Election 2008


And joining us now to talk about Wisconsin and beyond is NPR senior news analyst Cokie Roberts. Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Now, we just heard in Scott's piece about the race for superdelegates. Let's start there. Is there a right answer to what a superdelegate's obligation actually is? 'Cause there are very different ways of approaching this.

ROBERTS: There certainly are. But Howard Wilson, Hillary Clinton's spokesman, is correct. Obviously it's self-serving, but he is correct that the reason superdelegates were created was in order to have sort of party elders, people who have the interest of winning at heart to take a second look and say, wait a minute, hold on there; let's return, at least to some degree, to the smoke-filled room. Of course, now it would be no smoking.

But they - so that was the reason for creating them, was not to have them just go with the delegates, the elected delegates. But of course that becomes very difficult when you have somebody who's ahead, particularly if Obama ends up ahead in both the popular vote and the delegate count, although that's iffy at the moment. And it becomes especially difficult to thwart the will of the elected delegates to the convention if - when you add into it the race factor. If you had a majority of white male politicians saying to the people who have been going to the polls, we're gonna pick a different candidate from the one you've picked and the one you've picked is an African-American, I think that would just be a very, very difficult thing for them to do.


And then there's the added layer, generally, of this long race that the Democrats certainly didn't expect this year. Talk about that with us. What is the affect on the party or could be?

ROBERTS: Well, it could be disastrous. I mean you have this big protracted fight going on, you do have this fight over these superdelegates. Hillary Clinton over the weekend said she's ready to go the distance, quote-unquote. Now, that becomes very hard to do if she doesn't win something and something big soon because her money will dry up and people will start to see her as the loser and turn away from her.

But you know, there's still another great big question out there, Renee, which we keep talking about which is the question of Michigan and Florida. I mean when you look at the actual votes that have been cast, even though there's been record turnout, you're talking about tiny percentages of voters in a lot of these states, particularly caucus states, and those are the states that Obama has done best in. And you've got these great big huge states, Michigan and Florida, that broke the Democratic Party rules and held their primaries too early and then this question of what to do about their representatives. So that could be another big problem inside the Democratic Party.

MONTAGNE: And then there's a race for endorsements?

ROBERTS: There is, and over the weekend Barack Obama met with John Edwards, who of course has pulled out of the race. Hillary Clinton previously met with him. There's some conversation in Democratic ranks that the people like Edwards and the other so-called party elders like Al Gore hold back for a while in case their influence is needed to try to calm the waters later on. But that's gonna, again, be hard to do, to have anybody step in and fix things.

Meanwhile, John McCain on the Republican side, who looks like he's almost wrapped up this nomination, is going to meet today with former president George H. W. Bush and he's expected to get that endorsement today.

MONTAGNE: Well, back to the Democratic side, which it seems to have so many pieces of a puzzle coming together bit by bit...

ROBERTS: Or not.

MONTAGNE: Or not. That's the interesting part.


MONTAGNE: How significant are tomorrow's contests in Wisconsin and also Hawaii, given that Senator Clinton's been planning to make her stand next month in Texas and Ohio?

ROBERTS: Well, Hawaii, we just put in the Obama camp. He grew up there. But Wisconsin, Senator Clinton is staying there today and campaigning there today and she's within the margin of error in some of the polls. But the polls don't tell you much because it's same-day registration and independence can vote in the Democratic Primary and probably will since the Republican Primary is pretty much over. If she won, it would be a big upset in Wisconsin and that would be a big boost to her campaign. If she loses, that fulfills expectations, so it's not great for Obama, except he continues to pile up delegates and it gets harder and harder to close the gap.

MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks very much. NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts. And if you'd like to read more about what's at stake in tomorrow's Wisconsin primary, you can go to npr.org/elections.

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