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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Obama-Clinton Unity Effort Begins; McCain's Strategy

Aired June 26, 2008 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, we're following the breaking news, the high-stakes, big-money meeting between Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and her money people. You will not get more inside information on any other news program right now.
Take a look at these exclusive cell phone photographs -- we're the only ones who have them -- taken from inside the room at Washington's Mayflower Hotel during the meeting.

We are also expecting audio of the meeting any moment. We will bring that to you live as well. You see Terry McAuliffe there on the left, now Hillary Clinton there talking, Barack Obama on the right listening.

Terry McAuliffe introduced Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton then introduced Barack Obama.

On stage together for the first time since she dropped out of the race -- tomorrow, they have a joint public debut at a rally in Unity, New Hampshire. But this private meeting tonight may be even more important. After all, this was a room full of hard-core Clintonites, people who write the checks and make the phone calls.

So, did Barack Obama convince them he can win? Did he soothe their anger? In a moment, you will hear from one of them, Clinton supporter Bill White, who was in the meeting.

But, first, CNN's Candy Crowley on what was said, along with Shailagh Murray of "The Washington Post," who was also inside the room.

Candy, first, the importance of this meeting.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the importance of this meeting is that money really runs campaigns.

Barack Obama's opted out of public financing. He needs to rack that up. Hillary Clinton has some formidable fund-raisers. By and large, they are signed up. They will go with Obama. There are some holdouts who didn't show up for the meeting tonight.

I talked to a couple of people who came away saying, well, I'm a little underwhelmed -- they are nonetheless on board -- and others who came out and said, you know what? It's a good meeting. I'm on board. Let's do it.

I wanted to play you a couple things, because we do have an audio of what went on in this meeting. And what sort of struck me as I looked at this audio was how both of them kind of came around to the same point. And that is that, despite what happened, there is a larger picture here.

Here's a little bit of Hillary Clinton as she was introducing Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(APPLAUSE)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: This was a hard- fought campaign. That's what made it so exciting and intense and why people's passions ran so high on both sides.

You know, I know my supporters have extremely strong feelings, and I know Barack's do as well. But we are a family. And we have an opportunity now to really demonstrate clearly we do know what's at stake, and we will do whatever it takes to try to win back this White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hear, hear!

CLINTON: And, so, I...

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: There was in fact sort of similar sentences from Barack Obama, who talked about, first of all, his grandmother and what she had to say about Hillary Clinton, also talked about his daughters and how much fun it was that they didn't think it was like such a big deal that a woman and an African-American were running.

But what he got down to is basically the same theme as Hillary Clinton. And that is, we understand this was hard-fought, but let's look at the long-range picture. Here's a little bit of Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am a better candidate as a consequence of having run against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. And I cannot think of a more important task than the two of us and all of us working to continue the battle that she's been fighting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Ran into Terry McAuliffe here, who, as you saw, was in that room and introduced Hillary Clinton.

He had in his pocket a check for $2,300 from the Obama finance chairman. And there was another check from Barack Obama for $2,300. That's as much as either one of them can give to Hillary Clinton. It's very symbolic. Some of the Clinton people were complaining that Obama hadn't even himself sort of reached out to try to help her pay this debt. There's still feeling in the Clinton campaign among those who are closest to her that he needs to sort of say, listen, here's how much I can raise for her. Let's move forward with this. And they say he hasn't done that.

But, nonetheless, I got a good sense from people coming out that they in fact were feeling pretty positive about this meeting. And let's face it. Fund-raisers are fund-raisers because, you know, it's the closeness to power. And if there's going to be power, it will be with Barack Obama, certainly, in terms of the White House. So, most of them will move over.

And I know you have a reporter that was actually in the room, who could probably give you a little more of the atmospherics that were there.

COOPER: Yes.

Shailagh, as we look at these pictures, what was the mood like between the two candidates? What was the crowd like?

SHAILAGH MURRAY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You know, it was -- it was pretty striking, because, in some ways, it was like any other fund-raiser, an enthusiastic crowd. Both candidates were well- received. In some ways, you didn't know one from the other by the way the crowd responded to each of them.

And it was striking, too, because, a year ago, most people in that room thought they were with the winner of this Democratic primary. And, so, you could feel sort of an undercurrent of wistfulness and shock. And it was all sort of milling around in the atmosphere. And it made it a pretty potent scene for what otherwise was a pretty typical gathering of very wealthy people out to back the, you know, political candidate of their choice.

COOPER: I heard they were late to the meeting and that there was some grumbling from some of the people who were there, saying, you know, we have checks ready and where are they, that kind of thing.

MURRAY: Well, I suppose there -- that was not the feeling that you had in the room.

I was -- Senator Obama, in some ways, was lower-key in his comments. He even said at one point that he accepted the fact and expected that these folks were not necessarily going to fall in love with him. He understood the strong connection that they had with Senator Clinton, just as his supporters had a strong connection with him.

So, he -- he was sort of the soft-seller. And Senator Clinton, in some ways, was more enthusiastic and optimistic about -- about this election, and really encouraging her supporters to throw their -- their weight behind the candidate. At one point, Terry McAuliffe, in his introduction, noted that these folks had raised $230 million for this candidate. And, so, that's a lot of fund-raising muscle. And Senator Obama needs that, now that he's not going the public financing route.

COOPER: Shailagh Murray, we appreciate your perspective, Candy Crowley as well.

We're going to talk more throughout this evening, a lot to cover.

As we mentioned, we have got early reaction from one longtime Clinton supporter at the Mayflower tonight. We're also going to hear more from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, more of the audio from this meeting, throughout the hour tonight.

But I spoke with a longtime Clinton supporter, Bill White, by phone just a short time ago. He was in the meeting. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So, Bill, you're a big Hillary Clinton supporter. How did the meeting go?

BILL WHITE, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: Well, I think, overall, the meeting went well, Anderson. I think it was very big of Barack Obama to come into that room and see all of Hillary's supporters. He gave a very eloquent speech about bringing people together.

I -- I love Hillary Clinton. She is a true hero to me. And I think she did a beautiful job tonight trying to bring the two parties together.

COOPER: What was their body language like on the stage together? This is really the first time we have seen them together.

WHITE: Well, I will tell you, they looked pretty much at ease. I think they had just come from a meeting.

I think there was a little more tension in the room than more so on the stage, I have to say. A lot of her supporters were anxious to hear what the senator was going to say to them and to see how Barack Obama was going to treat Hillary on the stage. And he was very respectful, and appropriately so.

COOPER: Were there any details that stood out, things he said or things she said?

WHITE: I think the -- the most important thing for me, as a Hillary supporter, right now is that Hillary Clinton needs to concentrate on helping get Barack Obama elected president. And she has this debt. She wants to pay off these vendors, which is very important to her. And to be able to concentrate on helping Barack and pay off the debt just don't go together.

So, that he announced tonight that he wrote his own personal contribution to the HillaryClinton.com campaign for president, I thought was a huge step tonight, and something that I hope that he will encourage his supporters to do, because we can't write those checks to help Hillary pay off the debt. We have to ask America to do that.

And he's leading the way. And I hope that will continue. I hope it's just not something that he did tonight, but I do admire him for writing his own personal check, and announcing that.

COOPER: So, he actually came in and said that he had written a check to Hillary Clinton?

WHITE: Yes, he did. And he got a round of applause and a lot of hoo-has and a lot of support...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Did he say how much he had written a check for?

WHITE: He didn't -- I actually was going to yell that out, but I thought that would have too New York to do that. But I would anxious to know from you what that amount was.

COOPER: Do you think, overall, that he did everything he needed to do?

WHITE: I think he did.

He actually was ready to run off the stage a little bit quick because they had a Senate vote, instead of taking questions. And I think it was very smart of him to remain on the stage and take some questions for people who really do have a lot of questions. And I hope, over the next couple of months, he will be answering more of those questions.

I think that's the key thing. People have a lot of questions. They want to feel good about this. And they don't want it ramrodded down their throat. And I think he's made a step tonight to trying to fix that with people who love Hillary.

COOPER: Bill White, appreciate your time. Bill, thanks.

WHITE: Thanks, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: ... to later reveal that the check was maxed out, as he said, for $2,300.

As always, I'm going to be blogging throughout this hour. You can join the cove. Go to our new Web site, AC360.com.

Coming up: more of what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton said tonight inside that private meeting, in their words -- coverage you will only see here.

Also, our "Strategy Session" on the Obama outreach and new insight on where the race may be headed. Our panel weighs in.

And, later, inside information -- we have got a look at a John McCain campaign memo that spells out how he plans to beat Obama -- the "Raw Politics" coming up.

Plus, a new twist in the high school pregnancy pact story -- the principal speaking out again, and seems to contradict what the mayor of Gloucester said really happened -- that and more tonight on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: ... there from Barack Obama at the crucial closed-door meeting tonight -- the exclusive 360 pictures and the audio, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton talking to her die-hard supporters and donors, Senator Obama now one of those donors. He wrote a check for the maximum amount, $2,300, to help pay off her campaign debt.

Here's some more of what he said behind closed doors tonight to Clinton supporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I want to talk a little bit about this with two stories that come out of my own (INAUDIBLE) because I think that they illustrate the extraordinary nature of her public service and the extraordinary nature of her campaign.

The first is a story about my grandmother. And some of you may have heard of my grandmother. My grandmother is now 86. She grew up in a small town just outside of Wichita, Kansas.

During the course of this campaign, obviously, she was rooting for her grandson. But, on more than one occasion, she said to me over the phone -- she said, you know, when I look at what Senator Hillary Clinton is going through, when I see how the press sometimes responds, when I see that instinct of hers to fight on behalf of those who need a champion, she reminds me a little of me.

(LAUGHTER)

And...

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: ... the ability of Hillary Clinton to inspire passion on behalf of those who have been left out in the past.

Either one of us could have won this election. It broke for a whole variety of factors that will be examined 20 years from now (INAUDIBLE) what exactly happened.

But it is still possible, I think, for both of us (INAUDIBLE) the American people, but only if we are unified and if we understand the stakes involved and understand that there are people who need this country to change far more than any of us in this room. And we're the lucky ones.

There are a whole bunch of folks who are counting on us to make sure we (INAUDIBLE)

I'm absolutely confident that, with Senator Hillary Clinton and all of you joining our efforts, that not only are we going to win this election, but we're going to change this country and we're going to transform the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Barack Obama speaking to Hillary Clinton supporters tonight.

The audio is a little muffled. I know it's a little bit hard to hear, but we think it's worth playing you his comments and her comments as much as we can. We are going to hear from Senator Clinton coming up.

Digging deeper now, we're joined by CNN senior political analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen, also Democratic strategist and Obama supporter Jamal Simmons, and Tara Wall, conservative political analyst and columnist for "The Washington Times."

David, it's interesting hearing from Clinton supporters going on about this $2,300 check from Obama and how important that was. Why was that so important? I mean, it's a symbolic gesture.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It is a symbolic gesture, but I think they have wondered whether he has been dismissive of her, whether he truly cares about her.

And one of the standards by which they were judging that is, is he actually going to dig into his own pocket and make a contribution? Because they also know that, by him making a contribution, it's much more likely that people in his entourage, his supporters, will also now dig in and make a contributor. So, he had to the first one over the hill, so to speak in order to get the rest of them to do that.

But it is interesting how symbolically -- how important something like this can become to making or breaking a relationship.

COOPER: Jamal, how important do you think the meeting was tonight, and, from your perspective, how do you think it went?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it sounds like it went very well, and it's very important. A lot of Democrats are ready to move on and take on John McCain, because of all the reasons they know that he's going to take the country in the wrong direction for a third Bush term.

But -- but this meeting tonight was very important, because it really brought everybody together for Senator Obama, for him to be able to make the case for himself, and then for Senator Clinton to kind of put the stamp of approval on him that he's going to need to go forward.

COOPER: Tara, to what extent do you think Republicans are going to be able to exploit any remaining hard feelings between the two Democratic camps?

TARA WALL, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": Well, there are certainly hard feelings. You know, I didn't see any group hugs or fist bumps going on there. So, I think there is a little bit of gap to fill in.

Quite frankly, if you look at some recent pooling just out yesterday by Rasmussen, only 30 percent of Americans believe or think that Hillary Clinton really wants him to be in the White House. So, right now, they're doing what politicians must do, what politicians have to do.

She needs him to pay her debt. He needs her to make sure that her supporters don't undermine him. I think there's going to be -- down the line, when we get closer to the election, there are going to be some issues that can be brought up, some of the language she used during the campaign against him and some of the language, quite frankly he used against her, that is -- that will make for some fodder, absolutely.

COOPER: David, is Tara right; this is just what politicians need to do?

GERGEN: It is what they need to do.

But, frankly, Anderson, in some campaigns in the past, they haven't done it. And it's hurt party unity. And this -- I think that, overall, with the exception of that Tuesday night, when that -- that unfortunate speech by Mrs. Clinton, and then she recovered nicely when she pulled out of the race, I think, generally speaking, you would have to say that the Clinton and Obama forces have handled this about as well as could have been done. And I am sure that a lot of the credit belongs to Bob Barnett, this legendary figure who is a lawyer in Washington, who represented Hillary and Bill Clinton with their books, also represented Barack Obama on his "Audacity of Hope" book, and, parenthetically, has represented me, I should say, by way of clarity.

He is a master at sort of bringing people together and figuring out how to put these together. I think there's a lot of Bob Barnett behind all of this.

COOPER: David...

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: Anderson, I will just say, real quickly, I wouldn't give this all to Bob Barnett.

I think Hillary Clinton said very early on, coming into the last stretch of the primaries, that the Democrats were going to pull together. She was going to work with whoever the nominee was going to be.

So, I think we can't take away from Senator Clinton and her willingness to really show up for Barack Obama.

COOPER: Look at that. Even Jamal Simmons is reaching out to the Clinton campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: We are going to have more from our panel coming up after this break.

Up next: what Senator Clinton said to the gathering tonight and the pictures you will only see here on 360 -- next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Americans are resilient. We are hopeful. We are hardworking.

But we deserve a government that works as hard and a president who cares as much. And that is why this election really does call on each and every one of us to do our part. We have to make it a priority in our lives to elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: From her mouth to her supporters' ears, literally so, tonight in a conference room at Washington's Mayflower Hotel, where Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton met with her donors and fund-raisers.

Now, we're learning the crowd responded enthusiastically when it was revealed that Senator Obama wrote out a check to help pay off Clinton's campaign debt, $2,300, the maximum amount allowed, a symbolic gesture, no doubt about it, but, as we have talked about, one that was very important to Clinton supporters.

Here's more of what she had to say tonight behind closed doors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I have been involved in presidential politics in some form or another for 40 years.

Now, that's when someone is supposed to yell, oh, I don't believe it.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: Thank you.

And, over those 40 years, we have 10 presidential elections, and we have only won three of them. That is a sobering thought, because the country has not been able to deal with so many of the serious challenges we face, because we have not been able to elect a Democratic president.

We are still living on the extraordinary contributions of previous Democratic administrations. And anyone who has ever doubted what a difference a president could make, the last seven-and-a-half years should have removed every single doubt.

You are all my friends. I am just so intensely grateful to each and every one of you. And we have a lot of work to do going forward, not only the election, but then, once the election is over, to making sure we realize all of the benefits that this election can and should bring to our country.

So, let me introduce my friend, Senator Barack Obama, to my friends, all of you wonderful people who have meant so much to me in my life.

Senator Obama.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And that was the introduction she gave to Barack Obama, who then spoke to the crowd -- Hillary Clinton in her own words.

Let's dig deeper with our panel.

Joining us again, CNN senior political analyst, former presidential adviser David Gergen, Democratic strategist, Obama supporter Jamal Simmons, and Tara Wall, conservative political analyst and columnist for "The Washington Times."

Do you think, David, that it's difficult for both Obama and Clinton to now have to kind of make nice, after, you know, spending more than a year battling each other?

GERGEN: Anderson, they're both pros. And it's very easy for Barack Obama. He's actually -- because he's on top of the situation.

I think the one who has to -- it's harder for is Hillary Clinton. But she's a pro, and she's done it very nicely.

There is this tantalizing question still about where is Bill Clinton, and the variety of reports that he's having a harder time adjusting to the loss than she is, which is -- you know, he's always been the resilient one. He was always the one who bounced back quickly.

But, in this situation, he hasn't been fulsome there. He hasn't been out there. I think we're all going to be waiting. After tomorrow, after Unity, New Hampshire, tomorrow, and more with Hillary and Barack, I think we're all going to be waiting to see, when does Bill Clinton get into this dance?

COOPER: Jamal, what about that? How important do you think it is for Bill Clinton to get into the dance?

SIMMONS: It is important.

You have to remember, though, the Clintons have not -- either one of them -- they haven't lost an election since 1980. So, they are very -- they are in very unfamiliar territory. And I think they make take a few minutes to get it together.

At the same time, we remember back to right after Katrina, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama flew to Houston together to go visit the evacuees from New Orleans. I mean, these -- this group, they have a history together. They have spent some time together over the last few years. They had a rough year going at each other. But I think, moving forward, they will be fine.

COOPER: Tara, how do Republicans see -- you know, evening Clinton and Obama campaigning together, is that cause for concern? Or, I mean, is Hillary Clinton someone they would like to even see on a ticket as a vice president, because she's polarizing?

WALL: Well, they're, certainly, the two of them together, obviously a force to be reckoned with.

I would slightly disagree, though, with the Bill Clinton factor. I don't think that he adds much. And I, quite frankly, don't think that the heal -- the wounds will heal over between he and Barack Obama. I think that they go a little too deep. And his flat statement today that came out today is a little indicative of that. So, I'm not sure you will see too much of him.

I'm not sure he's really needed as much as probably Hillary Clinton would be. I do think that they are a strong force. I think Republicans are geared up and ready for them, whatever role she plays. I doubt, though, that it will be a vice presidential role. And I think Jamal will probably agree with me on that one.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: David -- do you agree with that, David, as well?

GERGEN: Well, I think the door is still open. I think it may be cracked open for Hillary Clinton to be on the vice presidential ticket.

But I actually do think Bill Clinton is very important to Barack Obama. Listen, he is a former president, as well as being a disappointed husband of his rival. And he knows more about politics than almost anybody in the country. He can be very, very helpful in thinking through both tactics and strategy for this campaign, and also thinking through how do you use a campaign as a springboard for governing.

And Bill Clinton can bring to the table a lot of people who are around him. Barack Obama needs and is still building out his advisers, his substantive advisers, and he needs to beef that up. Everybody knows that. And, finally, there are places where Bill Clinton can campaign that would be very, very helpful.

So, one of the things -- to go back to the Bob Barnett role, I think Jamal is absolutely right. Bob Barnett did not produce this evening, but he can be the person who negotiates with the Obama people. How are the Clintons going to be showcased in the Denver convention. What about an airplane? Is she going to -- are you guys going to provide an airplane for her? That would make it a lot easier to get around -- those kinds of questions.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I'm sorry, Jamal. I have got to take a break. But we're going to more from you and the rest of our panel later.

David Gergen, I have just to ask you quickly a question. Are you doing telemarketing on the side? Where are you coming to us from tonight?

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: You look like you're, like, in a telemarketing center.

GERGEN: Well, I'm in a PBS studio. So, I probably, here...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: OK.

GERGEN: I should next -- going to ask you to send your money to public television.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: I was going to say.

WALL: Send it to Hillary.

COOPER: I was like, good lord, are you doing telemarketing now?

All right.

GERGEN: I'm in Boise, Idaho.

COOPER: All right. Good to hear that. All right.

Up next: more on reaching the hard-core Hillary holdouts, a lot of H's there. It's our "Strategy Session" -- coming up next. Then, John McCain, how he plans to define himself as a candidate in the months ahead and how he and the Republicans plan to define Barack Obama. We have got the "Raw Politics" on that.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Either one of us could have won this election. It broke for a whole variety of factors that will be examined 20 years from now (INAUDIBLE) what exactly happened.

But it is still possible, I think, for both of us (INAUDIBLE) the American people, but only if we are unified and if we understand the stakes involved and understand that there are people who need this country to change far more than any of us in this room.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Barack Obama at Washington's Mayflower Hotel tonight, appearing jointly with Hillary Clinton, kind of an outreach session for Clinton supporters.

Candy Crowley has been looking to one key aspect of that outreach, reaching out to women in particular. Can the -- how is Barack Obama doing with that?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you look at the polling numbers, he's doing just fine, in fact. Right now he's pulling about 55 percent of the female vote. That is better than John Kerry did, and it's on a par with how Bill Clinton did and how Al Gore did in the exit polls in their various elections. So -- so he's doing very well.

There is, you know, some concern among Clinton supporters because there have been some comments. It was sort of a get -- you know, people need to get over it comment that Barack Obama said in a private meeting, and some of the women took him to task for that. So there is lingering feelings.

It's just hard to move in a personal way toward liking someone after you've competed with him for 17 months. And that's where a lot of these women are.

There is a small group of contributors and top fundraisers for Hillary Clinton, many of them women, although there are some men, described to me as women who sort of came of age in the '70s in the women's movement, who are now saying, "I'm just -- I'm just not going to do this. I'm not going to raise funds for him."

There is time yet. Most of the fundraisers have moved over with varying degrees of enthusiasm. But nonetheless, he's doing OK among women voters. And part of it is because, I think, he has spent the last couple of weeks doing nothing but praising Hillary Clinton, talking about how much he needs her, and she has helped him.

I think both of them have been pitch perfect over the past two weeks, regardless of what's going on behind the scenes. In public and what voters see are these two people coming together. And I think they've both been pretty good at doing it.

COOPER: All right. Candy Crowley, thanks.

Joining us now for a strategy session about all of this, with the outreach to women, how that's going, Hilary Rosen, political director of the HuffingtonPost.com, conservative political analyst Tara Wall. She's a columnist for the Washington Times. And Jennifer Palmieri of the Center for American Progress, an eight-year veteran of the Clinton White House. Thanks for all for being with us.

Hillary, let's start with you. Clinton tonight referring to the -- what she's called the extremely strong feelings of her supporters. Does tonight's meeting really help, you know, those strong feelings subside?

HILARY ROSEN, HUFFINGTON POST: Well, sure. You know, and I give Obama a lot of credit. As Candy said, he has definitely set the right tone over the last ten days in terms of his deference and respect. You know, not just for Hillary Clinton but in essence, being differential to her as kind of a surrogate for being deferential to Clinton voters, who remember, were half of the Democratic Party over the course of this primary.

But -- and he did it again tonight. He said to the crowd, "I might not be your first choice, but I'm a pretty good choice." And that went over well.

He also said to them that "You might have heard that I don't care about the women's vote. It's absolutely not true. I'm going to do everything I can, not just to get the women's vote, but to deserve it. And whatever else you hear is not coming from me or my campaign."

And so I think he understands that there's extra attention that needs to be paid to women. And frankly, it's in everybody's interest. It's in his interest. Women are going to be 54 percent of this election. They're going to be the swing vote.

So I think he's off to a pretty good start. This was all the sort of private behind-the-scenes stuff. Tomorrow is the first time in public it will be on -- you know, on all the network news. It will be in all the print. It will be the two of them together. Everybody is going to watch their body language and what he says and what she says.

COOPER: Yes.

ROSEN: And I think that today was a very good start for that.

COOPER: Jennifer, the problems that some female Clinton supporters have, in accepting Barack Obama, is it just a strong support of Hillary Clinton or is it something that Barack Obama is doing or saying?

JENNIFER PALMIERI, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I think it's just the fact that they thought she was going to win, that they've probably been supporters of hers not just for the last 17 months but, really, for the last 16 years since Clinton -- President Clinton ran in 1992.

And I think they expected to win. And I think that they expected that this was going to be the historical year where we were going to have the first female candidate.

So I don't know -- I mean, I know that there is -- I certainly saw some in the commentary, some of the sexist overtones to what people had to say about Senator Clinton. I don't feel that that came from Senator Obama or his campaign. And I think it's more disappointment that she lost as opposed to feeling any sort of animosity towards him for winning.

COOPER: Tara, we heard John McCain reaching out to Hillary Clinton supporters, praising Hillary Clinton repeatedly in those days after she dropped out. Can he make inroads with the female vote, with former Clinton supporters?

TARA WALL, CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he can make some in-roads. I think that was a good strategic move on his part, obviously. I think that there are -- there is a group of women out there, some that are, you know, just outraged over some of the, you know, sexism that they interpreted within the campaign and within the media.

Then you have another contingent, who are the more moderate to conservatives. Some of whom would have voted for McCain, had Hillary Clinton not been in the race. Others, and for very different reasons than most might think.

I mean, some of these women believe in someone who's going to be stronger on foreign policy and -- and articulate that well. They believe that Hillary Clinton was probably more experienced than Barack Obama. Some of the same reasons or some of the same arguments that John McCain makes against Barack Obama. So I think he will be able to pull some of those women over.

Obviously, I think we all know a majority of women in America, you know, tend to lean or tend to vote Democrat. But he does stand a good chance at wooing at least some of those women. His goal -- his key is to be able to close the gap, if you will, between he and Obama and the women's vote. He does lead slightly, though. McCain does still lead slightly among white women voters.

COOPER: Hilary, I remember you saying a couple weeks ago that, you know, you didn't believe a lot of those Hillary Clinton supporters who said they'd end up voting for John McCain if Hillary wasn't in the race.

It's been three weeks or so since the primary ended. Still, if you look at polls, almost a quarter of Hillary supporters say they will vote for McCain. Does that surprise you?

ROSEN: Well...

COOPER: What are they waiting for? I know Terry McAuliffe says it takes time. Barack Obama, I mean, I guess he would argue, you know, the time is now.

ROSEN: Well, I think we're going to see two things over the course of the next several weeks. We're going to see, first of all, him begin to address women voters side by side with Hillary Clinton. And I think that will make a huge difference.

The other thing we're going to see is more of a contrast directly between Barack Obama and John McCain on issues that women care about. You know, women are the health care decision makers for their families. Women are concerned about the economy.

So I think the more that women see the substantive policy differences between those, we're going to narrow that gender gap significantly.

And I think that Tara's right. John McCain doesn't have to get a lot of women. He just has to get more than -- than he has. And I think he's going to have a tough time if Barack Obama plays it right.

COOPER: Yes.

ROSEN: One little bit of news is I'm hearing tonight that the Obama campaign is likely to take the top two -- one or two staffers from the Clinton campaign's effort on women over to his campaign, and that organizing will make a difference.

COOPER: You're just hearing that tonight? I had not heard that yet.

ROSEN: Yes.

COOPER: All right. Hilary Rosen, appreciate it. Tara Wall, as well. And Jennifer Palmieri, thanks very much.

Straight ahead tonight, the McCain campaign comes out swinging with a new plan for the months ahead. How the veteran and former prisoner of war plans to set himself apart and stop Barack Obama from moving up. That's next on 360.

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COOPER: Today the McCain campaign launched a full -court press on the press, virtually spelling out how John McCain will portray himself and portray Barack Obama in the months ahead.

McCain's staff actually sent a memo to reporters, driving home the message it wants to get across. In the meantime, some of his high-power surrogates including Karl Rove and Mitt Romney, were doing their part to get the word out. For weeks, McCain's campaign has been accused of not having a clear message. Well, tonight that has changed. CNN's Ed Henry has the "Raw Politics."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How are we going to fix these broken systems?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Republican John McCain is finally settling on a message. Part one: Democrat Barack Obama is just a typical politician, despite all that talk of change and reaching across the aisle.

Example: Obama dropping his promise to use limited public funds after realizing his campaign had turned into a cash machine.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He has consistently voted with his party on the most partisan issues and put his party and personal interests ahead of those of the nation.

HENRY: Part two of the strategy, laid out in this memo to reporters. Recall McCain's time as a prisoner of war to show he puts country first.

When John McCain was offered early release as a prisoner of war, he refused, subjecting himself to torture rather than giving a propaganda victory to his captors, wrote McCain advisor Steve Schmidt.

Example, says Schmidt: McCain is so tough that he bucked his party to work with Democrats on immigration reform. Linking McCain's POW experience to working with Ted Kennedy on a border bill may seem like a stretch.

MCCAIN: There's lot of solutions out there.

HENRY: But the point is, Team McCain is casting their guy as someone who takes on tough fights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're defining him as a fierce patriot who strongly loves this country and will do anything and sacrifice himself and anything for the better of the country. I think it's actually a nice contrast to Barack Obama, who is kind of a Johnny-come-lately.

HENRY (on camera): It's also a way to contrast McCain with President Bush, highlighting his maverick ways amid Democratic attempts to tie him to an unpopular president.

But is the McCain strategy accurate? And will it work?

(voice-over) In fact, Obama has gotten credit for reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans like Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon, who's actually touting Obama's independent credentials.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who says Gordon Smith helped lead the fight for better gas mileage and a cleaner environment? Barack Obama. He joined with Gordon...

HENRY: And Obama is putting his own twist on the charge he's just a machine politician from Chicago.

OBAMA: I think it's Midwestern in some way, which is important and will represent a significant change from the very ideological, very sharp partisanship that we've seen in Washington.

HENRY: Obama allies also point out that Hillary Clinton already used some of the McCain strategy in the Democratic primaries. We know how that worked out. But now it's McCain's turn to try to define himself as ready on day one.

Ed Henry, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: How personal will the attacks get between Obama and McCain? That's ahead with our panel.

Also ahead, new details about the alleged pregnancy pact at Gloucester High School Massachusetts. The principal is now speaking out.

And we'll take you inside North Korea's nuclear program. The rare look from CNN's Christiane Amanpour from Pyongyang. A 360 dispatch coming up.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: ... financial finance committee. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Senator Clinton and out there...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Barack Obama tonight doing what he can to get Hillary Clinton supporters on board. We're talking now, though, about the campaign he'll be facing from John McCain. We're "Digging Deeper."

Joining us again, CNN senior political analyst and former presidential advisor, David Gergen. Also, Democratic strategist and Obama supporter Jamal Simmons and Tara Wall, conservative political analyst and columnist for the "Washington Times."

David, do you think this McCain-GOP strategy, which seems to have solidified in the last day or so, is going to work, or will it stick?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It may help him over the summer, but I'm not sure how much.

John McCain is clearly a man of valor, a war hero, a great patriot. In the years after World War II, Anderson, that kind of message resonated greatly with the American people. Look at the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960, his war record was a very important part of that victory.

But in more recent years, it has not had the same resonance with voters. Look at Bob Dole in 1996, another war hero, a man of valor, great patriot. And yet he went down in that election badly. John Kerry, just a few years ago, his war record, you know, was destroyed or undercut by the swift boaters and that sort of thing.

So that alone to me, I'm very doubtful is enough to carry him. I think this is going to ultimately have to be a campaign on McCain's part about ideas and the future.

COOPER: Tara, in an op-ed today, Karl Rove suggested Obama's arrogant and self-centered. John McCain today referred to him as elitist. It does seem like they're going after him as a person this early in the campaign. Isn't there a risk that kind of turns off voters? Or does it play into doubts voters -- some voters may have about Obama?

WALL: Yes, I mean, I think no matter how legitimate some of these claims are, you know, Republicans and McCain can't be one-issue- oriented. I mean, just to say that he's liberal alone is not going to cut it. I mean, it's true, in fact. But that alone is not going to get it.

I think that you have to -- they're going to have to define the differences between Senator McCain and Senator Obama. And those differences, quite frankly, are stark. And it's why we see this is where the country is. TI mean, the country clearly is split on these issues and split on these candidates.

And I think if he continues to drive home -- listen, he's got a very aggressive rapid response. As you know, Republicans have this great rapid-response operation. You know, he needs to continue to hit home on these issues, continue to hit hard, not be afraid to hit hard on Barack Obama and not let these generalized unfounded claims that are going to come out throughout the campaign go unchallenged. That's another mistake he might make.

So those are the two things I would caution against. I think he needs to continue to hone in on where Barack Obama's weaknesses are as it relates to the policies everyday Americans, as we know, are very interested in right now.

COOPER: And Jamal, in terms of Barack Obama's strategy, I mean, critics say he's stressed McCain's age kind of subtly. He keeps hammering that McCain -- you know, a McCain term is the third term of a Bush presidency.

Does he stick with that message over the next couple of weeks?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I don't think anyone is making any reference to McCain's age. We're talking about McCain being out of touch with where the American people want to go. And that's a very different issue. Doesn't matter if he's 55 or 75; he's out of touch with where the American people want to go. They say Barack Obama has not worked across party lines, but they should ask Republican Senator Dick Lugar, who he got stuck in Russia with when they were working on weapons of mass destruction, detained by the Russians for three hours.

They should ask John McCain himself, who thanked Barack Obama for his help on the immigration bill before John McCain flip-flopped on the immigration bill himself and now didn't support his own policy.

They should ask people like Sam Brownback, who Barack Obama worked with on Darfur and on disinvestment in Iran.

So he's got this record of doing things bipartisan-wise and that the McCain campaign is going to try to characterize him in a way that I think the American people aren't into. John McCain may have been a hero 35 years ago. That doesn't make him the right president for the next four years.

COOPER: We're going to leave it there. Tara Wall, Jamal Simmons, David Gergen, thanks.

Ahead on 360, one less member of the Axis of Evil. Remember that whole Axis of Evil? Well, North Korea is apparently finally playing nice about its nukes. CNN's Christiane Amanpour has a 360 dispatch from inside North Korea.

And the so-called pregnancy pact. New information, new statements from the high-school principal, next.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The message to the North Korean people is, is that, you know, we don't want you to be hungry. We want you to have a better life. That our concerns are, you know, for you, not against you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's not the only message president Bush had for North Korea. Today, the White House lifted some sanctions against the nation after it handed over a dossier on its nuclear program. The breakthrough will take North Korea off the U.S. list of countries that sponsor terror. Gone will be the days that it was a member of the so- called Axis of Evil.

But the president cautioned that North Korea will be judged by the promises it fulfills, and one key part of that promise is the dismantlement of its nuclear facilities.

Now in just a few hours, CNN's Christiane Amanpour will be in one of those facilities, a plutonium cooling tower, to witness its destruction. Christiane is only among a handful of Western journalists in the isolated country. So joins us from Pyongyang with a 360 dispatch.

Christiane, how big a deal is this move by North Korea? CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a very big deal, Anderson. And in fact, dismantling the cooling tower -- in other words, imploding it, collapsing it -- that distinctive shape that denotes the nuclear power plant at Yongbyon is in fact not really par to the current phase.

The North Koreans are bringing it up in order to demonstrate their commitment and their intent to proceed with this disarmament in the future, we're told by North Korean officials. Because right now, it's just about disabling and declaring their nuclear production at Yongbyon.

COOPER: How did all this come about? I mean, for those who haven't been following this, a lot of people remember North Korea a couple of years ago being called part of the Axis of Evil. All of a sudden, they're being taken off that list. This was the result basically of negotiation, wasn't it?

AMANPOUR: Yes. Now, as you know, the Bush administration is calling this an important step. They're saying that this is an important movement in this process towards disarming and denuclearizing North Korea.

The real fact, though, is that it's because the Bush administration withdrew from its negotiations with North Korea back in 2002 that North Korea was able to continue producing plutonium, got a weapon device, test-fired it in 2006, and then the U.S. and other countries around started to get serious and reopened negotiations that they'd had before.

So now we're at a stage where, again, we're getting this plutonium declaration. We're hearing what they've done with their plutonium over the last couple of decades.

And Yongbyon is being systematically disabled. So they're not producing plutonium. The reactor is closed down. The reprocessing plant is closed down. And experts say that means that they won't be able to produce any more plutonium bombs. They won't make any better bombs. And they will have a much limited ability to export their expertise, their knowledge or indeed any nuclear material. So it is an important step.

COOPER: What about the stuff they already have? I mean, they acknowledge, North Korea acknowledges producing enough enriched plutonium for about seven nuclear bombs. What happens to all that?

AMANPOUR: Talking about these weapons and the weaponization process and handing over this plutonium comes in the next phase. The next phase is going to be known as phase three. They're going to be handing that over. That's what the aim is, as well as then dismantling, which is different from disabling, dismantling the Yongbyon nuclear facility.

And in return for that, North Korea expects all the reciprocal measures that the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia, the other parties to these talks, have promised, which eventually, they hope, will lead to normalization of relations.

COOPER: Christiane Amanpour in Pyongyang. Christiane, thanks very much.

Erica Hill joins us now with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, the Supreme Court today rejecting a sweeping handgun ban in the nation's capital saying it violated Americans' constitutional right to keep and bear arms. It was a sharply divided vote, though, 5 to 4. The law that justices struck down. It restricted many residents from keeping handguns in their homes. The residents of Washington, D.C., that is.

A terrible way on Wall Street as oil surged past $140 a barrel. Stocks plunged. The Dow fell almost 360 points to 11,453. It's the lowest level in nearly two years. The NASDAQ with 80 (ph). The S&P lost nearly 40 points.

More drama in the story that continues to rock Gloucester, Mass, where a couple -- or a group, rather, of teenage girls allegedly made a pact to get pregnant. Today their school principal, who told "TIME" magazine about the pact, said in a statement he stands by his story, despite doubts expressed by the city's mayor, Anderson.

COOPER: He said, in fact, the mayor hadn't even talked to him about the whole thing. So we'll continue to follow that.

Still ahead, the inside story on tonight's high-stakes, big-money meeting between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Clinton's deep pocket supporters. We'll tell you what went on behind the scenes. We'll show you the pictures you won't see anywhere else, and hear for yourself what Clinton and Obama had to say next when 360 continues.

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