Texas, Ohio Nominating Contests Key for Clinton

Hillary Clinton is banking on wins in the Texas and Ohio primaries this week to regain her lead in the race for the Democratic nomination. Fox News analyst Susan Estrich is a longtime supporter of Clinton. She talks to Liane Hansen about Clinton's campaign strategy.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Joining us is political analyst Susan Estrich, a law and political science professor at the University of Southern California Law School.

Welcome.

Professor SUSAN ESTRICH (Law, Political Science, University of Southern California Law School): Thank you.

HANSEN: Hillary Clinton has lost the last 11 primaries, but she raised $35 million in February. What's going on?

Prof. ESTRICH: Well, I think there's the sense that it's not over yet, that she has a base of very loyal supporters. And she set this up, I think, smartly to say after Super Tuesday where she did very well, look down the road a month. Tuesday in Texas and in Ohio is the next major contest. She set that up as her firewall and she appealed to her base of delegates, which is large, supportive and enthusiastic to say give me the resources to make that stand, and they did.

HANSEN: So what political strategic advice would you give her at this point?

Prof. ESTRICH: If I knew, believe me, I've got a phone, I'd call her, you know. I think you play the hand you're dealt, and her hand is the hand that's based on her experience; it's based in part on the accomplishments of the Clinton years; it's based on, you know, her longtime presence in American politics, and that's her hand.

I think she's playing it as effectively as she can. Some people think she's pushing it to the edge, but that's what politics is about. And it's a choice for voters. And I think if she does well on Tuesday night, she'll keep playing that hand. I think if she doesn't do well on Tuesday night, it's a sign that this is not the year for that particular hand.

HANSEN: And what would really happen if she does not win Texas and Ohio on Tuesday?

Prof. ESTRICH: Well, I think what would happen in practice is people on the inside would say to her, look, you know, you built a firewall, the firewall comes down you get burnt. You're burnt. You know, what ends campaigns is the cold dose of reality when your own supporters and your finance people and your political supporters say it's time.

HANSEN: You wrote the book called "The Case for Hillary Clinton" back in 2005 and you argued that she would make a great president even if she was a polarizing force. If she gets the Democratic nomination, would this idea of being polarizing hurt her in the general election?

Prof. ESTRICH: Sure. I mean, you'd rather be viewed as the unifying force than a polarizing force. But I think George Bush was a polarizing force, at least initially, and he was a bull at least for a time to build a strong coalition and be a very effective and popular president until he got himself in trouble in the wrong war.

I think if Hillary does win the nomination her job will be to reach out beyond her base, which is strong and enthusiastic, and convince people to take a second look. And one thing that does happen in presidential campaigns in my experience is you do, particularly with debates, have moments where people take a second look and they would judge based on what they saw.

I think she's actually been very effective in the debates during the Democratic primary and been a very strong candidate. She's come across as articulate and thoughtful and warm and human. But, you know, Barack Obama has been extremely effective as well, and that's what's made it such a tough race.

HANSEN: You've written that Americans use words as charismatic and inspirational to describe Barack Obama, but while Hillary Clinton is called calculating and ruthless. Why this disparity?

Prof. ESTRICH: Yes. Well, I think Obama has tapped into something very real. I think he, for a lot of people is, you know, the embodiment and the projection of what they want politics to be. And I think he has been very skillful and very talented in articulating those hopes and dreams. Whether he can sustain that under the attack of Republicans is something no one really knows.

As for Hillary, she, both because of her own past and Bill Clinton's past, and I think also, to use the bad word, sexism - still a subtext of almost unconscious resistance a lot of people have to powerful, strong women - she rubs some people the wrong way - rubs enough people the wrong way that you hear those adjectives all the time.

HANSEN: Susan Estrich was the first woman to head a major presidential campaign when she worked for Michael Dukakis. She's currently a law and political science professor at the University of Southern California Law School. Thanks a lot.

Prof. ESTRICH: Thank you. Have a great day.

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.

Clinton Reaches Out in Two Must-Win States

By her own husband's estimation, Hillary Clinton needs to win Ohio and Texas on Tuesday if she is going to have a shot at the Democratic presidential nomination. With just days to go, the Clinton campaign is trying to shore up support with Hispanics in Texas and blue-collar workers in Ohio.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. As another month of feverish campaigning ends, here are some numbers.

BLOCK: In the tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton has 1,035 pledged delegates and 241 and a half superdelegates. The half comes from Democrats abroad.

SIEGEL: Barack Obama leads with 1,187 pledged delegates, 191 superdelegates say they're supporting him. Those numbers come from the Associated Press.

BLOCK: Hillary Clinton's future may be decided in Texas and Ohio, those primaries are on Tuesday. We're going to hear about both Clinton and Obama on the campaign trail.

First to NPR's David Greene, who's in Texas with the Clinton campaign.

DAVID GREENE: The campaign is feeling like a war in two theaters - Ohio and Texas. And for Hillary Clinton, it's been about protecting her territory in both.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): Wow. Hello, Houston.

GREENE: Clinton landed in Houston late last night. She reminded a crowd of a few thousand of what she called the Texas two-step. She said if they really want to help her, they must vote in the primary and come to a caucus meeting Tuesday night when more delegates are awarded.

Sen. CLINTON: We need you to come and be present and stand up and make sure your voice is heard, because Texas matters. Texas will help pick the next president of the United States.

GREENE: Clinton's effort did hit one bump this week. One of her backers, Adelfa Callejo, an 84-year-old Dallas lawyer, was being interviewed on a local TV station, KTVT. Callejo said many Latinos remain skeptical that African-American leaders look out for them. And she said this about Obama…

Ms. ADELFA CALLEJO (Lawyer and Activist; Clinton Supporter): Obama simply has a problem that he happens to be black.

GREENE: The comment came a day after Clinton called on Obama to denounce and reject his support from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Clinton heard about Callejo's remarks for the first time while being interviewed by the same Dallas station.

(Soundbite of interview)

Unidentified Man: Is this something where you reject and denounce her support because of her comments?

Sen. CLINTON: Oh, people have every reason to express their opinions. I just don't agree with that. I think that we should be looking at the individuals who are running, and that is certainly what I intend to do.

GREENE: Clinton, like Obama, spent time in both Texas and Ohio this week. The states have little in common, although there is this.

Mr. KENT HALEY (Assistant Manager, Bob Evans Restaurant): This is Rio Grande, Ohio. Pronounced rye-oh grand, it's spelled Rio Grande, but it's just a small town.

GREENE: Kent Haley is assistant manager at the Bob Evans Restaurant in town where Clinton stopped to chat up the breakfast crowd. By the way, this is no ordinary Bob Evans. It's the site of the original sausage shop that opened in 1962.

Mr. HALEY: Bob Evans and his family used to live up in there in that brick house up there.

GREENE: Haley said he, for one, is a Republican. But, he added…

Mr. HALEY: I may actually vote in the Democratic - since Ohio is open ticket, I may actually vote for Obama just because I really don't want to see Hillary in there.

GREENE: Inside the Bob Evans, there were plenty of people who saw things differently. Clinton worked her way from table to table.

Unidentified Woman #1: Senator Clinton, could I get you to sign this for my daughter?

Sen. CLINTON: Oh, sure. That's a great book. I've seen that. Yeah.

Unidentified Woman #1: Her name is Grace(ph).

GREENE: Did you all know when you came to breakfast that Hillary Clinton was going to be joining you?

Mr. ROY BLANKENSHIP(ph): We did. We come up to breakfast here once in a while anyway.

Unidentified Woman #2: It's a good place to eat.

GREENE: Roy Blankenship, a retired mechanic was having sausage and biscuits with his wife. Roy said he's always been a Bill Clinton fan.

Mr. BLANKENSHIP: I always liked Clinton. Yeah, he did everything for our country. We lived on top of the world when he was in there. At that time, there's a lot of people would need work real bad and the economy was bad and he just picked it right up.

GREENE: He said Hillary Clinton has his vote.

Mr. BLANKENSHIP: If she's just half as good as her husband was when he was president, I think it will be a great country.

GREENE: While out on the road, Clinton did an interview with PBS. She was asked about her battle against Obama.

Sen. CLINTON: I think it's great that this has been a close contest. I don't have any problem with that. I don't think I'm entitled to anything. I hate being a frontrunner. I find that sort of, you know, burdensome.

GREENE: Though it's a burden Clinton would like to have again at some point.

David Greene, NPR News, Fort Worth, Texas.

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.

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