Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Crunch Time For Democratic Presidential Candidates; Death & Destruction in Myanmar

Aired May 5, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: primary sparks over gas prices, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama trying to convince voters in Indiana and North Carolina that they get it. Will the big issues the Democrats are talking about drive voters' choices tomorrow? This hour, the best political team on television on an important new test of where the candidates stand right now.

And a scenario to -- quote -- "obliterate" Iran. Senator Clinton stands by her provocative warning. We heard earlier from Barack Obama in an interview. Now a new CNN interview with Senator Clinton.

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

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

On this, the primary eve, Barack Obama says he's desperately seeking votes amid new evidence that Hillary Clinton has gained some new ground against him. Tomorrow, 72 Democratic delegates are at stake in Indiana, another 115 in North Carolina. And the candidates are fighting to the bitter end right now over gas prices.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is standing by.

But let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She is in Raleigh, North Carolina.

They are not letting this issue of a holiday for federal gas taxes slip away by any means, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They are absolutely not, Wolf. They are talking about this right down to the wire.

And that's because they don't see it just as an issue, but as a message about their character.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): Shuttling between North Carolina and Indiana, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton used the prism of a gas tax dispute to define themselves and each other.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: Hillary's the one who gets it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton is the candidate that's going to fight for working people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: In dueling ads, the two argued whether to temporarily lift the federal gas tax, an issue which may have particular resonance with the large swathe of working-class voters expected at the polls tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: Clinton aides admit it won't do much for you, but would help her politically. So, here's the choice: Clinton gimmicks that help big oil or Barack Obama, a real energy plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: The price of gas is same song, different verse in a long battle in which differences are few and matters of character loom large. Fueled by strong and steady support from blue-collar workers, Clinton has positioned herself as the working-class champ, tacitly and sometimes openly framing him as out of touch with ordinary people.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's listen to what people are telling us. I don't think folks in Washington listen enough, because, if we listened, we would hear this incredible cry: Please, just attention to what's going on in our lives.

CROWLEY: The son of a single mother who once went on the food stamp program, Obama finds it ironic he's been painted at an elitist. Though most economists agree with him, arguing against a gas tax holiday is tricky politically. He's tried to use it to bolster his suggestions that she's just another pander bear politician, and he will tell the truth, politics aside.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the majority of people do find me trustworthy, more than they do the other candidate. And we can't solve problems if people don't think that their leaders are telling them the truth.

CROWLEY: It is, by both counts, a critical election eve, but only so critical. North Carolina and Indiana may change the race. They are unlikely to end it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: No matter what happens here in North Carolina or in Indiana, both of these candidates say now they believe that this will go all the way to the very end. And that, Wolf, as you know, at least for primary season, is early June.

BLITZER: June 3, to be precise. Candy, thank you.

Over the past week, Hillary Clinton has chipped away at Barack Obama's lead in North Carolina. Take a look at this. In our poll of polls, averaging the latest surveys, Obama had a 12-point lead back on April 27. His lead is now down to eight points in North Carolina. That comes after Obama hit a campaign rough patch and Clinton enjoyed a bounce from her win in Pennsylvania two weeks ago.

In Indiana, our poll of polls shows -- showed Obama with a four- point lead over Clinton just after the Pennsylvania primary. The race soon tightened to a dead heat last week. Today, Clinton is ahead in Indiana by four percentage points.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is looking at all of this, both of these states.

Where are they really hoping to secure some votes, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, two fascinating and two very different states. So, let's take a contrarian view, if you will.

Hillary Clinton is trailing in North Carolina. So, let's take a look at what it would take for her to pull off an upset there. And then we will do the same in Indiana, where Hillary Clinton is ahead, as you just said. We will show you the keys to a Barack Obama victory.

Let's start on North Carolina. First, let's just start by stretching out this map a little bit. This is the county by county results of the Democratic race so far. The dark blue is Obama. In places where there are large African-American populations, he wins. The light blue, Senator Clinton, these rural working-class areas.

So, what does that mean in the state of North Carolina? I have highlighted three congressional districts here. This is a 63 percent white congressional district. It's a democratic district -- 63 percent white district here in the central part of the state, around Durham, again, a Democratic district, 63 percent white population, 88, 89 percent white population out here in the western part of the state.

These are the districts Senator Clinton not only needs to win, but to win big if she has any hopes of pulling off an upset in North Carolina. We will watch that as the race comes in. In these other big cities, Barack Obama enjoys a big advantage with the African- American population.

So, let's do the flip side in Indiana. If we come into the race thinking Senator Clinton is narrowly favored, what would Obama have to do to pull off an upset? Number one, win where they know him best. This is Chicago right here. The Chicago media market floods into Gary and Lake County, up here in the northwest corner of Indiana. This is a 25 percent African-American county, 12 percent Latino county. This is a critical area right up here where Chicago television is most pressing in Indiana for Barack Obama to do well. Two other places, Wolf, down here in Indianapolis, where there are African-Americans in Indiana, and, remember, North Carolina, more than 21 percent African-American. And that percentage will be much higher in a Democratic primary. Indiana, only about 9 percent African-American. But where are they? They are up here in Gary. They're down here in Indianapolis.

One other place to look for Barack Obama, Bloomington. That's the home of I.U. He has done very well in college towns. This is a conservative district in the southern corner of the state, but it does have a college town right here, someplace to watch. If Barack Obama is upsetting Senator Clinton out here, it will be based on here, here, and here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, John, talk a little bit about the all-important battle for delegates.

KING: It is the all-important. You have that dead right. And this is our delegate graph, what if right now.

This is where we stand going into the race. And, look, here is the green line. This is where we are today and where we will be entering the voting tomorrow. And this is the finish line out here in red. I am going to make it green right here.

So, let's just say these two candidates who have been fighting it out pretty aggressively, what happens, Wolf, if they split the remaining delegates? Only handful of contests left, a little more than that. What if they split them 50/50 the rest of the way, not just the delegates that will be in these primaries and caucuses, but the superdelegates as well.

This is how you see how hard the math is for Senator Clinton. Let's just assume again -- there are 406 delegates left to be decided. Let's come over here. Let's give her -- that's a little more than half. Let me come over. Whoops. Wants to go away. That is a little more than half. Let's go right up there. Boom.

So, we give the other 202 to Barack Obama. Now, they have split the pledged delegates decided in the primaries evenly. And look what happens. Barack Obama is close to the finish line. Senator Clinton is way back here. So, let's say they split the remaining superdelegates 50/50. Well, that would get you somewhere right around here. I'm giving her a little bit more. Up and up. And look what happens, Wolf. Barack Obama can only win only half the superdelegates and he's the Democratic nominee.

It shows you how daunting the math is for Senator Clinton. She can't just win. She has to start winning big.

BLITZER: That's a fair point. All right, John, thanks very much.

Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: What did he say? She can't just win. She has to start winning big?

BLITZER: In the remaining contests.

CAFFERTY: Yes, no, I understand. That's a point we have been making here in "The Cafferty File" for some time now.

"Just as the world is opening up, we are closing down." That's a quote from a terrific "Newsweek" cover piece by Fareed Zakaria. It's called "The Rise of the Rest." And it explores what's happening to the United States during a global power shift that's going on right now.

Zakaria examines the post-American world, where, by almost every measure, from industrial to financial to social to cultural, the distribution of power is shifting away from the United States, a stark change from the superpower status we have enjoyed for most of the last century.

It talks about the dark mood of many Americans. About 80 percent of us think that the country is going in the wrong direction. Zakaria says this post-American world should not necessarily be an unsettling prospect for us. He says it is the result of a series of positive trends that have welcomed in an international climate of unprecedented peace and prosperity, except for the war in Iraq.

He points to economic growth of many countries all around the world. He insists America's benefiting from these trends toward globalization. And even as the rest of the world continues to rise around us, America remains -- quote -- "the most open, flexible society in the world, able to absorb other people, cultures, ideas, goods and services" -- unquote.

Zakaria says American society can adapt to this new world, but he wonders if our government can. He points to our narrow foreign policy and our desire to be the global rule-makers, but then to not always play by the rules.

Here's the question. Is America fading from its position as the most powerful nation in the world?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, and you can post a comment on my blog. This is a great piece he has written for "Newsweek" magazine, Wolf.

BLITZER: Aren't you happy he's one of our contributors now here at CNN?

CAFFERTY: Oh, I didn't realize that. Is that true?

BLITZER: Oh, yes. Yes.

CAFFERTY: Oh.

BLITZER: He's going to have his own show here on CNN starting in I think a few months, too.

CAFFERTY: Well, he is a very bright guy.

BLITZER: Yes, he is.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much.

Hillary Clinton means what she says and is not backing down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I said very clearly that there would be massive retaliation. I'm communicating with both the leaders of Iran and the people of Iran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: She reiterates, the U.S. would attack and possibly obliterate Iran if it launched a nuclear weapon against Israel in a Hillary Clinton administration. But Barack Obama is using that to compare her to President Bush -- the interview with Hillary Clinton coming up.

Also, did Barack Obama effectively put the Jeremiah Wright controversy behind him? Or might it hurt him with voters in Indiana and North Carolina?

And who would John McCain rather run against? Would it be Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama? You are going want to hear his answer.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now only hours to go until what could be a pivotal primary in both North Carolina and in Indiana, part of Hillary Clinton's final pitch to voters, a controversial idea to save you money at the gas pump. Still, it's something she defended in an interview with John Roberts on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "AMERICAN MORNING")

JOHN ROBERTS, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": I want to talk to you about the gas tax and come at it from the perspective of it's one thing to propose these things as a candidate when you really don't have to follow through on them. So I want to ask you this question this morning: If you become president and if gasoline prices are still high this time next year, do you promise now that you will give us a gas tax holiday next year?

CLINTON: I'm sure going to try, John, because the way that I have proposed it is different from either of my opponents.

Senator Obama doesn't want to give consumers a break. I do. I want the oil companies to pay the gas tax this summer out of their record profits. Senator McCain wants to lift the gas tax but doesn't want to pay for it. So I think I have the responsible position to give people immediate relief right now.

And here's why, John.

We need to do two things simultaneously. We need to help people who live today trying to pay these incredibly high gas prices. There's been no preparation. There's been no real help for them to try to make a transition. I think we can do both a short-term relief program and begin to implement my longer-term program which would give people tax credits to buy more gas-efficient cars. It would move us toward these higher gas mileage cars and would help to pay for it by taking the subsidies away from the oil companies. There's really a comprehensive approach that I have proposed.

ROBERTS: Now, you're certainly getting lots of opposition from this, particularly from the Obama campaign. Senator Obama earlier this morning was critical of it.

Let's listen to what former Labor Secretary under the Clinton administration Robert Reich had to say about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: It's stupid and it's dumb and I don't know why Hillary Clinton proposed it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Harsh words for you there, "stupid and dumb and doesn't know why you proposed it." What do you say about that? He was an official in your husband's administration.

CLINTON: Well, maybe I can educate him a little bit.

We want the oil companies to pay the gas tax out of their record profits. I think it's important that people in public life, elected positions like mine begin to stand up for the hardworking American consumer and the middle class. That's what I believe.

I think that if you look at all of the issues that I have taken on, that is what I'm running for.

I'm for helping people stay in their homes not being foreclosed on. I have been advocating this for months. My opponent opposes my moratorium on home foreclosures.

I'm for getting health care for everyone at an affordable cost. My opponent wants to leave 15 million people out.

I'm for trying to get the gas tax holiday for this summer because at least where I travel and maybe I talk to different people, I talk to people who are telling me they're literally sick at their stomach when they pull into the gas station trying to pay these gas bills, trying to go and then go to the grocery store where the price of fuel goes right into the cost of groceries.

I guess I'm just feeling more of the concerns that people have and they want relief. And they want us to quit taking care of Wall Street like we did when we bailed out Bear Stearns and start taking care of Main Street.

ROBERTS: I want to move on to Iran if I could. And Senator Obama earlier this morning was highly critical of your statement that we would be able to obliterate Iran if it attacked Israel. Did you go too far when you said that?

CLINTON: No, I didn't, because I think it's very important that, number one, we try to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. I have been saying that for sometime.

Number two that we have a diplomatic process with Iran, something that I think I was the first person certainly in any of the campaigns to come out for several years ago.

But number three, we need to make it very clear, like we did during the Cold War where thousands of missiles were pointed at us and we pointed it at the Soviet Union that there is a price to be paid. And when we look at Iran, we don't really know who's making a lot of these decisions. There's a parallel government as you know, the elected leadership of Ahmadinejad, the clerical leadership up to the supreme leader.

And so when the question was asked what would the United States do were Iran to launch a nuclear attack on Israel, I said very clearly there would be massive retaliation. I'm communicating with the leaders of Iran and the people of Iran.

ROBERTS: So, just to be clear here, if Iran were to use nuclear weapons against Israel in a Clinton presidency, that attack would be met with a nuclear response against Iran?

CLINTON: It would be massive retaliation, John, massive retaliation. I think...

ROBERTS: Does that mean a nuclear response?

CLINTON: Well, I think it speaks for itself.

You know, there's a great deal of concern that the Iranian government might be taken over if it were to have nuclear weapons by people who have no institutional sense of what would happen to their country. And I worry about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and, frankly, them falling into the hands of those who might prefer to be martyrs instead of be responsible leaders.

I think we have to start clearly and unequivocally saying to the Iranian people that there would be a very, very big price to pay.

ROBERTS: Another issue regarding Iran: The United States claims that Iran is supplying weapons and training fighters for Shiite militias to be using against American forces in Iraq. In fact, they are now saying that these Iraqi fighters are coming over, they are being trained by Hezbollah outside of Tehran and being shipped back.

If indeed it is true that Iran is facilitating the killing of U.S. forces, as president, what would you do about it?

CLINTON: Well, this has been going on for some time. They have been training forces for militias. They have been providing the means to make these horrible explosive devices that have killed and maimed so many of our soldiers.

ROBERTS: But would you attack Iran? Is that a reason to go to war against Iran or at least some sort of attack against them? The killing of U.S. forces?

CLINTON: Well, I think you have to do everything possible within Iraq to try to prevent that from occurring.

Nobody wants to go to war with Iran. That is not something that anybody in their right mind is advocating. I have been on record for some time saying that this government, namely our president and vice president, need to be reined in, and I have even introduced legislation making it clear that there is no basis for such an action.

But we also have to protect not only our own forces, but our Iraqi allies, and we have got to get tougher on what they do inside of Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And you can get your morning dose of political news on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING." AMERICAN MORNING" begins weekdays, 6:00 a.m. Eastern.

We want to thank John Roberts for that.

Laura Bush takes on a role that is rare for a first lady. She's taking a unique turn, speaking for the U.S. government right now in a critically important life-and-death issue.

And massive destruction and death of a scale rarely ever seen. Myanmar, also known as Burma, desperately in need of aid, after a killer cyclone. The government expects the number of people dead to top 10,000.

We will have the latest right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Democrats traditionally sound more moderate after the primary campaign is over. But is Hillary Clinton leaning to the right, right now? The best political team on television is standing by.

Plus, did the Reverend Jeremiah Wright matter leave some lasting scars on Barack Obama's campaign? There are new theories right now about the damage done.

And Latino voters could be more influential than ever in this election year. We will take a closer look at a timely new push for their support.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now: threats against Iran, a beer and a shot in a blue- collar bar. Is Hillary Clinton redefining herself with a move to the right?

Also, Barack Obama's first primary since he broke ties with his former pastor. What impact will the Reverend Wright controversy actually have at the polls? All this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

Plus, we're going to show you how John McCain is using this Cinco de Mayo holiday to reach out to Hispanic voters.

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

The threat from Iranian leaders and their nuclear program is making a big impact on the presidential race here in the United States.

Suzanne Malveaux is covering the Democrats for us in Indiana. She is watching this story.

Suzanne, Clinton's remarks have really fueled a major part of this debate over the past couple days. What's going on?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, absolutely.

Indiana and North Carolina voters are looking for distinctions between these two Democratic candidates. It's largely focused on domestic and economic issues. But this is a foreign policy issue where there are real differences, and the candidates are exploiting it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bomb Iran.

(singing): Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb.

Anyway...

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Republican presumptive nominee John McCain got into hot water when he joked about bombing Iran.

But, Sunday, Senator Hillary Clinton declared, under her administration, the U.S. would not only attack Iran if it launched a nuclear weapon against Israel, but the U.S. could obliterate the country -- an assertion she refused to back down hours away from Tuesday's key primaries. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN MORNING")

CLINTON: It would be massive retaliation, John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CO-ANCHOR, "AMERICAN MORNING": And does that mean...

CLINTON: Massive retaliation. ROBERTS: ...does that mean nuclear response?

CLINTON: Well, I think that -- I think it speaks for itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Presented with the same scenario, Senator Barack Obama was more measured.

OBAMA: If Israel was attacked, we would respond forcefully. And an attack on Israel, one of our most important allies in the world, would be considered as an attack on the United States.

MALVEAUX: While both candidates expressed doubts that Iran would attack Israel, the specter of war with the Islamic state has grabbed the spotlight, giving Clinton and Obama the opportunity to draw distinctions in their foreign policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 3:00 a.m. And your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House, and it's ringing. Something's happening in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Hillary Clinton's 3:00 a.m. Phone call ads, highlighting her as the stronger commander-in-chief under crisis, worked well in leading up to Texas and Pennsylvania primaries. Those ads aren't running in Indiana or North Carolina, but the debate over Iran is helping Clinton remind voters of her national security credentials and toughness.

CLINTON: We need to make it very clear, like we did during the Cold War, where thousands of missiles were pointed at us and we pointed at the Soviet Union, that there is a price to be paid.

MALVEAUX: Highlighting the differences with Clinton and putting the hypothetical scenario aside, Obama said he'd be willing to talk with Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and would also tone down the rhetoric.

OBAMA: Using the word "obliterate," however, is the kind of language that we've seen George Bush use over the last seven years. And it's precisely that kind of provocative language that Senator Clinton criticized others for in the past.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, there's is already a memorandum of agreement between the United States and Israel, the U.S. pledging to come to its defense in the case of a missile strike or against weapons of mass destruction, but it's not legally binding so they're not legally bound to come to their assistance. It really gives whoever is the commander- in-chief a great deal of leeway when it comes to this issue -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Suzanne.

Suzanne is in Indiana for us.

Thank you.

So, is Senator Clinton's tough talk against Iran part of a larger move to the right?

Let's discuss this and more.

Joining us now, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our own Jack Cafferty; and our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. They're all part of the best political team on television.

From what I can hear, major difference on this sensitive issue, Jack, between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is the word obliterate. He says an attack on Israel would be the same as an attack on the United States and the U.S. would respond, the Iranians should be under no illusions.

What do you make of this debate?

CAFFERTY: Well, and I don't think the Iranians are under any illusions. I'm sure they're fully cognizant that some sort of a naked act of aggression against Israel would rain hell on Earth down on their heads, regardless of whether John McCain, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama was sitting in the Oval Office. I think it's another attempt to pander to voters, to, you know, sound tough on national security. I mean, you know, the Iranians are -- they're not stupid. They get what will happen if they -- if they get frisky with Israel. I just think this is politics as usual.

BLITZER: Is she running to the right already, Gloria?

I'll read to you a quote from an article that's in the issue -- the new issue of "The Weekly Standard," a conservative publication: "Against an opponent who shops for arugula, hangs out with ex- Weathermen and says rural residents cling to guns and to God in unenlightened despair at their circumstances, she has rushed to the defense of religion and firearms, while knocking down shots of Crown Royal and beer."

A pretty good quote.

But what do you think?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think she's really running a classic Republican campaign against Barack Obama. She is portraying him not only as non-substantive, but not as tough as she is on the defense and foreign policy. She's also portraying herself as the populist -- the person who cares about the real people. She's the patriotic one.

I mean this is -- this is right out of the Republican playbook. And she's using it, to some effect, against Obama, who, I might add, has given her a few openings in these last few weeks. So, it's working.

BLITZER: Jeff?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I'd call it more populist than right-wing. I think an important part of Hillary Clinton's campaign at the moment is attacking the oil companies, attacking the greed of corporations. That's not right-wing. I mean the corporations are generally favored by Republicans. So this is a real attempt to be tough, but in a populist way. Whether voters regard this as something they really want to embrace or just an act of desperation by a losing candidate, I don't know. But it is a definite change in tone.

BORGER: Well, it's also an effort to attract those Independent voters who may be voting in Indiana; also, those Republicans who could cross over. I think she feels she has a real opportunity here, if she turns Obama into a liberal, to kind of get that middle that he has been doing well with.

BLITZER: Whatever it is, Jack, it certainly helped her in Ohio and in Pennsylvania. We'll see if it helps her tomorrow.

All right, stand by, because we have a lot more to talk about.

Voters heading to the polls in Indiana and North Carolina. We're only hours away from the polling that the starts there.

Will the controversy over Barack Obama's former pastor be on their minds as they actually cast their ballots?

Plus, who would John McCain rather face in November -- Obama or Clinton?

You're going to find out what he says when he's asked about the general election.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When the big attack on me is I'm not wearing a flag pin or that I served on a board with a guy who was a member of a Weathermen back in the 1960s, they're reaching, you know?

This is the best they can do.

I would just suggest that, you know, I mean there hasn't -- Senator Clinton, despite what she says about being vetted, she hasn't gone through what I've been going through the last couple of months, because she's not the frontrunner. She says she has, but she went through it 10 years ago. I promise you, folks are happy to recycle here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, let's get back to our panel.

Jack, what do you think, has he managed successfully to put the whole Reverend Wright issue behind him?

CAFFERTY: He's winning, you know?

We have the same discussion in some form almost every night. John King said on this air not 10 minutes ago that barring something nobody expects is even possible, he's going to wrap this thing up. He's going to get there with more delegates, more votes, more states than she is.

And we're creating something, I think, that does not exist. You know, we try and manufacture some sort of controversy here when, in fact, she can't catch him.

BLITZER: Well, as they say, Gloria, it's not over until it's over and nobody has the magic number of 2,025 yet.

BORGER: No, nobody has the magic number. I was doing some math before with some help from our wonderful polite unit. And they discovered that in order to win and get to the 2,025, Obama has to win just 41 percent of all the delegates -- that's pledged and superdelegates. Now, that's a lot, but that's not more than 50 percent.

The climb is a lot, lot steeper for Hillary Clinton. But, as we said, before she's not playing a game of math, she's playing a psychological game here.

BLITZER: Jeff?

TOOBIN: Wolf, I spent the weekend in Baton Rouge, where there was a Congressional race in a seat that had been Republican since the '70s and a Democrat won that even though the Republican ran ads saying that, you know, this Democrat, he's just like Barack Obama. He doesn't share our values. And this was all after Reverend Wright.

And even in this district, that went 60 percent for George Bush, the Democrat won. I think that is much more significant than Reverend Wright. I think the Republican brand is really damaged around the country.

CAFFERTY: Eighty percent of the people in this country feel it's on the wrong track. Eighty percent. John McCain and Hillary Clinton together represent more than four decades knee deep in the Washington establishment that has created the situation in the United States that four out of five of us are downright pissed off about. Figure it out.

BLITZER: You know, but, Gloria, during the '90s, when Bill Clinton -- the eight years of the Clinton administration -- despite all of his baggage and the impeachment and the scandals, he -- I believe when he left office, his job approval numbers were in the 60s.

BORGER: Right. It was a lot higher than the 28 percent that George W. Bush has now. But, again, John McCain is doing pretty well in these match-ups against both nationally -- these snapshots right now against both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. That's because these guys are destroying each other, at least in the public's mind.

Now, that can clearly turn around. This is just so early. But it is a warning to Democrats that if they don't kiss up and make up pretty soon, they're going to have a very, very difficult fight on their hands if some of their voters decide to stay home in November.

BLITZER: I suspect they'll...

TOOBIN: I'm actually not...

BLITZER: ...eventually, Jeff, they'll kiss and make up, but it won't be soon.

TOOBIN: I'm not sure that's true, actually, that they're destroying each other. You know, there was a CBS and "New York Times" poll that came out today that showed both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama beating John McCain by 10 points, even after all their fighting. So I don't think that Democrats -- you know, that they have an understandable paranoia, because they usually lose. But I don't see any reason for them to be despairing at this moment.

BLITZER: All right, guys, we'll have a busy day, all of us, tomorrow.

Thanks very much.

Jack, don't leave. We've got The Cafferty File still coming up.

Also coming up at the top of the hour, Lou Dobbs. He's standing by live with a preview.

What's on tap -- Lou?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Thank you, Wolf.

Coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN, we'll have much more on the possibility of what Senator Clinton calls a game changer in tomorrow's primaries in Indiana and North Carolina.

Also, new questions tonight about one of this country's most outrageous miscarriages of justice -- the imprisonment of two former Border Patrol agents. It's now been five months since the appellate court heard arguments for the convictions to be overturned.

And rising pressure for a credit cardholder's bill of rights. Some members of Congress are refusing to support such legislation and one of those is Congressman Jeb Hensarling. He's among my guests. He's going to explain in detail, I'm sure, why he thinks it's OK for the credit card companies to have their way with consumers.

And the pro-amnesty lobby is at it again, telling outright lies about my position on illegal immigration and border security. We will set the record straight for them tonight.

And we'll have all of the day's news and much more.

Please join us at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll see you then, Lou.

Thank you very much.

John McCain courting critical voters right now. We're going to show you exactly what he's doing to try to win over Hispanics.

But is America fading from the position as the most powerful nation in the world?

Jack Cafferty and your e-mail.

All that and more, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We'll get to our Political Ticker in a moment.

But let's get back to Jack for The Cafferty File first -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, is America fading from its position as the most powerful nation in the world?

That's the cover story in "Newsweek" magazine this week. A great piece. It's a little long, but it's worth reading.

Karen in California writes: "While we decimated our image with the Iraq War, the globalization of economics cat has jumped out of the bag. The world is changing while we've not been watching, while we sit back, fighting a dumb war and coddling our preoccupation with controlling power and oil in the Middle East. If we're going to regain any respect and power as a nation, we've got to learn how to lead with wisdom, rather than military and economic might."

Brian writes: "The good old USA has been fading for a long time, everybody padding their pockets, selling the U.S. down the river. Maybe it's time for a major revolution in this country."

Jerry writes: "Of course not. America survived two world wars, robber barons, the Great Depression and your pessimistic questions. Have a little faith, Jack."

Donald writes: "Absolutely America is facing. You look throughout history, you'll find every great power or empire has fallen. America is falling behind in the technological race, killing itself through bad leadership and self-serving politicians. Although we still are a military superpower, the country as a whole has done much to lose that status over the last eight years."

And over the weekend, I got this from a friend and I thought it was good enough to share with you. On the topic of those rebate checks -- it sort of fits what we're talking about. "As you may have heard, the Bush administration said each of us will get a rebate check to stimulate the economy. If we spend the money at Wal-Mart, the money goes to China. If we spend it in gasoline, it goes to the Arabs. If we buy a computer, it will go to India. If we purchase fruit and vegetables, it will go to Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala. If we buy a good car, it will go to Japan. If we purchase useless crap, it will go to Taiwan. And none of it will help the American economy. We need to keep that money here in America. The only way to keep that money here at home is to spend it on yard sales -- because those are the only businesses still in the United States."

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

BLITZER: See you tomorrow for a busy day.

Jack, thanks very much.

In our Political Ticker, one group the presidential candidates hope to do well with down the road would be the Latinos. They're one of the fastest growing groups in the country and their support could be pivotal come the general election.

That partly explains why John McCain is courting that group on this day.

CNN's Dana Bash is in Charlotte, North Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(VIDEO CLIP FROM SPANISH LANGUAGE CAMPAIGN AD)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John McCain's Spanish TV ad can now be found here -- on his new Spanish language campaign Web site, launched for Cinco de Mayo.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everything about our Hispanic voters is tailor-made to the Republican message. I'm confident that I will do very well.

BASH: Republican strategists say he has to do very well with Latinos to win in November.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: If John McCain can earn closer to 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, then he's on his way to residing in the White House. The Hispanic vote is that critical for Republicans.

(VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: That's what helped George W. Bush win re-election -- a whopping 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. But that was before a divisive political debate erupted over illegal immigration.

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), COLORADO: We are becoming a bilingual nation, and that is not good.

BASH: McCain admits that could drive Hispanics to vote Democrat.

MCCAIN: I think the tenor of the debate has harmed our image amongst Hispanics.

BASH: McCain supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants but backed off after conservative outrage almost killed his GOP primary bid.

MCCAIN: I know what the message is. The message is, we must secure our borders.

BASH: Now that he's effectively clinched the nomination, a softer tone is back. He's suddenly using buzzwords again like comprehensive immigration reform and warning against a "piecemeal approach."

MCCAIN: We get in this kind of a circular firing squad on immigration reform in the Congress of the United States and the lesson I learned from it is, we've got to have comprehensive immigration reform.

BASH: But Democrats say he caved to political pressure in the primaries and will push Hispanics to punish him. Some Republicans admit fighting that will be a huge challenge.

SANCHEZ: It's part of the reality of being a Republican. Many Latinos falsely believe that this is not an inclusive party. And I think John McCain has to battle that like every other candidate before him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

That was CNN's Dana Bash reporting.

McCain, by the way, brought up what he thinks is a huge difference this time. Much of South Carolina's establishment that backed Bush back in 2000 now behind McCain.

Meanwhile, does the bitter fight among Democrats help the presumptive Republican nominee?

Who better to answer that question than John McCain himself. He was asked about it just a little while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I've heard one argument that says this -- that the competition between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama allows me a chance to establish roots, unite the party, etc. And then I've heard the other argument on the other side -- and I channel surf like everybody else -- that this is a chance for the Democrats to sign up new voters and invigorate their party.

So, hey, I really have no -- no opinion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The senator spoke at a town hall meeting earlier.

Tired candidates spending too much time on TV -- too tired to see straight, let alone get the names straight. CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us what happens. It's a Moost Unusual story and that's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the campaign trail Hot Shots coming in from the A.P.

In Evansville, Indiana, Senator Obama arrives for a tour of a construction site and a meeting with workers.

Earlier in Durham, North Carolina, Senator Obama makes a stop at a coffee shop. He bought 15 pieces of red velvet cake intended for the press corps.

In Greenville, North Carolina, Senator Clinton speaks at a rally at a local community college. After the event, Senator Clinton laughs as she's kissed by a supporter while taking their picture.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots from the campaign trail.

Candidates too tired to see straight, let alone get the names straight. The fatigue is beginning to show on the campaign trail -- totally understandable.

CNN's Jeanne Moos finds it, though, Moost Unusual.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator Obama, we'd like to introduce you to "Today" show host, Matt Lauer. Matt, the guy that you called Tim three times.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "TODAY," COURTESY NBC)

OBAMA: Well, Tim, I think that...

Well, I think what it is, Tim.

Well, Tim, first of all...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Finally, Matt couldn't take another Tim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "TODAY," COURTESY NBC)

MATT LAUER, HOST: I just wanted to say, I know you've had a very long week and so have I. You're saying Tim. I know -- it's Matt Lauer. But I -- believe me, I completely understand.

OBAMA: Matt, I'm sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: But it's no wonder Obama has Tim on the brain. Less than 24 hours earlier, he spent an hour with Tim Russert and never once called him Matt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "TODAY," COURTESY NBC)

OBAMA: And, as I said, Tim, you're right, Tim.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: But the Tim-Matt thing is nothing compared to the time Jimmy Carter paid tribute to Senator Hubert Humphrey at the Democratic convention.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And he would have been one of my greatest presents in history, Hubert Horatio Hornblower -- Humphrey.

MOOS: Horatio Hornblower is a fictional Naval officer. It turns out, Hubert Humphrey's middle name is Horatio, so you can see how Carter made the connection.

CARTER: Hubert Horatio Hornblower.

MOOS: The guy trying to blow Fred Thompson's horn ended up blowing it all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Fred Roberts from Tennessee.

MOOS: Sometimes they get it half right. For instance, when Senator Harry Reid tried to say happy birthday to Wolf Blitzer.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, first of all, Blitz the first...

MOOS: Blitz -- Blitzer, who cares, as long as they don't do what Ross on "Friends" did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "FRIENDS," COURTESY NBC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I, Ross, take thee Emily -- take thee Rachel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Rachel was the one he really loved.

(on camera): And then there was the time I personally called Richard Nixon President Reagan. The question is a little tough to hear, but the response is clear.

(voice-over): I was a rookie reporter back in 1984.

(on camera): President Reagan. Sorry, President Nixon. Sorry.

RICHARD NIXON: I've been called worse than that.

MOOS (voice-over): Yes, well, it's hard to call Barack Obama worse than Obama bin Laden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Obama bin Laden is still at large.

OBAMA: I think that was Osama bin Laden.

MOOS: We could all use assistance like the obnoxious editor had in "The Devil Wears Prada," whispering helpful hints.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY FOX 2000 PICTURES)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God. I (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's Ambassador Franklin and that's the woman that he left his wife for, Rebecca.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Our favorite faux pas goes to the mayor of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, introducing Bill Clinton recently.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM/PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 41st president of the United States, President Jefferson William Lincoln.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Next thing you know, we'll be celebrating the birthday of Abraham Clinton.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: Our special coverage of the Indiana/North Carolina primaries starts tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll be here throughout the night.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou?