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Senator Ted Kennedy is Diagnosed with Brain Cancer; Clinton Math Controversy: Primary Day Protest; Clinton and Obama Look to Split Primaries

Aired May 20, 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: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the breaking news on the health of one of the nation's best known political leaders. Doctors reveal that Senator Ted Kennedy has a malignant brain tumor. We're going to have full coverage.

Also, just minutes away, the first exit polls. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama look to split a pair of primaries in Kentucky and Oregon. But even as Obama seems certain to pass an important milestone, there's new controversy about the delegate count.

And many women who backed Clinton are furious. They say their candidate is not being treated fairly.

Could Obama feel the fallout?

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Whether you agree or not with his politics -- or don't agree -- there's no disputing that Senator Ted Kennedy is one of the country's most influential lawmakers. He's the second longest serving member of the U.S. Senate and a patriarch of a family that has shaped the country for more than a century.

So when he suffered a seizure over the weekend, it prompted immediate concern. And now a diagnosis far more grave than many anticipated. The diagnosis -- a malignant brain tumor.

Doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital released a statement saying Kennedy has had no further seizures, remains in good overall condition and is up and walking around the hospital.

Preliminary results from a biopsy of the brain identified the cause of the seizure as a malignant glioma, or brain tumor.

Let's get some more on what's going on.

We'll bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's watching this story for us.

Sanjay, you operate on malignant brain tumors all the time. You're a neurosurgeon. Gives the prognosis. Give us a little better appreciation of what Senator Kennedy is enduring right now.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, when you look at tumors, you sport of stratify them into benign and malignant. We know this is malignant tumor. What's important here now, specifically, Wolf, is what kind of grade is this tumor. Usually it's graded on a scale of one to four. And, also, where exactly where is this thing located?

Let me give you a quick idea here, if this image comes up, specifically about what is known as the parietal lobe. Now, this is a particular area of the tumor -- the brain -- where we know this tumor is located.

What is specifically concerning about this is that it's also located next to that area you just saw light up and this area here. Those are the motor and speech areas, Wolf.

If this tumor is too close to those particular areas, it would sort of deem this thing either inoperable or very hard to operate. And that's probably what the doctors are sort of trying to figure out right now. We know he had the seizure on Saturday. He was probably found to have this tumor pretty shortly thereafter. Now they're probably going to do what are known as functional MRI scans to figure out is that -- is that parietal lobe tumor close to the motor area or the speech area.

BLITZER: And the fact that he is 76-years-old, it obviously makes it more difficult to do surgery, is that right?

GUPTA: Yes, I think so. But, you know, it's one of those things where age is probably less of a criteria than overall where exactly this tumor is located. These tumors are often found in people in this age group. And they are sometimes operated. So that, in and of itself, doesn't exclude him from surgery.

But, look, if he's going to be someone who is neurologically devastated because of the operation, doctors will say you know what, surgery is not going to be an option here. Let's try chemotherapy. Let's try radiation instead.

A couple of images here, Wolf. This is what it might look like. This may not look like much to the untrained eye, but in this area, you can see an area of darkness. That is what a malignant glioma sort of looks like.

The next image here, a little bit more clearly, you see it sort of whitening up there. That is what is sort of a malignant transformation of the tumor. And that is typically what happens.

The final image just sort of colored. You can see, again, this area, there is something going on here. This is not his MRI, but this is the MRI of a very similar type of tumor.

BLITZER: So for -- based on what I'm hearing, is there are surgical options, but there's also chemotherapy and radiation, is that right? GUPTA: That's right. And what will happen, Wolf, is if -- let's say he can't have the operation. They'll do the chemotherapy and radiation, given that he's willing to undergo those things. And then about six weeks from now, you'll probably hear that he's got another MRI scan done. Hopefully, it will show some shrinkage to this tumor. If it doesn't, they'll continue on with the course.

Ultimately, let's say nothing is working. Then likely -- if he, again, agrees to this -- he'll probably be in a clinical trial, where they'll some of the newest therapies, which haven't been tested widely, but might mean he'd only have to...

BLITZER: Are there some encouraging trials out there?

GUPTA: There's a couple of things. One is something known as immunotherapy, which actually former Clinton supporters on the body's own immune system, trying to teach it, if you will, to attack that tumor. Again, it's not widely used, but this is something that might be an option if the conventional therapies fail.

Also, something known as viral therapy, Wolf, where you essentially -- you teach viruses to sort of attack that tumor specifically. Again, these are clinical trials further on down the road, if nothing else seems to be working.

BLITZER: I want to -- I want to play for you, Sanjay, and for our viewers, Hillary Clinton's reaction to news that Senator Kennedy is suffering from a malignant brain tumor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think, like every American, that news we received today about Senator Kennedy is very difficult. But we are sending our thoughts and our prayers to him and his family. I've spoken with a number of our mutual friends and conveyed, you know, my and my family's best wishes.

Obviously, he's a fighter. There isn't anybody like him. He gets up and goes out and does battle on behalf of all of us every single day. And I know he's a fighter when it comes to the challenges he's facing right now.

There's never been anybody like him in the Senate. He's probably the most effective single senator that our country has ever seen. And just as he has fought year after year to try to make the changes that will benefit our nation and the world, I know that he's going to fight, with all of his might, supported by his wonderful wife Vicki and his entire family, against this latest challenge.

And we wish him great success in this battle, as in every other battle that he has won over so many years.

Thanks.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Kennedy's influence stretches far beyond Capitol Hill, far beyond Washington, D.C. Mary Snow has been working that part of the story for us.

Mary, a lot of people are talking about the political impact he's had over these decades.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And over and over again you hear the words, Wolf, giant and legend to describe Ted Kennedy and his work. And so many people today were talking about things that he accomplished. They described him as being the soul of the Democratic Party, who's never slowed down.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: It's times like this that you realize -- we realize that the Senate really is a family.

SNOW (voice-over): And in that Democratic family, Senator Ted Kennedy is seen as its patriarch -- commanding respect from both sides of the aisle.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Well, I speak for every Republican in the Conference, that this was a development of a great concern and sadness.

SNOW: At 76, some describe Kennedy as being in his prime -- working harder than much younger senators. And some point to what they describe as the electrifying atmosphere of his endorsement of Barack Obama back in January.

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: What counts in our leadership is not the length of years in Washington, but the reach of our vision, the strengths of our beliefs.

(APPLAUSE)

KENNEDY: And that rare quality of mind and spirit that can call forth the best in our country.

SNOW: And while observers say he is a good campaigner, it's his work in the Senate that leads the Democratic Party to call him an American hero.

ADAM CLYMER, AUTHOR, "EDWARD M. KENNEDY": There's hardly a major piece of legislation he's authored in the last 40 years or so where he hasn't had a major Republican ally, whether it's civil rights or health care or election law.

SNOW: And one of his biggest fights right now is for health care reform. One Democratic strategist says Kennedy feels it's within reach.

JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, he has been such a passionate voice on this front. And he's a pragmatic voice. That's the other thing about Ted Kennedy, is everybody tries to, you know, pin him down and say he's just this -- this idealistic liberal. But he is one of the most pragmatic politicians I've ever seen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And one thing you hear from people who know him, just as we heard from Senator Clinton, is that Ted Kennedy is known for his passion and for fighting for what he believes in. And that is why a number of people noted they feel he will beat this cancer, because they know the fight that is in him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He's a fighter, no doubt about that.

Mary, thank you.

Senator Kennedy has, of course, been a top supporter of Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

Earlier, I spoke to Senator Obama. He told me the news of Kennedy's cancerous brain tumor is heartbreaking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would not be sitting here as a presidential candidate had it not been for some of the battles that Ted Kennedy has fought. So not only is he a personal friend, not only has he been one of my most important supporters during the course of this campaign, but he's somebody who battled for voting rights and civil rights when I was a child. I stand on his shoulders.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And coming up, we're going to bring you the full interview I did today with Senator Barack Obama, including what he has to say about John McCain's latest charges against him. The interview with Senator Obama, that's coming up later in THE SITUATION ROOM.

In the day's other political -- big political story, primaries in Oregon and Kentucky. Only moments from now, the first exit polls will be coming out. Hillary Clinton looks for a landslide in one contest. Barack Obama expects a relatively easy win in the other.

Obama, by the way, has 1,919 overall delegates to Clinton's 1,719. Fifty-one delegates are up for grabs in Kentucky. Fifty-two are up for grabs in Oregon.

Let's go live to CNN's Jim Acosta -- Jim, even before these votes are counted, Bill Clinton is sparking some new controversy over the delegate math.

What do we know?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

Campaigning with his wife here in Kentucky, former President Clinton is accusing the Democratic Party of behaving like the Republican Party back in the year 2000. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): In Louisville, no slugger in hand, Bill Clinton came out swinging at the Democratic Party's handling of the disputed vote tallies in Michigan and Florida. The former president suggested Barack Obama's expected claim that he's captured a majority of pledged delegates with a victory in Oregon tonight should come with an asterisk.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And it won't be tonight unless you decapitate Michigan and Florida, which violates our values and is dumb politics. You know, look at -- I never thought I'd live to see -- the Republicans are supposed to be the people who don't count votes in Florida, not Democrats.

ACOSTA: The former president credited the GOP with having what he called the more progressive and enlightened approach for selecting a nominee. It was the second time in just two days the Clintons have tipped their hats to the Republicans. First, it was the GOP backing for Hillary Clinton's claim that she would fare better against John McCain.

H. CLINTON: I found some curious support for that position when one of the TV networks released an analysis done by, of all people, Karl Rove, saying that I was the stronger candidate.

ACOSTA: On the verge of a big win in Kentucky that's predicted to be bigger than Obama's expected victory in Oregon, Senator Clinton is still pushing the disputed claim that she has the popular vote edge. That's contrary to CNN numbers, which show Obama with a clear lead.

H. CLINTON: And right now, I am leading in the popular vote. More Americans have voted for me.

ACOSTA: Meet the new math. Same as the old math, so says political science professor Larry Sabato.

PROF. LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: The numbers she's using depend upon all sorts of contortions. You have to take the numbers from the primaries and caucuses and shape them into a pretzel.

ACOSTA: And while Obama is steering clear of Clinton's calculus...

OBAMA: Senator Clinton has run a magnificent race and she is still working hard, as am I, for these last primary contests.

ACOSTA: ...critics note the Illinois senator's planned celebration in Iowa, where he will claim a pledged delegate majority, won't be exactly a nomination clinching moment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And over the last couple of days, the Clintons have gone from blaming the media for counting her out too soon to now blaming the Democratic Party.

Wolf, Hillary Clinton is running out of people to blame. And, more importantly, she's running out of time.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Jim in Frankfort, Kentucky with the CNN Election Express.

We're standing by for the first exit poll numbers. Bill Schneider going through them right now. He'll be joining us right after this.

Also, Hillary Clinton and many of her supporters say they find some of the news media coverage of her campaign -- and I'm quoting now -- "deeply offensive to women." You're going to find out what effect it could have on Barack Obama if he gets the nomination.

Also, the emotional reaction to Senator Ted Kennedy's brain cancer diagnosis. We're going to go live to Capitol Hill.

And you'll find out why Hillary Clinton is focusing in on May 31st as much as she's focusing in on today's primaries. We're going to show you what she's doing online.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Telling us what's on their minds as they cast their ballots -- CNN's Bill Schneider is back.

Bill, what are we picking up from the very first exit poll numbers that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, two different states, possibly two different outcomes -- but two very, very different political and economic worlds.

We asked voters in Oregon and Kentucky, how much has the recession affected you and your family?

Here's what the voters told us in Oregon. These are Democratic voters in Oregon. Twenty-eight percent said the recession has affected them and their families a great deal and a total of 29 percent -- almost, about as many -- said it hasn't affected them much or even at all.

Now let's compare that with the Democrats voting today in Kentucky, how has the recession affected them?

These are Kentucky voters. Forty-five percent, almost half, say the recession has affected them a great deal. Only 12 percent say not much or not at all.

So what we're getting is a far bleaker picture of economic well- being in Kentucky than in Oregon. And that could have a very big effect on the way they're voting in these two states -- Wolf. BLITZER: I know we're getting more numbers all the time. All right, stand by, Bill. We're going to come back to you shortly.

Barack Obama's delegate count may be growing, but there's growing anger among some female supporters of Hillary Clinton and Obama could feel the fallout. Carol Costello is working this story for us.

What's this all about have Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's all about -- well, it's all about sister power. Some ardent Clinton supporters believe their candidate is being treated unfairly. And they're not about to jump ship.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): The sense that Hillary Clinton's candidacy is doomed because of sexism is growing among some of her supporters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think they're ready for a woman yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm honestly going to vote for Ross Perot if she's not in the race.

COSTELLO: The math doesn't matter much to these supporters. Perception does. Another example -- WomenCount, a political action committee, says it raised $227,000 in two days to take out full page ads in newspapers across the country. This one in "The New York Times" reads: "Not so fast. We want Hillary to stay in the race until every vote is cast and we know our voices are heard."

ALLIDA M. BLACK, WOMENCOUNT PAC: What we need to do is to see this election to the conclusion. And Senator Obama and the media and all of the other voters in the United States have to realize that the gender gap in this country is real.

COSTELLO: Hillary Clinton is aware of how some of her supporters feel. She's talking about it -- talking in Kentucky of the sexist treatment she's endured, use of the "B word" to describe her personality, references to her cackle and references to her cleavage.

Clinton told "The Washington Post": "It's been deeply offensive to millions of women."

Some say all of this will make it difficult for Barack Obama to woo certain women over to his camp if he wins the nomination. Organizations like NARAL, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, are trying to help, but they're finding it difficult. NARAL has endorsed Obama and the backlash from some of NARAL's supporters has been fierce.

Take a look at its Web site.

"What a sellout," one woman writes. Another says, "Shame, shame, shame." And another writes: "I am appalled, disappointed, disgusted, frustrated and outraged."

Senator Claire McCaskill is an Obama supporter.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: I understand what NARAL did and why they did it. I think that there are many in our party -- and many women -- who want us to unite and begin to turn our attention toward the possibility of four more years of George Bush.

COSTELLO: McCaskill says it's time to focus attention to one Democratic candidate so the party can win in November. And she says the math just doesn't add up for Hillary Clinton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: And Senator McCaskill says it will take some time for the Clinton supporters to decompress because it's been such a long and tough fight. But, ultimately, Wolf, she says it will be up to Senator Clinton to get her women supporters to throw their support to Barack Obama -- back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks, Carol, very much.

We're going to have more on Senator Ted Kennedy. The diagnosis -- malignant brain tumor. We're getting the first picture in of Senator Kennedy and his family today. We'll share it with you when we come back.

We'll also take you live to Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are reacting to the news of Senator Kennedy's very serious diagnosis.

Plus, more than a week after a killer earthquake, an amazing story of survival from the disaster zone.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're getting a photo in now from the Associated Press. They just released it. This is the photo of Senator Ted Kennedy in the hospital today in Boston with his family.

The caption underneath the photo distributed by "A.P." says: "Senator Edward M. Kennedy, center; surrounded by family members. Left to right, son, Representative Patrick Kennedy, Democrat of Rhode Island; stepson Curran Raclin, son of Edward Kennedy, Jr.; daughter Kara Kennedy; and his wife Vicki; in a family room at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Tuesday afternoon."

It was revealed Tuesday that Senator Kennedy has a cancerous brain tumor. That's the photo. We'll show it to you one more time right now. This is a photo today of Senator Ted Kennedy at Massachusetts General Hospital with his immediate family.

Let's go back to Carol Costello.

She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Wolf, a somber visit by President Bush and the first lady to the Chinese embassy. They signed a condolence book offering sympathy for victims of last week's devastating earthquake. The president wrote: "We stand with you during this tragic moment, as you mourn the loss of so many of your loved ones."

The death toll now expected top 50,000.

Despite the grim numbers, there are still amazing stories of survival. This man was pulled from the rubble of a collapsed office building almost eight days after the quake. He was trapped in what was the second floor of an eight story building. Unfortunately, though, his injuries are very serious.

Australian scientists are one step closer to bringing the extinct Tasmanian tiger back to life. Listen to this. That's because researchers were able to take DNA from a 100-year-old museum specimen and put it into a mouse embryo. Experts say it's the first time that genetic material from an extinct species was used to carry out a function in a living organism.

A federal appeals court has ruled that the U.S. discriminates against blind people because it is impossible for them to distinguish the value of paper money. The ruling could force the Treasury Department to re-design its money. Options include making bills different sizes and printing them with raised markings. The court points out that other countries have added such features and the U.S. has never explained what makes its situation so special.

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol, thank you for that.

An unusual day on Capitol Hill, with something we rarely see.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: My thoughts and my humble prayers are with Senator Kennedy, my dear friend, Ted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Some of the country's most powerful people shedding tears, speaking emotionally, all reacting to Senator Ted Kennedy's diagnosis. We'll go live to Capitol Hill. That's coming up next.

Also, the unusual feud between the White House and NBC News. We have new details for you on what's going on. Howard Kurtz is standing by.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, President Bush telling the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki he's deeply concerned about the desecration of a copy of the Koran by a U.S. soldier. The trained sniper outraged Iraqis by using the Islamic holy book for target practice.

Also, a suicide attempt by a Guantanamo Bay detainee, now charged with the 9/11 terror attacks. His lawyer says the Saudi man cut himself upon learning last month he could face the death penalty.

And the largest telemarketing fraud sweep in U.S. history. The Federal Trade Commission says Operation Tele-phony involves some 180 cases representing half a million victims that lost more than $150 million.

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

News of Senator Ted Kennedy's malignant brain tumor is rocking Capitol Hill. Colleagues on both sides of the aisle are expressing concern, sympathy and anguish.

Let's go to Kathleen Koch. She's watching this story for us up on the hill.

Kathleen, what are you seeing? What are you hearing? Because it's been a remarkable demonstration of support with the Massachusetts senator.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has been, Wolf.

A remarkable day; a difficult day. Suffice it to say that this news came like a punch in the gut not only to lawmakers, but to the staffers alike. Today we saw powerful senators used to dealing with crises reduced to tears.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH: A rare, emotional outpouring from those who served with Ted Kennedy in the Senate for decades.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: He's a strong guy, and has great heart. And we're confident that he's going to be back here. We wish he and Vicki and the family well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the most difficult thing I have heard in my 34 years here.

KOCH: Majority leader Harry Reid broke the news to senators at their weekly policy lunch leaving lawmakers in stunned silence.

REID: It's times like this that you realize, we realize, that the Senate really is a family.

KOCH: Democrat Robert Byrd, the only member to serve longer in the Senate than Kennedy, was visibly distraught.

BYRD: Ted, my dear friend, I love you. KOCH: Republicans, too, voiced their concern for the man known as a liberal, but they didn't hesitate to reach across the aisle to get things done. One of the most notable examples helping to push through President Bush's no child left behind program to help school performance and accountability.

MCCONNELL: I speak for every Republican in the conference that this was a development of great concern and sadness to all of our members.

KOCH: Over and over lawmakers spoke of Senator Kennedy's fight since his election in 1962 for the poor, needy, and working-class Americans.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: He is a fighter. A fighter for our children. For our workers, for our seniors. He is a champion, fighting for health care for all Americans.

KOCH: Colleague Arlen Specter pointed out that Kennedy may soon join him in undergoing chemotherapy.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSLYVANIA: I know something about chemotherapy myself. I'm in the middle of it right now for Hodgkin's. But Senator Kennedy is a real fighter. We all know that. And I'm -- I'm betting on Senator Kennedy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH: And on a practical note, Senator Kennedy's absence may stall progress on several bills where he was a key player in really sealing the deals. And these are measures on expanding collective bargaining rights and a very important higher education overhaul -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Kathleen Koch on Capitol Hill, watching the reaction come in.

Kathleen, thank you.

The Kennedys are all too familiar with adversity, but their tragedies playing out on the national stage have only added to their mystique.

Let's go to Brian Todd. He's picking up this part of the story.

Brian, hasn't -- Brian, this whole Kennedy crisis, the whole Kennedy family history, it's playing into what we're seeing on this day.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. And it has actually for the past 40 years, at least since Ted Kennedy has assumed the role of family patriarch since his brother's, Bobby's assassination in 1968. One of the reasons that colleagues say they expect Senator Kennedy to handle this news with such strength is he's helped his family through so much over the past 40 years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: From one of his Senate colleagues, a telling refrain on how Ted Kennedy and his family has handled adversity through the decades.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: With more times and in more instances with more courage and more determination and more grace than most families ever have to face such a situation once.

TODD: And it's Ted Kennedy who's led them through it. There every step of the way, as his family's political dynasty absorbed one devastation after another. From this moment at his brother, Bobby's, funeral 40 years ago, he was thrust into the role of patriarch for so many grief-stricken children.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Chose of us who loved him and who take him to his rested edge, pray that what he was to us, what he wished for others, will someday come to pass for all the world.

TODD: Only in his mid-30s then, Ted Kennedy had to be a mentor to his brother's families at a time when he seemed to need one himself.

KENNEDY: I regard as indefensible the fact that I did not report the accident to the police immediately.

TODD: The Chappaquiddick accident which killed a young female aide in 1969, one of so many Kennedy tragedies that have played out in the public glare. Historians say that familiarity we all seem to have with their setbacks has added to the mystique and made us feel it's one of our own going through this medical crisis.

STEPHEN HESS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: We have lived with the Kennedy's. Our children have lived with our Kennedy's. Our parents have lived with the Kennedys. There has always been a Kennedy active in public life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: There is an idea that the Kennedys are American royalty. And some interesting comparisons are being made between them and the Bushes and Clintons for obvious reasons. But a couple points of difference between historians right now, Wolf, those two families haven't been as powerful for as long as the Kennedys and they haven't had to deal with the tragedies that the Kennedys have.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you.

Brian Todd reporting, giving us some historic perspective.

They are still voting tight now in Kentucky, but the mail-in state of Oregon, many voters there made up their minds weeks ago. Does that help Hillary Clinton or not?

And John McCain suggests his rival would have Raul Castro over for tea. Barack Obama tells me what he rarely -- what he really plans to do about Cuba. My interview with Barack Obama, coming up.

Also, we have more exit polls coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM. Bill Schneider is stand by for that. Stay with us, much more of our coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The first exit polls are in, letting us know what's on the minds of the voters as they cast their ballots.

Let's go back to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

What are we learning now, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: Well, a stunning result in Kentucky, Wolf. We asked Clinton supporters in Kentucky how they would vote if the election this November turns out to be between John McCain and Barack Obama. And here's the answer. Only one-third of Clinton supporters say they would vote right now for Barack Obama. More, 41 percent, substantially more, say they would vote for John McCain. But what that means is two-thirds of the Clinton supporters in Kentucky say they would not vote for Barack Obama if he's the nominee.

We, of course, also asked Obama voters who they would vote for if the choice turns out to be between Hillary Clinton and John McCain. They would be far more supportive of Hillary Clinton -- 71 percent of Obama voters would stay with the party and support Hillary Clinton. Just 14 percent say they would vote for McCain. And 11 percent say they wouldn't vote. That is a stunning result that says if Obama turns out to be the Democratic nominee, he could have a lot of trouble holding those Clinton supporters. She points to results like this to say she would be the stronger candidate in November -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Interesting numbers. All right, Bill, stand by. Because we're getting more exit poll numbers. We'll check back with you.

As we say they're still voting in Kentucky. But in Oregon some voters mailed in their ballots weeks ago.

Let's discuss this and more with Jamal Simmons. He's a Democratic strategist and Obama supporter. Paul Begala is a Democratic strategist and CNN contributor and supports Hillary Clinton. And Leslie Sanchez, CNN political contributor and Republican strategist.

I'll start with you, Paul. The numbers that he just said saying that Clinton supporters, a lot of them in Kentucky at least on this day, say they would vote for John McCain. Not necessarily, not necessarily -- Barack Obama if he's the nominee.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right. On this day, the most important number is 5/20, the day that this is on the calendar. We're six months before the election. if Senator Obama is my party's nominee, he will have work to do but he has world enough in time to do that work. Keep in mind that in this stage of the game more or less in 2000, 51 percent of McCain voters said they could never vote for George W. Bush. Only 41 percent in the poll Bill just showed us of Hillary voters wouldn't vote for Barack. It would be a concern if I worked for Senator Obama, but I would not be panicking about it.

I suspect he knows he has work to do. But Democrats, I'm comfortable they'll come together. Hillary is running a campaign in Kentucky where she's not running negative ads and not attacking Senator Obama. It looks like that's paying off. I don't think it's doing any damage to Obama.

BLITZER: Leslie, the McCain camp loves to see the exit poll numbers.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Sure, it's a longer-term problem and I think that's the problem the Democrats are going to have to come to terms with. This is not something that just manifest itself overnight or in the last 12 months. The actually started probably three presidential cycles ago.

I mean the Democrats, even their own operatives would say, look we were doing well with African-Americans and the anti-liberal, the liberal elites, the anti-war movement, but this middle-class, white- working voter is a problem. Bill Clinton appealed to them. Hillary Clinton is clearly appealing to them. But Barack Obama doesn't. That is really why you see this problem.

BLITZER: All right, Jamal?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think it's funny because Democrats never really talk about liberal elites in our "strategy session" currently.

SANCHEZ: Especially the one I heard.

SIMMONS: But what -- where we are going here is I think Barack Obama is actually doing very well with white voters if you look at him historically over time. I think we all forget when he first started running for president he was sort of the creation of a lot of white voters, mainstream voters, African-Americans, he got 30 percent or 40 percent. He actually won over the African-American community, so I think there's something that he speaks to in the mainstream of American life that we'll see throughout the rest of this campaign.

And, again, like Paul said, here we are in May, we've got a long time to work this out. I think the Obama campaign understands this is an issue. We saw him in Missouri. We saw him in Michigan. We saw him in Florida. He's paying attention to voters who maybe feel like they haven't spent enough time with him. And as you he'll be in Iowa tonight, the course of time he spent in Iowa last year, the more people see Barack Obama, the more they like him.

SANCHEZ: The more people get to see him, the more they have questions about it him. That is really what the Hillary Clinton campaign and Paul can speak more to this certainly than I can. And that's really why the superdelegates are almost a safety valve. They are saying what is it we don't know about him? Can another shoe drop? And this issue of inexperience is starting to percolate, especially among young voters. So, those are going to be key issues.

BLITZER: McCain is hammering away on a daily basis almost his inexperience, quote, in national security matters.

BEGALA: Right, inexperience, he's inexperienced in lying us into a war. He's inexperienced in running up a huge deficit. We heard Ross Perot in 1992 when I was working for inexperience and experience and turn it against Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both. Obama's been successful in the primaries.

I will say I don't think Hillary Clinton's success is because people are turning away from Barack. The less they see Barack and the less they like him, that's not true. I think Hillary Clinton has found her voice a whole lot better in the last few weeks or months. Frankly, she demoted the guy, Mark Penn, who is a strategist that I never thought was very good anyway and is taking control of the campaign herself.

People like Hillary. They aren't rejecting Barack in places like West Virginia. They authentically like Hillary Clinton.

SANCHEZ: I think there's a pocket of people that like her. She's using that populist message you don't have health care, you don't have a job, you stick with me, I'll stick with you. I think it's a very strong message, it resonates. But she has the highest negatives. There is a reason she was not anointed the way she thought she should be and that's the problems the Democrats have.

BLITZER: Does she risk alienating Hillary Clinton supporters saying he's reached the milestone, he has the most pledged delegates and effectively implying it's over?

SIMMONS: Well, you know, it will be a fact. If he reaches that milestone that he will have the most pledged delegates of any candidate in the race. By him acknowledging that, I think that people will recognize that.

There are several Hillary Clinton supporters I'm sure who are feeling a little bit wistful that their candidate is maybe not getting as far ahead as they would like her to be, so maybe they are digging in a little bit in these last few weeks.

But there are Barack Obama supporters who are feeling generous, so they are willing to say he's got numbers. And most Barack Obama supporters would say they are willing to vote for Hillary Clinton. They also don't think that that's going to be a realistic possibility for them, so they are feeling a little bit generous about it.

Barack Obama I think tonight will give a speech. He won't declare victory, but he will acknowledge the fact that we're past the point of no return on pledged delegates and let's go ahead if any superdelegates have anything to say, let's go ahead and make your decision. BLITZER: You want to button up? We have a few seconds.

BEGALA: When I was working with Bill Clinton, he was winning primaries and guys like me ready to do a dance in the end zone. And he said, don't do that. He's backed way off. But he's not going to rub anybody's nose in it if he does as well as we expect.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, we have to leave it there. We're going to be here for a while. Don't go anywhere. We'll have a lot more opportunity to discuss.

We're getting some more exit poll numbers coming in right now. Bill Schneider going through them. He's standing by to join us.

Also, the White House is taking on a major TV network arguing about a presidential interview this week and other issues from more than a year ago. We have details coming up next.

Barack Obama says he wouldn't be where he is today without Senator Ted Kennedy. You're going to hear what he has to say about the senator in my one-on-one interview. That's coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM as well. Stay with us. Lots more news right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're getting a good sense of what's on voters' minds in Kentucky and Oregon, even before their votes are counted. Once again let's go to Bill Schneider. He's crunching the numbers.

What are the exit polls saying now?

SCHNEIDER: We found agreement between the voters in these two states, Kentucky and Oregon. We asked, who do you think will be the Democratic nominee?

The voters in Kentucky told us Barack Obama, 54 percent. A lot of them still think Hillary Clinton will be the nominee, 42 percent but Barack Obama comes ahead. The majority say Obama.

What about the Democratic voters in Oregon today?

Their answer is even more decidedly, Barack Obama, 77 percent, Hillary Clinton, just 17 percent. Believe that she's going to be the nominee. So, a majority of the Democrats in both of these states which could turn out to vote for different candidates, they're in agreement, Barack Obama is more likely to be the Democratic nominee -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bill Schneider, for that.

In the days leading up to today's Kentucky and Oregon primaries, Hillary Clinton is focusing in on two other states as well.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's watching this story.

Abbi, what's Clinton doing online?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the focus of this e- mail that went from Senator Hillary Clinton to supporters over the last few days is not on today's primaries but on May 31st. That's the date that the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee is meeting to discuss what to do about Michigan and Florida. And Hillary Clinton wants her supporters in on that action urging them to send this e-mail out to message the campaign and leave their messages that every vote should count.

Well, as all this plays out, you get the feeling that Republicans in Florida are enjoying all this situation. This is a new Web site launched by the Republican Party of Florida, in advance of a visit by Senator Barack Obama to the state. They've launched this United States of Obama, that's minus Florida, minus Michigan, with the message there to voters in the general election, Obama says it himself, Florida doesn't count. While an Obama spokesman is responding to this Web site saying Senator Obama has repeatedly said that the disappointing situation that occurred with the DNC in Florida won't stop him from competing vigorously in the state during the general election -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you for that.

Coming up, we're going to get the very latest on Senator Ted Kennedy's condition. Plus, some new photos from the hospital. That's coming in.

Also, Barack Obama one-on-one here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You're going to find out what he really means when he says he's going to sit down with America's enemies. He explains in detail. That, and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In our Political Ticker, the White House versus NBC News. The counselor to the president's accusing the network of what it calls deceitful editing, twisting the president's words.

Howard Kurtz of "The Washington Post" and the host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" is joining us now with more -- Howie?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN ANCHOR, "RELIABLE SOURCES" (on-camera): Wolf, it was a bit of a coup when NBC's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel landed an interview with President Bush last week, but now there are recriminations on both sides.

KURTZ (voice-over): Here's how it played on NBC "Nightly News" when Engle talked about the president's speech in Israel and whether he was referring to Barack Obama and talking about the nature of appeasement in negotiating with countries such as Iran.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, my policies haven't changed, but evidently the political calendar has. And when, you know, a leader of Iran says that they want to destroy Israel, you got to take those words seriously.

KURTZ: And here is more of Bush's answer which, by the way, was aired on Sunday's "Today Show."

BUSH: You know, my policies haven't changed, but evidently the political calendar has. People need to read the speech. You didn't get it exactly right either. What I said was that we need to take the words of people seriously, and when, you know, a leader of Iran says that they want to destroy Israel, you got to take those words seriously. And if you don't take them seriously, then it hearkens back to a day when we didn't take other words seriously.

KURTZ: That and other editing prompted a blistering letter from White House counselor Ed Gillespie who accused NBC, "... of deceitful editing to further a media-manufactured story line," charging that it made the president look like he was agreeing with Engle that negotiating with Iran amounted to appeasement.

NBC president Steve Capus responded that there was no attempt to deceive and called Gillespie's charges "a gross misrepresentation of the facts."

BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, NBC "NIGHTLY NEWS": As we pointed out on last night's broadcast, the entire interview of the president is available on our website.

KURTZ: The White House also took aim at NBC's previous reporting. Gillespie challenged to say it was wrong in declaring the Iraq conflict a civil war in late 2006.

MATT LAUER, ANCHOR, NBC "THE TODAY SHOW": After careful consideration, NBC News has decided a change in terminology is warranted.

KURTZ: But NBC has largely avoided using the term in recent months, as violence has subsided there.

Gillespie took one other shot at anchor Brian Williams for reporting that the latest government figure, quote, stops just short of the official declaration of a recession. And it's true that the growth rate in the first quarter, 0.6 percent does not meet the definition of a recession, two quarters of negative growth. But most experts agree the economy has been weak.

(on-camera): All news programs routinely edit news interviews. And NBC's editing did not distort the meaning of the president's answers. By challenging the network's editing, and it's terminology, the White House, often overshadowed by this long campaign season, is getting its message out -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Howie Kurtz, thank you.