Race Lacks Frontrunners in Either Party

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South Carolina's Republican primary and the Nevada caucuses of this past weekend have resulted in no clear frontrunner in either party. Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton claimed another victory in Nevada, while Republican presidential contenders John McCain and Mitt Romney won big in different states. Senior News Analyst Cokie Roberts talks with Steve Inskeep about the nomination race, which is headed to Florida for the Republicans and South Carolina for the Democrats.


On a holiday Monday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Two more states had their say in the presidential election over the weekend, and there still is no clear frontrunner in either party. Now, it's on to South Carolina for Democrats and Florida for Republicans.

And we're joined now by NPR news analyst Cokie Roberts.

Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: And let's start with the Florida primary for Republicans, which is coming right up. This is the first contest in which former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani admits that he is campaigning full time.

ROBERTS: Well, and, you know, that strategy looked pretty ridiculous for a while there. It's one that various candidates have tried over the years and failed. But he is looking pretty smart today because there's still no Republican frontrunner, and they're all - McCain and Huckabee and Romney are all in Florida today where Rudy Giuliani is waiting for them. And he's tanned, rested, and ready while they have been slogging around the country. So, we will see. It is going to be very interesting to see how that strategy have just waiting it out in Florida will play.

INSKEEP: Oh, and somebody like McCain say had won all the contests up to now…


INSKEEP: …and was a dominant force, Giuliani would be in trouble.

ROBERTS: Gone. Gone. He would be completely gone. And even as it is, it's hard to raise money and all that under these circumstances. But he has staked it all in Florida, and we'll see. Right now, the polls are showing all of the four top candidates just bunched together in Florida polls. It is a closed primary -meaning only Republicans can vote. And that does make it harder for John McCain, whose wins had been because he has gotten independents crossing over or signing up for him. And we will see how he does in Florida. Giuliani keeps saying it's a very mixed state; it's much more representative of the country than the states that have gone before. And to some degree, that's true. It's not as true in the Republican Party as it is in the state as a whole.

INSKEEP: Now, did we learn anything significant about Democrats over the weekend? Hillary Clinton won in Nevada, but what else do you learn?

ROBERTS: Well, and John Edwards went nowhere in Nevada - a union state - and he had expected some union support. He got four percent. But he says he's hanging in at least through February 5th. What we also learned is that Hillary Clinton did very well among women, which she has been doing with the exception of Iowa. And for the first time, Hispanics weighed in in a Democratic contest, and they went two to one for Hillary Clinton. So that is something significant. Now, Barack Obama did very well with black people. He got 83 percent of the vote - and young people. That's good news in one way. It's been - is another, it's good news going into South Carolina, which has, about half of the Democratic electorate tends to be African-American, and all of the top Democratic candidates planned to march today on the capital, in South Carolina, which continues to fly a Confederate flag on its grounds, and that has become a source of great upset.

But, you know, Steve, I think this is a really interesting question to consider: If Barack Obama is doing so well in the black vote and he goes into South Carolina and does very well in the black vote there, does it have any possibility of marginalizing him? After all, Jesse Jackson won the South Carolina primary and a bunch of other Southern primaries. And, you know, if he becomes the candidate of the blacks, does that become a problem for Barack Obama?

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about something that Barack Obama has been saying about his opponent Hillary Clinton and Hillary Clinton's spouse. He said on this program a couple of weeks ago, the Clinton was mischaracterizing Obama's record. He went on to tell ABC over the weekend that he felt that Bill Clinton was supporting his wife in a way that was troubling.

ROBERTS: Yes, he says he - I'm quoting here, "he continues to make statements that are not supported by the facts; whether it's about my record of opposition to the war in Iraq or our approach to organizing in Las Vegas. This has become a habit. And one of the things we're going to have to do is directly confront Bill Clinton." That's what Senator Obama said.

Bill Clinton remains very popular in the African-American community, so Obama needs to take that on. But he also is popular with base Democratic voters of all stripes. And he's saying things that, I think, are probably upsetting the Clinton campaign as much as the Obama campaign. But Obama can actually take him on and Senator Clinton has to say, thank you, Bill.

INSKEEP: Okay. Well, thank you, Cokie.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Cokie Roberts who joins us every Monday morning.

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