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Primary Expectations: Pennsylvania Countdown; How Effective are Recent Negative Campaigns Ads From Clinton & Obama?; John McCain Goes After African-American Support

Aired April 21, 2008 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Barack Obama's primary eve prediction. He says Hillary Clinton likely will win, but he hopes to keep it close. I'll ask Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe how his candidate expects to do tomorrow and whether it will be enough to keep her in the presidential race. We're watching this very closely.
Also this hour, campaign mud on the airwaves. We're looking at the new Clinton and Obama attack ads and whether they actually tell the truth.

And John McCain tries to bridge the gap with African-American voters. He's taking another detour from the usual GOP campaign trail, hoping to get a leg up on the Democrats in the fall.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both are trying to downplay expectations for tomorrow's Pennsylvania primary. But this next contest offers some big opportunities for Clinton to jumpstart a comeback and for Obama to keep her running for her political life.

Pennsylvania is the biggest contest left this primary season, with a hefty 158 delegates up for grabs. At last count, CNN estimates that Obama has 1,644 total delegates, compared to 1,498 for Clinton -- 2,125 are needed to win the nomination. Obama has the edge with pledged delegates; Clinton has a slim advantage with superdelegates.

After a six-week lull in the primary schedule, it's time once again for Clinton and Obama to deliver closing arguments to the voters out there in Pennsylvania.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is on the scene for us with the CNN Election Express.

Candy, the message from the candidates today includes what?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, 24 hours before any vote generally that day is about two things -- getting out the vote and setting expectations. And today we had some of both.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AUDIENCE: Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! CROWLEY (voice-over): Pennsylvania is Clinton-friendly -- whiter, older, more female than the national average with nearly a million union households, all demographics that have favored her in other states. A loss here would be catastrophic.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do everything you can. Convince people to go vote who say that they're not going to vote. Take them to the polls. Call your friends and neighbors. Make the case for the kind of results that we desperately need in America again.

CROWLEY: Barack Obama has outspent Clinton by more than two to one in Pennsylvania, which helped close what was once a considerable Clinton lead. Still, he told a Pennsylvania radio station he's not going to win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you predicting a win here tomorrow?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, no, I'm not predicting a win. I'm predicting it's going to be close and that we are going to do a lot better than people expect.

CROWLEY: The Clinton campaign will have none of it, arguing that Obama has spent so much money in Pennsylvania, a loss would bring his electability into question.

On the campaign trail, for a last round of rallies and restaurants, both candidates were relatively mellow compared to a rough and tumble weekend, with each accusing the other of misleading ads. Their campaigns did get into it over Clinton's final ad, which included the image of Osama bin Laden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to be ready for anything, especially now with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing, and an economy in crisis. Harry Truman said it best. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Who do you think has what it takes?

CROWLEY: Taking exception, an Obama spokesman said, "We already have a president who plays a politics of fear, and we don't need another."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Bottom line though, Wolf, these ads have gotten increasingly negative. And as we look forward to both Indiana and North Carolina, they are not likely to get any less so -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, thank you for that.

In the weeks leading up to tomorrow's vote in Pennsylvania, Clinton's once sizable lead in the state's polls has narrowed. Where does she stand on this, the primary eve?

Let's go for some numbers right now. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is standing by.

Bill, who has the momentum going into tomorrow's primary?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, that question turns out to be a lot more complicated than it sounds.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Anyone got the big mo, momentum, going into Tuesday's Pennsylvania showdown? A week ago, our Pennsylvania Poll of Polls showed Hillary Clinton with a six-point lead over Barack Obama, with eight percent undecided. The next two reports showed no significant change -- a five-point Clinton lead.

And the two days after that? Still no change. Clinton ahead by five, with nine percent undecided.

Most of those interviews were done before the big debate last Wednesday night. That debate seemed to produce divergent momentum. Clinton supporters saw Obama on the defensive.

CLINTON: You know, this week we had a debate. And it showed you the choice you have.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: And it's no wonder that my opponent has been so negative these last few days of the campaign.

SCHNEIDER: Obama supporters saw the debate as a perfect example of what they're running against -- the game.

OBAMA: That's just the way the game is played. And so you might as well have a president who knows how to play the game.

SCHNEIDER: Today, we have the first Poll of Polls in which all voters were interviewed after the debate. What does it show? Clinton seven points ahead with seven percent undecided. Undecided voters down two points, Clinton up two. Not exactly the big mo.

One poll taker reports that white Catholic voters make up the largest share of the remaining undecided voters. If they actually vote, they could break for Clinton and give her the double-digit victory she needs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Both candidates' support has been pretty stable in Pennsylvania. For both, the base of their support could be the limit of their support. Neither has shown much appeal beyond his or her base.

So what will determine the result? How effective each candidate is in getting his or her base out to vote -- Wolf.

BLITZER: In close elections that's usually what happens, getting out that base.

All right, Bill. Thank you.

This exciting presidential rate is attracting a whole new generation of voters. Now you can join CNN's new League of First Time Voters. Get accurate and easy to access information about voting and connect with others. Check out CNN.com/league and you too can become a member.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's here in New York with us. He's got "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm here in New York every day.

BLITZER: I know.

CAFFERTY: You're here in New York with us.

BLITZER: I'm here -- on the eve of big elections I'm here with you.

CAFFERTY: That's right. And the people in Pennsylvania probably can't wait until it's over tomorrow.

The campaign seems like it's gone on forever. It's been like six weeks since the last time anybody voted.

The campaign between Obama and Clinton has become a nasty affair, the two trading accusations about who's been more negative in their campaigning. Front-page stories today, "New York Times," "Washington Post,." both talk about how Obama has suddenly sharpened his tone and his attacks on Clinton, which is a departure from how he's treated her in previous contests. Obama's questioning whether Clinton is honest and trustworthy, going after her as an expert in old school special interest politics.

For her part, Clinton is calling Obama's approach so negative and says that he's copying Republicans in his attacks on her universe health care plan. She's suggesting Obama's message of hope has morphed into old-style politics.

Both candidates unleashed TV ads yesterday in Pennsylvania accusing the other of holding on to ties with special interests. Meanwhile, Obama's been gaining support from establishment figures in the Democratic Party -- I'm over here. Thank you -- after Clinton's repeated attacks on his bitter remarks.

Former Senator Sam Nunn, David Boren backed Obama late last week. Robert Reich, President Clinton's labor secretary at one time, longtime friend of the Clintons -- maybe not anymore -- says he's supporting Obama, saying that he was appalled by Hillary's mean- spirited attacks.

An average of polls in Pennsylvania now shows Obama trailing by about seven points going into tomorrow, which is down from Clinton's double-digit lead just weeks ago. Clinton's expected to win tomorrow, but the focus will be on the margin. What's not clear is who, if anyone, is gaining from all the negativity in the closing days of this campaign.

So here's the question: How effective are personal attacks by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on each other?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, where you can post a comment on my blog.

Now...

BLITZER: You noticed in this last Poll of Polls in Pennsylvania the undecided have gone from nine percent down to seven percent. So these people are finally making up their minds.

CAFFERTY: Well, they've got to hurry.

BLITZER: They don't have a lot of time.

CAFFERTY: If they haven't decided by tomorrow, they might as well stay home.

BLITZER: Or they just refuse to tell pollsters.

CAFFERTY: Well, that could be true. Maybe...

BLITZER: There's an element of that going on I'm sure as well.

See you in a few moments, Jack. Thank you.

Some Democrats are asking, is Hillary Clinton willing to win at any cost? I'll pose that question to the Clinton campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe. He's standing by live to join us.

Plus, the Democratic candidates have spent millions of dollars on campaign commercials in Pennsylvania. Are the ads misleading? We're checking the facts.

And John McCain is going to some places other Republican presidential candidates have often ignored. Can he take votes away from Democrats while they're busy squabbling?

Lots of news happening today, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Right now some Democrats are using very strong words to describe what they say is happening between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Specifically, one of them even suggests that Clinton's campaign will do whatever it takes to win even if it means tearing the party apart.

Let's discuss now with Terry McAuliffe. He's chairman of the Clinton campaign.

Terry, thanks for come in.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Great to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Here's the quote from Donna Brazile, our CNN analyst, the Democratic strategist, in "The Wall Street Journal" today. I'll get your reaction.

"There's a group around Senator Clinton that really wants to take the fight to the convention. They don't care about the party. It scares me, and that's what scares a lot of superdelegates."

She's a superdelegate, undecided until now. What's your reaction?

MCAULIFFE: I couldn't disagree more. Listen, we have a very competitive fight going on today. We've had 27 million votes cast. The difference is about one percent. We've had 3,100 delegates chosen. Right now the difference is 140 delegates. We've got a long way to go, 12.5 million Democrats still yet to vote in the upcoming contests. Over 800 delegates to be chosen.

Let's not be talking about the convention. Let's let these voters in these 10 states and territories vote between now and June 3.

My personal opinion, I think once we get through June 3, I think most of the superdelegates will begin to make up their mind and move. So I don't personally think it's going to go to the convention. But forget all that talk.

Let the voters, the 12.5 million registered Democrats in these upcoming states, let's let them vote. Let's let the voters decide this election.

BLITZER: She won in Ohio, a neighboring state to Pennsylvania, by 10 points, 54 to 44 percent. And a lot of analysts have suggested she needs a double-digit win in Pennsylvania to show she's got the momentum and that this is moving in her favor.

You agree with that assessment?

MCAULIFFE: Listen, first of all, I say a win is a win. We're going to win tomorrow. We're going to win in Pennsylvania.

And when you add that to the important states that we have to win in the general election, like Michigan and Florida and Ohio, what this will prove tomorrow -- in fact, the Obama campaign several times now have tried to stop Hillary Clinton. They tried to do it Nevada, they tried to do it New Hampshire. They couldn't do it in Texas, they couldn't do it in Ohio.

If they can't do it again tomorrow in Pennsylvania, a lot of legitimate questions -- who would be the best nominee going in to the general election? Hillary Clinton will show tomorrow, as she has shown, strength in these large electoral college states that we have to win. When she wins tomorrow, Wolf, her electoral college vote is 283. Senator Obama's is about 199.

You need 270 to win the White House, and we still have West Virginia, Kentucky, other states. We look very good in going forward.

BLITZER: In those numbers you just mentioned, did you include Michigan and Florida, where the delegates won't be seated?

MCAULIFFE: For the -- clearly for the electoral college I do. But let's be honest. These people came out in Florida -- 1.7 million voters came out in Florida...

BLITZER: But nobody campaigned there. And his name was not even on the ballot in Michigan.

MCAULIFFE: Well, let's be clear. In Michigan his name was on the ballot. He decided to take his name off to appease Iowa and New Hampshire. That was his political decision.

They ran an uncommitted slate against us. But let's be clear, Wolf. We need to win Florida and Michigan in the general election.

Hillary won Florida by 17 points. Everybody's name was on the ballot, everybody got treated the same. These are very important states.

And I can tell you, having just gotten back from Florida, people down there are very angry. They want their votes to be counted. It's not these citizens' fault that the DNC took their delegates away. They want to be counted in the nominating process.

BLITZER: I want to play this little clip from an ad that the Clinton campaign has just released.

Watch and listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to be ready for anything, especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing, and an economy in crisis. Harry Truman said it best. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Who do you think has what it takes?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. The argument the critics are suggesting, she's giving ammunition to John McCain's campaign down the road by questioning whether or not Barack Obama's really fit to be commander- in-chief.

What's your reaction?

MCAULIFFE: This ad is about the election. There are big issues that the president of the United States faces. A lot of things happen. You don't know they're coming. That's why we need a president in there who's experienced.

As the ad shows, Pearl Harbor, bin Laden is in the ad. A lot of unexpected things happen when you're president. You've got to have someone who's ready to take on this job day one.

We are running for the nomination for the Democratic Party. This is your message -- support Hillary. Eight years living in the White House, 35 years of experience. As your president, a lot of unexpected things, big things happen. And we need someone who's ready to do that.

Let's be clear. And I've heard this argument before. Whatever John McCain's going to do in the general election, Wolf, he's going to do regardless of what happens in the Democratic nominating process.

It's not like we're coming up with something that's secret that only the Clinton campaign has. Let's get ourselves ready for the general election. Let's have a good spirited primary in the next 10 states, and we will be ready for the general election.

Hillary will have proven at the end of this she has won California, Florida, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, big states important for the general election.

BLITZER: Here is the numbers from that "Washington Post"/ABC News poll. And I'm sure you saw it the other day.

Is Hillary Clinton honest and trustworthy? Thirty-nine percent say yes, 58 percent say no. That's a pretty disturbing number if you're a supporter of Hillary Clinton.

MCAULIFFE: Well, listen, we've gone through a rough primary process. For a long time Hillary Clinton was the front-runner. And we had eight or nine candidates every day wanting to move ahead of her, trying to take her down. Listen, that's the business when you run in these Democratic primaries.

Once we get through with the primaries, we will come together as a united Democratic Party. I think it'll happen sometime after June 4, when the superdelegates -- I remind you that Senator Obama cannot win without superdelegates, Senator Clinton cannot win without superdelegates.

The argument's going to be after June 4, who is it that best can take this message? Who is it that can win the general election? Today, Hillary Clinton has proven with the big states that she's winning she's already over 270 electoral votes.

BLITZER: We're going to later in THE SITUATION ROOM be speaking with Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona. She's a strong supporter of Barack Obama.

MCAULIFFE: Sure.

BLITZER: From your perspective -- and we're almost out of time, Terry... MCAULIFFE: Sure.

BLITZER: ... what is the biggest policy difference between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, whether on a domestic or foreign policy issue?

MCAULIFFE: I think clearly health care. There is a division between the two plans. Hillary covers everyone. Senator Obama's plan leaves out 15 million people.

His has options that people can opt out of the system. Hillary, everybody's in the system. The economy's to scale. Everybody's included.

And then finally, I think most importantly, Hillary Clinton, the issue of experience. She's ready to go in day one. And what this ad talks about, when you are president and you're sitting in that chair, things happen that cannot be expected. Big things happen.

You need someone in that chair that can handle those big things. That's Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: All right, Terry.

Terry McAuliffe is the chairman of the Clinton campaign.

Thanks for coming in.

MCAULIFFE: Thank you.

BLITZER: It's an ambitious goal, raising a million dollars in one minute. That's what Barack Obama supporters planned. Did they actually meet their goal?

And the defense secretary's surprising criticism about a branch of the U.S. military. Robert Gates says the Air Force is not doing enough in the war. You're going to hear Gates' reasoning behind that and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, questions about the retired generals and the colonels often seen on television talking about the war. How much were some of them talking for themselves instead of the Pentagon?

One of Bill and Hillary Clinton's biggest political enemies of the 1990s considered part of the so-called "vast right wing conspiracy" doing something surprising. Wait until you hear what he's saying about Hillary Clinton now.

And she's a global music star. Now she's part of a very important global campaign. Grammy Award-winning Shakira, she's here in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about her latest cause. She has a special message for you.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Hillary Clinton wants you to believe she's far more ready for what her campaign calls the toughest job in the world. Barack Obama wants you to believe he's better prepared by virtue of what he sees as better judgment. Both arguments are themes seen in TV commercials airing an 11th hour blitz in Pennsylvania. But we're checking the facts.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is standing by live. She's joining us.

Jessica, you're looking into some of their claims.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I am, Wolf. And I'll tell you, the airwaves here are saturated with political ads, and both campaigns have gone negative. Senator Clinton taking on Barack Obama's claim that he doesn't take money from special interests, and Obama going after Clinton's health care plan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice over): This Clinton ad takes aim at Obama's squeaky clean image.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've seen the ad.

OBAMA: I don't take money from oil companies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No candidate does. It's been against the law for 100 years. But Barack Obama accepted $200,000 from executives and employees of oil companies.

YELLIN: True, but not the whole story. It's illegal for corporations to contribute to presidential candidates.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, as of late March, Barack Obama has accepted more than $222,000 from oil and gas company employees. What the ad doesn't tell you, Senator Clinton has raked in even more, at least $309,000 from oil and gas interests. And she takes contributions from PACs, groups that bundle donations. Obama doesn't.

OBAMA: She's essentially saying, yeah, I'm bad, but he's just as bad. What kind of argument is that?

YELLIN: Obama has gone negative too, with this ad attacking Clinton's health care plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton's attacking, but what's she not telling you about her health care plan? It forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it, and you pay a penalty if you don't. Barack Obama believes it's not that people don't want health care, it's that they can't afford it.

YELLIN: Partly true. Clinton would require everyone get health care coverage. Obama wouldn't. Now, she would have to enforce that somehow, possibly with a fine. But she says if you can't afford the health coverage, the government will help you pay.

CLINTON: The last thing we need is to have somebody spending as much money as he has downgrading universal health care.

YELLIN: You can't turn on a television in Pennsylvania without seeing these political ads.

LARRY EICHEL, "THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER": I think, when you have so many commercials like that, sometimes, the -- the impact of any individual spot is pretty negligible.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: And, Wolf, it really is ad saturation here.

To give you a sense, in the last two weeks alone, Clinton and Obama's ads have aired 11,000 times, Obama's far more often than Clinton's. It is record-breaking -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lots of money involved as well.

Jessica, thank you.

So, who's had the most money to actually run all those ads? That would be Barack Obama. In Pennsylvania, he's spent more than twice as much as Clinton on ads.

A look at a few cities shows that. In Philadelphia, for example, Clinton spent less than half of what Obama spent on ads. In Pittsburgh, Obama outspent Clinton more than three times as much. And, in Harrisburg, Obama spent about double the amount Clinton did for ads.

Meanwhile, in some places, the candidates aren't just letting their ads do the talking. Hours before Pennsylvania's primary, Obama and Clinton are crisscrossing the state. She began her day in the Northeast in Scranton, headed clear across the state to Pittsburgh, comes back to the capital, Harrisburg, in the midsection, and will end her night in Philadelphia.

Obama follows a similar plan, although a different path. He began in Blue Bell -- that's near Philadelphia -- heads west to two cities near each other, McKeesport and Pittsburgh.

How much might this final push help propel them to victory?

Let's get some analysis. Our chief national correspondent, John King, is joining us for more on that.

What are you looking at, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what you just went through shows the amazing diversity of Pennsylvania, which is what makes this primary, six weeks in the making, so fascinating.

Let's look at the key places in the final hours. As you mentioned, they're crisscrossing the state. But let's look here first. This is the county-by-county analysis of what has happened up to Pennsylvania. Senator Clinton won up here in New York. She won here in New Jersey. Barack Obama won down here in Delaware and Maryland.

But if you look along the border, Senator Clinton did fairly well in some of these rural counties bordering Pennsylvania. And this is Ohio, where Senator Clinton won big some time ago. Now let's zoom in on Pennsylvania. The key to the state, if you're Barack Obama and you're trying to engineer a surprise upset in Pennsylvania, the key is right here in southeast Pennsylvania.

It starts -- I'm going to draw a circle right now -- in this part of the state, the southeast corner of the state. Thirty percent of the people of Pennsylvania live right here. The most important part for Barack Obama, Philadelphia. More than half of the electorate in the primary tomorrow in the city of Philadelphia will be African- American. He needs to run up the numbers and run up the numbers big if he is to have any chance of beating Senator Clinton there. And he need to run them up even if he just wants to keep this race close when it comes to the delegate math. So, Philadelphia is big.

Then you go out to these suburban counties. Bucks County began the year a majority Republican county. It is now majority Democrat. Democrats have just passed Republicans in terms of registration, in large part to efforts to register new voters from Barack Obama.

The same story in Montgomery County. It has switched from a Republican county to a Democrat county, just barely, critical for Barack Obama -- more suburbs down here, Chester County and Delaware County. If Barack Obama is to surprise us tomorrow, Wolf, that's where it will happen, right here in the southeast corner.

Now let's look over here again. I am going to leave the red up for Barack Obama and I'm going to draw blue right here. Scranton, Allentown, Bethlehem, Reading, if there is to be a fallout by the voters, the white working-class voters over the bitter comments by Barack Obama, you see it right here. This should be Hillary Clinton territory anyway. She needs to run up the margin there and run it up big.

Another key for Senator Clinton is across the state over here in the Pittsburgh area, the Archdiocese of Pittsburgh, about 800,000 Catholic voters right out here, critical for Senator Clinton.

One of the fun things to watch tomorrow will be this part of the state. In Pennsylvania, they call this the T. I'm going to draw a line here. I'm going to come up the middle and go across essentially to the New York border. And why do they call that the T.?

Let's go back in time and look at the 2004 presidential election here. The red is Republican. This was Bush country. But it is key in the Democratic primary. We're going to leave up the color to remind you this is conservative territory. While they will vote Republican come November, there are a lot of Democrats out here. They're white rural Democrats.

And if Senator Clinton is in a close race, she needs to get big margins here, Wolf, among the white rural communities. Not a lot of people out there, but she needs to win by good margins in all of these smaller rural counties. It is a fascinating state. We will be watching it over the next two days.

BLITZER: Could be a long night tomorrow. And you will be with us every step of the way. John, Thank you.

John McCain is trying to chart a new course for Republican presidential candidates. We are going to follow him on the campaign trail today. He's looking for African-American support in Alabama. Are voters there willing to give him a chance?

And more on some Democrats' fears that Hillary Clinton's fight for the nomination could wind up hurting the party. You heard Terry McAuliffe reject Donna Brazile's complaints about the Clinton camp's tactics. Donna's standing by live. She will respond in our "Strategy Session."

And the nuclear threat from Iran -- did Senator Clinton talk a little too tough about that? We're looking at what Clinton said and why it's raising some red flags.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: John McCain is in Alabama today, taking his campaign to places Republicans have often ignored. He's -- also has stops this week in Ohio, Kentucky and Arkansas.

McCain looking to win over moderate voters, while the Democrats continue their nasty primary battle.

Dana Bash is in Selma, Alabama, right now.

Dana, McCain's message, specifically to African-American voters in Alabama and elsewhere, what is it?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what he's trying to do -- and his campaign is really trying to do, Wolf -- is choreograph events all week long to create his own brand of Republicanism, show, like you said, in impoverished areas, in heavily black areas, that he's a different kind of Republican.

But if you took one look at the kind of people who came out to hear John McCain today, it was very clear he has a huge hill to climb.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Standing in front of Selma, Alabama, famous bridge, a tribute to civil rights leaders beaten for marching on it four decades ago.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... that the people who tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge weren't a mob. They weren't a threat. They were patriots.

BASH: This was the first visit in memory from a Republican presidential candidate, John McCain's whole point in coming.

MCCAIN: There must be no forgotten places in America, where they have been ignored for long years by the sins of indifference and injustice.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BASH: McCain aides chose the bridge backdrop to symbolize this Republican's intention to reach out to the black community. Seventy percent of Selma is black. But almost all the audience was white, imagery telling a different story than scripted.

(on-camera): You're here talking about civil rights, obviously, in a predominantly black town. But it's hard not to notice that many of the people here in the crowd are white. Is that an illustration of the challenge that you have?

MCCAIN: I am aware of the challenges. And I am aware of the -- of the fact that there will be many people who will not vote for me. But I am going to be the president of all the people. And I will work for all the people.

BASH (voice-over): Empty Selma storefronts illustrate economic hardship and high unemployment. McCain said his conservative principles will help.

MCCAIN: It's time for change, the right kind of change, change that trusts in the strength of free people and free markets.

BASH: One of the few black voters who came to see McCain said she wasn't swayed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's -- I'm just -- he's a Republican. I'm a Democrat. That's just like water and oil. It just doesn't mix.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: They may not like McCain's gospel much here, but he got a taste of theirs.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCCAIN: And McCain spoke vividly about the bloody beating of John Lewis, who marched on the bridge behind me about four decades ago. He was a civil rights leader then. Now he's a Democratic congressman who supports Barack Obama. And, Wolf, Lewis released a statement saying he has no advance knowledge of McCain's remarks, but said that he is gratified that he decided to speak about the struggle for voting rights. He also made sure to say that it's more profound than partisan politics -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Dana.

We will discuss this in our "Strategy Session" that is coming up. Also in our "Strategy Session," Obama and Clinton's closing message to Pennsylvanians.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We really feel like we have got a chance to break the mold and get out of the -- the typical pattern of our politics over the last 20 years.

CLINTON: In the next 36 hours, do everything you can. Convince people to go vote who say that they're not going to vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But, as the race grinds on, which of the candidates is better positioned to challenge John McCain? Donna Brazile and Terry Jeffrey, they're standing by live -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Some Democrats say tactics from the Hillary Clinton campaign are scaring them. One of them happens to be our own Democratic strategist CNN political analyst Donna Brazile.

Moments ago, we got some reaction from the Clinton campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe.

Joining us now in our "Strategy Session" -- "Strategy Session," we want to get Donna's take. Also here, conservative commentator Terry Jeffrey. He's the editor in chief of the Cybercast News Service.

The quote -- and I will put it up on the screen, Donna, what you were quoted as saying in "The Wall Street Journal": "There's a group around Senator Clinton that really wants to take the fight to the convention. They don't care about the party. It scares me. And that's what scares a lot of superdelegates."

That was totally rejected by Terry McAuliffe. He said, let the voters decide. Let's go through June 3, the final primaries, and then we will see what happens next.

What do you think?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, Wolf, I have said from day one we should let this primary process end in June. That is the ending dates, of course, and when we hear from the voters in Montana and South Dakota. I have also been very clear, Wolf, about something else. And that is not helping the Republicans with the same old tired talking points. And I have said this to both Senator Clinton's campaign, as well as Senator Obama's campaign. The last thing our party should be doing is helping the Republicans with their talking points, because, somehow or another, we believe, if we bring these issues up today, the Republicans will not bring it up in September.

That's ludicrous. The Republicans will bring up these issues regardless of who the nominee is. And we have to be prepared, as Democrats, to fight the Republicans, not fight each other.

BLITZER: Are the Democrats, Terry, actually helping the Republican candidate, John McCain?

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE: I think Hillary Clinton is helping the Republicans a little bit, Wolf, if, in fact, Obama ends up being the nominee, for this -- for this reason, that any American presidential election really is about three big issues, the economy, national security, and the culture.

I think you have to win two of those to be president. Democrats have often had problems on the culture. I think what's happened in the last couple of months, with the story about Jeremiah Wright -- Jeremiah Wright, and with the comments that Obama made about bitter people in Pennsylvania clinging to guns and religion, and with Hillary Clinton giving credibility to the charge that that puts Obama out of touch with Middle America on cultural issues, basically gives that issue to the Republicans in the fall.

I think the Republicans will win the cultural issue, which means the election basically is going to pivot on the economy and national security, which I think still favor the Democrats, but it puts -- gives John McCain a better position going into the fall.

BLITZER: What do you think, Donna?

BRAZILE: Well, I don't think culture issues necessarily will decide this election. I know the Republicans would like to -- to talk about culture and guns and abortion and gay rights.

But the truth is, Wolf, people want to talk about their jobs. They want to talk about food rationing. They want to talk about food costs. They don't want to talk about whether or not I had an abortion or Terry had an abortion or we -- we wanted someone to have an abortion. That's old news and old politics.

And I think it's time that we talk about what's happening in this country when we get out, when -- when this country can get out of the war in Iraq and focus on what the American people care about.

BLITZER: We did see John McCain, Terry, go to Selma, Alabama, today, reaching out to African-American voters there and presumably elsewhere.

I will play a little clip of what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I will be traveling to places in America that aren't enjoying the prosperity many other parts of America enjoy, but where people are walking a long, hard road to make sure that their children will know the opportunities that other American children possess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Does he have a good strategy there, Terry?

JEFFREY: Well, first of all, I think it's an excellent thing, just as a matter of principle, Wolf, for John McCain to be reaching out to the black community and campaigning in a principally black town.

A couple things about the politics of this. Barack Obama, if he's the nominee of the Democratic, would have the potential, particularly in Alabama, which has a large African-American population, to take a state out of the Southern base of the Republican Party, which could be devastating for McCain in the fall.

But, on the other side of that, if you look at Ohio, which was the linchpin state in the 2004 election, while George Bush got 9 percent of the black vote nationwide, he got 18 percent of the vote in Ohio. Part of that was because there was a marriage amendment on the ballot. Bush was on the right side of that. Kerry was on the wrong side.

Another reason was because Ken Blackwell, who was then secretary of state in Ohio, an African-American, led Bush's campaign. If Hillary Clinton is the nominee, instead of Obama, John McCain could make even deeper inroads into the African-American...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: What do you think, Donna?

BRAZILE: Well, to paraphrase Janet Jackson, that noted pop star, what has John McCain done for us lately?

It's great that he's campaigning in the African-American community, that he's talking to African-American voters, long ignored by the Republican Party, often taken for granted by some Democratic leaders. It's clear to me that African-Americans are not looking for lip service. They're looking for a president who will, as I mentioned earlier, get us out of the war, you know, rebuild our economy, tackle the issue that everyday Americans care about, education, health care, of course.

And -- and, if John McCain can speak that language and -- and find his voice on the economy, perhaps he will be able, as Terry mentioned, to -- to capture nine or 10 percent of the black vote.

BLITZER: He might not do all that well in the African-American community, Terry, especially if Barack Obama is the Democratic presidential nominee.

But, by reaching out to African-Americans, he reassures a lot of white Americans who want to see a much more cordial, shall we say, relationship, environment in this country.

JEFFREY: Well, there's absolutely no doubt about it, Wolf.

Look, the Republican Party used to be the -- the party of black America. I hope that, some day, it is again. But I do believe that if, somehow, Hillary Clinton is able to pull it off and take the Democratic nomination away from Obama, that John McCain can win a larger share of the black vote than George W. Bush did in 2004, when, by the way, he did get 18 percent in Ohio, which is much better than historically -- in recent times, Republicans have done.

BRAZILE: Look, over a third of our population, Wolf, is comprised of minorities. African-American and Hispanics will make up close to 18 percent of the voting-age population this fall. There's no reason to write off these two huge constituencies. We are Americans. We pay taxes. We like to be courted, too.

BLITZER: All right. Good point, Donna.

Thank you very much to you and to Terry.

And stay with CNN tonight for an interview with Hillary Clinton. That will air on "LARRY KING LIVE," 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

And the former White House press secretary, Tony Snow, will make his debut, as a member of the best political team on television. He has just signed on with CNN. "LARRY KING LIVE," once again, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific -- right here on CNN.

And we want to welcome -- we want to welcome the -- Tony Snow, that is. We want to welcome him to CNN.

Thanks very much, Tony.

Hillary Clinton as, what, Hill-Rod? Barack Obama comparing himself to The Rock. Are Clinton and Obama ready to settle their rivalry with an arm-wrestle? Both of them and John McCain are getting to step into the wrestling ring, of sorts. We will tell you what's going on.

And get this. The global pop star Shakira, certainly always shaking things up, she's about to talk to us about her new cause, global education. She has a very special message for all of you.

And now that Jimmy Carter has met with Hamas, something he said is sparking this question: Is Hamas actually ready to recognize the existence of Israel, living in peace next to a Palestinian state?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The presidential candidates are taking part in a new smackdown. All three will make special appearances tonight on World Wrestling Entertainment on the hit Monday night show "Raw." In this battle to win over wrestling fans/voters, you can bet the candidates are going to the mat with their best WWE lingo.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Hi. I'm Hillary Clinton. But, tonight, in honor of the WWE, you can call me Hill-Rod.

OBAMA: I have got one question. Do you smell what Barack is cooking?

MCCAIN: And what you going to do when John McCain and all his McCainiacs run wild on you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The WWE says it offered to let Senators Clinton and Obama settle their primary battle in the wrestling ring. They took a pass on that.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can check out CNNPolitics.com. That's where I write my daily blog post as well, CNNPolitics.com. Posted one just before the show.

Barack Obama supporters worked against the clock today to try to give the Democrat even more campaign cash. But the goal of raising $1 million online in just one minute turned out to be a little overly ambitious.

Abbi Tatton is joining us now.

Abbi, how far did they get?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, that million-dollar minute is looking more like a quarter-of-a-million-dollar day. The running totals here on still trickling in, even though 1:00 p.m. was the stated time -- more than 4,500 people donating to this online supporter-generated initiative. But what they have raised so far, a quarter of a million dollars, far short of that million-dollar goal.

Scott Cohen was the Obama supporter who set up an Obama Minute. He says today, he always said that goal of $1 million in a minute was lofty. But he's not giving up. He says he's collected thousands of e-mail addresses through this initiative, and he might use them again to hit them up for more cash before the North Carolina primary.

Scott is one of more than 30,000 people who have set up a personal fund--raising goal on My Barack Obama. That's a section of the campaign Web site where supporters can do their own organizing. If Scott's initiative has room to grow, Barack Obama's coffers are doing just fine. The latest FEC filings show that his fund-raising to date totals $235 million. That's about $60 million more than Senator Clinton -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's an amazing, amazing number.

Thanks, Abbi, very much.

Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: That is amazing. And all -- most of his donations are very small. He gets a lot of donations, but very small amounts, 50 bucks, 100 bucks, from small contributors. He had $42 million at the start of the month of April, which is phenomenal. I mean, he's not even the nominee yet.

BLITZER: And money talks in...

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: Yes. What did he have, a quarter of a million dollars today? That's a good rate.

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: Sign me up for that.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: How effective are personal attacks by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on each other?

Judy in Kansas City, Missouri -- I used to work at WDAF out there a long time ago -- "Due to her ongoing negative campaigning, Hillary is going to find out what the infamous word 'bitter' really means, when she loses the nomination. She did it to herself."

Linda writes: "They are only effective in making me not want to hear that -- what either one of them has to say. It's getting really old. I wish they would each play a different tune."

T. writes: "Tomorrow is the defining moment. Let's wait until then. I am so ready for this showdown to be said and done with, so we can get back to the business of running down old man flip-flop McCain."

David in Las Colinas, Texas: "A presidential candidate uses Osama bin Laden in a last-day television ad. Can politics get any worse than this?"

That was a Hillary Clinton ad that they apparently started airing in Pennsylvania today.

Aaron in Champaign, Illinois: "The effect is that it simply makes us more and more glad we only have to go through this crap every four years."

George in California: "Attack ads not withstanding, Hillary Clinton is finished. She is behind in the popular vote, delegate count, number of states won, and she's only leading in Pennsylvania by a few points. She can attack until the cows come home, but, after tomorrow night, the only person she will have left to attack is Bill."

And you were talking about the Wrestling Federation earlier.

Iris in Michigan writes: "Working? Are you kidding me? Negativity sells. As a World Wrestling Federation fan, I would love to see these two contestants get down and dirty in a pay-per-view, no- holds-barred cage death match -- Phi Slamma Obama vs. Hill the Thrill."

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: "The proceeds go to the winner, and the deceased agrees to drop out of the race."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile. Look for yours there, along with hundreds of others.

Hill the Thrill.

BLITZER: Deceased. Tough business.

CAFFERTY: Yes. Well, you know, if you lose, you're out and you're dead.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack Cafferty. Thank you.