MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both campaigned in Florida today. A big question mark hangs over the Sunshine State. As you probably heard by now, Florida and Michigan were stripped of their delegates, a penalty imposed by the Democratic National Committee for holding their primary contests too early. Clinton won in both states but neither candidate campaigned in Florida and Obama was not on the ballot in Michigan. Getting those primaries to count is one final strategy for Hillary Clinton. Despite her big win in Kentucky yesterday, she still trails Obama in the delegate count.
Today, Senator Clinton pressed again for the DNC to seat Florida's delegates.
Barack Obama's primary win in Oregon yesterday gave him a majority of pledged delegates, and his visit to Florida is intended to underscore that state's importance in the general election. Earlier today, I spoke with David Axelrod, the chief strategist for the Obama campaign. I asked him, what would be an acceptable deal regarding those delegates from Florida and Michigan?
Mr. DAVID AXELROD (Obama Strategist): We are committed to the seating of Florida and Michigan. We're absolutely resolute that that's going to happen. There's a rules committee meeting of the party at the end of the month at which this is going to be discussed. And we are open to compromise. We are willing to go more than halfway. We're willing to work to make sure that we can achieve a compromise. And I guess the question is, is Senator Clinton's campaign willing to do the same?
NORRIS: You said you're willing to go more than halfway. What did you mean by that?
Mr. AXELROD: Well, I mean, I think we're willing to make some sacrifices in order to accommodate these delegations. And again, Michele, I am absolutely convinced and committed, and Senator Obama feels strongly about this, that Florida and Michigan will be fully represented at the convention.
NORRIS: You said you're willing to make sacrifices; what kind of sacrifices? What are you willing to put on the table?
Mr. AXELROD: Well, obviously, any compromise is going to involve some give. And that means if there's something on the table, we're willing to consider it. That may include us yielding more delegates than perhaps we would have simply on the basis of the rules.
NORRIS: If Barack Obama does emerge as the nominee in the general election, what is the campaign's plan for reaching out to blue-collar voters who say they will not vote for Barack Obama? And in answering this question just consider this number: 42 percent of Clinton voters in the Kentucky exit poll said they would vote for McCain over Obama in November and another 23 percent said they wouldn't vote at all.
Mr. AXELROD: Well, look, there were exit polls in 2000 in which McCain voters in much larger numbers said they wouldn't vote for George W. Bush and he ended up winning that election. In the spring of 1992 there were a series of exit polls from campaigns after Bill Clinton had effectively secured the nomination in which a majority of voters said they wished they had a different nominee. I think it's very hard to judge these things when you are in the middle of a nominating fight.
I believe we're going to coalesce as a party. Even in the national polls today, you see very little difference between how Hillary Clinton is running versus McCain among these working class white voters and how Barack Obama's doing, because they know we need change. They know we can't take four more years of the Bush economic policies.
NORRIS: Can Barack Obama win over those voters?
Mr. AXELROD: Oh, I absolute - as I say, first of all, understand that we did very well with those voters in Oregon yesterday, voters, non-college-educated voters, voters making less than $50,000 a year. And we've done well with them in places all over the country. But I think the big thing is nobody knows better the failures of these Bush economic policies than working Americans who are struggling to pay their bills, struggling to send their kids to school, struggling to live the American dream, and they know we need change. I think they're going to come to our banner.
NORRIS: This kind of long campaign, there are moments where someone's character is often revealed. I'm wondering in terms of character, what was been the most revealing moment that you've seen for Barack Obama?
Mr. AXELROD: That's a great question. And you know, what comes to mind - and I could give you many examples - but the day after the Ohio and Texas primaries, which were obviously a setback for us, he arrived unannounced at the campaign headquarters in Chicago, went around to the desks of all the young kids who work there, told them all to keep their chins up, that we were going to be fine, sat down then with the senior staff, had a long list of questions that he had about - and ideas about moving forward.
But it was all in the spirit of - we all could have done better here, what we learned from it, how we're going to move forward. And as he walked out the door, he turned around and said, You know, I'm not yelling at anybody here. He said, I could, he said, after spending $20 million and losing two primaries. He said, But I'm not. And he laughed and walked out the door. It was a textbook case of good management. I thought, this guy is going to be a heck of a president.
NORRIS: That's an interesting way of saying I'm disappointed in you.
Mr. AXELROD: Exactly. But you know, it was never - whenever we have a setback, he always takes his share of the responsibility and he never points a finger of blame so much as says, we made mistakes here; how do we correct those moving forward? What did we learn from those? It's an incredibly positive way of leading.
NORRIS: David Axelrod is the chief strategist for the Barack Obama campaign. David, thank you so much for speaking with us.
Mr. AXELROD: Great to be with you, Michele.
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