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THE SITUATION ROOM
Final Push in Pennsylvania; Defending NAFTA from the Democrats; Presidential Candidates Discuss Rising Cost of Gasoline; American Accused of Spying for Israel; Will White Males Really Decide the Election?
Aired April 22, 2008 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: For her part, Hillary Clinton is downplaying margins, saying the important thing is who wins big states like Pennsylvania.
Here's what she told a crowd near Philadelphia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A win is a win, especially under the circumstances where my opponent has outspent me probably three to one, maybe four to one. So, I think a win, under these circumstances, is a terrific accomplishment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's get some more now on what the candidates are saying today.
We'll go to CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's watching this story for us.
All right, so what are they saying -- what else are they, saying -- Jessica?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today the candidates are essentially done with their closing arguments. Instead, they are setting expectations for superdelegates and now responding to a new distraction by Bill Clinton.
YELLIN (voice-over): From Larry King...
H. CLINTON: I think it's important that we have an election that asks people to consider who they would hire for the toughest job in the world.
YELLIN: To Jon Stewart...
OBAMA: What they're hoping is for some significant change in Washington.
YELLIN: The candidates have made their case to the voters. Now they're framing expectations for superdelegates. From him, don't expect this race to end today.
OBAMA: I have come to conclude that this race will, you know, continue until the last you know primary or caucus vote is cast. And, you know, that's not that far away.
YELLIN: She asks, why not?
H. CLINTON: Why can't he close the deal? With his extraordinary financial advantage, why can't he win a state like this one?
YELLIN: And both candidates find themselves talking about Bill Clinton's latest controversy.
OBAMA: Hold on a second. So former President Clinton dismissed my victory in South Carolina as being similar to Jesse Jackson and he's suggesting that somehow I had something to do with it?
YELLIN: On a radio show, the former president was asked about the role race played in the South Carolina primary. He pointed a finger at Barack Obama.
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that they played the race card on me. And we now know from memos, from the campaign and everything, that they planned to do it all along.
YELLIN: He later denied charging Obama with playing the race card.
W. CLINTON: No, no, no, no. That's not what I said. You always follow me around and play these little games.
YELLIN: Asked if she agrees with her husband, candidate Clinton wouldn't touch it.
QUESTION: Do you agree with that assertion?
H. CLINTON: Well, I think that we're going to stay focused on what voters are focused on.
YELLIN: And, Wolf, here in Philadelphia, so far there have been complains about some voting irregularities. We checked into that, spoke to a local voting official who tells us that no. In fact, so far, this has been a normal election. No voting irregularities here in Philadelphia. That's the official word. But we will, of course, stay on top of that part of this story for you throughout the night -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's hope it stays that way, Jessica. Thanks very much.
Jessica is in Philadelphia.
Race is a sensitive factor in the Pennsylvania contest -- more so than in many other primaries. The former Pittsburgh Steelers' star Lynn Swann has a unique perspective as an African-American, a Republican and a former gubernatorial candidate.
He's talked to our Mary Snow just a little while ago.
All right, Mary, what did he say?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, on the one hand he says he doesn't think that race is going to be a defining issue. But on the other hand, he is critical of the state's governor for comments he made about race in the Pennsylvania primary.
LYNN SWANN (R), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: For Pennsylvania, it's been fairly exciting.
SNOW (voice-over): Lynn Swann, former Pittsburgh Steeler and Hall of Famer, wasn't planning on sitting on the sidelines for this political season. Swann, a Republican, had hoped to be Pennsylvania's governor, but lost in 2006 to incumbent, Ed Rendell. And that match-up was at the core of a controversy Rendell sparked on the issue of race.
Rendell supports Clinton. In February, he said there were some conservative white voters in Pennsylvania who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate. And Rendell said in his race with Swann, his lead wouldn't have been as wide if Swann wasn't black. Rendell said he was being honest.
(on-camera): What do you say to that?
SWANN: Well, as I said, before, you know, I think when you make comments like that when you're the governor of the state, it's a form of institutionalizing racism.
SNOW (voice-over): Swann thinks a black candidate can win here. Although he doesn't support Barack Obama, he says like Obama, he ran as an agent of change.
SWANN: It's easy to say you want change. It's very difficult to get change and to get people to believe in change.
SNOW: But, he says...
SWANN: The fact that, you know, I would have been the first black governor in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not speak well for Pennsylvania and does not speak well for the United States.
SNOW: Of the state's 21 Congressional delegates, only one is black and only one is a woman. Swann says political parties don't recruit enough minorities and women.
As Lynn spoke to us, not far away in Pittsburgh beyond, the Steelers campaigned with Obama. Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis also campaigned for him. Lynn said he's glad to see fellow athletes getting involved in politics, although he is supporting Republican John McCain.
As for Swann's political future, he's leaving the door open.
(on-camera): Are you considering running for governor again?
SWANN: Yes, I will consider it.
SNOW: And, Wolf, Swann said that he was considering running for a Congressional seat in his district, but decided to rule that out. You definitely get the impression that he is taking another look at possibly running for governor again -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Oh, I know this. He was a great NFL star. I remember those games vividly.
All right, Mary. Thanks very much.
Mary Snow reporting.
The candidates are talking about the economy and so is the man they hope to succeed. President Bush says despite the state of grim economic news, current conditions don't meet the technical definition of a recession. He says the economy is just going through a rough patch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not in a recession. We're -- we're in a slowdown. We -- we grew in the fourth quarter of last year. We haven't had first quarter growth statistics yet. But there's no question we're in a slowdown.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The president made that remark at his fourth and final North American leaders' summit. The president meeting with the Mexican president, Felipe Calderon, and the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper. They all praised NAFTA -- the North American Free Trade Agreement -- a favorite target of the Democratic presidential candidates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Now is not the time to renegotiate NAFTA or walk away from NAFTA. Now is the time to make it work better for all our people and now is the time to reduce trade barriers worldwide.
FELIPE CALDERON, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO (through translator): It is not my role to talk to the three candidates or pre-candidates to the presidency. I am very respectful of the domestic politics of this country. This is a decision that is solely in the hands of U.S. citizens. And for that reason, I must respect that process completely.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Let's go to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's down in New Orleans watching this story.
I guess it's inevitable that campaign politics, to a certain degree, has an effect in these kind of summits.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It shows the presidential campaign dominating the agenda even at a summit like this. That's why the president, in part, was talking so much about trade. He realized he had to try to put out a fire that's really blazing out there on the campaign trail.
You have Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton saying that NAFTA has not lived up to its hype and that if they're elected president, they will renegotiate it. And that's why you also saw the Mexican president, Calderon, really trying to tiptoe around. That's the last thing he wants to do is pour more gasoline on this fire by attacking Obama and Clinton. So he's trying to be diplomatic, saying I'm going to stay out of presidential politics. But the fact is in private, the Mexican president and the Canadian prime minister very concerned that if one of these Democrats is elected, there's going to be some major problems and a major shift for NAFTA -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A year ago, they would have talked about immigration reform -- comprehensive immigration reform.
I take it that was not on the agenda today?
HENRY: Not really. We didn't hear the president mention immigration reform almost at all. That's much different from the previous summit.
Two reasons. Number one, officials say, look, there's no point in trying to restart a plan that's dead on Capitol Hill. So that's dead as a legacy item now, officially.
Secondly, the president doesn't want to get conservatives all riled up at a time when John McCain is on the campaign trail trying to woo those conservatives and trying to win them back after their rift on immigration reform. So here's another example, on trade you've got, basically, the presidential campaign helping to dominate the agenda. And it's also even dominating what they're not talking about at this summit. Something the president didn't want to talk about was immigration reform -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm glad they had the summit in New Orleans. Good for the community, for the city down there.
All right. Thanks very much.
Ed Henry reporting.
And you can see for yourself exactly how today's primary and the upcoming contest will impact the race. You can check out our interactive delegate counter. It lets you play out real time "what if" scenarios with delegates and superdelegates. You'll find that and much more at CNNPolitics.com.
Let's check in with Jack once again for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Did you see the big story in "The New York Times" today about John King and his magic screen over here?
BLITZER: It's a big screen. It's a big...
CAFFERTY: Good stuff.
BLITZER: Yes. A very favorable piece.
CAFFERTY: He's actually -- he's very good at that, talking and doing all that stuff with his fingers.
BLITZER: Good coordination.
BLITZER: It's not as easy as it looks.
CAFFERTY: Well, it's not -- not for someone like me. It would be impossible.
Cutting taxes, stimulating the economy -- these are more important than balancing the budget. This is the economic policy of John McCain.
The presumptive Republican nominee taking issue with the Democrats' suggestion that he is out of touch on the economy. McCain says he will cut taxes even if it means running up more deficits.
Hey, what's a few more trillion dollars, you know?
McCain thinks it's Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama who are out of touch, since they want to raise taxes during a recession -- a recession that President Bush says we're not in yet.
McCain says his economic plan is solid, based on extending President Bush's tax cuts. These are the tax cuts McCain opposed until he became the nominee and now all of a sudden he thinks they're terrific. He thinks federal spending is the problem and he pledges to scrub every government agency of wasteful spending.
Where have you heard that before?
John McCain is backing off from his promise to balance the budget by the end of his first term.
Remember when he said that?
Flip-flop, just like with the Bush tax cuts. Now he says it might take two terms. And by then, of course, it will be somebody else's problem -- your children's, your grandchildren's. Today's "Wall Street Journal" reports that McCain's proposed $650 billion in tax cuts per year -- mostly for corporations and upper income families -- would either make the federal deficit explode -- "The Journal's" term -- or required unprecedented spending cuts equal to one third of all federal spending on domestic programs. One expert says the chances of McCain cutting spending by that much are nonexistent. In fact, a study of federal spending that goes back to 1976 shows there has never been a cut in domestic spending that large -- as large as the one McCain is proposing.
So here's the question: Do you agree with John McCain that cutting taxes is more important than balancing the budget?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A very popular blog it is, indeed.
CAFFERTY: It's a great place.
CAFFERTY: I'm going to spend the summer there.
BLITZER: You can have a virtual vacation.
CAFFERTY: Let's go and camp out.
The first exit polls are now coming into THE SITUATION ROOM from Pennsylvania. You're going to be seeing and hearing what the numbers are here at the CNN Election Center. We're combing through them right now to see what we can tell you about the critical Pennsylvania contest. Bill Schneider crunching those numbers.
Also, you're going to find out what the candidates want to do to help ease the pinch of sky high gas prices. You'll find out what their plans mean for you.
Plus, the surprising role of white men in the Democratic race for the White House. We'll show you why they may determine the nominee.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The first exit polls from Pennsylvania are just coming in to us right now on this primary day. Let's go straight to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
Bill, what do we have?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the president said the country is in slowdown, not quite a recession.
What do the Democrats in Pennsylvania think about that? Answer -- not much.
We asked them, what do you think of the nation's economic condition today? And you know what, the Democrats in Pennsylvania are divided. But they're not divided over whether there's a recession. Only 10 percent think there's not, it's just a slowdown.
What divides them is whether it's a serious recession -- 42 percent say it is -- or a moderate recession -- 47 percent believe it's moderate. So there's some division here over the condition of the economy.
Now who do they think will handle the economy better, Clinton or Obama? We asked them. And the answer is both are about the same -- 45 percent said they'd handle the economy about the same. Clinton has a slight advantage -- 27 percent say she'd handle the economy better. Nineteen percent say Obama would handle the economy better.
So the difference between the candidates on the economy is not vast, but there is there's a marginal difference in favor of Hillary Clinton. And, Wolf, as we know, of marginal differences, great victories can sometimes be made.
All right, Bill. I know you're crunching a lot more numbers. And we'll get those as they come.
Thank you. Thank you.
The price of gas is at a new record high today, averaging more than $3.51 a gallon. And that has voters outraged and the candidates offering plans to try to ease the pain.
Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's watching this story for us.
Brian, what are the White House hopefuls saying?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, two out of the three of them say it's time to consider a tax cut for motorists that's never been tried before.
TODD (voice-over): Ratcheting up along with those prices at the pump, the pressure on White House hopefuls to take action. John McCain's got an idea to relieve you from that looming $4 a gallon mark and he's drafted a bill to make it happen.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I propose that the federal government suspend all taxes on gasoline now paid by the American people from Memorial Day to Labor Day of this year.
TODD: A so-called gas tax holiday. That means for three months, 18.5 cents per gallon in federal tax would be taken off your bill at the pump.
Hillary Clinton says she'll consider the idea. That tilts her more toward McCain's side on gas prices and it's one of the rare instances where she splits from Barack Obama on policy.
OBAMA: I think John McCain's proposal for a three month tax holiday is a bad idea. You've got 18 cents -- we're talking about 5 percent of your total cost of gas, that you suspend for three months, which might save you a few hundred bucks that then will spike right up.
TODD: Analysts say it may not even save you that much.
ROGER DIWAN, PFC ENERGY: For a family with two cars, if they fill 10 times a month, that will make probably something like a $30 difference. So it's not huge.
TODD: Still, McCain says a timely drop in gas prices could also reduce costs for food, packaging, other transportation-related services and the economy would get an overall boost.
Obama's plan for gas prices focuses on the long-term -- moving the country toward more fuel-efficient vehicles, less dependence on foreign oil.
TODD: But the McCain and Clinton campaigns also favor that approach.
Now Hillary Clinton and Obama do agree that oil companies should also be hit with a windfall profits tax, which John McCain opposes. An oil analyst tell us it would recover some revenue, but he says the oil companies would turn that right around and hit the consumer with higher prices -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian, for that.
Brian Todd reporting.
Coming up, the U.S. citizen -- yes, a U.S. citizen and an Army veteran facing spying charges and possibly the death penalty. We're going to show you what he's accused of doing.
Plus, the record few people are celebrating -- the cost of crude at an all time high.
Stay with us.
We're also getting more exit poll information. Bill Schneider going through the numbers right now. We'll share those with you.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're going to get more of the exit poll information that Bill Schneider is crunching right now very, very soon -- how the actual voters in the Pennsylvania primary size up the issues. That's coming up. We'll get back to politics on this crucial day shortly.
But there's some other important news we're following, including this. A United States citizen today arrested on spy charges. Ben Ami Kadish is accused of passing U.S. secrets to Israel.
Let's go to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena. She's been following this story for us. She's been following it all day.
What is going on -- Kelli?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he's not only a U.S. citizen, but an Army veteran. And he's facing life in prison, possibly even death, for allegedly passing classified secrets to Israel.
Ben-Ami Kadish got out of court just a short time ago, Wolf. He was released on a $300,000 bond. He's 84 years old.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM CASEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Our standards are the same for any country. We, you know, treat seriously our obligations, all of us, as government officials to safeguard classified information, to safeguard national security information. And there's a -- pretty much a zero tolerance policy for anyone that would engage in sharing that information in an unauthorized way with anyone, including countries that are good friends and allies, like Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ARENA: Kadish is facing charges for crimes that he allegedly committed between 1979 and 1985, when he worked as a mechanical engineer at an Army research center in Dover, New Jersey. Prosecutors say that Kadish took home secret documents and let an Israeli consulate worker, who is also an Israeli citizen, take pictures of them.
Now those secret documents included information about nuclear weapons, the F-16 fighter jet and the Patriot missile defense system.
Now here's a twist for you, Wolf. I know that you will find this personally interesting. The government says that Kadish was sharing secrets with the same individual who received information from convicted Pentagon spy Jonathan Pollard. Pollard, as you know, is serving life in prison. Prosecutors say that the Israeli left the U.S. in 1985 and has not returned -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I think we have an excerpt of what the prosecutor said,, Kelli. Let's listen in to see if we --
Oh, we don't have that, actually, that sound bite. They're referring to Yosef Yagur, who was this Israeli consulate official who was accused of being involved with Jonathan J. Pollard.
Well, here's the question, Kelli.
Why not -- if this guy allegedly was spying 20 or 25 years ago -- he's now 84-years-old -- what took so long?
Why did this all of a sudden, come to light right now?
ARENA: Well, you know, Wolf, prosecutors can only bring cases when they've got all of the evidence that they need to bring into court. And this is how long this took to bring to court. And so it doesn't matter how old he is. It doesn't matter how -- you know, when the crime took place. It matters when they get their act together. And this is when they did.
BLITZER: All right. We'll continue to follow this story.
Thanks very much for that.
Kelli Arena reporting.
So who will ultimately decide the Democratic nominee?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's sort of a paradoxical result, considering this is the first time we have an opportunity to elect a woman or an African-American, that white men should sort of hold the power. That feels icky to say, but I guess it's true, technically, they will cast the deciding vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: By why do white men matter so much in this Democratic contest? We're going to show you.
Also, more brand new exit polls coming in from Pennsylvania. You're going to find out what they're telling us about how this contest will play out.
Plus, details of financial news that will impact thousands of Americans' vacation plans this summer.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider is getting some more exit poll numbers coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Bill, what's going on? SCHNEIDER: Wolf, there's been a flood of new voters in the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania. We're finding that one out of seven Pennsylvania Democratic Party voters were not registered as Democrats at the beginning of this year.
How did they vote? Sixty percent of them tell us they voted for Barack Obama. So he very easily carried by about 60 to 40 those new voters who are new Democrats just this year in Pennsylvania.
Now, there was a very dramatic debate just last Wednesday night on ABC News in Pennsylvania. The impact of that debate has been very controversial. We looked at voters who say they made up their minds how they were going to vote in the past week, which is mostly since that debate was held on Wednesday night.
How did they vote? Fifty-eight percent for Hillary Clinton, 42 percent for Barack Obama. So the suggestion there is voters who saw that debate and made up their minds afterwards tended to vote very heavily for Hillary Clinton -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Bill. Thank you for that.
And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, for the third straight day, oil prices spiked to a record, at just over $115 a barrel. Economists blame the decline of the dollar and a poor stock market for the increasing cost of oil.
A new al Qaeda tape criticizes Iran and promises more attacks. Osama Bin Laden's chief deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri scolds Iran for blaming Israel for the 9/11 attacks instead of giving full credit to al Qaeda. He says attacks are still possible for countries aligned with the United States in the Iraq war.
And a record financial -- a new financial record, that is, in the battle over the euro versus the dollar. The euro soars just past $1.60, so get ready to wince if you're planning a summer vacation to Europe.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A female author has some controversial opinions on tonight's Pennsylvania primary. Nora Ephron thinks the race will turn on white men, and whether they are racist or sexist.
CNN's Carol Costello talked to her today. She's watching this story for us.
Pretty intriguing stuff, Carol. What did she say?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, to put it mildly, Wolf, Ephron uses provocative language to make a point. She says, let's not kid ourselves. Try as we might, white men will still decide who gets to be president.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COSTELLO: For some, Pennsylvania's primary will make one thing crystal clear, despite denials from Democrats, present and past --
JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the only thing I would say, and I think it has nothing to do with race and gender. Let me be real clear about that. It's amazing now being the white male --
OBAMA: Feeling all defensive about it. That's all right, man.
EDWARDS: Is that this is different.
COSTELLO: But Edwards was wrong according to Nora Ephron. The woman famous for making movies like "Sleepless in Seattle" writes in the "Huffington Post" -- "Pennsylvania's primary is an election about whether the people of Pennsylvania hate blacks more than they hate women. And when I say people, I mean white men."
In other words, if Hillary Clinton can win the white male vote in Pennsylvania where white male politicians overwhelmingly hold office, she will win the primary because as Ephron puts it, she could attract more racist white male voters than Obama can. And she thinks that may persuade those undecided superdelegates that only Clinton can win in the general election against a white man, John McCain.
A number of voters we spoke with today, buy Ephron's argument.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No question, absolutely. It will be the white men that will determine who is going to be the president.
BEN WINTERS, VOTER: It's sort of a paradoxical result seeing this is the first time we have a woman or an African-American that white men should sort of hold to power. That feels icky to say but I guess it's true technically they will cast the deciding vote.
COSTELLO: But is it true? If you look how this year's primaries have been won, he who takes the white male vote rules. Clinton won Ohio taking 58 percent of the white male vote. Obama won Wisconsin, taking 63 percent of the white male vote. But guess what? It may not matter two hoots in a general election.
ROGER SIMON, POLITICO: No Democratic candidate for president since Lyndon Johnson has won the white vote. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, twice, have always lost the white vote. The trick for a Democratic candidate is to get enough of the white vote and an overwhelming black vote.
COSTELLO: Or you could look at it this way. The winning candidate will have to get enough of the white vote and an overwhelming female vote and that makes both Democratic candidates a possible winner in the general election. Nothing is easy to figure out in this election, Wolf.
BLITZER: You're right, Carol, thank you. More exit polls in from -- exit poll information coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Bill Schneider once again going through the numbers.
What about these new polls, Bill?
SCHNEIDER: Well, we're finding is African-American voters in Pennsylvania, how did they vote? They voted 92 percent for Barack Obama, just eight percent for Hillary Clinton. She was probably hoping to break double digits. She did in Ohio, in the last big primary. She got 13 percent of the African-American vote but her support slipped to eight percent in Pennsylvania.
What about seniors? That's a group she can usually rely on and they did deliver for Hillary Clinton -- 61 percent for Clinton, 38 percent for Obama. But she has slipped in Ohio, seniors, 65 and older, voted 72 percent for Hillary Clinton. They're still with her, but not by the same numbers. Now 61 percent are voting for Hillary Clinton.
And to follow-on to your last discussion, how did white men vote in Pennsylvania? The answer is -- they voted for Hillary Clinton. They voted for the woman over the African-American candidate. They voted 55 percent for Clinton, 45 percent for Barack Obama, and I'll leave it to Nora Ephron and your commentators to discuss what that means.
BLITZER: Let's discuss that right now, Bill. I know you're going through more numbers. We'll check back with you shortly.
Let's discuss this, and more. We'll bring in Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Paul Begala. He's backing Hillary Clinton. Also Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, he's an Obama supporter and we brought in Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez just to keep everyone --
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Joined a little bit.
BLITZER: A little bit right now.
Paul, what do you make of these exit poll numbers that we've just received? 92 percent of African-American voters going for Obama in Pennsylvania.
BEGALA: Right. And I think this is what -- I'm a huge Nora Ephron fan, I've never met her, but I love her movies. She's a great writer, but she's a crummy political analyst. 92 percent if Bill's numbers are right and who knows. If that's true, they're voting for Barack Obama. They are not voting against Hillary Clinton. It's not to say that African-Americans are racist against white people. They have a terrific candidate they can be for.
So it is with Hillary Clinton, particularly in the Democratic primary. This was -- if they were torn between their sexism and racism, they'd stay home, because that's the only choice they got is the African-American or the woman. There's just nothing in the data that suggests, at least in the Democratic Party, that this is hurting them. You know, more and more people are registering, more participating.
BLITZER: Let's let Jamal weigh in, among older voters, Democrats in Pennsylvania, 61 percent went with Hillary Clinton, 38 percent for Obama. We do know, at least historically, older people vote much bigger percentages than younger people.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: We do. And I think that's an important number. We saw according to Bill's data that that number has now decreased in terms of the margin. Gotten smaller.
To talk back again about the racial element, you know we've fallen into this habit in the course of the campaign of talking about these states as if Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama doesn't win the white vote in all these states then he won't win the white vote in the general election. That's not necessarily true, but it's not necessarily true or we don't pay enough attention to the fact that African-American voters are going overwhelmingly for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is not convincing them to vote for her.
We all know Democrats cannot win in many of these states if they don't get a sizable African-American turnout. Both of these populations, all of these populations, women too, are all going to be important.
BLITZER: And Barack Obama has done very, very well in a lot of states that are largely white, very small African-American populations. He shows that he can get that white vote.
LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, absolutely. I think you have to look at the timing, though. I have to go back to the women's argument, that's a traditional leftist, feminist argument that Ephron made and Gloria Steinem made. If you look at the two cohorts, groups that traditionally do not perform well, it's less educated, elderly white women and the young voters, 18 to 25. Both are them are surging almost like a rising tide.
Once you have a nominee, I think it will pull back some. But what's interesting now at a time when women have really delivered by Hillary Clinton, you are seeing something like Nora Ephron's comments to get them excited again.
BEGALA: The split in my party, the last 40 years, since the Democrats stopped being the party for racism, which they were for most of its history, became the party of segregation and became the party of integration and equality, the divide has not been race in my party, it has been class. And Barack Obama has done extraordinarily well with white folks who are highly educated, high income. He's done less well with blue-collar white folks because Hillary is strong with them.
Again, it doesn't mean they hate Barack, but she's made the case for them. But one of them is going to have to bridge that divide. Hillary is going to have to do better with upscale voters. Barack is going to have to do better with downscale voters. That's what I'm going to look at tonight is the class divide and not race. BLITZER: It's interesting with, Jamal, as we take a look at this black voter, white voter, this whole divide. He's getting 92 percent of the African-American vote in Pennsylvania, this would have been different if he hadn't shown African-Americans he could win white support. Before Iowa he was maybe getting 40 percent or 50 percent.
SIMMONS: Sure, at one point Hillary Clinton was winning with African-American voters against Barack Obama. And even going late into last year she was getting 25 percent to 30 percent in some of those early polls.
She in some sense has lost the vote but Barack has made a great appeal to African-American voters who have found a reason to come over and vote for him.
But let's also keep in mind, all of this is a Democratic primary. So people get to make a choice about who they want in the Democratic primary which will be very different when we get to the general election and it's the Republican versus Democrat and people can make a much clearer choice about who they want and what direction of the country.
BLITZER: Leslie, the other exit poll that Bill Schneider shared with us a just little while ago, on a recession, among the Democratic voters today, 42 percent already thought the country was in a serious recession. 47 percent said it was a moderate recession. 89 percent basically think the country is in a recession right now. That does not necessarily bode well for the Republican in November, because normally the people aren't positive about the economy, they blame the party in power in the White House.
SANCHEZ: That's -- that's just adding to the things that don't bode well for Republicans. I mean, historically if you looked at it, this would not be a Republican election. You've got the fact that you come eight years off a Republican administration. There's a lot of different indicators that should be the Democrats' year.
But for many different reasons people have not yet bought into Hillary Clinton or maybe looking with a jaundiced eye with Barack Obama. We are not going to really know, and the election doesn't start until we have a nominee.
BLITZER: That economic factor could - you know you used to say in '92 it's the economy stupid. Is it going to be the economy stupid this time?
BEGALA: It's still the economy, stupid. I mean the war matters but more and more, particularly Hillary and Barack are talking about the war and merging it with the economy. Reminding voters that it's a $12 billion a month enterprise that Senator McCain supports and they oppose and the $12 billion a month could be better spent at home trying to create jobs, trying to create healthcare, fix education.
SANCHEZ: It's a false arguement.
BEGALA: No, it's not. That's a right smart an amount of money, $12 billion a month. Even I could spend that. But this will be the fight in the general election. I think Senator McCain will say it's well worth it. I think Senator Obama or Senator Clinton will say well no ...
SANCHEZ: That's not the issue at all. It's economic and national security. It's coming down fundamentally are we going with unchartered waters with a candidate we don't understand or know or someone that is proven
BLITZER: On this issue, Jamal will agree with Paul.
SIMMONS: Change versus more of the same. All right. One of these candidates is going to be change and the other is going to be more of the same. And John McCain who is supporting Bush tax cuts, who's supporting Bush's war versus a Democrat who wants to change all of that. I'll take that fight.
SANCHEZ: Raise our taxes, you're right, raise our taxes, make us more insecure.
BEGALA: Raise your taxes.
SIMMONS: Raise Wolf's taxes.
SANCHEZ: Anybody who has small business is very concerned about this idea.
BLITZER: Stand by, guys. We got a lot more to discuss. Thanks for this initial round.
The final hours of voting now under way in Pennsylvania, we're less than two-and-a-half hours away from the polls actually closing and we're covering all the angles of this closely watched contest.
Plus, a new round of exit polls, yes, more exit polls, only minutes away. The best political team on television is here to show us what they mean.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We have more data coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM right now from those Pennsylvania primary exit polls. Let's go straight back to Bill Schneider.
What are we seeing, Bill?
SCHNEIDER: Two big issues, Wolf, exactly what you'd expect, the economy is the number one issue, Iraq number two. Those are the issues that inform this whole Democratic primary.
Now, we are seeing something new. What -- what do voters do if they say the most important issue on their minds is the economy? The answer is, they're voting for Hillary Clinton. The economy is more her issue than Obama's. 56 percent of economy voters voted for Clinton. 43 percent for Barack Obama. That's just about the same as we saw in Ohio, last month.
But here's what's new. Among voters who say the most important issue on their minds is Iraq, that's Obama's issue. 57 percent of the Iraq voters are voting for Barack Obama, 43 percent for Hillary Clinton. In Ohio last month, the voters whose top priority was the Iraq war split just about evenly.
So, it appears that Barack Obama is gaining the advantage that he didn't have a month ago on the Iraq issue. Iraq versus the economy, that's what's going on in this race -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Interesting, indeed. Thank you, Bill. I know you're crunching more numbers. We'll share those with us -- with our viewers as they come in.
So what happens if we get all the way to the document Democratic convention in Denver at the end of August and still don't have a presidential nominee? A new website from the convention organizers explains the process that unfolds.
Let's bring back our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.
What's on this new Web site, Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDNET: Wolf, with 125 days to go until the Democratic convention, this site is going to walk you through everything from the day in the life of a delegate at the convention to a list of the hotels where the different delegations are staying. This is Convention 101 from the organizers of the Denver convention, walking you through the rules and the mechanics of what to expect come August.
Where are the delegates coming in from, how many from each state? 107 delegates in Pennsylvania where voting is taking place today. Florida, like Michigan, zero; stripped of participation.
There's also an explainer of the committees that are going to be meeting there. What is the credentials committee? What does it do? The right answer resolves issues concerning the seating of delegates. The wrong answer, it issues passes to the convention hall.
Organizers hope this Web site is going to be part of what they promise will be a well-oiled machine in August. They've even got extra credit here, including a convention glossary of terms they say you might be hearing, floor fight is not amongst them -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.
And we're just a little bit more than two hours away from the polls closing in Pennsylvania. Exit polls are coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM as you know. We're looking at whether Hillary Clinton can unlock a win in the keystone state.
And Jack Cafferty is asking this question this hour, do you agree with John McCain that cutting taxes is more important than balancing the budget? Jack and your e-mail coming up next right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Check back with Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is about John McCain's economic policy -- Do you agree with his statement that cutting taxes is more important than balancing the budget?
Tom in Florida says: "Balance the budget. All of us have to and the Feds should also. Regardless, he can't cut taxes because there just is no money because of the war. If he wants the damn war, then he needs to be a man, tell the truth and pay for it by raising taxes. But he won't say this, because he's just like all the rest. So much for straight talk."
Keith in Ohio: "McCain has it backwards Jack, just like the current administration. Why don't we try something new? For each new expense, provide a means by which it is financed. Pay as you go. Novel idea, no? The tax-cutting headlines are just that, they're headlines. The next two generations will never be able to pay off the last eight years. We ought to be ashamed ourselves."
Keith in Texas writes: "There's only one thing I agree with John McCain on: The economy is not his strong suit."
Paul in Toronto: "A recession is no time to be frugal. The only escape is cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes and let the people spend, spend, spend. The U.S. consumer will once again have to get the economy going and save the country."
Adam in Texas: "I'm 21, going to graduate college in less than two weeks. I don't like that McCain is going to put this problem on my generation. Giving even more tax cuts now means more taxes for the next generation later. Responsible parents don't steal from their children."
And Kathy in Georgia says: "We all know McCain is old school. The only time that old school is relevant is in morals and music."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/CaffertyFile. Look for your letter there along with hundreds of others.
BLITZER: And I know a lot of people are writing in especially on a day like today.
You know, the Republicans have done very well over the past several decades with this notion if you elect Democrats, they're going to increase your taxes, and they're simply going to spend a lot of money. And we'll probably be hearing a lot of that irrespective of whoever gets the Democratic nomination.
CAFFERTY: But whoever gets the Democratic nomination would simply have to point out when George Bush was elected, the national debt in this country was less than $5 trillion. The national debt is now more than $9 trillion. He has run up more debt than all of the previous U.S. presidents combined in our history.
BLITZER: I suspect we'll be hearing a lot of that as well. Jack, thanks very much.
Just a couple of hours or so before they lock the doors to the Pennsylvania polling spots. We're taking a closer look at who's up and who's down in the exit polls. Bill Schneider is standing by with that.
And Candy Crowley is in the Pennsylvania area, where the former Bill Clinton gets in verbal jousting with Barack Obama.
And Suzanne Malveaux explains why Obama takes a low-key attitude toward the Pennsylvania results.
Stay with us, lots of news on this important day right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're just getting in some videotape of Barack Obama talking about a possible, possible, loss in Pennsylvania. Just a little while ago, listen to this -
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: A win is 50 plus one. So if Senator Clinton gets over 50 percent, she's won the state. And, you know, I don't try to pretend that, you know, I enjoy getting 45 percent and that's a moral victory, you've lost the state. What I do believe is that, you know, we're coming to the end of this process, and if you look, we've won twice as many states. We've won the popular vote by a fairly substantial margin. We've got a very big lead in pledged delegates. And we've competing in every state. Win or lose.
And, you know, when I hear arguments about, well, he hasn't won this state or that state, you know, part of the reason, for example, that we might not win one of the big states is because we decided we could get more delegates by campaigning in five smaller states. That was a decision by saying this was a delegate race.
So we feel good about where we are. I think it's been an uphill climb here in Pennsylvania.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, that's Barack Obama only a little while ago speaking to reporters there.
Donna Brazile, Alex Castellanos --
Donna, what do you make of this spinning, if you will, or expectations game only a couple hours or so before the results start coming in? DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Senator Obama has won, of course, more states. He has more pledged delegates, but clearly, he would like to have a big victory in another big state, like Pennsylvania. He now has a footprint in a state, Senator Clinton is still heavily favored to win, but senator Obama now has made some new friends that could possibly help him if he becomes the nominee.
BLITZER: What do you think, Alex?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think Senator Obama opened up his fortune cookie, and it said you know order now, supplies low, things aren't going so well. He's trying to adjust expectations. It's a smart thing to do but I think he's also trying to discount some of the damage that's been done to him by the Clintons in this campaign.
I mean now for the first time Hillary is running the ads that Republicans would love to be running against the presumed Democratic front runner and of course Republicans are not able to do now but the Clintons have done that. So I think he's just trying to discount the damage if there is any for him tonight.
BLITZER: What do you think, Donna?
BRAZILE: Well, there's no question that somebody asked you know the Republicans helped John McCain make the case that Senator Obama may be out of touch but we'll see tonight if voters think that he's out of touch and clearly we'll know tonight if voters believe that Obama or Clinton deserve to win the nomination.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by, we've got a lot more to discuss.
Thanks very much.