Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Will Obama Clinch Nomination?; Interview With Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill; Barack Obama Expected to Win Nomination
Aired June 3, 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're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Barack Obama could officially clinch the presidential nomination any minute now. We're tracking those superdelegates as they jump on the Obama bandwagon right now. Check out the bottom of your screen.
Plus, Hillary Clinton says she's open -- open -- to being Barack Obama's running mate. The Democratic primary season is coming to a dramatic close right now.
And Bill Clinton's angry campaign finale. Did he help sink his wife's campaign and damage his own presidential legacy?
All that coming up, plus the best political team on television.
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
We're following the breaking news this hour: Barack Obama now on the brink of securing a historic title, America's first African- American presidential nominee. More and more of those still undeclared superdelegates are now endorsing Barack Obama by the minute, even before the results are in from today's final two primaries in South Dakota and Montana.
At this moment, CNN estimates that Barack Obama has 2,106 delegates. That's only 12 short of the number needed to clinch the nomination. It could happen momentarily, because those numbers have been changing. Look at the bottom of your screen. You see 2,106 for Barack Obama -- 2,118 is the magic number.
In the last few minutes alone, that number has changed several times in Barack Obama's favor.
Let's go to CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's covering Obama in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he will be delivering a speech later tonight, the exact location where John McCain will get the official nomination from the Republican Convention in early September.
Jessica, set the stage. JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I will tell you, Wolf, his appearance here tonight is a shot across the bow from Republicans to Barack Obama. It is a message to Republicans that Democrats plan to hold this terrain in November and a sign as he gets an increasing number of endorsements that he expects to be the nominee.
He picked up, as you say, crucial endorsements today, including from the top African-American elected official.
YELLIN (voice-over): He promised to stay neutral until the nominee is clear. Today, Representative James Clyburn declared:
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: I have decided to cast my ballot at the convention for Barack Obama. He has energized our constituents. He is redrawing an electoral map for Democrats.
YELLIN: Just one in a string of endorsements Obama's picked up today, including a pending endorsement from Jimmy Carter. Tonight, he is looking ahead, marking Minnesota as Democratic turf.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you so much, Minnesota.
YELLIN: The Republicans will hold their convention here, and Obama's communications director, Robert Gibbs, tells CNN: "It's the perfect place to start the next phase of this race. We chose the location John McCain will use to accept the nomination for George Bush's third term, because America is ready for a change."
Minnesota has been a blue state for more than three decades. It's gone Democratic for every president since Nixon. But President Bush came close to winning here in 2004, losing by only 3 percent. And Republicans are hoping to turn this state red in November.
The head of the Republican Party here insists Obama is "the most liberal candidate to run for president of the United States in his lifetime. And therefore, he says, Minnesota is -- quote -- "certainly within our reach."
This is not the first time Obama has made his location a strategic electoral choice. He picked Iowa, an important swing state, to celebrate the night of Kentucky and Oregon's primaries. Obama's team hopes to redraw the electoral map and will fight to win in purple and red states, like Virginia, Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado. But they also have to hold on to longtime blue states, like Minnesota, hence his visit tonight.
YELLIN: And, Wolf, among those endorsements Obama picked up today is one from California Representative Maxine Waters, an outspoken advocate for Senator Hillary Clinton until today. Demonstrating just some of the problems the Democrats could have ahead, Maxine was very outspoken, calling Barack Obama inexperienced, even once calling him a young boy to CNN. There will be a lot of bridges that have to be repaired in the days and weeks ahead -- Wolf.
BLITZER: To put it mildly. Thanks very much, Jessica, very much.
The other breaking news we're following, it concerns Hillary Clinton.
Let's go right to Candy Crowley. She's here in New York getting ready for Hillary Clinton's big speech later tonight.
Update our viewers on what we know, Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know is that all day long Hillary Clinton at her home in Chappaqua has been calling donors. She's been calling those people who have been with her from the very beginning. And no one was there earlier than the New York congressional delegation.
And it was in a phone call to them that Hillary Clinton fielded a question from one of the congresspeople, who said, I don't think that Barack Obama can win unless you're on the ticket, because you would bring in Latinos, sort of going through Hillary Clinton's demographics. And Hillary Clinton replied, "I would be open to that."
Now, as you can imagine, this has restarted all of the conversation about the so-called dream team. I did talk to a couple of people who were on that phone call. One of them said to me that he got the impression -- quote -- "that she would do it."
Another -- and this was Charlie Rangel, who talked to our Jim Acosta. It's not clear weather Rangel was on that phone call, but Rangel told Acosta, "I have reason to believe that she is open to the V.P. slot."
And, finally, a third, and I thought this was interesting, said to me, she could have kicked it down the road, but she didn't. When I asked what that meant, they said, she could have said, listen, this isn't the time to talk about that or this is something that Barack Obama has to decide. But she didn't. She said she would be open to it.
So, I have to tell you, though, Wolf, that the Clinton campaign came out and said, Hillary Clinton didn't say anything in that conference call that she hasn't said before.
And it is very true that she has said from the stump that she would do whatever she had to do, whatever was asked of her, to make sure that a Democrat wins the White House in November. This just has a little more specificity to it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Candy Crowley, stand by. We're going to be getting back to you -- Candy Crowley reporting.
All right, let's go right back to Bill Schneider. He's going through these exit polls from these two final primaries, telling us what's on the mind of the voters today.
What are we learning, Bill?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Two issues on the minds of voters, issue number one, the economy, of course. And those who said their top concern was the economy, in South Dakota today, those Democrats voted for Hillary Clinton, 58 percent, Barack Obama 42 percent. She has advantage on the economic issue, as she has had in many, but not every Democratic primary so far.
Issue number two, the war in Iraq. How did the voters who said that was their top concern vote? And the answer is, they voted for Barack Obama, 61 point to 39 percent, a very decided advantage for Barack Obama on that second-place issue among South Dakota Democrats.
So, it's pretty clear that Hillary Clinton voters and Barack Obama voters, their top concerns were somewhat different, the economy, Clinton. Iraq, Obama -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill, thank you. Bill is going through more numbers. We will be coming back shortly.
Let's go back to Jack Cafferty in the meantime.
He's got "The Cafferty File" -- 2,106. You need 2,118, 12 more to go. We will see if that happens momentarily. It could happen.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You and I are sitting here. This country has been in existence for, what, 232 years? We are on the verge of seeing an African-American become the candidate for president of the United States for one of the two major political parties. That's kind of a...
BLITZER: It's huge.
CAFFERTY: Kind of a nifty deal, isn't it?
BLITZER: Yes. It would have been huge, too, the first woman. We have been waiting for a long time for that, too.
CAFFERTY: Well, it's not going to happen for the first woman, but it looks like it is going to happen for the first African- American. And it just -- it occurs to me this is kind of an historic moment.
BLITZER: It is.
CAFFERTY: Yes. And I have shared it with you.
BLITZER: Yes. You have shared it with all of our viewers.
CAFFERTY: Americans are down and out when it comes to state of their pocketbooks. It's the issue that in all likelihood will drive the outcome of the election in November. A new "USA Today"/Gallup poll, 55 percent of those surveyed say their families are worse off financially than they were just a year ago. That's the highest number who have felt that way since this poll first asked this question more than 30 years ago.
It's also a sharp increase of 11 percentage points just since February. The poll found anxiety about the economy is everywhere. It's among all groups of people. Two-thirds of those who make less than $30,000 a year say they are worse off than a year ago, but so do almost half of those who make more than $75,000.
The only major group of people who say they are better off are, surprise, Republicans. One of the oldest and most reliable rules of politics is, when the economy is bad, that makes for an appetite for change. And history suggests the fight over who can best improve the economy and change things for the better is what will decide this election.
It's really very simple. When voters are downbeat about their financial situation, they turn in great numbers against the party that is in the White House and throw them out. That is what happened in 1976 and in 1980 and in 1992. It's not a good sign for John McCain and the Republicans.
Also, polls show Barack Obama getting much higher marks on the economy than John McCain. My guess is the election in November is not going to be decided by whether someone is willing to meet with Iran or not.
Here's the question then: How will your personal financial situation affect the way you vote in November?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.com and post a comment on my blog.
One of the great slogans in all of American politics, it's the economy, stupid. And it always is.
BLITZER: Yes. Always, except when the country is at war, sometimes not. But usually it is.
BLITZER: OK, Jack. Thanks very much.
Barack Obama is only 12 delegates away from getting the Democratic presidential nomination. The biggest night in one of the most dramatic primary seasons in our history, it's unfolding right now by the minute.
Also, where did it go wrong for Hillary Clinton? Did sexism hurt her bid? I will ask someone who works with Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. She's standing by live.
Bill Clinton is angry. He's very angry at a "Vanity Fair" article about him and at the news media for what he says is simply unfair treatment of his wife. But are his recent outbursts impacting his own legacy?
And something you might soon eat could make you sick. There's a health scare you need to hear as many of you settle down for dinner.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Literally any moment now, Barack Obama could add another chapter to his already historic bid, becoming the first African-American ever in our history to lead a major party in a campaign for the White House.
His support among superdelegates right now growing very, very fast. At this moment, CNN estimates Barack Obama has 2,106 total delegates, and that's only 12 -- 12 short of the number needed to clinch the nomination. Keep looking at the bottom of your screen. You will see that number change. Only within the past several moments, it's changed several times. It's going up and up and up for Barack Obama.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Let's discuss what's going on with Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. She's been a Barack Obama supporter for a long time.
Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
MCCASKILL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's say, within the next few moments, it's possible he goes over that 2,118 number. What does he do then? Does he declare himself the winner?
Does he wait for Hillary Clinton to concede? What should happen?
MCCASKILL: Well, I think that he -- his speech tonight will be about the changes that are necessary in this country. It's how he began this journey, in the Midwest, in people's living rooms in Iowa.
And the primary season is over tonight, with all 50 states and territories weighing in. And I think he is going to talk about these numbers in context of how badly Americans want Washington to change for them.
And I don't think he's going to focus so much about being a winner or on Senator Clinton, but rather about what the choices are in November, and how important it is to America they make the right choice.
BLITZER: How do you unify this badly-divided Democratic Party, right now?
Because it's almost split down the middle. He's doing slightly better, enough, apparently, to get the nomination, but she did very, very well herself. And there are some hard feelings, as you well know, Senator, on both sides. MCCASKILL: Of course. And that's to be expected. This was a hard-fought battle. These are two terrific candidates.
I am filled with pride for the history of this moment and for my party. Because we fielded two historic candidates that battled to the very end and came very close to each other, in terms of their success in this primary.
And what we have to do is realize what's at stake and come together. And we've got to show the respect and deference to Senator Clinton that she rightly deserves for the incredible tenacity, the incredible grit and composure she's shown over the last several months. And I think -- that is sincere respect, so it's not hard.
BLITZER: We've heard from several Obama supporters that they certainly would be very open to the idea of an Obama-Clinton ticket. James Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, told us that, here in "The Situation Room." Robert Wexler, the Congressman from Florida, says that.
Would you like that? Would you like that so-called dream ticket?
MCCASKILL: I have so much confidence in these two terrific people that they will sit down and figure it out, whether it is a good thing for the two of them or a bad thing for the two of them.
Clearly, this is Senator Obama's choice. He's not only picking a running mate, in terms of winning an election, but he's picking a partner for the next four or eight years, in terms of changing the government in Washington.
And I think that Senator Clinton -- I know that there's reports that she said she's open to it, but this is a big decision for her, too.
I respect both of them to sit down and figure this out. I know we're all going to play parlor games about it for the next two or three days, because that's the next thing...
BLITZER: But if they asked you for your advice, what would you tell them? Do you think it's a good idea?
MCCASKILL: I said -- what I will say is, I will support whatever decision that Senator Clinton and Senator Obama come to. Whatever they decide, I'm supportive of it.
BLITZER: Let's talk about sexism, allegations that there was sexism against her in this campaign. Paul Begala, her longtime friend and supporter, our CNN political analyst -- he writes this on the HuffingtonPost.com.
He writes, "Her figure, her clothes, her hair, her voice, all of it mocked and savaged in a way unimaginable. If she were a man... She has not only endured the jeers and the sneers and the smears; she has triumphed over them. She never answered their hate with rage. She just went on winning." Did she suffer from sexism in this campaign?
MCCASKILL: Racism and sexism are alive and well in the United States of America. And both of these candidates struck a blow against both of those problems in our country.
I think Hillary Clinton did face some sexism in this campaign, and I think she handled it very, very well. I know she anticipated it. Because, if you're in this business and you're a woman, you know they're going to talk about your hair and your hemline, your weight, whether or not they like your outfit or your lipstick, all the stuff that's irrelevant.
So I know she was prepared for it, going in, but it doesn't make it any easier to face when it happens.
At the end of the day, though, what she did is she did rise above it. And what she has done for women in this country is significant and it's real. She has shown America that a woman can campaign for president, go toe to toe, be competitive.
And, frankly, I think, if -- Hillary Clinton may still be president some day, or for the woman who does become president, they better make sure they slow down and thank Hillary Clinton, because she has done very -- a whole lot for women in this campaign.
BLITZER: Senator McCaskill, thanks for coming in.
MCCASKILL: Thank you.
BLITZER: All eyes on the presidential primary right now and the breaking news on the delegate count, which is changing by the moment.
And there's also some other news we're reporting. For the first time, the accused top al Qaeda operatives are going to face a court of law.
History unfolding right now before our eyes: Barack Obama about a dozen delegates away from clinching the Democratic presidential nomination. This is an event you are going to want to see. You will see it live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's go right back to Bill Schneider. He's got some new exit polls coming in from these remaining final two primaries.
What's on the mind of voters right now, Bill?
SCHNEIDER: Well, we have talked all year, all this season about Barack Obama's problem with those white working-class voters, those blue-collar voters. Is that problem persisting? Yes, it is.
Here are voters in South Dakota, Democratic voters with no college degree. And they voted, as they have in the past, 60-40 for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama. Barack Obama does not have nearly as great a problem with voters who are well-educated white-collar voters and professionals. Take a look at college graduates in the Democratic primary South Dakota. They voted for Obama, 53 percent. So, it looks like Obama's blue-collar problem persists -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Bill, thanks very much.
And later tonight, Bill is going to have running analysis at CNNPolitics.com. You are going to want to go there, as we await the results of these final two primaries.
At this moment, CNN estimates that Barack Obama has 2,106 total delegates. That's only 12 -- 12 short of the number needed to clinch the nomination. We're going to have more on that in a moment.
BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news: Barack Obama very close to clinching the Democratic presidential nomination. We're keeping tabs on the superdelegates right now as they come in.
He's only 12 away. And those numbers are changing dramatically. You can follow along at the bottom of the screen.
Also, Bill Clinton ends the primary season on an angry note. We are going to look at the repercussions for his wife and for his own presidential legacy.
Also, Hillary Clinton says she's open to the vice presidential job, but is she stealing Barack Obama's big moment in the process?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: And there's breaking news we're following right now: Barack Obama poised to make history, only 12 degrees away from the Democratic presidential nomination.
We're watching this number very closely. It could change. He could go over the so-called magic number momentarily.
Also, Bill Clinton wistful at times, angry at others, as his controversial role in his wife's campaign draws to a close. Is he a help or liability for her political future?
Plus, Hillary Clinton now indicating she's open to being Barack Obama's vice presidential running mate -- all of this coming up, plus the best political team on television, and new exit poll information coming in right now from both Montana and South Dakota. We're going to show you what voters in those final two Democratic contests are saying.
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
So, is this Bill Clinton's last presidential campaign? He's played a big role in his wife's race so far, some would argue too big of a role.
CNN's Brian Todd is joining us. He's watching this story.
No easy answers. Did he help, Brian, or did he hurt her campaign?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, many observers, Wolf, say that he's hurt both of them. But the fact is Bill Clinton is still maybe the best campaigner of his generation. And that cannot be discounted either when the postscript of this campaign is written.
TODD (voice-over): On one hand, he's sentimental about what he says could be the end of his final campaign.
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to be able to go around and campaign for her for president.
TODD: On the other hand, Bill Clinton shows a temperament some observers say they've never seen before this campaign. He reacted to a magazine article describing him as angry ex-president with -- well, anger.
W. CLINTON: He's sleazy. He's a really dishonest reporter. And he's a real slimy guy.
QUESTION: Yes. It's all over cable news.
W. CLINTON: Totally slimly. He just blow it off (ph).
QUESTION: But he's married to Dee Dee Myers.
W. CLINTON: Yes, but he -- that's all right. He's still a scumbag.
TODD: His spokesman later said Mr. Clinton wished he hadn't used that language. A perhaps fitting punctuation to what analysts say has been a huge story in this campaign -- Bill Clinton's insertion of himself into this drama, sometimes overshadowing his wife's improved campaign skills. In South Carolina, it cost her.
W. CLINTON: Jesse Jackson won in South Carolina twice, in '84 and '88. And he ran a good campaign. And Senator Obama's run a good campaign.
TODD: Some believe that minimized Barack Obama's stature as the most viable African-American presidential candidate in the nation's history. Bill Clinton later said he was misinterpreted, but the damage lingered.
Here's what a key Democratic superdelegate said about his own decision to support Obama.
REP. JOHN CLYBURN (D-SC), HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: In some instances, President Clinton did, in fact, say some things at the time that made some of us a little bit uneasy.
TODD: Defenders say Bill Clinton's so-called retail campaigning -- those day to day stops where he was a powerful draw -- have helped. He helped her tremendously, literally brought in lots of people into the party, huge crowds, lots of enthusiasm.
But what has this campaign done to Bill Clinton's own legacy?
ROGER SIMON, THE POLITICO: Because of some of the statements he made, because of how they were interpreted, especially about race, because of the rough and tumble about the campaign -- of the campaign, he has really been shrunken as a figure. He is diminished.
TODD: But it's important to note here that beyond Bill Clinton, analysts are pointing to several other factors contributing to Hillary Clinton's demise in this campaign -- overall strategy mistakes -- their fundraising efforts, their staffing -- those are all areas where tough questions are going to be asked in the coming weeks -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, thank you.
Let's get some more now on what's going on, including the breaking news we're following.
We're joined by our CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, our own Jack Cafferty, our senior political analyst, Jeff Toobin, and our senior political analyst, David Gergen.
A lot of seniors here.
BLITZER: They're all part of the best political team on television.
And a youthful Jack Cafferty is here, as well.
Let me get to David. Your quick reaction to Brian Todd's piece.
I remember when Bill Clinton brought you into the White House -- I was then our White House correspondent. And we used to say, you know, they needed some adult supervision and David Gergen was brought in to help.
Is this the same Bill Clinton today that you worked for back then?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's an interesting question. I think he has changed some. I think he's changed as a candidate. But let's not -- let's start with -- for starters, I don't think she would have been a serious candidate. She would not have been the frontrunner had she not been first lady in the Bill Clinton administration. That administration -- the record, especially, on economic development and progress that so many people experienced is what gave her the frontrunner status from the beginning.
I think that she frittered away some of those advantages. And I think he contributed to some of that along the way. I do not think he's -- tactically as a campaigner, I think most of us would agree that he's not as -- was not as effective in this campaign as he was in his own campaigns, whether it's because he's campaigning for somebody else, but the venting...
BLITZER: Because, a lot of people, Gloria, say that, you know, maybe he changed after the open heart surgery -- the bypass surgery and all of that, which happens to some people.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I was talking to someone today who was the high up in Bill Clinton's White House who said to me, you know, this is the same Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton lost his temper. I'm sure David Gergen can attest to that. But it was either in private or he was protected by a group of people who knew how to kind of insulate him. Now he's surrounded by a lot of younger people, this person said, who may not be as adept at keeping him -- keeping his distance from journalists.
And so, in many ways, you're kind of seeing the unvarnished Bill Clinton.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on to the history that's about to be made, Jack, right now. We're only, what, 12 delegates away from the Democratic Party effectively selecting the first African-American to be the party's nominee. This is a big deal.
CAFFERTY: So we're going to talk for a minute about the person who's going to get the nomination as opposed to the husband of the woman who's not going to get the nomination?
CAFFERTY: You know what, I'm for that.
BLITZER: We've got a lot of time here in this (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: We're going to talk about all of this.
CAFFERTY: I was wondering if you would ever get to it.
BLITZER: But this is...
CAFFERTY: It is a big deal.
BLITZER: This is history.
CAFFERTY: You're damn right it's a big deal.
CAFFERTY: Two hundred and thirty-two years and we've got an African-American who, at this moment, I would think, based on the history of the Republicans for the last eight years, has got to be considered the favorite to win the White House. He's going to be the first African-American nominee. Chances are he might be the first African-American president.
And I think part of what we've seen from Bill Clinton -- to go back to him for just a second is he's a bad...
CAFFERTY: He's a bad loser. He doesn't lose historically. He doesn't like to lose. The mathematics against Hillary have been in place for several weeks now. The delegate math just didn't work for her. And I think as that realization has sunk into his head, somebody who might suggest that he's become an angry man is called a scumbag because of the frustration and the feeling of hopelessness that the last few weeks of his wife's campaign has brought to him, perhaps.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: But I think the story is not the campaign that Hillary and Bill Clinton lost, the story is the campaign that Barack Obama won. This has been one of the most extraordinary campaigns in American history. There has been this kind of enthusiasm in the street for any political figure since Bobby Kennedy in 1968. He's turned that into votes. He is going to win the nomination. I think Jack's right. I think he's the frontrunner to be president.
This from a guy who was a year ago virtually unknown, who, four years ago, was a state senator in Illinois. It's just an unbelievable extraordinary story.
BLITZER: Guys, stand by, because we're going to continue this discussion in just a moment.
We're also watching the superdelegates. They're changing their minds or they're just making up their minds. Barack Obama inching closer and closer to the Democratic nomination. He's only 12 away from capturing the magic number right now. Keep watching the bottom of your screen -- 2,106 right now. He needs 2,118 to clinch the nomination.
The long fight in the Democratic primary process -- some say one person stands to lose the most. That would be John McCain.
Why? Find out. That's coming up.
And Barack Obama makes good on a promise to a woman he once called "sweetie". We'll tell you what he has now done.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Keep watching the bottom of your screen. Right now, 2,106 delegates in Barack Obama's corner. He needs 12 more to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination. That number has been changing rather rapidly and we're going to continue watching, because we expect it will change fairly soon and he could get over that threshold.
This is not going to be an easy night, Gloria, for Barack Obama. It's obviously an historic night. Assuming he gets through that threshold -- and we obviously assume he will. But he's got to reach out and unify a badly divided party.
BORGER: He does. And I believe that Hillary Clinton will do the same thing. I think both of them, in many ways, have the same (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: Hold one second. All right. You see it. The number has just changed, even as we're speaking. It's 2,107. He only needs 11 more delegates.
I just wanted to make that dramatic announcement.
BORGER: You interrupted me for that?
BLITZER: Go ahead.
BLITZER: And I may be interrupting all of you over the next few moments.
BORGER: OK. I'm going to talk very quickly. They both have the same job. They have to try and unite the party tonight. They have to be gracious to each other. And they have to say they're going to continue on and win together, no matter what role they're in.
But for Barack Obama tonight, this is a very sweet moment. I mean this is something that he has toiled for. It's historic. It is clearly not lost on him or anyone else in their campaign. And we were talking about the flawed strategy of the Clintons before. And, you know, homage should be paid to the strategy of the Obama campaign...
BORGER: ...who understood that this wasn't going to be over after Super Tuesday.
BLITZER: He had a pretty good team, I will say that.
CAFFERTY: The guy who arranged to have this night in the scene of the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minnesota -- I don't know how far in advance you've got to book these halls, but somebody was looking down the road pretty good and probably ought...
BLITZER: I don't think he's going to have any trouble filling that stage.
CAFFERTY: And you know what? Tonight's the night for Barack Obama to say it's over. After 17 months, I've done something nobody else has ever done in this country before. I'm holding my victory party right here at Republican ground zero and life is good.
TOOBIN: He's got problems. Hillary Clinton would love to have his problems.
TOOBIN: John McCain would like to have his problems.
TOOBIN: So, yes, he has challenges ahead of him. But this is a night where it's nothing but good news for him.
GERGEN: Yes. But I think he has to be very careful about two things. One is clearly is Hillary and her enormously dedicated team and people supporting her who are behind her and are still angry. And he's got to play off her speech. He's got to wait to see what she does, in effect, I think, to make -- to have the right notes and the right grace notes.
But beyond that, this is not a night that he should be celebrating about Barack Obama. He should be celebrating the voters who have made this historic decision. This is a time to congratulate the country for where it has come and to sort of cast this forward as a movement that can change the country.
BORGER: And to start the general election campaign...
BORGER: ...because tonight John McCain is going to give a speech that's going to say this is the beginning of the general election campaign and Barack Obama now has to engage, as he's been doing.
GERGEN: See, but I think one of the issues that's come up with the Clintons is that frequently people think it's -- they're saying it's all about me, it's all about us.
BORGER: Right. Right.
GERGEN: And Obama's got to make this about you -- the people that are watching.
TOOBIN: But he's done that.
BORGER: But that's what he's done.
GERGEN: He's done that.
GERGEN: He's been very effective and that's what this speech has got to be.
CAFFERTY: That's why he's gotten (INAUDIBLE)...
GERGEN: ...is cast this forward. I think he's been more effective (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: And Gloria makes a good point. We'll hear from Hillary Clinton. We'll hear from Barack Obama. They'll be delivering passionate speeches. But we're going to be hearing a major speech from John McCain just outside New Orleans tonight, as well.
TOOBIN: And, you know, this campaign is going to be so great for many reasons, but starting with the fact that there are real differences on the issues. One of the reasons I think the Clinton/Obama race got so snippy is that they didn't disagree with each other about much. That won't be a problem with Obama and McCain. The war, the economy, the future of the Supreme Court -- I mean these are really different views of the future. And it will be good for the public to see that.
GERGEN: But, you know, the speech I'm sort of looking forward to is the Hillary speech.
GERGEN: Because I think it's going to have some -- the drama, to me, is which way is she going to go tonight.
BLITZER: How she loses...
GERGEN: How she looses...
BLITZER: ...could affect this (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: ...the future.
TOOBIN: That's the drama of the night.
BORGER: But, David, I mean, I was told today by somebody who's seen it that she is going to be gracious, she's going to reach out to Barack Obama, she's going...
GERGEN: Is she going to endorse?
BORGER: Not tonight.
GERGEN: Is she going to negotiate after this is over?
CAFFERTY: You bet.
BORGER: Of course. Yes. But I think...
GERGEN: Well, that's...
BORGER: But tonight, she's going to -- and she's going to express how grateful she is to her supporters.
CAFFERTY: She should.
BORGER: Because she has to talk to her supporters, also.
GERGEN: I agree with that.
GERGEN: But the question becomes is she going to try to extort something from him?
GERGEN: Has she got an asking price?
BORGER: I don't think they would use the word extort.
CAFFERTY: You bet.
GERGEN: Do we know that?
BORGER: I don't think they would use the word extort.
GERGEN: Well, I know.
But is she going to try -- well, is she going to demand certain things as a price and does that weaken him?
We've seen that in the past.
BORGER: You mean the vice presidency or...
TOOBIN: Remember, we've got months to go here. Maybe it's a good thing to have her endorsement a totally separate day, turn that into a whole big drama and extend it somewhat more.
GERGEN: No, no, no, no.
TOOBIN: No, you're not...
GERGEN: That's not what (INAUDIBLE)...
TOOBIN: You're not impressed by that idea?
GERGEN: Well, I think from...
BORGER: It will be by the end of the week. GERGEN: From her point of view, I certainly understand and I apologize for the word extort. It was the wrong word. But the -- but nonetheless, it is, from his point of view, what he wants is a roaring finish.
BLITZER: All right...
GERGEN: He does not want to come limping over the finish line. He does not want to make it by one delegate.
BORGER: End of the week. End of the week.
BLITZER: This is going to be an exciting night for all of us.
BLITZER: An exciting night for all of our viewers in the United States and around the world. Our coverage is only just beginning. Guys, stand by. Lots more to watch.
Barack Obama now only 11 delegates away from clinching this Democratic presidential nomination. We're going to check in with our own John Roberts. He's over at the magic board.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's go right back to Bill Schneider.
He's getting more numbers coming in from our exit polls in these final two primaries -- Bill.
SCHNEIDER: Well, Obama is about to clinch the nomination, it looks like.
Will the Clinton voters vote for him?
Well, we asked them in Montana, will you vote for -- who will you vote for president if the choice is between Obama and McCain?
Here are the Clinton voters in Montana. As you can see, they're sticking with Obama -- 60 percent. The Democrats are staying with their apparent nominee. Only one quarter would vote for John McCain.
But do they think, these Montana Democrats, that Obama should pick Clinton as his running mate?
Well, this is all respondents in Montana.
Should Obama pick Clinton as his running mate?
The Democrats of Montana are split on that. They're inclined by a narrow margin, 49-45, to say yes. So they don't reject it, they don't endorse it. They think let's think about it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill, thank you.
Let's get back to Jack. He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The economy in trouble, headed maybe into a prolonged recession.
The question this hour is: How will your personal financial situation affect the way you vote in November?
We've got this from Lee in Minnesota: "It's already affected me. I gave six years to the Army, 33 years to government service. I have just about drained what I have. Oh, and my wife just got laid off three weeks ago. The country cannot afford any resemblance of the past eight years. I'm booting the Republicans out of the White House until they will support you and me instead of the rich and corporate America."
David in Massachusetts: "While the financial state of the country concerns me greatly, there's a more important issue. I don't want to see my brother or any of his brothers in arms be sent off to Iraq again. Every soldier and every military family has sacrificed more than enough for this desert disaster."
Faith writes: "My money has nothing to do with my vote.
I'm not going to vote for an unknown. What little I know about Obama, I don't like."
Keith in San Francisco says: "If McCain wins, I'll be rich. If Obama wins, I'll be happy."
Matt in Minneapolis: "Tax hikes, no matter who they're on, have never benefited our economy. Vindictive tax hikes on those who invest and those who are rich are not going to help. A tax hike to make Social Security solvent won't help. For those who want Obama, remember tax hikes and increased government regulation hurt the economy.
I'm not rich and I'm not an investor, but at least I realize the big picture."
Karen writes: "I'm a Republican, a veteran and a single mother. Times are terrible and I'm going to vote for Obama. I'm sorry the Republican Party has put all good Americans in such hard times and I will not support them."
And Dan writes: "As gas prices soar, I will walk to the polls, if necessary, to cast my vote for a real and needed change in leadership in our country. We're running on empty in that regard."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile. There are hundreds of them posted there and you can look for yours among them -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, even as you were reading those e-mails, look at the bottom of your screen.
BLITZER: 2,108 delegates Barack Obama now has. He needs 2,118. So there's 10 more -- only 10 more he needs. That number has been changing very, very quickly. It could go over the top very soon.
CAFFERTY: Before the polls close.
BLITZER: Maybe even before the polls close.
BLITZER: Probable -- almost certainly, since the polls don't close before 9:00 and 10:00 Eastern time out there. So these superdelegates are coming into his camp very quickly.
CAFFERTY: At this point, he's Big Brown in this Kentucky Derby.
BLITZER: It looks like he's got it.
All right, in our Political Ticker, Barack Obama has closed the loop on the so-called "sweetie" flap. As you may remember, he apologized for referring to a Detroit TV reporter by that term of endearment. He promised he'd give her an interview the next time he was in town. He made good on that promise yesterday. The reporter says she was glad to get the big interview. She says the "sweetie" thing was no big deal.
Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com. The Ticker is now the number one political news blog on the Web. That's also where you can read my latest blog post. I posted one before the show, as I try to do every day.
The first of today's primary results just, what, two hours away from now. Barack Obama needs only 10 delegates to clinch the nomination. He could get those momentarily.
John Roberts is standing by the magic wall. We're going to go and look and assess with John, right after this.
BLITZER: He only needs 10 more delegates to clinch this nomination. Barack Obama -- a huge night for him. History being made right now.
Let's go to John Roberts. He's here at the magic wall.
What happens if she wins both of these two final primaries?
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this is the thing that the magic wall is great at, is visualizing for people the results here so that they're easy to grasp.
Let's start. Here's the finish line here, 2,118. Here's where Barack Obama is right now, 2,108 delegates. He is only 10 away. The two big contests tonight -- and the final ones -- South Dakota and Montana. Here's South Dakota. Now, Hillary Clinton, according to the latest American Research Group poll, is ahead 60 percent to 40 percent. The Clinton campaign said well, our numbers had us a little bit behind, but they're intrigued by these numbers.
So let's split this out at 60-40, which means that Hillary Clinton would probably get 13 delegates, Barack Obama would get 10.
Look at how close he is. He's only four away at this point.
So let's pull this down and let's go over to Montana now and bring that one in -- four delegates away. Let's give it to Hillary Clinton just for argument's sake. He needs one, two, three, four delegates and he is across the line.
Now this is very interesting to look at, Wolf, as we plot this on the linear graph. Here's where Barack Obama is currently; where Hillary Clinton is currently. We matched the map. He hits the finish line. There's one delegate left. This is a John Edwards delegate. Let's just, for argument's sake, give that to Hillary Clinton. He's across the line even if she were to win every one of those superdelegates that's left, she can't get there.
And part of the reason is because remember the Clinton campaign was saying when they see the results of the Puerto Rico primary, these superdelegates, they're going to switch their vote. They did switch their vote. They switched it from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama. She's lost four, he's gained all these delegates. Now only 10 away, Wolf.
So by the time that they finish voting in South Dakota, depending on the split, he could be across the line. Not likely, though, until he gets to be Montana. That's likely going to be the state that puts him over the top.
BLITZER: Unless some of those -- a few hundred of those remaining superdelegates decide, you know what, they're not even going to wait for the results in Montana. He only needs 10 more of those superdelegates either to switch from Hillary Clinton to him or to declare that they support him.
ROBERTS: Well, here's the thing. If you're a superdelegate and you declare today, you get your name in the news. Tomorrow, you'll be a part of the herd. So perhaps there will be a number of more superdelegates -- and he only needs, as we said, 10 more to go his way, who will declare, get their name in the news tonight and put him over the top, so that by the time he gets on stage, he already has a lock on the nomination.
Robert Gibbs, the communications director, was on "AMERICAN MORNING" today, saying that he believes that by the time Barack Obama hits the stage tonight, he will have enough.
BLITZER: And he may be right. Maybe right in the next hour. We don't know. All right, thanks very much.
John's going to be with us throughout the night.
I'll be back here in one hour at the CNN Election Center. Our special coverage will begin then. It's going to be an exciting, historic night for all of us. You're going to want to stay put and watch.
In the meantime, let's continue our special coverage right now with "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."
Lou is standing by at the CNN Election Center -- Lou?