NPR logo

Super Tuesday Questions Outnumber Answers

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/18737629/18737609" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Super Tuesday Questions Outnumber Answers

Election 2008

Super Tuesday Questions Outnumber Answers

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/18737629/18737609" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ALISON STEWART, host:

Super Tuesday provided an extended blogging opportunity for both the red and blue online writers. Now, keeping with our tradition here at the BPP we have two bloggers from both a conservative and a liberal Web site. Now, we've been alternating who gets to go first after an initial coin toss way back in January. Seems so long ago. So according to our records today up first is the GOP. So Dan McClaughlin, from the conservative blog red state is on the line. Hi, Dan.

Mr. DAN MCCLAUGHLIN (Conservative Blogger): Good morning.

STEWART: Hey, good morning. So Senator McCain can now officially claim front runner status after his big Super Tuesday wins, but here's the question: Why didn't he lock up that nomination last night?

Mr. MCCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know, I don't think he did lock up the nomination but there's an old saying that you can't beat somebody with nobody, and it looks like Mitt Romney who was the last somebody who really had a realistic possibility of knocking off McCain is probably out of the race or at least effectively out of the race. The funny dynamic of last night, though, is that when you look across the board of the states that were voting, you know, Romney was able to win his, kind of, geographic heartland of the mountain states, but basically outside of that McCain won the blue states and Huckabee won the red states. I think what happened was that throughout the south, you know, a lot of people have written off Huckabee after he lost South Carolina and Florida but I think a lot of voters in the southern states took a look at the options of McCain and Romney, decided they didn't really like either one of them all that much and voted their hearts and voted for Huckabee.

STEWART: So if Governor Huckabee - he won all these southern states, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia, can he appeal outside the south and if so, how?

Mr. MCCLAUGHLIN: I'm not sure that he really can because I'm not sure that he has a whole lot else to offer outside of his, sort of, religious and cultural appeals - his appeals to rural voters, and you know, if you look at the calendar at what's coming up, I mean, we've got - this Saturday we've got Louisiana and possibly Kansas might be fertile ground for him, but other than that you've got, you know, you've got Washington, you've got next Tuesday you've got Virginia, Maryland and D. C., you've got Wisconsin on the 19th, I'm mean, you know, the lists of states that are coming up are not the kind of states that Huckabee has been winning and they're not the kind of states that Romney has been winning either. They're really the kind of states where McCain is likely to have a pretty strong hand.

STEWART: Let me run this by you, just a visceral reaction. McCain and Huckabee in '08.

Mr. MCCLAUGHLIN: You know, I thought and I was a Giuliani supporter. I actually thought that Huckabee matched up very well with Rudy. I don't think he matches up very well with McCain.

STEWART: Why not?

Mr. MCCLAUGHLIN: For a couple of reasons. First of all, I think McCain is still fundamentally mistrusted by a lot of conservatives and the problem is that, you know, Huckabee is very beloved of social conservatives, evangelical Christians, rural conservatives. He's not trusted by a lot of the - particularly fiscal conservatives who already are not too happy with McCain, people who don't like him because he didn't support the Bush tax cuts, or actively opposed them, in fact. And so, you know, the other problem is that, you know, given McCain's age, a lot of people are going to be looking at the VP slot and thinking, you know, we really need somebody who's ready to step in on a moments notice, and I'm not sure that Huckabee quite has the credibility as a potential commander in chief. Given that though, I mean, Huckabee is a dynamite campaigner. He's 20 years younger than McCain. He's from outside the beltway, so he does bring to the table a lot of the things that McCain will need in a running mate.

STEWART: All right. Let's talk about Mitt Romney. Said last night his campaign was going to go on, that he was going to go all the way to the convention. Do you think that's possible?

Mr. MCCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know, that's what you have to keep saying until you stop saying it...

STEWART: Right.

Mr. MCCLAUGHLIN: ...And I think he's, you know, Romney's a vicious man. He's going to sit down with his team today. He's going work through the numbers. He's going to figure out whether he can.

STEWART: Let's talk about those numbers for a second. I'm sorry, I got to drive in here. Republican strategist, Alex Vogel, calculated that Mitt Romney spent about 1.16 million dollars per delegate and at a rate that would cost him 1.33 billion to win the nomination. And I notice on the red state blog there's this big back and forth about Mitt Romney being out of touch and super rich and Mike Huckabee being down to earth. Can you explain this, sort of, love/hate relationship with the Republican electorate when it comes to being very well off?

Mr. MCCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, it's a funny thing because on the one hand you've got a lot of Republicans who don't particularly feel at home with, you know, the class warfare aspects of Huckabee's campaign but who also just, kind of, look at Romney and say, you know what? This is a guy who was born to money, who didn't serve in the military, who, you know, didn't get tested by any great crisis in office. It's not any one thing. When you look down the line that Romney's really a guy who's just never been tested, never suffered real adversity in his life. So it's not just the money and the other thing about the amount of money he's been spending, I think that calculation probably understates it because realistically if you look at where his votes have actually come from an awful lot of them have come from states not just partially populated states but states that were doing caucuses or conventions and the like, and so he really hasn't been playing well at all in the primary states.

STEWART: We're talking to Dan MCCLAUGHLIN from redstate.org - .com excuse me -a blog that serves the conservative community. At least one network, NBC, was reporting that there would be what was described as quote "frank discussions" in the Romney's camp today. If you were part of those frank discussions what would you frankly advise?

Mr. MCCLAUGHLIN: I think I'd have to advise Governor Romney to drop out of the race. I mean, yeah, he can self finance so he can stay in if he wants, but I just don't think he has a path to the nomination. I don't think that staying in now will help him get the vice presidential spot but I don't think McCain likes him and I don't think that it's really going to do what he needs to do if he wants to try to build on this and run for office in the future.

STEWART: And before we let you know, if you can quickly give me a summary or just even a feeling about the tight race between Clinton and Obama, what does that mean for the candidate you're probably going to end up voting for?

Mr. MCCLAUGHLIN: It means that we're going to sit back and, you know, buy popcorn and enjoy the fight. You know...

STEWART: Is it enjoyable for you to watch? Do you, kind of, get excited watching the Clinton and Obama back and forth?

Mr. MCCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, and look, I mean, let's face it, you know, I'm from New York, I mean, I can remember the senate race in 1992 with Bob Abrams - won the Democratic, you know, really frankly a racially divisive Democratic primary. And the mayoral race in 2001 when Mark Green did the same thing. And in both cases, you know, those primary fights ended up hobbling them in the fall in their ability to turn out particularly African/American voters, and so a lot of republicans are looking at this and saying, you know what? We're hoping Hillary squeaks this one out by the tiniest and, you know, least legitimate looking margin possible and, you know, she has to limp into the fall with that.

STEWART: Dan McClaughlin from the conservative blog redstate.com. Hey Dan, thanks a lot.

Mr. MCCLAUGHLIN: All right.

STEWART: So that's the view of Super Tuesday from the right.

stay from the light. Now we turn our heads leftward and we welcome Bill Scher, a blogger from Campaign for America's Future and Liberal Oasis and the author of, "Wait, Don't Move to Canada." Welcome back, Bill.

Mr. BILL SCHER (Blogger, Campaign for America's Future and Liberal Oasis; Author, "Wait, Don't Move to Canada"): Thanks for having me back.

STEWART: Hey, thanks for being here.

So everyone said this is going to be close between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton; no definitive victory. So admit it, did you stay up all night hoping for some kind of unexpected definition of the Democratic candidate or did you just bail and go to sleep early?

Mr. SCHER: No, I stayed up late.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHER: It will show today. I mean, I was waiting if California broke one way or the other. They did break for Clinton, but that - Obama had enough states under his belt and states in heartland states and a majority of overall states that even losing Clinton by, I think, a larger margin than some people were expecting. It didn't, you know, it didn't kill the justification for his candidacy. Whereas if Obama had taken California, which would have been a huge upset, that would have really put Clinton back on her heels. But that didn't happen. So now you have an effective tie in almost a dead-heat in the popular vote from what I saw late last night. I think the delegate count, from what's happening today, successfully established an almost dead-heat. So both candidates have full justification for plowing ahead and the resources to do so.

STEWART: Now based on what each candidate said they wanted to do, the expectation they laid out for themselves and their campaigns, if you could crawl inside the heads of Obama and Clinton this morning, which of them is waking up with a smile on their face - or neither?

Mr. SCHER: You know, that's such a tough call, you know? I think a lot of the conventional wisdom, which has been wrong so many times that I hesitate even getting into it, is the immediate calendar favors Obama. There are enough - there are several states in the next few days that have healthy African-American populations where Obama's doing really well and that gives him an edge. But he won in so many really white states yesterday that no one's going to be able to say that he is using the African-American population as any sort of political crutch. And so if he can run up a number of states throughout the month of February, and he possibly has more money at his disposal than Clinton does, because he's had a larger base of small donors giving on the Internet, steadily. If he can get that sense of momentum going again, the next really big day of contest is March 4th with Ohio and Texas and a few others potentially puts it away there. And then Clinton really, I think, wanted to get Obama out of the way yesterday if possible, and she didn't do that. So I would think the Obama folks are a little happier. But, you know, the Clinton folks are pretty good with their backs against the wall. So they don't fold easily.

STEWART: Did anything surprise you last night or was it all predictable?

Mr. SCHER: A lot of things surprised me last night. There was no overall obvious trend. You know, when I saw Clinton crushing Obama in Massachusetts and crushing Obama in New Jersey, places where the polling seemed a lot closer, it seemed like it was going to be a really good night for Clinton. But then in those small red states, Obama completely hammered Clinton.

STEWART: True.

Mr. SCHER: Idaho was, what, 80 percent.

RACHEL MARTIN: I know.

STEWART: It was also interesting, those states, like Kansas and Idaho and North Dakota, they were caucuses, which I'm wondering if they - he took all the caucuses which is kind of interesting.

Mr. SCHER: Quite and it's also an interesting point. It seems like Obama's organization of states was fantastic. Whereas Clinton's organization in places like Massachusetts and California was fantastic. So you can't even say that one campaign has a better organization than the other. It's just been better, more well-oiled depending on the area of the country.

STEWART: So let's take a look forward, if we can, and take each campaign. First, Obama, where does he go from here? What does he have to do?

Mr. SCHER: Well, Saturday is Louisiana and Washington state and Nebraska. If my forearm's asleep, it works well enough for me. And then on Tuesday, it's D.C., Maryland and Virginia. And that's where all the campaigns are going to go right now. I think Obama feels very good about that. At least that's where they go, you know, electorally. As far as rhetorically is concerned…

STEWART: Yeah, what do they have to say? Do they change their message or is it too late in the game?

Mr. SCHER: I don't - I think it's easier for Obama to tweak and adjust because he's still the newer face on the block and people are still game to learn about him. And where there's been a sealing - I - just speaking anecdotally to people that I talk and bloggers that I read, there's a bit of a hesitation with Obama - if he is deep enough on domestic policy substance. And this is more tricky for Obama because it's not like he has never given a policy speech before. He is capable of talking about policies in detail. It's just not as much fun to listen to Obama talk about policy. You go to an Obama speech, you want to hear the great oratory. So you go out to see Obama speak and he gives you a 10-year plan in the economy, it's just kind of boring. He's got to find a way just to get a little bit more walk in the speech. You know, beef it up just a little bit so to reassure people that on the economic issues, on creating jobs, on dealing with the mortgage crisis, and those things that he is ready and he has the right ideas under the subject.

STEWART: And Hillary? More of the same?

Mr. SCHER: I think more of the same because, I mean, she has been at her worst is when her campaign has got into the race baiting. Every time that that's happened has blown back on her. And it blew back on her in Iowa. It blew back on her in South Carolina. I think after Obama stood up to the Clintons in South Carolina very successfully, I think. And then the answer to one question about Obama, whether he'd been battle-tested and ready to handle fierce attacks, he showed that he could. The Clintons, again, made the right adjustment. They put Bill back in the box. They told the campaign surrogates to cut that stuff out. And I think it helped her recover and withstand the momentum that Obama was building up after South Carolina. So she's going to keep that up. And perhaps she has to get a little bit more inspirational in her rhetoric to try to match Obama. And a lot of people think that her speech last night was a step in that direction.

STEWART: But, Bill, the big question really is, with no definitive Democratic frontrunner, there seems to be the reverse on the Republican side. John McCain, if we can say so, appears to have emerged from the pack yesterday. What - are we in for dirty campaign, kind of mud slinging on the Democratic side as this gets really intense, as there is no frontrunner? In other words, a long protracted battle between Obama Clinton - how does that - what does that mean for the Democrats against a crystallized Republican ticket?

Mr. SCHER: Well, Democratic primary voters being chronically pessimistic are definitely going to fret about that. If McCain really consolidates his lead now and Romney drops out and Huckabee peters out because he has only limited appeal, McCain's going to get a chance to rest and rehabilitate, and Democrats are going to fear, oh, we're going to tear each apart while McCain's getting a free ride. But McCain is winning in a very weak way. I mean, he can't even - I don't think he's got a 50 percent - well, maybe he has in some states - I think the overall popular vote, he was under 50 percent. There are still a lot anti McCain sentiment within the Republican Party, within the conservative movement. He doesn't walk out of that race really unifying the party and energizing them.

And the Democratic race, you know, as nasty as it's gotten, it's not dividing people in the party. These aren't debates about issues so much. They're debates about style and tactic and those sorts of things.

STEWART: Well, we'll…

Mr. SCHER: There's a great unity in the party on the big issues. There's not great unity on issues on the Republican side.

STEWART: Well, we'll see how this unfolds. One thing that's clear, the game is not yet over. We'll probably be talking with you again. Bill Scher, blogger from Campaign for America's Future and Liberal Oasis; author of, "Wait, Don't Move to Canada." Thanks, Bill.

Mr. SCHER: Thank you so much.

STEWART: We have one more very important political story, very important to Dennic Kucinich anyway. He's out of the presidential race, but he is still in a race for his House seat, and he might be in trouble. Sabrina Eaton from the Cleveland Plain Dealer is on the line to explain.

This is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

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.

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.