SCOTT SIMON, host:
Charlie Cook, Editor and Publisher of the Cook Political Report, joins us from his office in Washington DC. Charlie, thanks for being with us.
Mr. CHARLIE COOK (Editor and Publisher, The Cook Political Report): Thank you for having me on, Scott.
SIMON: And I remember it was said as a truism just a few weeks ago that the morning of February 6th, we'll know who the nominees will be. Is that still the case?
Mr. COOK: You know, the Republican side I think we're going to know. But on the Democratic side, this is getting real interesting. You know, lots of the fundamentals. The establishment usually beats back insurgents, that more women vote in Democratic primaries than men. All those fundamentals and more argue that Hillary Clinton should win the Democratic nomination. But we're watching Barack Obama with an amazing level of momentum. I mean we're having a national primary on Tuesday. He has gone from 20 points behind two weeks ago to three points behind as of Thursday night. That's an amazing amount of momentum. So you know if the rules of thumb apply, she should win. But this could be an election where the rulebook just gets thrown out the window.
SIMON: Democrats and Republicans don't handle their primaries the same way in terms of divvying up the delegates. In a number of the big states, the Republican winner gets all the delegates in contrast to Democrats where it's proportional. Does this "winner take all" system nominally favor either Senator McCain or Governor Romney?
Mr. COOK: Well, the "winner take all" system makes it just a lot more explosive so that winning by even a small number, you can win an enormous amount of delegates if not, you know, all of them. And the kind of lead, the kind of momentum that John McCain is building up is such that I think he's going to have an enormous amount of delegates coming out of Super Tuesday and an insurmountable lead. But the Democratic side, wow. You could see this thing real close between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama the day after Super Tuesday.
SIMON: We've seen a wave of high-profile endorsements this past week on both sides of the ledger. Edward Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy for Senator Obama, Mayor Giuliani and Governor Schwarzenegger for John McCain. What difference, in this day and age, do endorsements make?
Mr. COOK: Well, people can't deliver votes with endorsements, but it does provide a sense of momentum. They could be important, but it's really more psychological, symbolic, than it is actually moving votes.
SIMON: Could this all come down on the Democratic side to the super delegates?
Mr. COOK: It could, but the thing about super delegates is they can do pretty much whatever they want...
SIMON: Let me stop you right there. What is a super delegate?
Mr. COOK: It is someone who is a delegate to the convention by virtue of an office they have, whether it's an elected office or maybe they're an official in the party. They don't have to go out and grovel and be on a slate for one candidate or another and dependent upon a candidate to get on as a delegate.
SIMON: But because they're politicians, you don't see them saying I don't care who won the primary I'm going to vote for this candidate.
Mr. COOK: You want to be on the side of the winner. So a lot of these folks, they may have endorsed someone so far, but they're not going to go down with the ship. I mean a lot of these folks, they're - if one candidate starts pulling away, they're going to jump on board the bandwagon.
SIMON: So if it's not next Wednesday morning, February 6th, when the two nominees will be apparent, what's the next date...
Mr. COOK: Well, you've got some dogs and cats. You've got what they call the Chesapeake Primary, DC, Maryland, Virginia. The next big milestone would be the first Tuesday in March. But, you know, watching - state victories don't mean anything from this point on. It's watching the delegates and watching the delegate count.
SIMON: Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of Cook Political Report. Thanks so much.
Mr. COOK: Thanks Scott.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.