Bush Offers Kind Words for McCain President Bush seeks to reassure fellow Republicans about the conservative bona fides of Sen. John McCain, the front-runner for the party's presidential nomination. And Sen. Barack Obama's Democratic campaign appears to be gaining steam, forcing Sen. Hillary Clinton to step up TV and debate appearances. Cokie Roberts
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Bush Offers Kind Words for McCain

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Bush Offers Kind Words for McCain

Bush Offers Kind Words for McCain

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Joining to us now for some analysis is NPR's Cokie Roberts. Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Cokie, John McCain didn't exactly get an endorsement, but he did get some important words of support yesterday from President George W. Bush.

ROBERTS: He did, indeed. The president started over the weekend at a conservative meeting saying nice things about John McCain, and he kept it up yesterday on television, hailing McCain as a, quote, "true conservative." Here's the president on Fox News Sunday.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: He's very strong on national defense. He's tough fiscally. He believes the tax cuts ought to be permanent. He's pro-life. I mean, his principles are sound and solid, as far as I'm concerned.

ROBERTS: The president also had some kind words for Mike Huckabee, and of course, Huckabee won some this weekend - Kansas, Louisiana, and he's challenging Washington, which is still seems to be counting. So he's not going anywhere any time soon. There is a Newsweek poll out today, which shows that conservatives do seem to be ready to rally around John McCain, however.

MONTAGNE: Turning to the Democratic side, it was a good weekend for Barack Obama, and he stands to do well in tomorrow's contests. How is the Clinton campaign reaction? And they are reacting.

ROBERTS: They are reacting. Senator Clinton has either fired or accepted the resignation - depending on how you look at it - of her campaign manager and she is taking on all kinds of media opportunities that she would not normally do. Last night on "60 Minutes," she appeared. She's accepting every debate that's being offered. But you know, there's something interesting that happened here, Renee. Last night on 60 Minutes, Barack Obama was the lead, and it's a sign of the times.

He's a bigger star. He's the person that will hook the viewers to come in and watch the rest of the program. He also won a Grammy Award for his reading of "Audacity of Hope," and his other contestants in that were Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. So there's - there really is kind of a sense that Barack Obama is on a role here, and in that Newsweek poll they are tied, Obama and Clinton, really, for the Democratic nomination.

You know, and Obama has, over the weekend, as you say, had a good weekend because he has done this very smart caucus strategy. Senator Clinton just ignored, really, caucus states thinking she was going to be in good shape. So he picked up Kansas, Nebraska, Maine over the weekend, and then the primary state of Louisiana with a large African American vote. So he's now in a much better position that he would have been had he not done that grass roots organizing of caucus states.

MONTAGNE: And Clinton has had her family campaigning for her ahead of the Potomac Primaries out there were you are, D.C., Maryland, Virginia - including former President Bill Clinton. He seems to be a different campaigner than we've seen in the earlier contests.

ROBERTS: True enough. He's calm. He's considered, measured, appearing in black churches telling people do what they think is right. It's interesting. Yesterday, President defended former President Clinton, saying, you know, if it were my wife, I can understand that. You know, he said, my father didn't get in there for me in the same kind of way, but it's different if it's your son or your wife. And I think that we are seeing a calmer, more measured Bill Clinton.

MONTAGNE: And, finally, how's the dynamic changed now that we're in a less frantic schedule of primaries? Although it doesn't seem all that less frantic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: Well it's going - it could go either way, Renee. And that's quite interesting. It could either be that now everybody takes a deep breath after tomorrow and says, okay, let's start over again with the big states of Ohio and Texas. And, of course, that's what Senator Clinton hopes. Or it could be that Senator Obama seems to have so much momentum going forward from here that he's unstoppable, and that's her big challenge.

MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks very much. NPR analyst Cokie Roberts. And if you'd like to learn more about what's at stake in tomorrow's primaries in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. - the Potomac Primaries - go to npr.org/election.

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