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THE SITUATION ROOM
McCain Challenges Obama to Series of Town Hall Meetings; Hillary Plans Exit Strategy
Aired June 4, 2008 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much guys. Happening now, John McCain lays down a challenge for Barack Obama on what is effectively the first day of this new general election campaign. This hour, the proposal to hold a series of town hall meetings. Is Obama likely to go along? We're watching the story.
Also, the democrats' new nominee in waiting plunging into the issue of Middle East politics. We'll tell you what Barack Obama said today to try to convince Jewish voters he's not quote, "Scary."
Hillary Clinton plans her exit strategy. What does she have to say and do to unite her democratic party? I'll ask a long-time Clinton ally who's just endorsed Barack Obama, Congressman Rahm Emanuel. I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN election center, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
John McCain isn't letting Barack Obama bask too long in his history-making clinch of the democratic presidential nomination. The all but certain republican nominee officially threw down a new challenge for Obama today. McCain sent a letter to his democratic rival proposing they hold 10 joint town hall meetings before the conventions at the end of the summer. McCain suggested their first meeting take place June 12th here in New York City.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE: Senator Obama truly has the opportunity to embrace a new kind of politics by committing to participate in these history making meetings and joining the higher level of discourse that Americans obviously would clearly prefer.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN's Joe Johns is covering John McCain in Baton Rouge, Louisiana right now. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is here in New York with me. Candy, what's the reaction from the Obama campaign to this challenge from John McCain.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they think it's an OK idea. But they're not going to sign on to this right at the moment. I think we've got a graphic to throw up here on the board to show you that, in fact, what they are talking about is they want something a little longer form. At this moment this is not something they want to jump into as you can see. As Barack Obama has said before, the idea of joint town halls is appealing and one that would allow a great conversation to take place about the need to change the direction of this country. They add, "We would recommend a format that is less structured and lengthier than the McCain campaign suggests, one that more closely resembles the historic debates between Abraham Lincoln and Steven Douglas." So TBA, to be announced here. One of the reasons John McCain wants to do this is he's at a huge money disadvantage, particularly between now and those conventions. This would be a very highly visible free media for him. Not an advantage that the Obama camp wants to throw away. I think you will see a lot of back and forth about this.
BLITZER: And as they say, the devil is in the details when it comes to these kinds of negotiations between two presidential campaigns. Candy, stand by we're going to be talking more with you. Joe Johns is covering the McCain camp for us. Give us a sense of what they're saying Joe right now.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As you know, Wolf, from the top they're talking about 10 or so town hall meetings. Probably starting as you said around June 11th or 12th and a lot more detail than we've gotten before. This is an idea that has been floated before. But this time it's certainly being couched in a whole lot of symbolism. They're talking about George Washington being sworn in at federal hall, which was the first place they'd like to have the very first town meeting. But it's really a lot more than symbolism. John McCain knows full well that he performs best in town hall meetings with small audiences. In fact, he made an announcement about this proposal at a town hall meeting today. He does really well in these environments where he can interact with the audience, he can talk to them, he can make off the cuff jokes. That certainly is part of what all of this is about. They're hoping very much that the Obama campaign can sign on so that when you see John McCain squaring off with Barack Obama, you'll see him in a situation where he works best. Wolf?
BLITZER: So we just got a statement in from the McCain campaign. I'll read it to our viewers. "The American people deserve a debate worthy of their concerns and hopes for the future. Everyone can celebrate today's step toward that goal with an agreement and spirit between the McCain and Obama campaigns to participate in joint town hall appearances. Early this afternoon McCain goes on to say, the respective campaign managers spoke. They both expressed a commitment to raising the level of dialogue and they will be in close contact as we work together to make this idea a reality." All right. So there we've been saying, Joe, the devil is in the details. But they both in principle sort of like the idea. Is that your understanding?
JOHNS: Yeah, certainly. I mean, McCain has made clear that he would like it so that this wasn't some kind of a big media production. He doesn't want spin rooms. He doesn't want reporters asking process questions. He wants a situation where he and Obama are sort of squaring off on the issues and there's an audience there to interact with them. That's what he's trying to get at. And hoping very much that Obama will fully sign on and they get some details pretty quickly.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much. Joe and Candy, they're both standing by. They'll be back later with more on day one of the new McCain versus Obama match up and how Hillary Clinton figures into this race as well. There's new information on that front. We'll share with you.
Another challenge for Senator Obama is his new role as the democrat's presumptive nominee. Today he confronted some voters' fears about his foreign policy views, fears Senator McCain has been eager to try to play up. Let's go to our state department correspondent Zain Verjee.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, its day one of the next lap of the presidential campaign and Barack Obama just charged right into it.
VERJEE (voice-over): Fresh from triumph.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We had an eventful night last night.
VERJEE: Barack Obama plunged into Mideast politics. His audience, a powerful Jewish-American lobby group.
OBAMA: As president I will never compromise when it comes to Israel's security.
VERJEE: This a must-do campaign stop for candidates trying to woo key Jewish voters. Many have had their doubts about Obama. He offered a crowd pleasing pledge.
OBAMA: And Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.
VERJEE: That goes further than U.S. policy which has been to leave that up to negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas quickly criticized Obama for his Jerusalem comment. Senator McCain blasted Obama for his plan to talk directly to Iran.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He would meet without any preconditions with the president of Iran because he was -- thought it was good to have face-to-face conversations with our adversaries. It shows a naivete and a lack of experience.
VERJEE: Obama joked about how his rivals define him.
OBAMA: Let me know if you see this guy named Barack Obama because he sounds pretty scary.
VERJEE: So he made his views clear.
OBAMA: I would be willing to lead tough and principle diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leaders at a time and place of my choosing if and only if it can advance the interests of the United States.
VERJEE: Obama says the Bush administration's policies have only made Israel weaker and says diplomacy doesn't mean surrender.
OBAMA: I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, everything.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
VERJEE: Senator Obama says keeping U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely has strengthened Iran, not weakened it. Wolf?
BLITZER: Zain Verjee, thanks very much. Zain Verjee reporting for us. Let's go to Jack Cafferty, he's got the Cafferty file. Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY: Anybody who thought Hillary Clinton, Wolf, would admit defeat and then graciously make her exit to begin healing the party just wasn't paying attention last night. Barack Obama won the democratic nomination not by a delegate or two. The superdelegates poured into his camp all day and all night and by the end of the day, they had made a bold statement. He's our guy. When the sun came up this morning, guess what. She was still there. If Obama wants a hint of what it'll be like if she's the vice president last night ought to give him a pretty good idea. Refusing to concede she chose instead to try to steal the spotlight from him on one of the most historic nights in our history, barely acknowledging his accomplishment, that he won, she went on in her speech at Baruch College like nothing had changed. It was beyond pathetic. Earlier in the day she let it be known she's interested in the vice presidential nomination. Like that's her option. This puts more pressure on him to either agree or risk further angering her dwindling supporters. Not that some of them could get any angrier than they are now. Barack Obama at this moment has a much bigger problem with Hillary Clinton than he does with John McCain. You would think that her advisers and supporters would start to be embarrassed by her behavior at some point, at a time when our country should be celebrating a quantum leap forward and healing our racial divisions. Hillary Clinton's ruining the party, a spoiled child who refuses to go to bed when she's told its bedtime. Here's the question. How should Barack Obama handle the Hillary Clinton situation? Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile, you can post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: Jack thank you. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did briefly cross paths today. We're going to get a behind the scenes glimpse of where their relationship might be heading. I'll speak about that with Congressman Rahm Emanuel, a long time Clinton ally and a new supporter of Barack Obama. Also coming up, an unexpected division among democratic voters now revealed. What could it mean on Election Day in November?
John McCain tries to diffuse one of Barack Obama's toughest criticisms. That he'd be just like President Bush. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Now that Barack Obama has clinched the democratic presidential nomination the flood gates are open for undeclared superdelegates to rally behind him. Some have stayed neutral until now because of their loyalties. Those loyalties were sharply divided between Obama and Clinton.
And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Rahm Emanuel, the congressman from Chicago who's now come out and endorsed Barack Obama. You used to work in the Clinton White House, you got your start with Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. What happened?
REP. RAHM EMANUEL, (D) ILLINOIS: As I said, Wolf, in the process that I was going to wait till the voters issued their verdict. They've made that decision. And Barack Obama is our nominee. As you know, I was neutral as you said because I worked for President Clinton. Hillary is a good friend. Barack is a good friend. We've got to get ready for November. We've just gone through the first phase, what I refer to as spring training. Now we've got to get ready for five months from today is the election. We've got to have an election that's about change versus the status quo. We don't have a day to waste in my view about making sure people know what we want to do as democrats. I want to help Barack get moving on that process.
BLITZER: Does Hillary Clinton understand that it's over?
EMANUEL: Well I think here's my view, which is any time somebody says I'm open to being considered as vice president, it's an acknowledgment that he's the nominee. You're a vice president of, you know, a ticket that would be -- if your desire is of one being led by Barack. So she acknowledges that.
BLITZER: Would that ticket be a strong one?
EMANEUL: That's not for me to say. Here's my view on the vice president, Wolf. That is the most -- prior to the White House, prior to the decisions you make there, it is one of the most momentous decisions the nominee is going to make. It would be presumptuous. Everybody can weigh in. My view is this is a big decision. You should be thoughtful, deliberative. You have the time to do it because this is a decision you'll live with for four years yourself. We are past the days of vice presidents visiting funerals. If you go into history, everything from Walter Mondale forward, vice presidents have gone from funerals to the fundamentals. This is a big decision. I know Hillary knows that having been by the side of the president this is a big decision. She'll respect that you need to take time to do this.
BLITZER: What does she need to do right now, Hillary Clinton, the loser in this contest, what does she need to do right now to help unify your party?
EMANUEL: She said, I think very importantly, why did she make this battle? Barack acknowledged that her candidacy made him better. That is to talk about the type of change she also wanted to see, which mirrors what Barack talked about. One's about a health care system that made sure we had costs under control and coverage. The type of economic choices we have to make that reflect, again, the challenges middle-class families are facing dealing with incomes that are shrinking and costs that are rising. That is being an advocate as she has been this whole way and continue to be an advocate for the change that democrats are offering. Barack's going to lead that effort, which is what he's been talking about.
BLITZER: Your old boss, Bill Clinton, did he help her campaign or fundamentally hurt her campaign?
EMANUEL: President Clinton is an asset wherever he is. I brought him, as you know, Wolf, when I ran in 2002, I ran and Bill Clinton came in for me and campaigned. And it was very helpful to me. And I was proud to have him. I'm proud to be associated with his time in the White House.
BLITZER: Do you think he should be out there campaigning for Barack Obama right now?
EMANUEL: I think whatever Barack Obama gets like -- at this point given last night he gets 15 seconds to take a deep breath and then get back on running for November. They'll make that decision and they'll make the appropriate ones at the appropriate time. And I know this, President Clinton is ready to do whatever they need. I'm sure Barack and the campaign will be talking to him.
BLITZER: How worried are you that John McCain will paint Barack Obama as young, inexperienced, naive, willing to sit down with Ahmadenijad without preconditions, and fundamentally undermine U.S. national security.
EMANUEL: If I was John McCain I'd worry about the fact that the American people think that he's going to be basically lip sinking four more years of George Bush's agenda. The fundamentals of this race are set. John McCain has made clear that basically you're looking at a Bush McCain, four years. Democrats under Barack have been clear that we are going to turn the page on the set of policies that got America to the point that 82 percent of this country is unhappy with the direction of this country. The dye is cast on this election. Continuity, John McCain, change, Barack Obama. And the fact is that we're ready to -- and I can say this as a member of the congressional wing of the party, we for the last year have engaged in that change versus status quo. We're going to continue to do that. Democrats want to make a fundamental break from the course that George Bush has set. If I was John McCain I'd worry about the fact that the American people know that there is a Bush/McCain agenda here and that John McCain's going to offer four more years of it.
BLITZER: Congressman Rahm Emanuel, thanks for coming in.
EMANUEL: Thank you.
BLITZER: So will age be an issue in this presidential election? Not Barack Obama and John McCain's, but the age of their supporters. Bill Schneider is taking a closer look at this. It's fascinating.
In about two weeks many gay and lesbian couples in California hope to tie the knot there. Today the state's Supreme Court did something that could determine if gay weddings happen or not. We'll update you on that front as well. Lots of news happening today, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Carol, what's going on?
CAROL COSTELLO: Wolf, there may be a lot of wedding invitations going out for June 17th in California. That's when gay and lesbian couples in the state can start getting married. California's highest court refused a request from conservative religious and legal groups to stay its decision legalizing same sex marriage until after the election. An initiative banning gay marriage will be on the November 4th ballot.
After five years in custody the alleged mastermind of 9/11 and four other top al Qaeda suspects will be arraigned tomorrow at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Khalid Shaikh Mohamed and his four co- defendants will appear before a military commission. They could get the death penalty if they're convicted of taking part in the 9/11 terror attacks. Mohammed said he was responsible quote, "From a to z."
Oil prices going in a welcome direction today, down. They've dropped below $122 a barrel, even though gas prices are still on the rise. Sparking the decline, the energy department announced gasoline demands fell sharply over the last month. In the meantime, gasoline inventories increased three times more than expected going up by nearly 3 million barrels last week. Maybe the price of gas will start coming down. We'll keep you posted. I'm sure you'll notice on your own.
Chicago is going up against Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro. Those four cities are still in the running to host the summer Olympics in 2016. The international Olympic committee will announce a winner in October of next year. Only Tokyo has hosted the summer Olympics before in 1954. Those are the headlines right now. Wolf?
BLITZER: Carol thanks for that. Her presidential hopes are dashed. Her long-term political future now uncertain, Hillary Clinton now has a lot of time to think about what she wants to do next. Some people, though, think if she does one thing in particular, it could hurt Obama.
Why would John McCain compare Obama to President Bush? Are we starting to see a remarkable new line of political attack? McCain tying Obama to an unpopular republican president. What's going on? Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Happening now, President Bush welcomes Israel's prime minister to the White House. In front of reporters, the president told Ehud Olmert that Iran is a threat to peace and the U.S. takes that threat seriously. The two leaders were to discuss Israeli Palestinian peace efforts as well as Syrian influence in Lebanon. We're watching the story.
If you're a Hillary Clinton supporter, John McCain and Barack Obama would like a word with you. Now that she's out they'd like your vote. Will their appeals to one specific group actually work?
It wasn't long ago that Obama trailed Clinton by double digit margins in the national polls. How did he rise to beat one of the most powerful brands in political history? Might a similar strategy help him against one of the most experienced senators? I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Barack Obama has a job posting to be filled. Now that he's ready to be the democratic presidential nominee, he's looking for a running mate. Today we learned he's brought on more people to help him search. Caroline Kennedy is one of them. She and a former deputy U.S. attorney general Eric Holder join the former Fannie Mae CEO Jim Johnson in that search. One name that may be on Obama's short list, Hillary Clinton. He says it's on the short list. Let's go to our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley once again, she's watching this story. There are lots of pros and cons, lots of stuff going on right now. What are we hearing Candy?
CROWLEY: What we're hearing is that, first of all, they do feel inside camp Clinton that, in fact, the story of her desire, her opening to being vice president has been a little bit overplayed. Not in the sense that she wouldn't take it if offered. But in the sense that she was much more ambivalent Wolf, in fact, about being vice president than the stories yesterday might have indicated. Right now what I am hearing and what is being described to me, the Hillary Clinton kind of still in transition, trying to figure out how best to go about getting out of this race and talking to her supporters. Even now she is talking to those on Capitol Hill who supported her bid. She is just trying at this point, as one said, to figure it all out.
CROWLEY (voice-over): In his first day as presumptive democratic nominee, Barack Obama assured Jewish leaders he is a friend of Israel. But she may have done him the most good.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know, I know Senator Obama understands what is at stake here. It has been an honor to contest these primaries with him. It is an honor to call him my friend and let me be very clear. I know that Senator Obama will be a good friend to Israel.
CROWLEY: Hillary Clinton is getting there. Not quite out of the race, not quite in it. And despite punditry criticism that she did not get more out of this race last night, Barack Obama will not crowd her.
OBAMA: I thought Senator Clinton, after a long fought campaign was understandably focused on her supporters, and that she had flown in from New York. I just spoke to her today and we're going to be having a conversation in the coming weeks. CROWLEY: They've spoken briefly already. A longer conversation may happen this week just before a Clinton speech also likely this week. They are trying to figure out the when and the where. But the what is a given.
GOV. ED RENDELL, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: I think very soon she's going to do the right thing and get behind the party, get behind Senator Obama whether she's vice president or not. She's going to work very hard for this ticket.
CROWLEY: She is also still thinking about a long-term plan. The goal is two-fold. Let go of the campaign short term and bring her supporters in the Obama fold. Long term, they see it as a multistep process, which could stretch into the summer.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: There's plenty of time. I mean, we are going to be unified.
CROWLEY: The thinking in camp Clinton is that she cannot just give a speech saying nice things about Obama and go away. They believe her supporters will feel abandoned and unwilling to move to his side.
CROWLEY: The fact is, what happened over this long primary season is that voters became not just attached to their candidates, but emotionally attached.
And, as one person said to me that is around the Clinton campaign, listen, this is not just about the numbers. This, Wolf, is about the emotional attachment and finding some way to take that all -- emotion and move it to the Obama camp, so that they can get what Hillary Clinton says she wants in the fall, which is an Obama victory.
BLITZER: Stand by, Candy.
Roland Martin is here, our political analyst, as well.
Roland, you're from Chicago. You live in Chicago. You have known the Obama team for -- yes, for a long time.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I guess I still live there.
BLITZER: You travel. You're doing a lot of traveling.
What do you think? What are you hearing right now about the possibility -- because he said she's -- she's got to be on anyone's short list -- the possibility that she might be on his ticket?
MARTIN: I talked to a knowledgeable Obama source who frankly said, it's unlikely that she is going to be the V.P. nominee.
BLITZER: Because? MARTIN: There are several different factors. They have not established the full criteria yet as to what they're looking for.
But one of the things they truly value is the notion of being a team player, someone who also completely buys into the vision that Obama has laid out. And, frankly, she -- she doesn't really fit that in terms of this whole notion of change.
And, so, they do believe that she will certainly campaign for him and be an active participant in November. But with the team they have already announced, the folks who are going to be vetting the V.P. candidates, it's unlikely that her name is going to go on that short list to even be considered to be a vice president.
BLITZER: Because it's interesting that they feel like that, because, on so many of the policy issues right now, they don't necessarily disagree substantively on the foreign policy or the domestic issues.
MARTIN: Well, there are so many of the other issues there that we have to look at, the favorable ratings, how she is such a perfect get-out-the-vote person for the GOP, and then also looking at the style of various candidates.
You factor in Bill Clinton. You factor in all of that. Also, one of the things is that the Obama campaign, very few leaks of this campaign that came out of his operation. Her operation was like a old battleship. It was leaking left and right. How do you manage that being on as well?
So, you could say unlikely or read between the lines. She will not be the V.P. nominee for Obama.
BLITZER: All right. Well, we will see. It's sort of a moving target right now. We will see what goes on over the next few weeks. There's not going to be a decision any time soon, I am sure. They have got some serious vetting to do for other candidates, and maybe Hillary Clinton as well. We will see.
Guys, thanks very much.
John McCain has a message for you: Don't believe something Barack Obama is saying. Obama insists McCain is running for President Bush's third term. But the Republican nominee in waiting is saying and doing things to try to prove this point. He's insisting he is not President Bush.
Let's go back to Baton Rouge. Joe Johns is standing by.
Joe, he's trying to show he's very different on many of the most substantive issues.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's true. But, still, as you just said, Wolf, Obama is linking McCain to President Bush every chance he gets. And McCain is pretty much now saying, give me a break. McCain's argument is that he's a known quantity with the American voters. And his biggest hallmark, he says, is independence.
JOHNS (voice-over): Will the real John McCain please stand up? Is he the man who walks in lockstep with the president, as the Obama campaign would have you believe, or is he the independent-minded maverick, unafraid to break with the White House over and over again?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have disagreed over the conduct in the war in Iraq, and the treatment of detainees, out of -- over out-of-control government spending and budget gimmicks, over energy policy and climate change, over defense spending that favored defense contractors over the public good.
JOHNS: All that is true. McCain takes it a step further, asserting that Barack Obama is closer to Bush on energy policies than he is.
MCCAIN: In fact, he voted for the energy bill promoted by the president and Vice President Cheney, which gave even more breaks to the oil industry.
JOHNS: That's a remarkable line, a Republican attacking a Democrat by tying him to a Republican president. And it shows just how dangerous the McCain camp believes a close association with Bush could be.
So, while the Arizona senator may argue he has asserted his independence from the White House on the big defining issues of campaign '08, the war, the economy, and health care, Obama will try to make the case that the president and John McCain are joined at the hip.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: While John McCain can legitimately tout moments of independence from his party in the past, such independence has not been the hallmark of his presidential campaign.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: It's not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush 95 percent of the time, as he did in the Senate last year.
JOHNS: And that is likely to be one of the Obama campaign's signature lines as long as President Bush remains so unpopular in opinion polls -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Joe, thanks very much.
Let's go right back to Carol Costello. There's been a verdict in an important case in Chicago.
What do we know, Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the jury deliberating the case of political fund-raiser Tony Rezko has reached a verdict. It won't announce that verdict for another 10 minutes. At least we hope so. Rezko was accused of receiving millions of dollars in kickbacks from companies that were awarded state contracts.
At one point, Rezko was connected to Barack Obama. Obama has since disassociated himself from Rezko. When that verdict is finally announced, of course, we will pass it along to you -- back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: We will stand by for that. We will see what that is. Carol, thank you.
It's obviously a very historic election under way right now. And for a new generation of voters, it will be critically important. Here's a question. Will age be a deciding factor in the Obama/McCain matchup this fall?
Plus, will the general election campaign ahead be more about style or more about substance? The tone on day one, that's coming up in our "Strategy Session."
And, later, what can we expect from Hillary Clinton in the days ahead? I will ask a Clinton insider who always speaks his mind, the Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor James Carville. He will be here -- right in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It's an important day, as Barack Obama and John McCain now zeroing in on one another with a new sense of urgency a day after Obama clinched the Democratic presidential nomination.
Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's watching this story for us.
Did the primaries, Bill, give us any sense of what this general election will look like?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes, they did. The Democratic primaries revealed an unexpected division among the voters. It wasn't race, and it wasn't gender.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Barack Obama wants his candidacy to define a generation, as John F. Kennedy's once did.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know in your hearts that at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, we cannot afford to keep doing what we've been doing.
SCHNEIDER: Obama's call for change has rallied younger voters. In South Dakota on Tuesday, Obama got two-thirds of the vote among Democrats under 30. Seniors were not so enthusiastic. Two-thirds of seniors voted for Hillary Clinton.
That age gap is likely to become even bigger in the general election. John McCain is 25 years older than Barack Obama. That's the biggest age difference ever between two presidential candidates.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a few years on my opponent.
MCCAIN: So, I'm surprised that a young man has bought into so many failed ideas.
SCHNEIDER: Obama's message of change is likely to intensify the age divide.
OBAMA: This is our time, our time to turn the page on the policies of the past.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SCHNEIDER: Change resonates with young voters.
In South Dakota on Tuesday, two-thirds of young voters said the top quality they were looking for in a candidate was the ability to bring about change. Among seniors, the figure was 40 percent.
MCCAIN: The American people didn't get to know me yesterday, as they're just getting to know Senator Obama.
SCHNEIDER: Still, the idea of change is appealing to so many voters this year, that McCain is also trying to run as a candidate of change.
OBAMA: There are many words to describe John McCain's attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush's policies as bipartisan and new, but change is not one of them.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SCHNEIDER: In 1984, when Ronald Reagan ran for reelection, he was 73 years old. His opponent, Walter Mondale, was 17 years younger. Now, Reagan's age became an issue after he made a confused and uncertain statement in a debate.
In the following debate, President Reagan turned the issue to his advantage. "I will not make age an issue in this campaign," the president quipped. "I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A lot of us remember that line in that debate. Bill, thanks very much.
Let's talk a little more about the age gap and what could be an important factor in November.
John Roberts is here once again at our magic wall. What do you make of this?
JOHN ROBERTS, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Well, you know, we know that Barack Obama tends to attract a lot of younger voters. Hillary Clinton had a lock, as Bill Schneider has told us so many times, among voters over the age of 65.
It's interesting to point out that, here in Florida, 18 percent of the population is over the age 65, Pennsylvania at 16 percent, West Virginia 15 percent, and, in Iowa, 15 percent. Those are the four oldest states in the nation. And when we overlay our swing state graphic, you can see that Pennsylvania, Florida, Iowa, swing states, and West Virginia is a state that's definitely gone back and forth.
You know, Wolf, after last night's win, it's interesting to game out where we are with the Electoral College. It was all about delegates in the nominating process. Now it's all about the Electoral College, as we look towards November the 4th.
So, let's just game out a scenario here between Barack Obama and John McCain based on the results of the 2004 election. If you took a look at the polls today -- and they're just a frame of a moving picture -- John McCain could possibly win in New Hampshire. He could also possibly win in Michigan. And things are kind of close between he and Barack Obama in the state of Pennsylvania.
So, for argument's sake, let's give Pennsylvania to John McCain. Where could Obama win? He is marginally stronger in the state of Ohio, in Virginia, which is now in play, kind of a surprise. He might be able to take that. He could also win in Colorado and New Mexico.
So, here's the Electoral College. You need 270 to win the White House. McCain is still ahead 281 to 257. People have been wondering all day today, what happens if Barack Obama takes Hillary Clinton on as the running mate? Could she give him strength in some areas where he's perhaps a little bit weak?
So, let's game that out again. John McCain has got New Hampshire, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. She's very popular in Pennsylvania. She could perhaps prevent a loss there, not to say that Barack Obama would have lost it, but she might prevent a loss there.
She's also strong in Ohio. She's strong West Virginia. She's also stronger than John McCain in Florida, whereas Barack Obama is weaker. And she could potentially win Nevada as well. So, forgot to give this one, Iowa, by the way, to Barack Obama. So, there's the -- there's the scenarios, right now, John McCain narrowly ahead in a straight matchup.
You bring Hillary Clinton in, she adds a little bit of strength. Let's put that side by side. Color these all in, Wolf, make them all Democrat. President Obama would win the White House here 322 to 216, not to say that this is going to happen. But, as of today, the polling tells us, this is a potential scenario.
BLITZER: It's something that the Obama team that is now considering vice presidential running mate certainly will have to consider.
ROBERTS: Not to say that she would get him that, but maybe could help.
BLITZER: It's one scenario.
Thanks very much, John, for that.
Coming up in our "Strategy Session": As Hillary Clinton weighs her next move, she knows that some of her prominent supporters are pushing the so-called dream ticket.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "AMERICAN MORNING")
ROBERT JOHNSON, FOUNDER, BLACK ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION: Does Senator Hillary Clinton know what I'm doing? Absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Could pressuring Barack Obama have an adverse effect on Clinton's fate?
And as John McCain calls for joint town hall meetings, he also wants a civil, more dignified general election. But will he get either?
That a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It's Barack Obama vs. John McCain. And McCain says he's got an idea for the rest of this election campaign, town hall meetings with no empty sound bites, sniping or spin rooms.
Let's discuss this and more in our "Strategy Session."
Joining us, the Democratic strategist, the former John Edwards deputy campaign manager Jonathan Prince, and our CNN political contributor Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez.
Here's now Senator McCain framed it. Listen to this.
JONATHAN PRINCE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Americans are tired of the ways presidential campaigns have been run in the past, all the gimmicks, the phony sound bites and photo-ops, campaigns that always seem to be more about the candidate's interests than the public's. And I hope that Senator Obama agrees. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He wants 10 town hall meetings, one on one, just the two of them, together with an audience.
PRINCE: Look, I think it would be terrific if there were no gimmicks and no phony sound bites in this campaign. But, unfortunately, I think it was just last week we heard Senator McCain throwing out there the idea of this kind of joint field trip to Iraq.
I mean, what we have really come to see from Senator McCain is that he's very apt to say one thing and then say something else completely different or do something else completely different.
BLITZER: So, you think this is just a gimmick on his part?
PRINCE: I think the no-gimmicks thing is a gimmick. I do. This is a guy who has proposed the Iraq gimmick last week.
LESLIE SANCHEZ, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No. I think he wanted Barack to actually have an opportunity to go to Iraq, so he's not reading the "Cliff Notes" and the briefing papers, but actually understands what General Petraeus and the men and women in uniform are actually experiencing.
I think that's the distinct difference between that issue. But if you take out all the gimmicks and all the talking points, you would put a lot of our friends out of work, Wolf. I think that's kind of the bigger problem.
I think, in a sense, the more important issue, it's a very strong platform for Senator McCain. He's very good. He did it in New Hampshire. He's a hardworking candidate. And it's interesting. If you talk to the Barack Obama people, they will say, once Barack connects to the voters, they seem to appeal to them. Let them fight it out on substance and likability. They both have it.
BLITZER: Because everybody agrees that those town hall meetings he did in New Hampshire really helped his campaign come from dead to life.
PRINCE: For Senator McCain?
PRINCE: Of course. I think that's certainly true. Senator McCain has got a gift when he's up close with voters.
But, certainly, Barack Obama has got an incredible gift. He ran a campaign in, I think, 57 contests now, and unprecedented victory in our party, with tens and -- with millions and millions of new voters that he brought into the party through his engagement with them.
So, I'm sure that, from their perspective, they're ready to kind of bring it on, in terms of this debate. SANCHEZ: You know, I think that's a very true point. He's the "American Idol" candidate. It's very -- a lot of television. It's a lot of oratory. But when you connect one on one, and you really have to look at the whites of these eyes of these voters, who are very critical, they want to ask the tough questions, allow the voters...
SANCHEZ: There's nothing wrong with it.
PRINCE: But he's the change for America candidate is what he really is.
SANCHEZ: Let him defend his positions.
BLITZER: Listen to Bob Johnson, a prominent Hillary Clinton supporter, the founder of BET, a billionaire in his own right. He had this idea earlier today on "AMERICAN MORNING."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "AMERICAN MORNING")
JOHNSON: I think, if you want a unified Democratic Party and the absolute certainty that these two dynamic leaders bring to the Democratic Party, we have the best chance of winning with Senator Obama at the top of the ticket, Senator Clinton as his vice president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How formidable a ticket would that be?
PRINCE: Look, I think that both these candidates were terrific candidates. They mobilized millions of new voters, as we have said.
I think what is important -- and we have talked about this before -- is for Barack Obama to make an assessment of who he wants in his running mate. And that's based on chemistry. That's based on what he thinks is best for the country.
And, most important, it's based on how that candidate helps to bring his message of change for America to the whole country. There's this petition drive, for example. Could you imagine if somebody said, hey, however many years ago before you were married, hey, Wolf, I have started a petition drive for who should be your wife? Obviously, it's not going to have that much impact, right?
I mean, what's important is for Barack to get out there and kind of make this decision on his own.
SANCHEZ: Yes, but I don't think a wife would lobby.
I mean, let's look at the distinction. She's run a very, very strong campaign. But the truth is, she would be a Trojan horse in that effort. A lot of people believe that the Clintons together, collectively, would be undermining a lot of what Barack Obama would be trying to do.
And, interestingly enough, I think I would give a lot of credit to the strategists around Barack Obama to say, I don't think they would allow that to happen.
BLITZER: All right. Well, it's going to be fun for the next several weeks to just talk about it.
BLITZER: And we will see what he decides.
Guys, thanks for coming in.
PRINCE: You bet. Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Now that Barack Obama is the presumptive Democratic nominee, Republicans want to remind you of something: criticisms other Democrats made against Obama. You're going to want to hear what a new Republican campaign video shows us.
Also, what might John McCain do to help repair America's image around the world? I will talk about that and other foreign policy issues with McCain's fellow Arizona senator, Republican Jon Kyl.
And are news organizations treating Hillary Clinton fairly? Wait until you hear some of the things being said about her, and you can judge for yourself. Howard Kurtz standing by with that.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We have got some breaking news on our Political Ticker.
Let's go back to Carol Costello.
What do we know, Carol?
COSTELLO: Yes, that Illinois jury deliberating the case of Tony Rezko, a political fund-raiser, has found him guilty of 16 of 24 counts. That's according to the Associated Press.
This political fund-raiser with ties to Barack Obama was found guilty of using his political clout to demand kickbacks from companies awarded state contracts.
Now, apparently Barack Obama long ago purchased some land from Tony Rezko. He has said it was a mistake, and he has since disassociated himself from Tony Rezko. But a jury has found Rezko guilty of 16 of 24 counts of fraud.
When I get more, I will pass it along back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Carol, thanks very much.
Let's go right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is, what should Barack Obama do about the Hillary Clinton situation, following that -- whatever that was last night, after he won the nomination?
Bill writes this: "Entitlement is her problem. She started out with 68 percent of the popular vote, an ex-president as husband, most of the superdelegates, and blew it all by her attitude, nothing else. I love Abraham Lincoln. I would love to know what he have thought of her attacks, using the race card, the women card, the victim card, the whatever is left card."
O. in Fort Worth, Texas: "Talk about scorched earth. She burned the olive branch last night. Hillary has exhausted Americans with her political tantrums. Obama can't be concerned with her emotional well- being much longer. McCain started a man-all-guns approach, so Obama has to direct his time, energy and talents to do what we elected him to do."
Jean writes: "Obama shouldn't ask her to be vice president for all the reasons we hear daily. He has the skill, intelligence to find a more suitable and less burdened choice. You just can't get Hillary without taking Bill, too. It's the '92, two-for-the-price-of-one scenario all over again. He will pick someone surprising and capture the country's attention again."
Craig in Albany: "He doesn't need to make a decision for quite some time. My feeling is, just ignore her. Treat her like she doesn't exist. This will result in her acting out to capture attention. And, eventually, she will embarrass her to the point that even her lunatic friend supporters cringe and start running for cover."
Linda writes, "I'm a Republican who will vote for Barack Obama if he does not have Clinton as a running mate."
Carole writes: "It's time to turn the page. The Clinton chapters were a good read. The Bush chapters were among the worst in the book. Now we get a clean page to write the Obama chapter. We don't need a Clinton to co-author this one, perhaps a place in the Cabinet, but not the ticket."
And Mark in San Diego: "Obama should name her ambassador to Botswana, and hope to never see her again. He would be doing us all a favor."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile, and look for yours there.
We got 6,000 e-mails in the last 45 minutes.
BLITZER: Oh, that's a lot. CAFFERTY: That's a -- that's a bunch.
BLITZER: I have been to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. It's a lovely place.
CAFFERTY: How did you find your way back?
BLITZER: Stand by.