Clinton-Obama Battle Rages; GOP Immigration Gap
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
To sort out how Republicans are facing this and other issues, we brought in our political brain trust, NPR's Ken Rudin and Mara Liasson.
Good morning to you both.
KEN RUDIN: Good morning.
MARA LIASSON: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: How big a problem is it for Republicans if McCain has a very different position on immigration than many of the candidates he's running with?
LIASSON: Well, I think that immigration as an issue has faded somewhat since there's no longer legislation on the floor and riling up the Republican base. I think it clearly will be an issue in some local congressional races. Candidates will use it where they think it works. I think the economy and Iraq are going to be much more important issues.
But the fact is that the standard bearer of the Republican Party is the sponsor of the infamous McCain/Kennedy bill. Everybody does know where he stands and he is, for that very reason, the strongest Republican to contest the Democrats with the Hispanic vote and in a lot of parts of the country where an anti-immigration candidate could not.
INSKEEP: Ken Rudin.
RUDIN: But don't forget that last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, John McCain was booed by the conservative delegates there when he mentioned his role in the immigration debate. So before he woos these Independents in November, the hopes to break up, you know, the Democratic coalition, he's going to have to assemble a Republican coalition.
LIASSON: Yeah, I agree with that. But the fact that the Republicans did lose Denny Hastert's seat and it was quite a shock to them. Newt Gingrich called it a loss of Watergate-style proportions in the outlook that it suggests for the fall, I think people might be - Republicans might be more open to what McCain has to offer.
INSKEEP: And we should mention the awkwardness of this. John McCain is saying I don't think that guy in Illinois - that Republican in Illinois was very smart to focus on immigration. But while he was focusing on immigration, John McCain stood beside him, campaigned beside him at one point.
Do you think that Republicans have a chance to do well in the Hispanic vote, better than they did in 2006 anyway?
RUDIN: Well, I think they do, only because John McCain has made that an important part of his candidacy. He's - similar to what George W. Bush did when he was governor of Texas. He reached out for Hispanic support and got it in both 2000 and 2004.
INSKEEP: Well, let's move on to the other side here. We should mention that whatever awkwardness McCain has, he's free enough anyway to leave the country. He was seen in Iraq over the weekend. Democrats have a different situation, don't they?
RUDIN: Yeah, I think actually Iraq may be even safer than what the Democrats are going through right now.
(Soundbite of laughter)
The battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama does not seem to be lessening at all. The personal attacks seem to be going up. And while Barack Obama seems to be gaining delegates - this weekend, Saturday, the county conventions in Iowa, he picked up another nine or ten delegates, moving him ever closer to 2,025. But nobody seems to be reaching the magic number. And then therefore the wooing of the superdelegates begins.
LIASSON: Yeah, and that's why Michigan and Florida, those contested primaries -that everybody's talking about a possible do over there - are so much more important to Hillary Clinton. Every day that Barack Obama picks up another Edwards delegate, as Ken talked about in Iowa, or another superdelegate makes it more important that she somehow find a way to get those primaries redone in Michigan and Florida so she can pick up - add to her popular vote totals and pick up some delegates.
INSKEEP: Can I just mention, both of these candidates have insisted that race is not an issue, is not supposed to be an issue here. But last week we had a supporter of Hillary Clinton, Geraldine Ferraro, having to disassociate herself from the campaign after some remarks on race. And now it seems to be Barack Obama's turn to be in trouble on some racial issues.
LIASSON: Well, Barack Obama has a very controversial pastor of his church, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, someone that he has taken steps to distance himself from in the past. He pointedly didn't have Wright make the invocation when he announced his candidacy. Now he's gone further after some tapes of Wright's sermons have come out. He's actually removed him from an advisory board on his campaign.
Race is definitely an issue in this campaign. Of course, both candidates say they don't want it to be, especially Barack Obama, who has really run to transcend racial divisions. But you do see a very strong racial divide in the primary results. Something that Hillary Clinton, in an indirect way, says is one of the reasons why Barack Obama would not be as good a general election candidate because he can't carry those working class white votes.
INSKEEP: OK. Well, we'll continue listening and watching. Thank you very much to you both. NPR's political editor Ken Rudin. Thank you.
RUDIN: Thanks, Steve.
INSKEEP: And our national political correspondent is Mara Liasson. Mara, thanks.
LIASSON: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: Good to hear from you. And you're hearing them on MORNING EDITION from NPR News.