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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Tracking Results and Predicting Outcomes for the Battle for Pennsylvania
Aired April 22, 2008 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Scranton tends to count relatively quickly, if she can do that here and down further south as we go. Allentown, Reading, Bethlehem if she's doing very well in this blue collar corridor she's off to a good start for the night, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John, thanks very much. John is going to be with us throughout the night.
And right now less than one hour, less than one hour until the polls close in Pennsylvania and the results start coming in. Our coverage will be extensive tonight. This is a very, very important contest for the Democrats, especially important for Hillary Clinton.
How well will she do, if she wins here in Pennsylvania, she will continue, continue in two weeks in Indiana and North Carolina. If she were to lose in Pennsylvania, the pressure on her to drop out of this contest would be enormous. We're watching it every single step of the way. We have the best political team on television standing by.
Candy Crowley is watching the Clinton campaign, in Philadelphia, Suzanne Malveaux is at an Obama rally already getting -- already planned for later tonight in Indiana. Let's go to Candy first. Candy, set the stage for us on this significant evening in the political life of Hillary Clinton.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's another one of those nights, Wolf, when we say well it is do or die or Hillary Clinton and they fully expect she will do. This is another one of those dates as you've just been talking about with John, that has a lot of her demographics in, older, female, working class, so they expect a good night here.
Early on they began the kind of downplay of this whole she needs to have a hefty double-digit number, a hefty double-digit win, saying look, Barack Obama has spent a lot of money in this state. Why isn't he winning? What do they expect to get out of here besides a win?
They obviously will pick up pledged delegates. They obviously will pick up some of the popular vote and begin to gain on him but they know they will leave here still behind Barack Obama in pledged delegates, and in the popular vote, but what they believe they will have as they roll out of here is yet another argument about electability, and that is we heard Hillary Clinton ask today why is it that Barack Obama can't close this deal, and that is the central argument, not to voters but to those superdelegates that both these campaigns believe will ultimately decide this race and that argument is, I can beat John McCain.
He can't pick up the crux of the Democratic Party -- that being the working class voters. Barack Obama, the Hillary Clinton people argue, has been unable to do this, making Hillary Clinton the one that can beat John McCain. They know, however, that they will have to continue to at least pick up the popular vote, if she can get within range of the popular vote of Barack Obama, they believe that she will have a very strong argument come June, when it settles down to those superdelegates, Wolf.
BLITZER: And at some point over the next few hours we'll be hearing from Hillary Clinton. She is going to be speaking where you are right now. And that's a sure sign she stayed in Pennsylvania rather than moving on to the next state. That's a sure sign she fully expects to win in Pennsylvania tonight.
Is that right, Candy?
CROWLEY: Absolutely. I mean and this is a tried and true political tactic. If you're going to win in this state you stay there and the balloons come down and the confetti and you say thank you so much, Pennsylvania. If you're going to lose and Barack Obama expects he will, you move on to the next place, and that's Indiana, the next battleground.
BLITZER: Let's move on to Suzanne Malveaux, Candy. She's already there in Indiana getting ready.
We'll be hearing at some point where you are, Suzanne, from Barack Obama. I take it his decision not to have his rally tonight in Pennsylvania, but to move on to Indiana, where there will be this primary in two weeks on May 6, indicative of the fact that he fully expects to lose.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well you know it's a very good sign that that's the case. We've even heard from Barack Obama earlier today saying that he does expect that Hillary Clinton is going to come out on top. He's already moving forward to Evansville, Indiana. This is where rocker John Mellencamp is going to be performing.
He's from a small town in Indiana. He is not endorsing Barack Obama. He is actually performing for Obama as well as Clinton in a couple of weeks but essentially it's a clear sign that he is moving beyond Pennsylvania. What his aides say he needs to do and they're going to take a look at this, he needs to prove that he is competitive.
So they're going to take a look at that lead, what is the spread between these two candidates. They say if it's 15 or 20 points, Clinton ahead, then maybe she has legitimate argument to the superdelegates to move forward that she is gaining strength.
If it's about five points or so they say that that's negligible, that she really shouldn't continue and then somewhere between 5 and 15 percent, one aide called it purgatory, we just don't know where this whole thing is going to go. They really have to be competitive.
This can not be a blowout for Obama. He has to show that the money was worth it, the tens of millions of dollars outspending Clinton 2-1, the six weeks of campaigning, the time that he spent in Pennsylvania that all of this does matter and that he is also able to make some inroads into those groups, those core groups that Clinton has been able to carry, that's the older voters, Catholic, blue collar.
That is why you see in Indiana he's going to be stressing once again, small town, working class, working for those voters. He is going to say that they gave it a good try tonight. They have a lot of work ahead and that he will continue to work but the main point here, Wolf, is essentially this is pledged delegates. That's what the count is about and ultimately at the end of the evening they do not believe it's going to make all that much difference. They're going to split the count. He's still going to be ahead. Wolf?
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Suzanne. We'll be checking back with you. Just want to let our viewers know once we hear from Barack Obama, once we hear from Hillary Clinton we'll be going there live, out viewers in the United States and around the world will be able to assess their words tonight.
Suzanne, thanks very much.
Let's walk over to Soledad O'Brien and Bill Schneider. They've been crunching the numbers, the exit poll numbers, numbers that are coming in all the time.
Soledad, what are we picking up?
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: One of the things we're interested in is how have people perceived what's been going on in late days. If you've been watching the ads in Pennsylvania you certainly see it's gotten very ugly of late. So one question that we asked was did Clinton attack unfairly.
Take a look at the results.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The answer is yes by better than two-to-one. Two-thirds of the Democrats in Pennsylvania said yes Senator Clinton did attack her opponent unfairly.
Did they feel the same way about Barack Obama? Did he attack Hillary Clinton unfairly?
Here's the answer. There it was about 50/50. To be precise -- 49 yes, 48 no. Not so sure about Barack Obama, but clearly a lot of people thought both candidates were pretty unfair in those last-minute attacks.
O'BRIEN: Who do those last-minute attacks actually help?
SCHNEIDER: This may be a surprise given what we just saw, but among the voters who decided in the last week of the campaign -- that is since that ABC News debate that was so controversial, Hillary Clinton had the lead, a very solid lead. She did well in the last week of this campaign.
O'BRIEN: Wolf, we continue to crunch the numbers for you.
BLITZER: These are actual voters these exit poll numbers. These are not likely voters. These are people who actually went and voted and our people spoke with them after they emerged from the ballot box. All right, guys, thanks very much.
We'll continue to check those numbers for our viewers. By the way, Bill Schneider will have running commentary at CNNPolitics.com throughout the night. CNNPolitics.com, that's also where you can get all of the latest information on the votes as they come in, the exit polls and everything else. Good place to go.
Let's check in with Lou Dobbs. Good place to go right now as well -- Lou.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely, Wolf, if for no other reason than I have the privilege to be working with the best and the brightest analysts and strategists, pundits and solvates (ph) in the business and it's election night. That means I get to spend a little quality time with you all and it's great to see you.
Gloria, your thoughts here. We haven't a lot of information and we won't until this hour concludes and the polls close, but give us your thoughts on what's happening with this race.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I think tonight what we're seeing is the Clinton campaign really playing to change the field a little bit, make a psychological argument, if you will, to those superdelegates that they're courting out there, as well as to Democratic voters. For these last few weeks they've been trying to chip away Barack Obama's electability, raise questions about Barack Obama, and tonight I think we're going to see whether they succeeded and whether those negative attacks that Bill Schneider and Soledad were just talking about really helped her or in the end hurt her with the voters.
DOBBS: Your thoughts, Roland?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think she needs to score extremely well tonight primarily to continue raising money. That's going to be critical, because look, you could talk all you want to do about I'm more electable, I can beat John McCain, but you have to have the dough to compete and Indiana was extremely close, he's up in North Carolina.
I wouldn't be surprised if she simply skipped the "Tar Heel" state and focuses on Indiana. And so she has to do well tonight to convince voters to keep giving money, to keep that train going, otherwise it is going to be out of gas.
DOBBS: Electability equals ability to raise money. MARTIN: Well, absolutely, but again, the margin also, because you have to give some people some confidence if they're giving that their money is going to pay off in the end. That's what she has to do.
BORGER: Have you noticed people don't like to write checks for nothing, right?
MARTIN: Right --
BORGER: Have you noticed that?
MARTIN: -- I tried, it doesn't work.
DOBBS: In this field over the course of the past year there are a lot of disappointed folks writing checks. Jeffrey?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well just thinking about the last two months, Hillary Clinton's done well. She's won Texas. She's won Ohio, but she keeps losing the superdelegates. The superdelegates who have announced a preference in the last five weeks or so have gone 80 percent for Obama.
Has anything that's going to happen tonight change that momentum? I think, because that's what's going to decide this race, and I think that's a very tough piece -- bit of momentum to turn around.
BORGER: And I think the Clinton campaign would argue -- let's take a look at the popular votes, stop talking about those superdelegates so much. She's now about 800,000 votes behind Barack Obama...
DOBBS: Popular vote.
BORGER: ... in these primaries but say she wins by a hefty margin tonight and lowers that difference by about 200,000 votes, beats him with the popular vote in an important state, like Pennsylvania, you say to elected officials, well, this should raise some doubts about Obama.
TOOBIN: In that argument that how do you win the presidency without winning Ohio, without winning Pennsylvania? Those -- that's a pretty good argument for Hillary Clinton and...
MARTIN: Lou, it is a good argument and what they throw out also that you look in Missouri, that's also battleground state, Virginia, particularly a battleground state and more importantly in 2004, George W. Bush only won Iowa by 10,000 votes. Iowa could also potentially flip, so this whole notion of battleground being three states is actually more like 10 or 12.
DOBBS: Bill Bennett, your thoughts as you get to survey what's happening with the Democratic Party on this important primary night? BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well I don't want to kill the suspense, but I don't think there is much, she wins or not, I think she wins but he wins the nomination. It's almost impossible for her to get there.
DOBBS: Now you're defining this from one night's activity...
BENNETT: No, no, it's just at the numbers, look at what she has to do. She has to, as James Carville said, she has to you know draw to an inside straight a couple of times and believe me, that's very hard, at least people tell me that's very hard...
DOBBS: Well Carville and Begala are in the business of inside straight.
DOBBS: They'll top off a four-play (ph) for you...
BENNETT: Here's the suspense, let me just say this. I don't think she can win. He can lose but he's not losing the primary. But while he is winning this nomination, he is losing the general election. I think she's right, I don't think he can win. I thought a month ago he could win. I don't think he can win now.
DOBBS: Do you agree...
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The attack ads Republicans would love to be running against the Democratic front- runner, Obama, Hillary Clinton's running for them now.
DOBBS: Do you agree? I mean is that what's happening here?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: If you look at the polls today, "USA Today" clearly Senator Clinton has an advantage to deal with John McCain, but both Clinton, as well as Obama, is beating John McCain in the national "USA Today" Gallup poll, so this notion that he can't win is based on the fact that Obama has had to come down from the stratosphere.
He's had to take some punches. He has withered some attacks, a two-front attack from both Senator Clinton as well as Senator McCain.
DOBBS: Both senators ganging up on Obama...
BRAZILE: Well, you know what...
BRAZILE: And thank God because now we will know if Obama can take a hit.
DOBBS: Well I've got to go to Jamal right now, Jamal Simmons. I mean they're talking pretty tough about your candidate there. Is this guy ready for prime time? Can he take a hit? I love all of these, as if where he's been for a year and a half.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right, exactly. I mean I think you know here we are a year ago everyone was saying the same thing about Barack Obama and what have we learned? We learned that he can win in the northeast, he can win in the south. He can win in the Midwest. He can win in the west. He is winning all over the country, small states and large states, primary states and caucus states.
There's not a place where Barack Obama has competed in the region in the country where he hasn't won. Now, will he win tonight? Probably not. But he will continue to go on beyond tonight, go to North Carolina. We go to Indiana. We go to West Virginia, Puerto Rico, all these states and Barack Obama is probably going to win his share of those states and he will ultimately be the nominee.
The question is will Hillary Clinton have dinged him up so much that he's damaged when he goes into the general election.
DOBBS: Well Jamal the question...
SIMMONS: And I think we just don't know the answer to that yet. Now my answer -- I hope the answer is no.
DOBBS: I think Jamal set you up here with the question...
PAUL BEGALA, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Yes...
BEGALA: The question, as Jamal phrased it, this is why he's a genius at this, is will Hillary ding him up enough? No, the question is (INAUDIBLE) to this, is he tough enough, and that's what we don't know. And you know look we know Hillary is tough, right?
And Bill thinks she's going to win tonight, his lips to God's ears he has a direct pipeline to the Lord, so I hope that that's the case as a Hillary guy.
CASTELLANOS: We know what would happen to Bill if he didn't think that.
BEGALA: No, but I think what you're saying is she's clearly tough enough but I think she's got a challenge to humanize herself rather than demonize Barack. Barack has to show that he's as tough as the woman. It's completely flipped around in my party now.
Right, the guy -- people worry he's too weak, the woman they worry she's too strong. It's the whole world turned upside down. I love it. DOBBS: That's an interesting point and it takes us back to where we were about three months ago with some of the analysis, some of the speculation, but the one part that I'm having trouble with here is, it's about who wins or loses tonight, isn't it, Donna?
BRAZILE: Oh, absolutely...
DOBBS: And it's not going to matter much in terms of, if you will, the after party. It's not going to matter much by what percent, do you really believe?
BRAZILE: Well there are different kinds of victories and tonight Senator Clinton can celebrate a victory if she wins by claiming that she won another large state. She can also claim that she's been able to accumulate more pledged delegates and more popular votes, but Obama, Senator Obama has come from behind. He's closed a gap and he can also claim that he kept Senator Clinton below 20 points, below a blowout in Pennsylvania, if we know the results and what happens tonight.
BENNETT: More on this later I'm sure (INAUDIBLE), but it's not the dinging she's done to him or Bill's done to him. It's what he has done to himself in the last three weeks. The American people have heard things they don't like to hear.
DOBBS: You get the last word here...
BRAZILE: Bitter? It is bitter.
BENNETT: That's what...
BRAZILE: Well we will find out tonight...
BRAZILE: ... in Pennsylvania.
DOBBS: You get the last word.
BEGALA: This is what, margins matter in the Democratic Party. Now I don't think they should. I think it should be like life, winner take all but the Democratic Party is like five-year-old tee ball. Everybody gets a trophy. Everybody wins. You get delegates. You get delegates.
BEGALA: As we say in the Catholic Church that's fricative (ph), OK.
DOBBS: I think as Bill Bennett just said, more on this later. We're going to...
DOBBS: Life is winner take all. I thought it was -- my goodness, I'm getting all sorts of instructional elucidation (ph) here. Wolf back to you -- Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: We're just beginning, Lou, thanks very much. We're going to be watching every step of the way. There are already some reports, by the way, coming in of potential voter irregularity. We're going to go to Pennsylvania in a moment, check in with our Jessica Yellin and see what's going on.
We're also going to be updating you on what's happening with the delegate count, the all important super delegate count. The superdelegates are going to be looking at this very, very closely.
Remember you can spend this evening with us here on CNN. You can also spend it at the same time with your laptop. CNNPolitics.com, that's where all the numbers will be coming in, all the analysis, CNNPolitics.com, even as you're watching us here on CNN. Our special coverage continues from the CNN Election Center right after this.
BLITZER: Forty minutes until the polls close in Pennsylvania. Welcome back to the CNN Election Center. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting. At the top of the hour, the polls will be closed. At that point, we'll begin to assess the actual numbers coming in on this important Democratic presidential primary.
I want to check in with Jessica Yellin. She is joining us now from the CNN Election Express in Philadelphia. What's this about some voter irregularities we're hearing? How serious is this, Jessica?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're hearing two different stories. Voting officials here in the state say that this has been a smooth day of voting, that they have predicted record high turnout, they have seen it and it has been a success, but I've been in touch with a group that's here in Philadelphia, monitoring the voting in this city and they say that there was some significant problems in certain pockets, where the poll workers effectively were not trained to take care of the machines when they broke down and they didn't have paper ballots to give folks who were there to vote, so what happened was when these machines broke down, the lines got exceptionally long, as people waited for the very few ones left to vote on and a lot of people, they say, had to leave because they had to go to work.
They were waiting for more than an hour and a half. Now this group says it was significant enough they filed a lawsuit with the court here, asking them to keep the polls open later in Philadelphia. That suit was thrown out, but they are currently planning an appeal. This group has audio recordings from people who called in more than 150 in Philadelphia, they say they think this happened throughout the state, but again, voting officials say that's just not the case, that wherever the polling machines broke down they were repaired. So there's not a clear picture on this, and the group says that these things tend to get, you know, resolved in hindsight but they're very concerned that people were not able to vote today when they planned to.
But bottom line, we do know that it was enormously high turnout here. Several hundred thousand new Democrats and voting officials say they will report those final numbers as soon as the polls close -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jessica, thanks very much. Jessica spent the day watching people vote in Pennsylvania. We'll be checking back with her.
I want to check back with Soledad O'Brien, who is also watching this with Bill Schneider. We're getting some more exit poll numbers; these are actual voters who told us what they thought as they emerged from the ballots.
O'BRIEN: And some really interesting information you heard Jessica say right at the end all of those new voters. We took a look at the Clinton voters, what was the top quality that they were looking for. First and foremost and it's kind of no surprise the answer is...
SCHNEIDER: Experience. She touts her own experience; she says Barack Obama doesn't have the right experience. So her supporters say that's what we're looking for. We're looking for a candidate who has experience, not so much someone who can bring about change but someone who has the right experience. Then we asked the Obama voters...
O'BRIEN: Same exact question of course and kind of, again, not a big surprise, change is the word that they picked.
SCHNEIDER: And that is the word that Barack Obama talks about. He says he can bring about change, and three-quarters nearly of the people who voted for him said yes, that's what we want, somebody who can bring about change. In fact, he often talks about himself as running against the last two decades of American politics, two decades. That would seem to include George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, so he wants some big changes from both what the Democrats and the Republicans have brought about.
O'BRIEN: So that message is resonating for him, but then the one thing we noticed, Wolf, that was kind of interesting was the cares about people question. If we can throw those graphics up again you'll see for both of them they're tied at 14 percent, which seem kind of low to me.
SCHNEIDER: And it does seem low because cares about people is what Democrats are supposed to be about. It's usually the top quality, when Bill Clinton first ran for president the thing that people liked about him in 1992, he cares about people. He had empathy. This year, that quality rates a lot lower in Democratic concerns.
O'BRIEN: And again it could be all those negative ads starting to make people think maybe people don't care about people -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I can remember nobody could feel our pain like Bill Clinton. He kept telling us that all the time. All right, guys stand by. We'll have a lot more of these exit polls coming in.
I just want to check and remind our viewers what this race, these delegate counts are all about. Right now and remembering that the delegates needed to nominate are 2,025, Hillary Clinton with 1,504, Barack Obama with 1,648. That's our CNN estimate.
Hillary Clinton has won 1,250; Barack Obama has won in the so- called pledged delegates 1,418. Among the superdelegates it's getting very close. Hillary Clinton with a slight lead 254 to Barack Obama 230, but get this, neither of these candidates has the magic number, 2,025.
We're going to walk over to John King, he's been crunching these numbers and he's going to tell us a little bit about the math that's needed for these candidates. You were good in math in high school so explain.
KING: Well, let's game this out. The assumption was heading in that Senator Clinton would win Pennsylvania. But she will probably split the delegates unless she wins in a huge (INAUDIBLE), she'll split the delegates maybe 55 percent or more.
Let's for the sake of argument say she won about 50 percent of the delegates, there are 10 contests left. Let's say she won about 50 percent. That means she would win some states, lose some states narrowly. Let's give her about -- see 585 delegates, these are the pledged delegates.
These are decided on Election Day.
BLITZER: These are the ones at stake in these 10 contests.
KING: Exactly right. And so let's just say there are 585, let's give her around 300, that's about half, right, we'll give her a little more than half. We'll be a little optimistic for Senator Clinton, give her a little bit more than half.
Let's give Barack Obama the rest of these delegates. He gets the other half, slightly less. I gave him probably 47, 48 percent. Look what happens if they split the remaining pledge delegates meaning on primary days from here to the very end June 3, Clinton catches up a little bit, Obama closer to the finish line. Which means, wolf, and we've been talking about this for awhile now, these people, the 310 remaining superdelegates who are sitting on the side lines right now watching Pennsylvania and watching the rest of these contests will make the decision, so would they be swayed by Senator Clinton's argument if she wins Pennsylvania, if she wins Kentucky, if she wins West Virginia, maybe surprises Obama in North Carolina would they be swayed by her argument that I'm the better candidate?
He started off the leader. I'm the better candidate at the end going into the general election. If so she would need a decent chunk of these superdelegates, bring them up there, that wouldn't be enough, so she has to be extra persuasive, bring it up there and she's over the finish line. But what if they decide after tonight that she didn't win by such a big margin in Pennsylvania?
And maybe he wins North Carolina and he wins out west and again, this is then splitting the pledged delegates in the remaining contests, Barack Obama needs a much smaller percentage of these superdelegates, 305 left, let's come down right around here and give him about half, come down, it's a little less than half, he's at the finish line.
So if he -- if Barack Obama splits the pledged delegates, gets 50 percent of the delegates decided on primary days until the end, he needs less than half, a much tinier percentage of the superdelegates to get to the finish line.
BLITZER: But here's one wildcard in all of this, those superdelegates who have already said who they're going to support, they could change their minds. There's nothing saying they can't change their minds, right?
KING: They absolutely can. Let me take them all back. I just gave some superdelegates away. Let's come back to where -- this is -- and I'm going to take these back but let's -- actually let's leave these. Let's assume (INAUDIBLE) something like this to the end, roughly split the delegates. What if this group right here decides this has gotten ugly, they're throwing mud at each other.
They both hurt the party. This group could decide we're going to the convention. We're not going to jump in and make a decision. We're going to go to the convention. This is where the whole, well will they go to Al Gore to broker a deal, will they go to some candidate who is not even in the race? Will they broker a dream ticket?
These 300 people right here could have enormous power and you're right, some of the other superdelegates that have already been with Clinton, already with Obama could say you know what, the party needs a time-out, not to use language you might use with your children sometime, but we're going to have a meeting.
We're going to call you into the room and we're going to figure this out, so if this goes like this to the end, roughly 50/50 split, 60/40 split wouldn't change these numbers that much, these superdelegates, 300 or so right now the potential for some of these to defect and come back to the middle, they're the brokers.
BLITZER: And that doesn't include Florida and Michigan, their disputed contests as well. Lots more to talk about, stand by.
KING: You're bringing lawyers into the conversation.
BLITZER: That's right. We got Jeff Toobin waiting to take a look at the legal analysis. We're also going to check in to see what John McCain is doing right now. Our Dana Bash is on the scene. We'll go out there. He's watching this race tonight about as closely as anyone. He understands the stakes involved, much more of our coverage coming up. We're only about a half an hour away now from the polls closing in Pennsylvania. We're live here at the CNN Election Center. Remember, go to CNNPolitics.com.
You can get a whole lot more information even as you watch us here on CNN. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: It's the biggest prize left in the ten remaining contests for the Democratic presidential nomination, 158 delegates at stake tonight in Pennsylvania. We're watching this race very closely. We're only moments away from the polls closing right at the top of the hour.
No one is watching all of this as closely as John McCain is right now. He knows one of these two Democratic candidates will be his opponent in the general election in the fall.
Let's check in with our Dana Bash. She's in Youngstown, Ohio, where John McCain spent at least part of this day.
What's the sense that you're getting, Dana, from the McCain and his supporters on what they're watching for tonight?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, Wolf. You know, we asked John McCain here in Youngstown just a short while ago about what he thinks, you know how he's watching it, how he's gaming it out personally. He insisted that he's neutral in this race, that he doesn't have a dog in that hunt, that he's sitting back watching to see how the Democratic voters decide who his opponent will be for the fall.
But I got to tell you, in talking to some of McCain's top advisers they say you know what? They secretly are rooting for a Hillary Clinton win and a big Hillary Clinton win for an obvious reasons I guess and that is because they are looking at this race, looking at this increasingly bloody battle between the Democrats and they say, you know what? That's just fine with us. They think that this is ultimately very beneficial to Senator McCain.
Now Senator McCain said that he has heard analysis on both sides of this issue. He says he is paying attention to the fact that the Democrats have registration up, the Democrats have enthusiasm up and he can see how there's an argument for this actually hurting him for the McCain, for the Democratic race, I should say, going on.
But there's an interesting kind of addendum I think to this whole gaming it out inside the McCain camp and that is while they do think, and they have concluded that this Democratic race going on actually does help John McCain, they are saying that if Hillary Clinton actually pulls it out ultimately, and does win the Democratic nomination, they are starting to think, looking at various things with regard to the map and with regard to the kind of Democratic voters she can pulling her way in thighs primary contests, they actually are beginning to think that Hillary Clinton would be a much more formidable opponent at this point than Barack Obama is.
BLITZER: Where you are, Dana, Youngstown, Ohio, pretty hard-hit economically, a lot of anger there, especially involving NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. He supports free trade.
How did he handle that sensitive issue in the course of this day?
BASH: It's very interesting, Wolf, because, as you said, this obviously is probably one of the hardest hit towns that Senator McCain has gone to with regard to people thinking free trade has hurt them, hurt their livelihood because he actually went to a steel plant that was shuttered because the jobs simply weren't there anymore.
He did stand, regardless of that, in the community college where I still am right now in Youngstown, Ohio and said that he does support free trade. He does think, as opposed to the Democrats, that NAFTA, for example, was a good thing. Somebody stood up and said that he thought that NAFTA was a four-letter word and really got into it with Senator McCain and it was evidence of the kind of challenge that Senator McCain has in the kind of approach that he's taking right now, going into these Democratic strongholds which Youngstown, Ohio, is, trying to say, you know what? I know you're hurting but believe it or not my policies will work. It's a very difficult thing he's trying to do and the kind of exchange he had with that one voter here in Youngstown really illustrated that today.
BLITZER: Very interesting, indeed, Dana. Thanks very much.
I want to walk back to Lou who is watching all of this.
Lou, I suppose you got to give John McCain some credit. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, they say they have serious problems with NAFTA, would like to renegotiate the whole deal. Even in a place like Youngstown, where they're hurting, he's refusing to pander on this issue.
DOBBS: He is and you do have to, as you suggest, give him credit for it but at the same time, after 32 consecutive years of trade deficits, it's about time for political leaders in this country of both parties to start understanding that there's an empirical basis to make a policy adjustment. That's just intelligence. It's not a matter, in my opinion of partisanship.
Alex Castellanos, your thoughts on this from the Republican perspective, John McCain's eye toward Pennsylvania?
CASTELLANOS: I think John McCain is fascinated by the election of Pennsylvania tonight because he saw Hillary Clinton run a very Republican campaign against Barack Obama, talk about security at 3:00 a.m. in the morning when the phone rings, who is going to keep us safe who, is tough, who is strong and then she even went Obama on values, culture, Obama is out of touch culturally. She ran that campaign, a very Republican race in a Democratic primary and it looks like she might pull it off so if a Republican campaign can win in a Democratic primary, what can it do in the general?
DOBBS: We're looking at Bill Bennett nodding here just a moment ago as Dana Bash was reporting, to what end?
BENNETT: Well, I was just thinking there's a challenge for John McCain to go into Ohio and defend NAFTA. It's a challenge for the electorate, too. What are they going to do with somebody who doesn't pander to them? The guy goes to Iowa, doesn't drink ethanol, goes to Florida, this say new thing.
By the way, NAFTA is a debatable proposition. I know where you stand on it, a debatable proposition but I think he's on strong ground and if there are a lot of Democrats who support what Hillary Clinton is saying, and it's 52/48, 53/47 that gives you some idea, while even though the stars are aligned against the Republicans, for all sorts of reasons, that's why John McCain is still competitive.
He's twitchy. He's twitchy now, because he doesn't have anybody to fight with. Competition's been limited. My theory he'll pick a vice president soon and then pick a fight with him. That's what he likes to do. He'll be all right.
DOBBS: Well, Donna Brazile does not have anybody to fight with, not declared as a superdelegate.
BRAZILE: That's why I'm sitting in the middle.
DOBBS: You look perfectly placed, an absolute icon of objectivity and neutrality in this. What is going to persuade you to move from the center, if you will, and select a candidate to support?
BRAZILE: Lou, I see no reason to get off the side lines when we have at least another nine contests to go, important states for Democrats, Indiana, North Carolina, Oregon. And so when those voters have made up their minds, and they have chosen their candidate, perhaps the remaining superdelegates can make up, we can make up our mind. I have made up my mind and my heart is still, I'm conflicted a little bit, but I know which way I will go and I will cast my ballot or state my intentions before the 4th of July.
DOBBS: You're not going to open up your heart of hearts to us here, just amongst your friends here?
BRAZILE: Lou, you're not exactly my boo. But I will tell you this.
DOBBS: You know, we could work harder at this.
BRAZILE: You know the man in front of you, his name is Wolf but you can try.
DOBBS: You got it, you got it.
BRAZILE: All right.
DOBBS: Either that or I can say, Wolf, come on over here. Wolf, we need you over here.
BRAZILE: He doesn't need to stoke my fire. I'm sitting next to Paul Begala.
DOBBS: You know what? I think Donna bears some serious watching.
She's going through an awful lot of us here, Paul, in a hurry.
BEGALA: She gets all the candy, the flowers, everything.
DOBBS: Are you, at this point, are you persuaded that Donna Brazile and the other superdelegates are ready to -- if you're a candidate, Senator Clinton, is to prevail by a significant margin, we've opened what a significant margin is, are you confident those superdelegates are ready to climb aboard?
BEGALA: No. I think they want to see this play out some more. There's lots more votes to cast and I think superdelegates can do and should care about one thing, who can win. Because the truth is on the values that matter most to Democrats, these two are almost indistinguishable. I know they're fighting with each other but as a Democrat, I'd pick either one of them and be proud to do it.
DOBBS: Well, I just want to tell you. I struggle to find a difference between these two people.
BEGALA: Right but so they want somebody who can win, and now Hillary won three out of the last four, we'll see how she does tonight. We'll she how this closes out. This should be tough and it is and I think people, I do want to pick out one thing about John McCain not pandering. He doesn't pander to working people.
DOBBS: I'm going to guess here. You think he does?
BEGALA: He doesn't pander to working people but panders to oil companies, he wants tax breaks for them because they're not making enough with oil at $117 a barrel. He wants to cut taxes on all big corporations. He is pandering in terms of people, pandering multinational corporations. Just get me started on John McCain, we'll go to November.
CASTELLANOS: Paul must have been too bitter to read the news last week. Obviously he missed when John McCain was taking on wall street, and standing up to Main Street as far as the housing crisis. It was greed.
DOBBS: Jamal, you get one last shot here, if you want it.
SIMMONS: Here's what I'm hearing. I'm hearing there are a lot of people in Washington, D.C., who are getting a little bit nerve about this and around the country, who are in the Democratic Party. They do think that we've been at this fight for a long time. People are getting tired. The candidates are getting tired.
You saw today this thing with Ed Rendell and Louis Farrakhan that came out. You know everybody is being pulled into this fight and we're starting to ding up Democrats all over the place because we're fighting the fight too hard.
If Senator Clinton wants to continue she can continue but we should fight the fight on issues and where people stand on health care and the war and not get into all this personal and associations and all of this stuff that's been coming out over the last few weeks.
BEGALA: Character does not matter.
SIMMONS: Of course character matters and Barack Obama actually is the candidate whose character stood up and tried to unite people when he got in trouble, not divide them.
BEGALA: And why does he have a press conference and talk about the issues?
DOBBS: I'm going to say peace one more time, before I go to war. We'll be back with our panel in just one moment.
And by the way, just to bring us up-to-date on the price of crude oil, I know you think it matters most to John McCain, it's over $119 a barrel today.
We'll be right back. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Fourteen minutes or so until the polls close in the state of Pennsylvania, 158 delegates at stake tonight. As soon as the polls close at the top of the hour, the numbers will start coming in. Those would be real numbers of actual voters. We'll watch it together with you every step of the way. Polls closing at the top of the hour.
I want to walk over to Abbi Tatton. She's been watching what we're getting in from our viewers, the CNN I-reports on this important day.
What are we picking up, Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we just spoke to Brian Englehart. He's in Norristown, Pennsylvania who just told us that at the beginning of the primary season, no one thought that April 22 would count, their votes. He said everyone today is just thrilled to be participating because they could decide. He was so thrilled in fact he took his mobile phone into the ballot booth with him to record his vote there for Barack Obama.
And people have been sending in pictures of the last-minute campaigning that's been going on today. This is from Jody, Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh. She recorded Bill Clinton making a last-minute pitch out there today. She is registered independent. She won't be voting today because of that March 24 deadline for registration as a Democrat, which means she would have been eligible.
And then there's some last-minute pictures coming in of people on both sides out today. This from Jennifer Corinne who's in Hellertown recording people sitting at the polling station just outside her community center. She said that the feeling there was very civilized, people getting along, just thrilled to be able to participate.
BLITZER: A lot of people are excited and record turnouts I think in Pennsylvania. We'll get the official numbers in the course of this night but a huge amount of enthusiasm. I think our I-reports underscore that as well.
Bill Schneider and Soledad O'Brien are joining us once again. They're looking at the exit polls and I want to stress, this is very important, these are real voters, not likely voters or somebody we guessed was a voter.
These are real voters who participated today, and we asked them, Soledad, some pointed questions.
O'BRIEN: And for those who believe it's all about it's the economy, stupid, this is kind of the segment for folks who believe that. We asked the question not describe your position on the candidate but actually describe your position on the economy and no surprise really what people came back with.
SCHNEIDER: The word is bad but they don't agree with President Bush. He says it's a slowdown. They say no it's not. 89 percent say it's a recession but they are divided over how serious this recession is. Very harp split here, 42 percent of the Democratic voters in Pennsylvania say it's a serious recession, 47 percent say it's a moderate recession. So there is a split, but no question the economy is bad. The split is over how bad is it.
O'BRIEN: Another question we looked at, was those late deciders, how were they splitting, from what we could tell at this point. What we saw was Clinton is ahead.
SCHNEIDER: Yes indeed and that's important because remember there was a very controversial debate on Wednesday night of last week, and there was a question about who won that debate. Barack Obama was on the defensive. He then started running against the whole debate saying it was a Washington insiders Hillary Clinton ganging up against him.
Among people who decided in the last week of the campaign, Clinton led 58 percent to 42 percent. These are people who made up their minds after that debate. So the debate appears to have done her some good.
O'BRIEN: An important question, Wolf, is how many people were those in real numbers, not just percentages. We're watching that as well.
BLITZER: Will we get the answer that question?
O'BRIEN: We will.
BLITZER: At some point down the road. O'BRIEN: We have a long night ahead of us.
BLITZER: These actual polls, Bill, you studied this for a long time. The exit poll numbers become the basis for a lot of academicians research down the road on voting trends in a key state like Pennsylvania.
SCHNEIDER: They certainly do and they become the basis of a lot of commentary. The whole meaning of the election comes out of the exit polls. Remember the controversy over values in 2004, that came out of the exit polls.
BLITZER: And Soledad, we have to differentiate between our normal polling which are likely voters, people we suspect will vote but these are the real voters, we speak to them after they emerged from the ballot box.
O'BRIEN: Absolutely. This is what they have said.
Bill Schneider is going to have analysis ongoing at CNNPolitics.com throughout the night. If you want more information, Bill Schneider, CNNpolitics.com.
By the way, good place to watch the numbers come in, together with us here, have your laptop ready. You'll get a lot of specific information.
Ten minutes from now, the polls will be closing in Pennsylvania. Will we be able to project a winner based on the exit polls, or will this be a long night?
Stay tuned. Our special coverage from the CNN Election Center continues right after this.
BLITZER: Less than seven minutes, six minutes, 46, 45 seconds to go until the polls close in the state of Pennsylvania. They'll be closing at the top of the hour. 158 delegates at stake, this is the biggest prize left, in the ten remaining contests for the Democratic presidential nomination.
I want to walk over to John King. He's watching all of this very, very closely. He's over at our big board.
And as we walk over, John, remind our viewers where the votes are in Pennsylvania, because it's sort of clusters in two big areas.
KING: They are and it's a remarkably diverse state. You have an eastern city in Philadelphia much more like say New York or Washington, D.C., where we live most of the time. We have a city in Pittsburgh, the gateway to the Midwest, much smaller than Philadelphia and very different, much more of a Midwestern city feel over here in Pittsburgh. Those are the two largest cities. Most of the vote, Wolf, the anchor of the population of the state is right in here, and inside this line you have the city of Philadelphia right in here and you see this is something we'll show you a little bit later. If this tag distracts anybody, it's for some video we will put later on but the city of Philadelphia, more than 12 percent of the state's population right there. Then you come out to Bucks County. Around here there's 5 percent of the population here.
BLITZER: These are the suburbs of Philadelphia.
KING: The suburbs they call them. Six percent of Montgomery County, 3.5 percent in Chester county and 4.5 percent in Delaware County, so about 30 percent of the votes statewide; a little different in a Democratic primary. That number could be a little lower, could conceivably be a little higher in Philadelphia but a good chunk of the state's population is inside this blue line down here.
This happens to be the most critical area of the state for Barack Obama. He has to run up big numbers in center city Philadelphia and has to do well in the suburban counties if he's going to have any hope at all.
Then you have a blue collar corridor here, Scranton, Allentown, Bethlehem, Reading, smaller cities, much smaller cities than Philadelphia but important. This is where you have the white blue collar voters. This is where you have a lot of the senior citizens who are very important.
BLITZER: A lot of manufacturing jobs they've lost over the past few decades.
KING: One of the fascinating things about this state is that many have the nostalgic memories. This was steel and coal country. This out here was steel, coal and the railroad country out there but these are changing economies. Some of these communities are still struggling but if you go into Scranton, Allentown and Bethlehem you're beginning to see high tech.
You're beginning to see diversity in those economies. So while you have the older traditional blue collar voters that are Senator Clinton's base, you're also beginning to get some high-tech workers especially out here Wolf, this is fascinating. If you go out to Pittsburgh now and you were in Pittsburgh say ten years ago.
BLITZER: In Allegheny County.
KING: Allegheny County. I'm going to put our map function and pull this out so you can see the rivers. You can see the rivers come right through. This is river city. It was a steel city. Along these rivers if you were here ten years ago, it was mills. They were closed down. Brown Fields, if you will, barren, destitute, a very struggling economy.
You go along the river sites now it's high tech, new campuses sprouting out, smaller companies, not as big employers as the mills were but smaller companies taking place. This is becoming a high tech and a medical center.
So you have younger professionals. It is still slanted to Hillary Clinton's favor, white blue collar catholic, but there are some pockets of younger professionals in the medical professions, in those high tech jobs, targets for Barack Obama. So as we look at Allegheny County in Pittsburgh the city itself it will be interesting to see if he is making inroads among the growing populations.
If this primary were say four or five years from now instead of today, the demographics of Pittsburgh are changing as well. Still very much a blue collar city but more and more transforming as are many of these cities because they have had to move on from the steel and coal industrial-based economies. It is a fascinating state and it is a changing state.
BLITZER: And we saw a lot of similarities in Ohio. We'll get more to that later.
All right. John, thanks very much.
I want to go back to Lou.
Lou, you're watching all of this, about as closely as anyone. What goes through your mind as we gear up what in only two and a half minutes or so from now we'll get actual results?
DOBBS: What's going through my mind is how quickly can Jeffrey Toobin explain the differentials in the delegate selection process.
You got 50 seconds.
TOOBIN: If it splits 50/50 just hypothetically, that doesn't mean each candidate gets 50 percent of the delegates. The delegates are awarded by congressional district and they reward the congressional districts where Democrats do well. What that means in English is that the heavily African-American districts, which are overwhelmingly Democratic, have more delegates. Obama has an easier road to get a disproportionate number of delegates. He could do better than his percentage.
DOBBS: Not entirely dissimilar from what we saw in Texas.
TOOBIN: Not at all.
DOBBS: And if we may, Roland, your thoughts here, as we're heading toward the magic poll closing?
MARTIN: Well I think one of the things that my friends back here were talking about in terms of getting this whole thing rolling.
DOBBS: When Roland says "my friends" that means he's about to argue with them.
MARTIN: No, I'm not. I think one of the things, this has been helpful to Democrats. It has kept them on the front page, on the front burner, they've been dropping into the polls, that's important. What they should be focused on is making sure those people return to the polls because again, they're doing better than Republicans in terms of new voters.
BORGER: I'm going to agree with my friend Roland here. I think this has been a good fight for the Democrats. They thought they were going to coast to victory. Thank you, Roland. And now they know they have a fight on their hands with John McCain and it's better for Democrats if they learn it now than next October.
DOBBS: This fellow, Obama and this woman, Clinton, they've been pretty well instructed that they're in a fight, don't you think?
BORGER: Yes, they are.
MARTIN: Dog fight.
DOBBS: You betcha.
Wolf, back to you, partner.
BLITZER: Lou, thanks very much.
We're standing by, only a minute or so until the polls close in Pennsylvania. Once the polls close, we'll be able to better assess what's going on in this state. We've been going through all these exit poll numbers throughout the day to try to get a sense of how the voters of Pennsylvania.
It looks like potentially a record turnout for a Democratic presidential primary. A lot of new voters, first time voters, very enthusiastic voters throughout the state. Anecdotally we've been seeing large numbers of people showing up at the polling booths. We'll see how that all translates into actual votes.
The stakes for both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are enormous tonight. Hillary Clinton is getting ready to speak to her supporters in Philadelphia. Barack Obama has already moved on to Indiana. He'll be speaking to his supporters in Indiana.
Remember, the Indiana North Carolina primaries two weeks from today on May 6. If Hillary Clinton wins tonight, she certainly will continue. If she loses tonight, there will be enormous pressure on her to reconsider.