Where Do Campaigns Go from Here?

Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton battled to a draw, and John McCain took charge of the Republican race on Tuesday. Renee Montagne talks with veteran political consultants Republican Tucker Eskew and Democrat Mark Mellman about what the candidates will do next.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne. If you're just joining us, here's a quick rundown on Super Tuesday. John McCain is closer to the Republican nomination. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama traded victories, though Clinton won the biggest state.

The race goes on for both parties, which means that the campaigns no doubt are huddling today with their strategists to figure out where they go from here. We've called a couple of veteran strategists, and they're joining us on the line right now. Good morning, Republican Tucker Eskew.

Mr. TUCKER ESKEW (Republican Political Consultant): Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Good morning. You worked for President George W. Bush during his first term and also his reelection campaign. And Democrat Mark Mellman, good morning.

Mr. MARK MELLMAN (Democratic Political Consultant): Good morning, how are you?

MONTAGNE: And Mark Mellman is a consultant to the Democratic Congressional Leadership. Now, let's begin with you, Tucker Eskew. Despite Senator McCain's victories, there are many conservative Republicans who still are not probably so happy with the results.

Mr. ESKEW: Yeah. I think Senator McCain had a big night last night, but not quite big enough yet to wrap this up. He's got a job to do to consolidate our party. He's come a long way toward that, but last night was not the final part of that answer. He's still got some work to do.

MONTAGNE: Well, Mitt Romney had been hoping to turn this into a two-man race, but Mike Huckabee seems to have thwarted that, at least - so far, all the way through Super Tuesday.

Mr. ESKEW: Yeah, I think we don't have a one-on-one. We've got a one-on-one on one. And that does keep the picture less than clear. You have to congratulate all three of our candidates. They had some victories and - some more than others, certainly. And Governor Huckabee's is perhaps the biggest surprise. You look at those Southern and border states that he rather commandingly carried, and you see that in a region that's crucial to the base of the Republican Party and its success over the last 30 years, he's had some considerable success. And it's hard to envision our going ahead, Republicans, into the fall for victory without a real strong sense of momentum in the South and the border states.

MONTAGNE: And the South, of course, included those evangelical Christians that Mike Huckabee appeals to.

Mr. ESKEW: Absolutely. He's done quite well with those voters, and he's done well that all over the country. He hasn't yet stitched together a broad enough coalition to win outside that region in any convincing way. So, Senator McCain clearly has done more of that than any other and is to be commended for big wins in some big states, and that's critically important to success in November as well.

MONTAGNE: Let's talk about the Democrats now. Mark Mellman, it's all about delegates for the Democrats. Does that change the way that Senator Obama runs his campaign? Senator Clinton, both of them seem to be doing well with delegates.

Mr. MELLMAN: Well, that's right. Senator Clinton seems to have a delegate lead at the moment. And with our proportional representation system on the Democratic side, it's hard to make up with two evenly balanced candidates. But the reality is this is going to be a state-by-state, delegate-by-delegate slog through the end of the primary season and beyond. The superdelegates are going to play a role here, too.

MONTAGNE: And that gets to the question of the next important contest for the Democrats, where - is there - at what point might Senator Obama or Senator Clinton lock up the nomination? Certainly, if not Super Tuesday, when?

Mr. MELLMAN: Well, honestly, I think neither of them is going to be able to really lock up the nomination until after the primary process is over. There's going to be a set of primaries coming up that tend to favor Senator Obama, those are taking place in places like Virginia and Maryland, Washington, D.C. Then there are going to be a set toward the very end of the process - like Texas, and then Ohio and Pennsylvania - that tend to favor Senator Clinton.

So I think we're not going to know this Democratic nominee until after the primary process is over, and, as I say, perhaps not even till later than that because we have a large number of superdelegates, unpledged delegates, elected officials around the country. And they may be, in the end, the one who decides this nomination.

MONTAGNE: And Tucker Eskew, on the Republican side, John McCain looks pretty good this morning. Does that mean he's got it locked up?

Mr. ESKEW: Yeah, I - look, Mark's made a very good point. The Democrat contest goes on for a good while longer because of their proportional allocation of delegates. It feels, on our side, where we do have largely winner-take-all primaries, the Republicans are still proportioning their affection. Senator McCain has come a long way. You certainly look at where he was in 2000 with some of the base voters.

You look at where he is today, but there are nagging questions he has to answer. And I think he - you know, last night in a speech where he reached out and was gracious and very deliberately and emphatically showed both of his opponents - in an upcoming speech to the Conservative Conference here in Washington in a few days, he has opportunities to extend that into a series of issue-based reasons for rallying conservatives around his cause. He has not completed that job. I think he's made strides toward it. And that's a sign of how our race is likely to consolidate and become clearer sooner than the Democrats, and that gives us an opportunity during that period to bind up the party. And that's what I think we'll do. I don't think it's done yet for Senator McCain, but he's so close. He's very close here and he made some strides toward it last night.

MONTAGNE: Lots more to talk about with both of you. But thank you very much for this morning.

Mr. MELLMAN: Thanks much.

Mr. ESKEW: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Republican Tucker Eskew, who worked for President George W. Bush during his first term and his reelection. Also, Democrat Mark Mellman. He's a consultant to the Democratic Congressional Leadership.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Presidential Contenders Look Past Super Tuesday

Obama addresses supporters i i

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama addresses supporters late on Super Tuesday. Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
Obama addresses supporters

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama addresses supporters late on Super Tuesday.

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Now that the delegate-rich Super Tuesday contests have come and gone, it's going to be more difficult for the presidential candidates to grab support in large numbers.

While the Republican Party appeared to have found its front-runner in Arizona Sen. John McCain, he was unable to immediately bump his rivals out of the race. For now, at least, he will have to campaign and raise money alongside former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

On the Democratic side, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama remain locked in a tight race. They'll continue to try to pick up delegates throughout the February contest, then take aim at March primaries in the populous states of Texas and Ohio. And they must take on the complicated process of courting the party's superdelegates.

The Democrats Court of Super Delegates

Now that the general public has participated in primaries and caucuses in 24 states — let the private wooing of the Democratic superdelegates begin!

"Really, there are two campaigns going on," said David King, lecturer at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. "There is the public campaign with voters. The other is a very political, delegate campaign to get superdelegates."

Eight hundred of the Democratic Party's delegates are considered "superdelegates," meaning that they are free agents who can support any candidate regardless of the outcome of the state contests. The Republicans have a similar type of delegate called an "unaffiliated" delegate, although there are only about 150 of them.

King says the Clinton team, so far, has been more successful contacting and wooing the superdelegates; Clinton understands the process and has more contacts across the country than Obama. (Many superdelegates are governors or members of Congress).

The Day-After Super Tuesday Can Mean Super Money

After Super Tuesday in 2004, Democratic front-runner and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry raised $44 million in a single month. The preceding four weeks he raised only $8.5 million.

If 2004 is any indication, money will flow toward the parties' front-runners, a stream that could arguably help the Republican field more than the Democrats.

Arizona Sen. John McCain's campaign raised $7 million during the final three months of 2007, according to the latest campaign financial reports; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney poured $18 million of his own fortune into his campaign during the same period of time and ended the year with $2.7 million on hand. Campaign finance reports show that Romney has spent about $35 million in total of his own money.

The Democratic candidates have been more successful raising money. As of the end of 2007, according to Federal Election Commission filings, Clinton had $37 million on hand and Obama had $18 million.

Winning over the Losing Candidates' Supporters

Republican Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani endorsed John McCain after losing the Florida primary and soon after, the McCain camp started to court Giuliani's supporters and fundraisers.

Political scientists expect the same to occur on a larger scale following Super Tuesday.

"Once it's clear who the nominees will be, then the next thing to do is try to rally the losers to their side," says Northeastern University political scientist William Mayer.

But not all of the "losers" have played along, so far. Neither former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards nor New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson endorsed a Democratic rival when they dropped out of the race.

Next on the Calendar...

Since it is mathematically impossible for Democrats to anoint a front-runner on Super Tuesday — given the way the party awards its delegates proportionally — the campaigns inevitably will continue until a candidate drops out, or until the next round of primaries.

The next contests are only days away on Feb. 9 when voters go to the polls in Louisiana, Washington, Kansas (GOP only) and Nebraska (Democratic only).

On Feb. 12, Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia residents vote.

If there's still no Democratic front-runner by March, look for results in two key states: Ohio (141 Democratic delegates, 88 GOP delegates) and Texas (193 Democratic delegates, 140 GOP delegates).

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.