Party political phenom says, he's learned you never say never. Ventura tells the Associated Press he's been watching the Minnesota Senate race, and he's not happy with either incumbent Norm Coleman or Democratic challenger Al Franken.
You want to learn a bit more? Jesse Ventura is a guest tonight on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE." That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific.
And, remember, as always, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com.
Jack joins us again now with "The Cafferty File."
CAFFERTY: So, if Ventura gets into that race in Minnesota, the -- the people up there would have a choice between a professional wrestler, a comic from "Saturday Night Live," and Coleman, right?
KING: That would be correct, unless you want to jump in, too.
CAFFERTY: No, no, no. No, that's -- that's too fast company for me. Unbelievable.
Here's the question this hour. Chelsea Clinton says the Lewinsky scandal is none of the public's business. Is she right?
Tom writes: "None of your business is the correct answer, and I'm surprised her father didn't say the same thing." Marie disagrees in Georgia: "No, it's not off limits. I think the student that asked if the incident damaged Hillary's credibility had every right to ask that question. Hillary's response at the time was to blame a right-wing conspiracy. That was far from the truth. She knew her husband had been unfaithful in the past. I also feel that Chelsea gave the wrong answer. It is our business if they want us to vote for her mother."
Greg writes: "A more interesting question to ask Chelsea is, could she please explain why she has fully supported her mother's statement that they were under fire from snipers in Bosnia and had to run to armored vehicles for their safety, when video of that event clearly shows that none of those things happened?"
Erin writes: "It became the public's business when her father scandalized the Oval Office and trampled on the public trust. Chelsea and her parents seem to think she can be used as a specially protected arm of the Clinton machine, when, in fact, she should be no more protected from such questions than anyone else."
Joan in Florida weighs in with this: "Yes, Chelsea Clinton is absolutely right. The Monica Lewinsky scandal is over. People need to move on to more pressing topics, like the economy, gas, health care, and war in Iraq."
Paul in Pennsylvania: "Monica-gate should be off limits. This conversation should start and end with Bill. Hillary and Chelsea were unwilling bystanders."
And, finally, Denise says: "With all due respect to Chelsea, she is wrong. It is the public business, because her father was the president of the United States of the United States, lied to the American people straight in our faces to cover his adulterous acts performed in our house. Finally, Chelsea is not a little girl anymore. If she can't take the heat, she should stay off the campaign trail" -- John.
This is posted on the front pages of both the CNN.com and CNNPolitics.com Web sites, and a connection to the blog. And we are getting astronomical amounts of mail on this question.
KING: And we will keep reading it and checking it out.
Jack Cafferty, I knew that one would spark some interest. Jack, thanks very much.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Oil execs defend their record profits on Capitol Hill. That's providing more fuel for the Democratic candidates out pitching their energy ideas to the voters.
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