Democratic Candidates Jockey for Position In the race for the presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama maintain command, but their strategists are the ones plotting their campaigns. Tad Devine, an unaffiliated Democratic consultant, talks about strategy on the campaign trail.
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Democratic Candidates Jockey for Position

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Democratic Candidates Jockey for Position

Democratic Candidates Jockey for Position

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Susan Stamberg. Coming up, tragedy strikes Alaska's fishing industry.

But first, behind every good campaign, there's an army of sorts, the advance scouts, the intelligence-gatherers, the front-line soldiers on the stump, the generals and the commander-in-chief.

In the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama maintain command, but it is the generals, these strategists, who plot the campaigns. As they march forward, both sides remain focused on how they can vanquish their opponent without losing the hearts and minds of their supporters.

Unaffiliated Democratic strategist Tad Devine - you know, that makes you sound so lonely that you're unaffiliated…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TAD DEVINE (Unaffiliated Democratic Strategist): There aren't many of us left.

STAMBERG: Mr. Devine is with us to talk about strategy. Welcome back to the program.

Mr. DEVINE: Nice to be with you.

STAMBERG: Take us into the war rooms now, will you please, of these candidates? How is Senator Obama getting himself in position for the primaries to come?

Mr. DEVINE: He's out there campaigning, he's delivering his message, sort of a big message about the economy and changing the nation and the direction of the nation. He's also working individually within the states like Pennsylvania, where he's going to have a bus tour.

He's talking to superdelegates, one by one, trying to pick off, delegate by delegate, those uncommitted, unfledged party leaders and elected officials who, in the end, will decide the nomination.

So it's a combination of talking to people individually, talking to the nation through television, and campaigning in individual battleground states.

STAMBERG: And for Obama, where are his best prospects?

Mr. DEVINE: Well, I think North Carolina is a very good prospect for him. I think the state of Oregon is a very good potential place for him. He's done well out West, so Montana and South Dakota still have events coming up. I think those four places are probably the best for him in the upcoming events, and possibly Indiana, too. That's the one place that's pretty evenly matched.

STAMBERG: And what about Senator Clinton, best states for her, appeals that she's pitching to voters?

Mr. DEVINE: Well I think, you know, certainly in terms of states, the next state, Pennsylvania, is probably her best state coming up. It's a lot like Ohio, where she won, but it's even better in that only Democrats can vote in the Pennsylvania primary. Independents could vote in Ohio. So she's got a great political terrain.

Other states like Kentucky and West Virginia are very good states for her, as well, so I think she's got some states, he's got some states. She's talking about her message of experience and whether or not she'd be the best candidate in the general election, and I think that's what she's trying to convince superdelegates of, that she would be the best Democrat, she can win the general election, and they should run with her.

STAMBERG: But what about the party elders? Have they made any more decisions about how to handle the count of the superdelegates, because that's an issue, too?

Mr. DEVINE: Different party leaders - the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, for example, has said in her view it would be best for the superdelegates to endorse the candidate who won the most pledged delegates in the primary contest. Some very prominent leaders like Al Gore, a former vice president; Jimmy Carter, a former president; they have said that they're not endorsing anyone for now, maybe later. So they haven't spoken.

My sense is that many of them will wait. The governor of Tennessee, Phil Bredesen, has put forth a plan for all the superdelegates to get together after the voters are done, perhaps in early June, and we may see something like that, where they have an opportunity to speak out and hopefully to coalesce well in advance of the convention behind one of the candidates.

STAMBERG: Do you think all this to-ing and fro-ing is hurting the Democrats as a party?

Mr. DEVINE: Yes I do, but this is very different than the race we had, for example, in 1980. The race this year is not an ideological contest. Clinton and Obama agree on almost every issue. They have a little bit difference in plan in terms of health care, or different here, but their differences are not deep, ideological differences.

So I think the bridges can be built. It can be put together, as long as the endgame is a good one.

STAMBERG: Thanks very much. Democratic strategist Tad Devine.

Mr. DEVINE: Thank you, and it was great to be with you.

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