ALISON STEWART, host:
Delegates, do-overs, and damage control, oh, my. We go back to where it all started. Iowa finalized its delegate count, giving a deja-vu-all-over-again boost to Barack Obama. The fact that Michigan and Florida's delegates weren't considered has political advisers talking like five year olds about do-overs. And with supporters like that, who needs enemies? Reverend Wright, Geraldine Ferraro, both had opinions, but strong beliefs seem to have no place this election season. Oh, yeah. John McCain went to Iraq. There's a lot going on. Here to break it down is BPP political analyst Jim VandeHie, executive editor of politico.com. Hi, Jim.
Mr. JIM VANDEHIE (Executive Editor, Politico.com): Hey. How are you doing?
STEWART: Doing great! So, nine new delegates for Barack Obama from Iowa's convention on Saturday, eight of them former John Edwards supporters. Should Camp Obama be excited over this?
Mr. VANDEHIE: He certainly should. You'd think that nine delegates here, or an extra couple that he picked up in California as well, would not be that big of a deal. But it certainly could, because the key to him winning this nomination is ending the process with more pledged delegates. And he's virtually assured to do that, even if we have a revote in Michigan and Florida. Just because of the screwy process the Democrats use in how it allocates the delegates.
Hillary Clinton would have to really crush him in virtually every state to end the process with more pledged delegates. I cannot imagine that the Democratic Party is going to deny the nomination to Barack Obama if at the end of this process he has more of those pledged delegates. So he'll take whatever he can get right now.
STEWART: Yeah, but Hillary Clinton pressing really hard for Florida and Michigan to figure out a way to have their delegates counted. Why is she pressing so hard?
Mr. VANDEHIE: If I were Hillary Clinton, I would tap into that vast fortune that they've put together, and I would pay for the stinking elections, because it's the only chance she has to pick up ground on the pledged elections, or on the pledged delegates. She needs both Florida and Michigan to count. She needs them to revote, and for her to win by big margins, so she can erase some of that lead that Barack Obama has built with the pledged delegates that we were just talking about.
There's no way the Democratic Party is going to seat the Michigan and Florida delegates right now, because they violated what the DNC wanted them to do earlier, so when they held their races, Obama didn't even compete. And the DNC said, we're not going to include those in the final counts. What you have now are both states trying to figure out, well, wait a second. We should probably have a revote, and we should probably be part of this process, given that it will go probably into at least June, and perhaps all the way to the Democratic Convention.
STEWART: Barack Obama had to diffuse this controversy over remarks by his pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, about - we've all heard them. They're very inflammatory when they're taken out of context. They're difficult to listen to when they're taken in context.
Mr. VANDEHIE: Right.
STEWART: Let's just be straightforward about it. Let's listen to Barack Obama on MSNBC Friday night, trying to explain where he stands on all of this.
(Soundbite of TV show "Countdown")
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): These particular statements that have been gathered are ones that I strongly objected to, strongly condemned. Had I heard them in church, I would have expressed that concern directly to Reverend Wright.
STEWART: All right, so I'm going to play cynical journalist. All of these interviews that he did were on Friday night, eight, seven, nine o'clock at night eastern time. Was it a smart move to come out against this on a Friday night before a weekend, to make it go away?
Mr. VANDEHIE: It's always a smart move to try to take a controversy and put it to rest before it really - before it explodes into something much bigger. This is seriously is something people should be paying a lot of attention to, about how Barack Obama handles this sort of mini-crisis. I think it is the first time he's really had to play damage control, and really sort of operate in a crisis environment.
I think this is a big, big story, and here's why. I've talked to a lot of Republicans and independents over the weekend who would like to vote for Obama, and are thinking, - thought about voting for, and even some who had voted for him in the primary, who are really troubled by this. Because even if he distances himself from what his pastor had said at the pulpit, it's hard for most people, especially church-going Americans, to believe that these were sort of isolated sermons, and that he had not understood that this is sort of part of what was being preached in his own church, whether it was when he was in attendance or not.
He has had an association with this man for 20 years. He baptized his children. They obviously had a very intimate relationship. And I think the fact that the sermons had sort of this anti-American tinge to them troubles a lot of people, and Barack Obama has to figure out a way to deal with this, and some way to distance himself from the Pastor.
STEWART: Just want your opinion, as someone who's been around political circles for a long time. You know, the Reverend Wright stepped down as being part of one of Obama's campaign committees. You had Geraldine Ferraro, who also had to step down after her comments about Barack Obama being lucky to be black, and that's why he is where he is, and you had Obama's advisor Samantha Power had to leave after calling Hillary Clinton a, quote, "monster." So controversial opinions, or at least, saying them publicly, are they always a liability in a campaign?
Mr. VANDEHIE: They certainly - when you're trying...
STEWART: Or is there something special about this year?
Mr. VANDEHIE: They're trying to live by a different standard, where Obama is saying, we're trying to practice a new kind of politics, and Hillary Clinton wants to sort of compete in that sphere. It does force people with loud opinions out of the campaign. And listen, often they should be booted out. I mean, if someone's going to make a comment that is sort of racially insensitive, or just sort of more generally offensive, then they probably shouldn't be part of the campaign.
But it's more when you get into this truth-telling side of things that you distance yourself from that person. Samantha Powers is, I think, a good example, the monster thing obviously over the line. But I think most people - some people said certainly much worse things about Hillary Clinton, and I think the thing that troubled a lot of people about Samantha Powers was she was also speaking a lot of truth about his position, which didn't get as much attention, where she said listen, yes, he said he'll pull us out of Iraq right away.
But the truth is, you know, in that first year, he would listen to his military advisors, especially the commanders on the ground, and do, you know, the responsible thing and figure out a responsible pace for withdrawal. And a lot of people were mad that she was saying essentially what everybody knows in private to be true. So in the last couple of weeks, it does seems the focus is much more on these surrogates with loud mouths than it is on the candidates themselves.
STEWART: OK, gut check, yes or no answer. John McCain in Iraq - photo op?
Mr. VANDEHIE: Something, a part of it, I mean, it's hard because...
STEWART: That's not a yes or no, Jim!
Mr. VANDEHIE: It's hard to give a yes or no, because all of these things are about photo op. They're all about the atmospherics and the pageantry of the campaign. He's been there a bunch of different times.
STEWART: All right.
Mr. VANDEHIE: The truth is when you're in and out of Iraq, there's very little that you can do and learn when you're on the ground...
STEWART: That's true.
Mr. VANDEHIE: There's such a security detail. They clear out entire neighborhoods for you. So you don't get a realistic measure.
STEWART: Jim, we're wrapping up the show. Jim VandeHei, from Politico. Thanks!