Obama and Clinton United in Unity Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton join forces Friday in Unity, New Hampshire. But where's Bill? Meanwhile, John McCain is suffering from what pollsters call a "passion gap."
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Obama and Clinton United in Unity

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Obama and Clinton United in Unity

Obama and Clinton United in Unity

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This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Cohen.


I'm Madeleine Brand. Former rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are joining forces in the aptly named Unity, New Hampshire, today. John McCain is rallying his supporters in Cincinnati. Joining me now is NPR news analyst Juan Williams, and Juan, let's start with that Clinton-Obama rally. Are they really getting along as much as everyone is trying to say they are getting along? Are they really able to be as unified as people want them to be after the very rancorous primary season?

JUAN WILLIAMS: What was it, like peanut butter and jelly, bread and butter?

BRAND: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WILLIAMS: I don't know, Madeleine, but they're making an effort. They're making more than an effort. They're making a show of it. But the problem is that at the core of the Clinton campaign, a lot of anger, even resentment, remains that somehow this young senator from Illinois has sort of taken away their moment. There is a core of people, and you see it in the numbers in the poll numbers, about 10 to 15 percent of Clinton supporters who are still not dedicated to the idea of transferring loyalties from Senator Clinton to Senator Obama.

And I would say, chief among those people might be former President Bill Clinton, and there's great worry in the Obama camp that Bill Clinton really isn't onboard. He's given some lip service to the idea. Yes, he's going to endorse the Democrat. But they want people involved. They don't want any backstabbing. So there's still that level of concern.

BRAND: And let's turn now to John McCain. New poll numbers are out this week, and most of them show that there's about a five-point gap, right, between Obama and McCain?

WILLIAMS: That's right. There's two polls, Newsweek, LA Times that had it up around 12 and even 15 percentage points, but I'd questioned those. I'm thinking on average, it's about, you know, three to six points' difference. But what you see in the polls, and there was an L.A. Times poll this week that showed a so-called passion gap among conservatives for McCain. Among people who said that they are conservatives, what you're seeing is that15 percent said they plan to vote for Obama.

Can you imagine? Fifteen percent of conservatives saying they plan to vote for Obama. Fourteen percent said they'd vote for someone else, 13 percent undecided, which leaves 58 percent saying they'll vote for McCain. That's among conservatives. If you look at Obama's supporters for a point of comparison, 79 percent of people who said they're liberal plan to vote for Obama. So, what you see is that the enthusiasm about McCain among people who are self-described as conservatives, even those who are Evangelicals, it's quite ambivalent, even at this late date.

BRAND: So, he's really got to work on what he shouldn't have to work on as a candidate, and that is shoring up his base, and so he can't even spend the time or the energy trying to pick off Obama supporters.

WILLIAMS: Though thinking of a McCain campaign, they are hoping that his image as the radical maverick, the guy who is not a reliable conservative and Republican, makes him different in the Republican brand, and therefore different than President Bush, who's very unpopular, and different than Republicans in Congress, who've been getting in all the trouble over everything from financial scandal to sex scandals. He wants to be apart from some of that, but he needs the base and he especially needs the money necessary to run an effective campaign in the fall.

BRAND: Juan, your best political conversation this week?

WILLIAMS: Well, Madeleine, it ties in to John McCain, and it's about people who are conservative, and especially black conservatives, and how do they feel about John McCain at this point, because you've got all this excitement with Barack Obama, an African-American, running, and so, they're sort of divided loyalties. But the one person who might best represent this is Colin Powell, and Bob Novak, the Washington columnist, had a piece this week in which he said that Colin Powell might endorse Barack Obama down the line.

So, I spoke with some people close to Colin Powell who said they didn't think that was going to happen. But then the question came, what about the possibility of McCain picking Powell as his running mate? And you imagine Powell as an older, more experienced, less risky version of Obama. Colin Powell might be the secret ingredient that would get McCain in a much better position going into the fall election.

BRAND: NPR news analyst Juan Williams. Thanks, Juan.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Madeleine.

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