Illinois Rep. Emanuel Weighs In on Democrats

Steve Inskeep talks to Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel, head of the House Democratic Congress, about the results of Tuesday's primaries in North Carolina and Indiana. They also discuss how the future of the race will impact the Democratic Party's chances in the fall.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Let's get more now from Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel. He's a member of the House Democratic leadership. He is close to both Democratic presidential candidates, and he's on the line once again. Congressman, good morning.

Representative RAHM EMANUEL (Democrat, Illinois): Once again, Steve…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Rep. EMANUEL: …you sound like my parents.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Rep. EMANUEL: I didn't know I was bothering you. You're the one that called.

INSKEEP: Is that what they say? Rahm, we're glad you called once again.

Rep. EMANUEL: How are you doing this morning?

INSKEEP: I'm doing fine. I'm doing fine. Let me start with Mara Liasson's last point. Is Hillary Clinton, by trying to change the number of delegates needed to win, is she moving the finish line?

Rep. EMANUEL: Look, I think that, first of all, that's a question for Howard Dean to answer on how they're going to instruct both the Michigan and Florida delegates.

INSKEEP: The Democratic chairman.

Rep. EMANUEL: I do think that, you know, you have a process, you have the states that are remaining to be played out. But as I've always said, the voters are going to issue their verdict, and I think that's who's going to decide who our nominee is.

INSKEEP: You mean the popular vote is what should determine the way the delegates go?

Rep. EMANUEL: I think, you know, I'm being clear. I think that if you look at both nominees and you listen to what they said last night, I think as we have this process lay itself out in the next couple weeks, how the voters vote and how the delegates back up with issue the edict and how the - in a sense of what happens for the superdelegates. And I really…

INSKEEP: Although, forgive me, congressman, it's like you're telling me that whoever scores the most points wins. I'm trying to figure out how they're going to figure out who is on top.

Rep. EMANUEL: There's just - I believe that - I've always said this, May is going to be the crucial month. I think at the end of this month, we're going to have our nominee and we're going to have a united party. As - you look last night, John McCain, the nominee of their party, had an anemic turn out of voters. And what's worse, he got only 75 percent of the vote in North Carolina. Newt Gingrich has this long memo all about the Republicans all in disarray and losing it. They don't know how to change course.

INSKEEP: When you say…

Rep. EMANUEL: We - I think we're going to have a nominee at the end of this month, and I really do believe the party is going to be incredibly united. When you look out, we had a spirited campaign in both North Carolina and Indiana. We had record turnout.

INSKEEP: When you say, congressman, that you're going to have a nominee at the end of the month, that can mean one of two things. Either one of these candidates gives up, or you're saying by the end of the month, superdelegates like you are going to step forward and make a decision.

Rep. EMANUEL: Or you'll just have me back again and introduce me the same way, Steve.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Which of those things do you think is going to happen?

Rep. EMANUEL: I think what's going to happen is we're going to have a nominee at the end of the process, because I think one of the candidates will acknowledge that - who's the winner here and unite as a party.

INSKEEP: Which comes to something that you told the New York Times last month. You said, quote, "The way the loser loses…"

Rep. EMANUEL: Yeah.

INSKEEP: "…will determine whether the winner wins in November." What do you mean?

Rep. EMANUEL: Because if you look at history, whether it was Ted Kennedy in 1980 versus Jimmy Carter in that primary, or Ronald Regan in '76 with Gerald Ford, and both of those candidates, how they lost their spirited primary affected the winner's ability to kind of move on and have an affective general election.

INSKEEP: It was too bitter, and in each case they lost.

Rep. EMANUEL: Not only did - no, I'm not worried about the bitterness. It's how they - whether they had the primary continue past the primary date. And my view is - and I do believe this, there is a very competitive process here, which is a good thing. We had a competitive process and we had record turnout. If it was dispiriting, we'd have low turnout. It was a record turnout, which means both candidates' voters came out, and that's a good thing. The party, I believe, how the loser loses - that is that they have essential role in uniting the party and getting it ready for the most important election we've had in 50 years. So how the loser loses will determine whether the winner can go on and win. When you look at history, if you stop the primary when the primary stops, that is a good thing. It has to happen in enough time so that we can get on to telling the differences that are fundamental between our desire for change and John McCain's desire to be George Bush's third term.

INSKEEP: Congressman, we've just got about 10 seconds, but do you know of any discussions or negotiations between these two campaigns over what they do in the next few weeks and how they do it?

Rep. EMANUEL: Well, yeah. I mean, both - you - they told you. I mean I think what you're going to see is some superdelegates pop in the next couple days for each campaign to show they have - or will attempt to show that they have momentum. They'll take the issue. Remember, this is for Barack. You know, basically, his last kind of good victory was - you got to go back to February 12th.

INSKEEP: And I've got to stop there. Congressman Rahm Emanuel, thanks very much.

Rep. EMANUEL: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: Appreciate it. He's a member of the House Democratic leadership. You can get results at npr.org. This is NPR News.

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Obama Wins N. Carolina; Clinton Takes Indiana

Sen. Barack Obama delivers his victory speech following the North Carolina primary.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama addresses supporters after winning the North Carolina primary on Tuesday. Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images
A Clinton supporter cheers after seeing the early returns of the Indiana primary.

Supporters cheer as early returns show a lead for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Indiana primary in the Egyptian Room of the Murat Centre on Tuesday in Indianapolis. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Michelle Obama shakes hands at a rally in North Carolina.

Michelle Obama and her husband, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, greet the crowd at the North Carolina State University arena on Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C. Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Voters in North Carolina go to the polls.

Voters cast their ballots at the Williston Middle School polling station on Tuesday morning in Wilmington, N.C. Logan Mock-Bunting/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Logan Mock-Bunting/Getty Images

Sen. Barack Obama won a decisive victory in North Carolina's Democratic primary Tuesday, while rival Sen. Hillary Clinton held on to win a squeaker of a race in Indiana.

The split result means that the epic struggle for the Democratic presidential nomination will likely continue through the last primaries on June 3.

Clinton campaigned aggressively in the Hoosier State, trying to build on her victory in Pennsylvania last month. She had a large lead in early returns, but saw it shrink as the results came in from Indianapolis, Bloomington and Gary, which were Obama strongholds. She won by a margin of about 22,000 votes out of more than 1.2 million cast.

In North Carolina, the largest prize remaining in the nomination fight, Obama had 56 percent of the vote to Clinton's 42 percent. The Illinois senator received more than 90 percent of the African-American vote and about 40 percent of white votes in the state, according to Associated Press exit polls. He also won among every age group except voters older than 65.

Indiana exit polls showed that Clinton got the majority of votes from white men, as she did in Pennsylvania and Ohio. And she made gains with a couple of groups that have been part of Obama's core support, splitting the votes of younger white voters and voters with incomes of at least $100,000 a year.

There were a total of 187 delegates at stake in Tuesday's primaries — 115 in North Carolina and 72 in Indiana.

Obama Calls for Unity

Addressing his supporters in Raleigh, N.C., Obama predicted that Democrats will be unified in November, no matter whom the party nominates. "Yes, there have been bruised feelings on both sides," Obama said. "This fall, we intend to march forward as one Democratic Party, united by a common vision for this country. Because we all agree that at this defining moment in history — a moment when we're facing two wars, an economy in turmoil, a planet in peril — we can't afford to give John McCain the chance to serve out George Bush's third term."

Indiana superdelegate Joe Andrew, who served as Democratic National Committee chairman during Bill Clinton's second term and who recently switched his allegiance from Clinton to Obama, called the address "the first speech of the general election."

Clinton Declares Victory in Indiana

Even before the Indiana primary's outcome was decided, Clinton told supporters in Indianapolis that she intended to fight on. "Tonight we've come from behind," she said. "Thanks to you, it's full speed ahead on to the White House." She vowed to work her heart out in West Virginia and Kentucky, which hold primaries later this month.

With her options for overtaking Obama in the delegate count dwindling, Clinton once again called on the Democratic Party to count the contests in Florida and Michigan, which were stripped of their delegates as punishment for moving their primaries up to January. Clinton won in both states, but neither candidate campaigned in them and Obama's name was not on the ballot in Michigan.

Economy on Voters' Minds

Two-thirds of Indiana voters and nearly as many in North Carolina said the sputtering economy was their top issue, according to exit polls. Clinton and Obama have sparred in recent weeks over what to do about the skyrocketing cost of gasoline. Clinton, like presumptive Republican nominee McCain, advocates eliminating the federal gas tax for the summer. Obama has called it a gimmick and said a tax cut would be the way to help the middle class deal with rising costs.

Only about 20 percent of voters in both states said that the war in Iraq was their top issue and even fewer picked health care.

The State of the Race

Obama's victory in North Carolina — his first win in a large-state primary in nearly three months — came on the heels of several rough weeks for his campaign. His loss to Clinton in Pennsylvania by just over 9 points was followed by renewed controversy over inflammatory remarks by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Exit polls indicated that voters in both North Carolina and Indiana were equally divided on whether the controversy mattered to them. Among white voters who said it did matter, roughly 80 percent went for Clinton.

But by winning North Carolina and keeping Indiana close, Obama demonstrated that he's a survivor and still a strong contender. He eased the worries of some Democrats that he would use his pledged delegate lead to "run out the clock," so to speak, and just limp across the finish line when the primaries ended in June.

Clinton was hoping that Tuesday's primaries would be a "game changer." Instead, the contests were seen as a lost opportunity to cut into Obama's apparently insurmountable lead in pledged delegates. More importantly, she'd hoped a strong showing would convince the unpledged superdelegates that she would be the best candidate to take on McCain in November because of her support among white, working-class voters.

Clinton campaign strategist Geoff Garin says she still can make that argument. "On the crucial issue of the economy and among the crucial swing voters, I think there's a very strong and persuasive case that she offers a lot more to the Democratic Party in terms of a victory in the fall and offers more to the country," Garin told NPR.

McCain Campaigns in N.C., Too

Perhaps wanting to be where the action is, McCain has been campaigning in North Carolina for the past couple of days. At Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem on Tuesday, the Arizona senator blasted Obama for being one of 22 senators to vote against the confirmation of John Roberts as chief justice of the Supreme Court and vowed that he would appoint conservatives to the bench.

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor responded that McCain was promising "four more years of out-of-touch judges that would threaten a woman's right to choose, gut the campaign finance reform that bears his own name and trample the rights and interests of the American people."

Clinton also voted against Roberts. Her campaign accused McCain of pandering to the right wing by "elevating the interests of big business over the rights of workers and consumers, affirming executive branch power grabs, and undermining our common core freedoms."

From NPR reports and The Associated Press.

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