Clinton Makes Closing Arguments for Tuesday Primaries A win in Tuesday's primaries is very important for Sen. Hillary Clinton. Polls show tight races in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont. NPR's Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne talk with NPR News Analyst Cokie Roberts about Clinton's campaign.

Clinton Makes Closing Arguments for Tuesday Primaries

Clinton Makes Closing Arguments for Tuesday Primaries

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A win in Tuesday's primaries is very important for Sen. Hillary Clinton. Polls show tight races in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont. NPR's Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne talk with NPR News Analyst Cokie Roberts about Clinton's campaign.


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

Senator Hillary Clinton makes her closing argument to some important primary voters tonight while sitting across the desk from Jon Stewart. Her appearance on the satirical news program comes after a cameo on "Saturday Night Live."

(Soundbite of TV Show, "Saturday Night Live")

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York, Presidential Candidate): Oh, the campaign is going very well, very, very well. Why? What have you heard?

Ms. AMY POEHLER (Actress): Nothing.


(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: And that may be the last many voters see of Hillary Clinton before going to the polls.

INSKEEP: Tomorrow is primary day in Rhode Island, Vermont, Ohio and Texas. These are the contests in which Clinton hopes to recover lost ground. They are also the primaries in which Senator Barack Obama has been hoping to finish off his opponent in the Democratic presidential race.

MONTAGNE: Joining us as she does each Monday is NPR news analyst Cokie Roberts. Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And, Cokie…

ROBERTS: And Steve.

MONTAGNE: …and, Cokie, why choose this moment for Hillary Clinton to go on comedy shows?

ROBERTS: Well, I think she's basically doing anything she can at this moment because there's a lot of sense that these primaries tomorrow are the make-or-break primaries for her campaign. And there's been, you know, so much criticism that she is not human enough and these shows give some sense of humanity.

But, you know, what's really interesting, Renee, is that that "Saturday Night Live" sketch a week ago and then again last Saturday where it showed the press being easy on Barack Obama and hard on Hillary has really had an effect inside the press. And there is sort of more scrutiny of Barack Obama and second-guessing of themselves and all kinds of press stories about it, because of "Saturday Night Live."

So we have this odd business of comedy affecting politics, politics affecting comedy. It all going back and forth.

INSKEEP: Can't help but to remember Bill Clinton playing saxophone on a talk show in 1992.

ROBERTS: Yes, yes.

INSKEEP: Trying to jolt voters maybe and get people to take a second look at a time when things weren't going well.

ROBERTS: Well, and I think that's exactly what we're talking about here, Steve. And her campaign thinks that people are beginning to take a second look. Now, we'll find that out tomorrow when the people go to the polls. But if there is evidence of that it certainly will affect whether she stays in or not because, of course, there's a lot of pressure now building on Hillary Clinton to get out if she doesn't do very well tomorrow in those big primaries.

Now, some of it is coming from Obama backers, which you would expect, but Bill Richardson, the governor in New Mexico who, of course, ran against both of them earlier in the year, is also saying, you know, if she doesn't have a significant win tomorrow and the most delegates that she should get out.

But if she has evidence that people are taking that second look then I think, you know, she has a reason or she'll claim she has a reason to stay in on through Pennsylvania at the end of April.

MONTAGNE: Well, Cokie, I mean, stepping back how likely is it then that Hillary Clinton will be out of the race soon?

ROBERTS: Well, it depends entirely on what happens tomorrow. But the - and the results there - but I think that what you will hear is this question of it's bad for the party. And, look, that is always true. A prolonged primary is hard on a party and that's why they changed the rules to frontload these primaries thinking they'd have a nominee early. Voters, you know, have their own way of dealing with these things.

But it's interesting. This year it's less of a problem in some ways than usual. Because the voters for both candidates say they'd support the other. There are some Independent voters for Obama who say they wouldn't go for Clinton; there are some white Democrats for Clinton who say they wouldn't go for Obama.

The big problem this year is the issues. Because both of them, the longer they stay in, keeping talking about Iraq and the voters are not talking about Iraq. And the most recent Pew poll, a good number are now saying that the Iraq War is going pretty well, even though they think it was a bad idea to begin with.

So the more people talk about the more the candidates, the Democratic candidates, talk about that, the more they play into the long-term Democratic problems of being weak on national security and defense, and that could be a problem for the party.

INSKEEP: Well, given that very briefly, how do these two candidates look right now against the likely Republican, John McCain?

ROBERTS: Well, at the moment he is running even and ahead of them in a lot of polls. Now, that is before a campaign. But there are warning signs there, 'cause this should be a Democratic year. The voters say the country's going the wrong direction, the presidential approval rating is low, consumer confidence is in the tank. The fact that they're tied is a problem for the Democrats and the fact that McCain has a 61 percent favorable rating, including a plurality of Democrats in the L.A. Times poll, that's all going to be a problem.

But that's before the campaign begins.

INSKEEP: Okay. Thanks very much. That's NPR's Cokie Roberts who joins us every Monday morning.

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