Texas-Sized Argument in the Democratic Party
RACHEL MARTIN, Host:
The Democrat on Democrat clashes continued yesterday when surrogates of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama hit the talk-show circuit to address recent calls by top Democrats for Clinton to bail out. Here's Clinton supporter James Carville on CNN's "Late Night."
(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW "LATE NIGHT")
JAMES CARVILLE: The Obama strategy seems to be to find some bow-white guys with hair to call on her to get out of the race. I think they ought to go to McCain to get him to get out of the race!
MARTIN: And as the party infighting plays out in the Democratic camp, presumptive GOP nominee John McCain is charting his straight-talk express on the new campaign tour for the general election. Joining us now for some Monday morning political perspective is Jim VandeHei, executive editor of politico.com. Hi, Jim.
JIM VANDEHEI: Morning. How are you doing?
MARTIN: We're doing just fine, thanks. Hey, Jim. What happened in Texas? I mean, it sounded like things actually got kind of rough - shoving matches, booing and crying at the 280 Democratic district conventions. If Clinton won the primary, Obama won the caucus March 4th, what were they getting so worked up about?
VANDEHEI: But that's the process that the Democrats have put it place. It's very confusing to a lot of voters. It's certainly confusing to people who are spectators in the political sport, and they are trying to figure out who is up and who is down, and how do you actually divine who is the winner of these states?
MARTIN: Now, is this some of the reasoning - is this why we're seeing some of the party elders calling for Hillary to step down? Patrick Leahy, Chris Dodd - they did it on Friday. Is this the rationale?
VANDEHEI: I think that might be a little short-sighted of a view, because I do feel like while this city tends to hyperventilate, most people don't pay that much attention, and once this whole process works itself out, there will be a fair balance between Democrats and Republicans in the race, and I think Democrats will return pretty favorable ground in that general election, but running against a pretty strong Republican candidate.
ALISON STEWART, Host:
So Jim, what do you think about the idea that Barack Obama said, yeah, you know, Hillary Clinton should just keep on going on? Let her keep doing her thing. That's what she says she's going to do. That's what her husband says she's going to do. Is that a good strategy on his part?
VANDEHEI: I think they like the fact that everyone is saying hey, you should get out, so that they can play the victim, and they can say listen, here they go again! Sort of, the men's club telling the woman to get out of the race. That fires up the women voters. It helped a lot before New Hampshire. A similar strategy helped a lot before Ohio and Texas, so I think they are happy to be playing on the defensive and saying look at what's happening.
(SOUNDBITE OF BANGING)
STEWART: Jim, what the heck is going on?
MARTIN: Yeah, where are you, Jim?
STEWART: That's what we want to know most importantly.
VANDEHEI: Noisy kids who are not being cooperative with our radio interview!
MARTIN: Oh, kids. Multi-tasking! Jim, I want to ask you about Barack Obama's strategy in Pennsylvania. There he has - he has been going to more intimate venues on this particular state tour in an effort to shed some of that rock-star Obamanon stuff. Is that working?
VANDEHEI: They have not been kind to Barack Obama in similar states. In Ohio, you know, it was about 13 different counties that border Pennsylvania and West Virginia that are very rural and very white, and he got trounced by Hillary Clinton in those districts, in those areas, and they worry that the same pattern could repeat itself in Pennsylvania.
MARTIN: I want to talk about John McCain. He is kicking off what's called this "biography tour" today, trying to reintroduce him to the American public. He has a new ad out focusing on his P.O.W. experience. Let's listen to that.
(SOUNDBITE OF MCCAIN CAMPAIGN ADVERTISEMENT)
JOHN MCCAIN: Unidentified Man #1 (Vietcong officer): And your official number?
MCCAIN: Unidentified Man #2: John McCain. The American president Americans have been waiting for.
MCCAIN: Keep that faith! Keep your courage! Stick together! Stay strong! Do not yield! Stand up! We're Americans and we'll never surrender!
MARTIN: Now, we know John McCain. He's run for president before. How will his campaign try to make him seem like a new and fresh choice?
VANDEHEI: But he's going to have to build pretty quickly because he has to broaden his base. He's not fooled by these polls that show him doing very well, that his favorability is high. When people tune in and the negative ads start coming, he's got to inoculate himself so he can make a counterargument.
MARTIN: Hey, Jim, I have a favor to ask. There was a lot of news out of Iraq over the week that has changed the debate. It has put Iraq on the front-burner again. Can you stick around to answer one more question about that?
VANDEHEI: Sure, no problem.
MARTIN: We appreciate it.
STEWART: Can your kids - are they all right with that?
VANDEHEI: Would you like to interview them?
STEWART: You better check in with the knee-biters.
VANDEHEI: Maybe you guys can referee whatever feud they are having.
STEWART: All right, you've got about a minute and 30 seconds to go be referee, but we want to see you on the other side.
VANDEHEI: OK, good.
MARTIN: Stay with us.
STEWART: Hey, thank you for listening to the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. We are on digital, FM, Sirius Satellite Radio, and online at npr.org. I'm Alison Stewart.
MARTIN: Now, McCain has made Iraq clearly, obviously, a centerpiece of his campaign, touting the success of the surge in reducing violence. Now, anytime there is a turn of events, or something in Iraq that undermines that thesis that he's putting forward, it's got to be a big blow for him. I mean, how does he continue to frame Iraq to his advantage?
VANDEHEI: What are the consequences for us, but also for the region? So, you are right that in the short-term every time there's violence there's a new story saying, hey, this could be bad for McCain. I think all of that is ephemeral, and what you have to do is keep your eye on the bigger debate. It's like trying to get these candidates to clarify how they deal with sort of the spillover effect of whatever policy you advocate there.
STEWART: Jim VandeHei of politico.com and parental referee, thanks Jim.
VANDEHEI: Thank you. Enjoy the day. Bye.
STEWART: Let's get to some news headlines.
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