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Gore to Endorse Obama; California Set to Recognize Gay Marriages

Aired June 16, 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, Al Gore's debut in the 2008 presidential race -- why he waited until tonight to endorse Barack Obama. Stand by. We have details.

Plus, John McCain tries to change the subject from a flap over a fund-raiser. Are his campaign vetters failing him again?

And high water and high anxiety -- thousands of Iowans are warned it's not safe to go back to their flood-soaked homes -- all that coming up, plus, the best political team on television.

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

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

Al Gore says he's not ready to do whatever it takes -- let me repeat that -- Al Gore now says he is ready to do whatever it takes to elect Barack Obama as president of the United States. After keeping a low profile during the Democrats' long primary, Gore expected to appear with Obama at a rally in Michigan in the coming hours.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is here watching the story for us.

All right, how much good is this going to do Barack Obama?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a couple of things that Al Gore does for Democrats. One of them is, he galvanizes them, because he just appears on a stage, and most Democrats look at him and think, we were robbed in 2000. So, it tends to be a real galvanizer.

And he also really has buffed up his credentials and really, over time, become this hero in the Democratic Party. He got an Academy Award. He got a Nobel Peace Prize. So, he has a lot of stature. So, you know, he certainly brings that to the campaign. And he says he will do anything he can.

He already on his Web site says come -- send some money to Barack Obama. And so, additionally, in Michigan, Obama has to win Michigan, so Gore has already won it, and he gives him a headline today in what otherwise is sort of a fairly bland day on economic policy. He brings Al Gore -- I'm sorry -- he brings Barack Obama some real juice today.

BLITZER: Because Al Gore can help energize that Democratic base out there and fire them up.

CROWLEY: Right.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about Iraq right now. Barack Obama, under pressure from John McCain, now says he's ready to go.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. And he is under tremendous pressure from John McCain, who, literally, the Republican National Committee started a Web site, or put on their Web site a clock, how many days has it been since Barack Obama has been to Iraq?

Of course, this is John McCain's way of saying, he doesn't even know what's going on, on the ground there. He doesn't talk to the generals. I do know, and that's why my policy is best.

So, Obama now certainly under pressure, although he had said prior to the primary becoming so heated, that he did want to make a trip overseas. Now he says he is going. He will be in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And, of course, this gives some credence to his policies, which right now, as compared to John McCain, is to get out, you know, what is it, a brigade a month.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much.

Candy Crowley reporting for us.

Michigan, by the way, is one of 12 battleground states identified here on our CNN Electoral College map. It has 17 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. The economy is a big issue in the state. Here's why.

In April, the unemployment rate in Michigan was the highest in the nation, at 6.9 percent, while the national rate was 5 percent. Although Michigan is a swing state that's had narrow presidential margins, the Democrats have carried the state in each of the last four presidential elections.

The Democrats usually are strongest in the upper peninsula and the I-75 corridor. That's the heavily populated eastern part of the state. The Republicans usually fare well in the Detroit suburbs and the western part of the state. One interesting battleground county, by the way, that would be Macomb County, the birthplace of the so- called Reagan Democrats. Those are the Democrats more conservative on some of the issues. Michigan will be a battleground state; there's no doubt about that.

John McCain's campaign is grappling today with new evidence its vetting process isn't all it should be. Publicly, the all-but-certain Republican nominee is putting his energy into talking about the energy crisis, but there's other issues out there as well.

Dana Bash is covering McCain's campaign. She is joining us now.

Dana, what was McCain's basic message today?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's interesting, Wolf. John McCain declared himself the underdog today. That's an age-old tactic by any politician to try to lower expectations, but he was also trying to get over his campaign's latest difficulty in avoiding being associated with controversial figures.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): A hastily-arranged conference at his campaign headquarters. John McCain wanted to get in the news with a new idea for voters' pain at the pump, allowing states to drill for oil offshore.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE: Providing additional incentives for states to permit exploration off their coasts would be very helpful in the short term in resolving our energy crisis.

BASH: That announcement was moved up to try to drive the day's story, not be driven by the day's campaign fumble that McCain had to cancel a Monday fund-raiser at the home of Texas Republican Clayton Williams after the campaign was questioned about Williams' controversial comments about women during his 1990 Texas governor's race. Then Williams compared bad weather to rape, saying, As long as it's inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.

(on camera): How did it come to pass that you had this fund- raiser planned?

MCCAIN: First of all, my people were not aware of a statement that he made 16 or 18 years ago. I have forgotten how many years ago it was.

BASH (voice-over): But a LexisNexis search for what Williams is known for in politics, his 1990 governor's race, comes up with multiple references to his comments about women. It was a big campaign issue because he was running against a woman -- Ann Richards.

ANN RICHARDS, FMR. TEXAS GOVERNOR: When I hear remarks like Clayton Williams made, I don't care whether it's made around a campfire or in a living room or in a formal speech. It indicates a level of thinking that is an embarrassment in the community.

BASH: Williams is just the latest vetting problem for McCain. Last month, McCain rejected endorsements from pastors John Hagee and Ron Parsley after months of controversy around their views of Catholics and Muslims.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: That fund-raiser, which was supposed to happen today, will be rescheduled for a new location other than Williams' house later this summer.

McCain made clear he won't return $300,000 Williams helped raise, saying those donors are his supporters. And, Wolf, McCain didn't answer whether he thinks this will have any impact on his big push for women voters. He's doing that, of course, in light of Hillary Clinton's defeat.

BLITZER: It is embarrassing, though.

There's a new development on the whole battle between McCain and Obama over these joint town hall appearances.

BASH: That's right, what the McCain campaign hopes will be a new development. You will remember, late on Friday, the Obama campaign basically said no to John McCain's offer for about 10 joint town hall meetings, one a week until the November election.

They said, well, we will just have one on July 4, and the McCain campaign said, why would we do that? No one will be watching.

So, what John McCain said today is, why don't we make a joint appearance in mid-July in California at the Latino group La Raza? Why don't we actually make that a joint town hall?

Both candidates have said yes to appearing before that group. So, what McCain said today is, he wants to at least try to push that idea. He says it would be both informative and entertaining.

Clearly, the McCain campaign is trying hard not to let the idea of joint town halls go -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much -- Dana Bash reporting for us.

Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Buy now, pay later seems to be the American way, doesn't it? A new Gallup poll looks at Americans' habits when it comes to their credit cards.

When asked how they pay their credit card bills each month, 43 percent of those surveyed said they always pay the full amount -- 17 percent say they usually do -- 25 percent say they usually leave a balance, and 12 percent said they usually pay just the minimum amount due. Only 1 percent pay less than the minimum.

Credit card holders, all of us, have an average of about four cards each. When it comes to those who carry a balance, 30 percent say they have a balance of more than $2,000, 19 percent a balance of more than $5,000. And 9 percent say they owe more than $10,000 on their credit cards.

The good news is, people might be getting a little smarter about using plastic. In April, the federal government said that consumers actually used their credit cards less. And the poll found the percentage of people who say they leave a balance or make the minimum payment on their card has actually gone down over the last few years, which suggests that the shaky economy we're in has more people thinking twice before they whip out their charge card. But it's also a difficult situation for people who are trying to simply make ends meet. The government recently reported, the cost of living rose for Americans last month, inflation increasing 4.2 percent, led by surging energy costs.

So, here's the question: How would you describe your relationship with your credit cards?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: How does love/hate sound?

CAFFERTY: That will probably get it, actually, for most of us.

BLITZER: I think you're right.

All right. Jack, thank you.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: Now that he's suspended his presidential campaign, will Republican Congressman Ron Paul support Republican candidate John McCain?

Ron Paul tells me -- and he's mincing no words -- not a chance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: I can't endorse somebody that basically disagrees with all of the things that I have worked for, for the past 30 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Ron Paul is here in THE SITUATION ROOM to explain why McCain won't be getting his support and whether or not he hopes to actually disrupt the Republican Convention in St. Paul.

Can Al Gore help Barack Obama win what he could not? What impact will Al Gore's endorsement have? The best political team on television standing by.

And countdown to controversy -- in under two hours, same-sex couples will be able to get married in California. How will that affect the presidential race?

Stand by for that -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: When Republicans hold their convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, in early September, one of John McCain's former rivals will be very close by putting a possible thorn in his side.

And joining us now from Houston, Texas, congressman Ron Paul. He was a Republican presidential candidate until, what, only the other night you suspended your campaign, Congressman.

I guess the question is, what took so long?

PAUL: Well, we had to wait and go through all the primaries to see how many votes we could get. And we got about 1.2 million votes. So, once that was over, I mean, it was natural to end that part of the campaign and start something new or continue it, because our campaign, our campaign for liberty has been ongoing, and it will continue right up to the convention in September.

BLITZER: I know you're planning some sort of rally at the convention. Tell me about that. What's the point?

PAUL: Well, the point is that there's a lot of frustration out there by conservatives and people who believe in limited government and are unhappy with the war, that are interested in monitory policy. And we don't hear much of that from our party leaders.

And they have been working very, very hard for a year-and-a-half. Some are very disappointed that the campaign isn't continuing and that there's not some chance I could win at the convention. But that's not realistic.

But the natural thing, I think, to do is to have a rally, have our own meeting and bring people together, and everybody gets to be a delegate, and we get to celebrate what we have done, and actually come up with some ideas that might suggest to the Republican Party some things that they can do to build the party again, instead of seeing this party keep shrinking.

And I think we have some very positive suggestions. It is not designed to confront or demonstrate or disrupt the convention. We're way down the street, like seven miles away. And we're going to have a real celebration of what we think is very important. And that's a celebration of liberty.

BLITZER: So, it won't necessarily be a slap at John McCain's face, the thousands of Ron Paul supporters who probably will show up in St. Paul; is that what you are saying?

PAUL: I think, in a personal sense, no, that's not the case.

Philosophically, it's challenging, because we will talk about the war, but we will also defend our position as conservative Republicans that we don't have to always support wars that are undeclared. So, yes, it will be challenging, but it's not a slap in the face.

I just hardly ever mention John McCain's name. And I'm sure up there, it will not be an attack on John McCain. It will be a philosophic argument by -- about why we ought to follow our Constitution, follow limited government proposals that we have believed in for so long, get back to balancing the budget, and doing the things that Republicans used to believe in and actually try to practice what we have gone a long way from now.

BLITZER: All right. We invited our viewers, Congressman, to send us some I-Report questions, video questions for you.

We have Vinnie Sanchez (ph), who says he's a Ron Paul supporter. He says he doesn't want to vote for McCain, but would if Ron Paul endorsed him. I want you to listen to his question. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you said you weren't going to tell us who to vote for in the general election if you were not in it, but will you tell us who you're going to endorse?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Congressman, what do you say to Vinnie?

PAUL: Well, he asked me who I was going to endorse?

BLITZER: Yes.

PAUL: I haven't endorsed anybody. I don't know exactly, because I have a couple of friends still running in this race.

But I have said publicly, and maybe even on your show, Wolf, that I don't plan to endorse John McCain unless he changes his views on the war and was interested in the Federal Reserve and all these other things, which is not likely to happen.

So, I can't endorse somebody that basically disagrees with all the things that I have worked for, for the past 30 years. But I haven't -- I don't have immediate plans. Maybe later on in the year, I might decide to. But, you know, I just will not be endorsing John McCain, nor do I intend to endorse Obama.

BLITZER: What about the former Republican Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia, who is now running as the Libertarian presidential candidate? You did that a few years back yourself. What do you think about Congressman Barr?

PAUL: Well, I think he's running a very important race, and I'm encouraging him. I haven't endorsed him, but he's saying the kind of things that, you know, I like to be heard, said, and I hope he does real well.

But we also have Chuck Baldwin, who runs on the Constitutional Party. His views are very, very close to mine, and he worked very hard in my campaign. So, for me to pick one over the others is not easy. I hope they both together get a lot of votes.

BLITZER: But that would wind up, correct me if I'm wrong, Congressman, hurting John McCain. They would take votes probably in much greater numbers away from John McCain than they would for Barack Obama.

PAUL: You know, that's what people usually think automatically. But if you come to our rallies and talk to the young people, many of them are always torn between Ron Paul and Obama, because we appeal to the young people. And the Republicans, I think, if they really paid close attention to what I'm doing, they actually ought to encourage me, because I can sort of get some of these young people away from Obama, because I don't think he's as authentic on foreign policy as we have been.

So, I don't think it's an automatic that we would take only conservative votes if somebody did not vote for John McCain.

BLITZER: Here's a question we got from Paul Green (ph), who says he's the chairman of delegates for Ron Paul for vice president, and he's an alternate delegate to the Republican Convention.

Listen to this question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While it's unlikely that John McCain will pick you as his running mate, if the convention delegates were to nominate you and elect you from the floor of the convention, would you be willing to run for and serve as the vice president of the United States?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: You know, you're right in prefacing your question by saying it's not likely -- and it isn't likely, because it would be untenable. And it would be very unlikely that I could accept, for the same reason that it's hard for me to say I would vote for him, and I can't vote for him.

So, I could hardly work for somebody if I couldn't vote for him. So, what would happen if a month after he's in office and I'm the vice president, and he believes that we could attack Iran without congressional approval? If that happened, I would be so distraught that I would have to resign. So, I wouldn't be able to do that. So, the answer is a very strong probable no.

BLITZER: All right, Congressman. We will stay in close touch with you. Thanks very much for joining us.

PAUL: Thank you.

BLITZER: We're hearing now what Al Gore thinks about Barack Obama. But what does Barack Obama think about Al Gore? You're going to hear what both of them are saying. Stand by for that.

Also, trapped on the tip of danger, a man teeters at the edge of disaster, hoping to be plucked from peril in the middle of a large body of water. You're going to find out what happened right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Al Gore about to jump on the Barack Obama bandwagon. What will he offer when he gets there?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE: There are very few people who are more knowledgeable than he is about a whole host of issues and challenges that we're going to be facing in the years to come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to discuss the possible impact of Al Gore's somewhat late endorsement with the best political team on television.

Plus, Obama says he's going to be going to Iraq before Election Day. That would be on November 4. What's -- what is going to be the impacts on voters back here at home?

And, later, if you ever wondered what happened to Ross Perot, we're about to tell you where he's making a comeback.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, Al Gore finally coming out for Barack Obama. Why did he wait so long? And what could he do now for the presumptive Democratic nominee?

Also, it's the off-the-cuff remark that keeps coming back to haunt Obama. Now John McCain is bringing it up once again. So, what can Obama do?

And in less than two hours, gay marriage becomes a reality in California. Will it drive voters out there and in the rest of the country to the polls this November?

All this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

In Iowa right now, the Mississippi River is becoming the new focus for deep concerns about flooding. The flooding in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City is backing off at last, but areas downstream are now bracing for the worst.

To the south and east, sandbagging operations are under way where rivers spill into the Mississippi. At least five deaths in Iowa are now blamed on this massive flooding -- 29 counties have been named federal disaster areas. President Bush plans to visit the flood- ravaged state on Thursday. CNN senior correspondent Allan Chernoff is on the ground for us, even in the water right now in Iowa City, the home of the University of Iowa out there.

It looks awful, the numbers, the statistics. This is a horrible, horrible flood, Allan.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about that.

And you can see -- the picture tells everything, Wolf, the floodwaters still quite extreme here, further in, about seven to eight feet high. And I'm standing a good football field away from the Iowa River.

This is a situation that will not improve very quickly. And the university has 16 buildings that are now filled with water, millions of dollars of damage just here. Then consider thousands of homes throughout the state are flooded, thousands of businesses.

We have got lots of roads, bridges, and rails also covered with water. And 15 percent of the state's farmland now is under water. It's going to devastate the corn and the soybean crop. Farmers will feel it. We're going to feel it at the supermarket.

The good news, as you said, the water is beginning to recede. Where over here, this morning, we started here. And prior to that yesterday, all the way up to here. So, Wolf, we've gone back almost three feet. So that's some improvement. But nonetheless, look how far they have to go here at the University of Iowa -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it's a horrible situation.

All right, Allan. We'll check back with you.

Thanks very much.

Let's get back to the race for the White House. Al Gore poised tonight to endorse Barack Obama at a huge rally in a must-win state. That would be Michigan.

Let's discuss this and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's here in Washington. Also joining us in New York, our own Jack Cafferty and our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. They're all part of the best political team on television.

I want to play, Jack, a little clip only a little while from Barack Obama welcoming Al Gore's endorsement.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE: Well, you know, we've had ongoing conversations about a whole host of issues. A lot of them have revolved around issues of climate change and energy and the environment. But you know, he's also provided good political advice. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How big of a deal is this for Barack Obama, Jack?

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, I guess better late than never. I think, you know, this is like finding out a kid likes ice cream.

I mean who's he going to endorse, John McCain?

It might have been helpful to the Democratic Party if he had done this about three months ago. And he could have started the healing process then and started, you know, shortening up the Democratic primary season, which just went on forever.

That being said, he does present a unifying voice, I guess, to the Democratic Party. And maybe he can reach out to some of the people who are still licking their wounds from the primary battles and say all right, it's time for us all to get in the same tent here and work for the same objective. I don't know.

BLITZER: He still has a following out there. He can energize that Democratic base, Gloria.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he really can. He can also be very important to Obama in raising money. He's got a huge fundraising list, which he could have tapped if he had decided he wanted to run for the presidency himself. He's popular with those suburban women that Barack Obama needs to attract, who now feel alienated because of the loss of Hillary Clinton.

And I think he's also very serious on foreign policy, as well as energy policy. I know that James Carville was saying the other week on SIT ROOM put Al Gore as vice president. You know, that would be great. I doubt he's going to do it. But he could be a really good asset for Obama.

BLITZER: He has eight years experience at that job, Jeff.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, "NEW YORKER" MAGAZINE COLUMNIST: He is now an iconic figure in Democratic politics, really revered, especially now that he's won the Nobel Prize. What's interesting, if you look at the polling data about Al Gore, is he is still not very popular among Independents and, of course, especially Republicans. They still regard him as the sore loser of the 2000 campaign.

So I don't think he is someone who is going to bring many new voters to Barack Obama at this point, but, as Gloria said, in terms of fundraising, in terms of motivating the Democratic base, this is just one more good example of uniting the party.

BLITZER: Obama said he's not going to go visit -- he will go visit Iraq, Jack, before the November election. He's been pounded, as you know, by John McCain in almost every speech, who points out it's been, what, almost 900 days since Obama last visited Iraq. He was there once. What do you think about this whole thing?

CAFFERTY: Well, I think, you know, that John McCain will probably have to find something besides that if he wants to be the next president. Barack Obama is not going to go over there and come back and decide that we should be in Iraq for a hundred years, like John McCain thinks it's a good idea.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: You know, he has said that he's opposed to the war and he's going to bring the troops home. Now if he's going to be the president, it makes sense, I suppose, for him to go over there. We can only hope that we get a more accurate assessment than we got from John McCain when he went to Baghdad and came back and told us what a wonderful place the Baghdad market was. And we found out later it's because we had American hospital gunships flying overhead protecting everybody.

BORGER: You know, I think it's going to be a very important trip for Obama, because it can't be played or look like the education of the young Barack Obama, going over to Iraq and Afghanistan to learn more about foreign policy, because that plays into the whole John McCain experience issue. It's got to be Barack Obama acting presidential, looking like a commander-in-chief, having meetings with the appropriate people and standing his ground. So it's going to be an important trip for him.

BLITZER: Jeff?

TOOBIN: And, well, don't think that this trip will necessarily only be Iraq and Afghanistan. Look for him to stop in Europe and address an enormous crowd there, either in London or Paris or Berlin, capitalizing on the enormous European dissatisfaction with the Bush administration. It's a difficult line to draw being outside the country.

But I think, in terms of looking presidential, looking like a world leader, he could use this trip very much to his advantage.

BLITZER: But isn't that something that usually should await the election as opposed to coming on the eve of an election, a huge tour like that?

TOOBIN: Well, not necessarily a huge tour, but a day or two in some other cities, I think, would be quite possible and a reminder to people that it is possible for Americans to be liked abroad again. That's, I think, something Americans like, the fact that we're generally popular abroad. And he could capitalize on that by drawing a big crowd outside the United States.

BLITZER: That's one of (INAUDIBLE)...

CAFFERTY: It would be nice if American tourists could go to Europe without saying they're from Canada, you know, like they have for the last six or seven years under Bush. TOOBIN: But that's not a problem, because no Americans could afford Europe now so.

CAFFERTY: That's true.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Guys, stand by.

In California, the first state-sanctioned same-sex marriages are now less than 90 minutes away. We're going to be back with the best political team on television. There's political fallout.

Stay with us.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Republican candidate John McCain plays the so-called bitter card, but with a twist.

What does that mean?

Will it pay off?

We're back with the best political team on television right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In California, the first state-sanctioned same-sex marriage is now less than 90 minutes away.

We're back with the best political team on television.

Gloria, this has a -- this decision in California to go ahead and allow same-sex marriages could have a political fallout not only in California, but in a lot of other states, including battleground states, where the presidential election will be determined.

BORGER: Well, you know, I can't help but think back to 2004, when the Republicans were very clever. And there were lots of ballot initiatives in, I believe, 11 important states, including battleground states, outlawing same-sex marriage. And that brought out Republican voters to the polls. And so I think the question is whether you're going to see that same kind of strategy employed in 2008.

Now having said that, John McCain is opposed to a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and so is Barack Obama. So he's in a little different place than George W. Bush. But again, it could become an issue that brings out those cultural conservatives.

BLITZER: One of those states Gloria was referring to was Ohio...

BORGER: Yes. BLITZER: ...which helped determine the 2004 contest.

Jeff, what do you think about the fallout from what's happening in California?

TOOBIN: Well, I think one of the touchstones of this year is that the issue of gay marriage has a lower emotional temperature than it did four years ago. People are less excited about it. There are less opportunities for conservatives to come out to the polls. There are really only going to be California and maybe one or two other states, because, frankly, they've won in all the important states.

I think the race in California, even though it's clear, I think, Obama's going to win that state, that referendum on gay marriage in California is going to be one of the absolutely most interesting races that we cover this year. And the current polls show it absolutely deadlocked.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jack?

CAFFERTY: I think there are a lot of things on the list that had a gay marriage that the public is concerned about when it comes to this upcoming election.

I also agree with Jeff. I think there's a growing kind of acceptance or tolerance of perhaps the inevitability of some sort of accommodation for same-sex couples, whether it's marriage or some sort of legal unions. I don't think it's the kind of hot button issue it was four or eight years ago. And if we allow the election to be decided on gay marriage, then -- with all of the other stuff that's going on, then we deserve every bad thing that happens to us after that. It's just not going to be what it was this time around.

BORGER: And, you know, I agree with both of you guys. I mean most Americans -- there was a recent poll done on this -- believe in some sort of legal recognition of some sort of gay unions.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BORGER: They're not for gay marriage. And the candidates, by the way, neither of the candidates are for gay marriage, but some sort of legal recognition. People have kind of come around to that. And John McCain is not the cultural conservative that George W. Bush was.

BLITZER: Jeff, listen to this clip from John McCain today. He's reviving the whole so-called bitter remarks that Barack Obama made at that fundraiser in San Francisco weeks ago.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I won't tell him that in small towns across America and in Pennsylvania that they are bitter or angry about their economic conditions, so therefore they embrace religion and the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. I will never do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right.

What do you think the fallout from that's going to be?

TOOBIN: Well, I think it's smart politics, because, look, if John McCain wants to run on the war in Iraq, he's going to lose. If he wants to run on the economy, he's going to lose.

What he's got to do is make Barack Obama look weird, look like an elitist, look like he's out of touch. And this is -- this comment is one way of making that point.

CAFFERTY: Except...

BLITZER: Jack?

CAFFERTY: Except that there are a lot of people who are bitter and angry about their economic situation in this country, and with very good reason. You take a look at the 350,000 jobs that this economy has lost since the first of the year, the unemployment rate jumping to its highest rate in 20 years.

Now, you know, whether or not they go clinging to things as a result of their anger and frustration, that's something else. But the bottom line is John McCain's got to figure out a way to soothe the anger about the economy or he doesn't have a prayer of being the next president.

BORGER: But -- and Obama just comes back to that and says, look, you know, I'm for middle class tax cuts. I don't want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BORGER: I'm going to try and give you a break and get universal health care in this country. So I think it's a good line for McCain to use. But I think then it leads to a debate -- hopefully -- about the substance of these issues and where these two candidates stand on how they each want to help the middle class.

BLITZER: I think there may be a better line he has and he's been using it a lot over the past two days, Jack, is that if you elect Barack Obama, you get a second term of Jimmy Carter.

CAFFERTY: Well, that's nonsense.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: Jimmy Carter was president, what, 30 years ago?

I mean, you know, it's the signs of a desperate man who's tied by his apron strings to George W. Bush. And he doesn't like the company that he's been placed in. So he's flailing about, trying to come up with something else.

BORGER: But Jimmy Carter...

CAFFERTY: (INAUDIBLE) doesn't work.

TOOBIN: Yes, I think Jimmy Carter is a tough sell. I mean people barely remember who Jimmy Carter is. But the point of being a traditional Republican, of being someone who cuts taxes, who's strong on defense, that is not a dead Republican brand. And I think that and attacking Barack Obama, that's how he wins.

BORGER: But, you know, Jimmy Carter -- people may not remember who Jimmy Carter is -- young people may not remember 16 percent interest rates, but there are people now who know what Jimmy Carter is right now and they disagree with him on a whole variety of issues. And that could be a problem.

BLITZER: All right, we've got to leave it there.

TOOBIN: No. I disagree, Gloria. I think Jimmy Carter's like James Polk at this point.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: That's because Jeff was such a young guy. He barely was in elementary school.

BORGER: You're too young. You're too young.

BLITZER: He doesn't remember.

TOOBIN: Yes.

BLITZER: All right, guys.

TOOBIN: I didn't -- I couldn't vote.

BLITZER: Thanks.

We'll see you back here soon.

Jack's got The Cafferty File still to come.

It's one of the most famous political attack ads ever. You're going to find out why the so-called daisy ad is now back in the news.

And how would you describe your relationship with your credit cards?

Jack Cafferty with your e-mail right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up at the top of the hour.

What are you working on -- Lou?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, tonight we're reporting on the shocking results of a Congressional investigation into our borders that are not secure and illegal immigration, which is running rampant. After years of promises and billions of dollars spent, it's as easy as ever to cross into the United States especially from Mexico. Imagine that.

Where have you heard that before?

And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, some of my favorite people, again putting business interests ahead of the interests of working men and women in this country. Many say the Chamber's plan is to create a North American Union to serve the interests of not only business elites, but political elites in this country, Canada and Mexico. We'll have that report.

And Americans working harder than ever and longer for less. I'll be joined by three of the best economic minds in the country. We'll be talking about what's going on in this country and why in the world our presidential candidates don't have a clue.

Join us for all of that and more at the top of the hour here on CNN, for an Independent perspective of all the day's news and more -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou.

We'll see you in a few moments.

Let's check in with Jack right now for the Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is how would you describe your relationship with your credit card?

J.C. says: "Use them when we absolutely need it, pay it off at the end of the month. It's really simple -- we own it, it doesn't own us. And we're not in debt to the legal loan shark system."

Shirley in Ohio: "My credit card relationship has been over since my college years. I now have a new relationship with my debit card, which I must say I am still in."

Vern in California: "Not good. I'm one of those who overcharged on credit cards. I'll be paying them off for some time. It's too easy to get them. And I, like most people, didn't pay attention to what I was buying with them. It's much better to pay cash with for what you buy. If you don't have enough to pay cash, don't buy it."

Diane in Florida: "I've broke all ties to credit cards. Living within my means is more important to me than stuff. And I'm trying to set a good example for my government."

Deb writes: "I'm on Social Security disability -- $908 a month. Every month, I find myself relying more on my credit cards for taxes, insurance, medical costs and other emergencies. Every month, there seems to be a new emergency. I pay as much over the minimum each month as I can, but I seem to be falling farther into the debt whole every month."

Dave in Queens, New York: "My credit cards keep to themselves. We don't associate with the same circle of friends. It's not that they're particularly weird or nerdy, it just doesn't seem right for me to hang out with them or their kind. I'd like to think I'm not too harsh with them, but they will turn on me once in a while and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth."

John in San Diego writes: "My relationship with my credit cards is the same as my relationship with my ex-wife -- I've gotten rid of both of them and I'm infinitely happier for it."

And J.R. in Arkansas says: "You're not a bill collector, are you?"

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

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

We'll see you back here tomorrow.

Checking our Political Ticker right now, Ross Perot -- yes, Ross Perot is making a comeback of sorts. The former Independent presidential candidate is launching a new Web site to highlight what he calls the economic crisis facing the country. It features the kind of economic charts that were Perot's signature back in his '92 and '96 presidential bids.

One of the masterminds behind a notorious political attack ad has died. Tony Schwartz helped create the daisy ad that ran just once during the '64 presidential race. And, of course, it was the Johnson campaign spot that featured a little girl and then a mushroom cloud to promote fears about Republican candidate Barry Goldwater. Tony Schwartz was 84 years old.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com. The Ticker is the number one political news blog on the Web. That's also where you can read my latest blog post. I wrote one -- posted it today -- about the war in Iraq.

Presidential candidates expect to feel all kinds of questions, but you have to ask them first.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Can I have a question?

WHEELER: Yes.

MCCAIN: Can I have a question from you?

WHEELER: OK. MCCAIN: Now I'm going to ask you for the third time, can I have a question?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: CNN's Jeanne Moos is coming up with the tale of the never-ending questions.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Presidential candidates field all kinds of questions. There's the hard question, the soft question. Then there's the never- ending question. It was posed in New Hampshire by Republican David Wheeler, who had the Johnson in a John McCain town hall meeting up in arms.

CNN's Jeanne Moos tells this Moost Unusual story in less time than it took to ask the longest question.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's no way John McCain could know this faithful point...

MCCAIN: Yes, sir.

MOOS: ...would result in the world's longest question.

DAVID WHEELER: I'm here by my own convictions, by my own considerations, accord...

MOOS: At least it felt like the world's longest question.

WHEELER: ...maybe as a Christian voice in general for this nation.

MCCAIN: Can I -- can I have a question?

WHEELER: Yes.

MCCAIN: OK.

MOOS: Yes, but not quite yet -- not anywhere near yet.

WHEELER: Not to insult you, sir. I do not know what you know. I don't know how many how much you know.

But...

MCCAIN: Can I have a question from you?

WHEELER: OK. MOOS (on camera): We're a little more than a minute into this now and still no question.

WHEELER: The bible, its standards, its principles...

MCCAIN: Now I'm going to ask you for the third time, can I have a question?

WHEELER: Yes, sir...

MOOS: As the guy continued, the crowd was getting restless.

(VIDEO CLIP)

WHEELER: We start...

MCCAIN: Please, sir, there's a number of other people that would like to ask a question. Would you please go ahead and give me your question.

WHEELER: OK. I want to...

MCCAIN: Yes, sir?

WHEELER: I'm trying to be as concise as I can.

MOOS: Oh, he's being concise all right. We're now a minute 45 into "the question."

(voice-over): And John McCain's head is getting heavy.

WHEELER: But we've saved the union...

MOOS: Audience members are starting to rub their heads.

WHEELER: ...delivered on minority groups. And then we have black people, who have been harboring (INAUDIBLE)...

MCCAIN: Sir, you really -- you really have to ask me the question. I understand American history. Please go ahead.

WHEELER: OK. Then I'll get ready to ask.

MOOS: Just don't try to direct him.

WHEELER: ...trying to silence the Christian voice, trying to stop us from...

(BOOS)

MCCAIN: Sir, you really have to -- you really have to...

WHEELER: Can I -- can I give you my final question then?

MCCAIN: Yes, sir.

WHEELER: OK.

MOOS: Senator McCain was more generous with his time than the crowd was with theirs.

WHEELER: OK. Let me say this.

MOOS (on camera): Finally, three minutes and 15 seconds after he began, came the question.

WHEELER: Why should we vote for Senator John McCain as president?

MCCAIN: Thank you, sir.

Thank you.

MOOS (voice-over): Then, with an odd wave of his arms, he surrendered the floor to Senator McCain, who gave a 20 second answer. But we don't have time for that.

MCCAIN: Thank you for your commitment to the things you believe in.

MOOS: On this question, the Straight Talk Express went local.

WHEELER: Excuse me. I'm hoarse.

MOOS: No wonder.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: Long question.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, go to CNNPolitics.com. That's also, by the way, where you can get our new political screen saver -- CNN.com/situationroom -- for that, as well. Remember, you can go to CNNPolitics.com for my latest blog post.

Thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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