Clinton-Obama Battle Rages; GOP Immigration Gap It will be weeks before the Democratic presidential nominee is decided, and that time lag is hurting the party. The battle between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama seems to get nastier every day. Meantime, the immigration debate haunts McCain and the GOP.
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Clinton-Obama Battle Rages; GOP Immigration Gap

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Clinton-Obama Battle Rages; GOP Immigration Gap

Clinton-Obama Battle Rages; GOP Immigration Gap

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Good morning to you both.

KEN RUDIN: Good morning.

MARA LIASSON: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: How big a problem is it for Republicans if McCain has a very different position on immigration than many of the candidates he's running with?

LIASSON: But the fact is that the standard bearer of the Republican Party is the sponsor of the infamous McCain/Kennedy bill. Everybody does know where he stands and he is, for that very reason, the strongest Republican to contest the Democrats with the Hispanic vote and in a lot of parts of the country where an anti- immigration candidate could not.

INSKEEP: Ken Rudin.

RUDIN: But don't forget that last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, John McCain was booed by the conservative delegates there when he mentioned his role in the immigration debate. So before he woos these Independents in November, the hopes to break up, you know, the Democratic coalition, he's going to have to assemble a Republican coalition.

LIASSON: Yeah, I agree with that. But the fact that the Republicans did lose Denny Hastert's seat and it was quite a shock to them. Newt Gingrich called it a loss of Watergate-style proportions in the outlook that it suggests for the fall, I think people might be - Republicans might be more open to what McCain has to offer.

INSKEEP: Do you think that Republicans have a chance to do well in the Hispanic vote, better than they did in 2006 anyway?

RUDIN: Well, I think they do, only because John McCain has made that an important part of his candidacy. He's - similar to what George W. Bush did when he was governor of Texas. He reached out for Hispanic support and got it in both 2000 and 2004.

INSKEEP: Well, let's move on to the other side here. We should mention that whatever awkwardness McCain has, he's free enough anyway to leave the country. He was seen in Iraq over the weekend. Democrats have a different situation, don't they?

RUDIN: The battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama does not seem to be lessening at all. The personal attacks seem to be going up. And while Barack Obama seems to be gaining delegates - this weekend, Saturday, the county conventions in Iowa, he picked up another nine or ten delegates, moving him ever closer to 2,025. But nobody seems to be reaching the magic number. And then therefore the wooing of the superdelegates begins.


LIASSON: Yeah, and that's why Michigan and Florida, those contested primaries - that everybody's talking about a possible do over there - are so much more important to Hillary Clinton. Every day that Barack Obama picks up another Edwards delegate, as Ken talked about in Iowa, or another superdelegate makes it more important that she somehow find a way to get those primaries redone in Michigan and Florida so she can pick up - add to her popular vote totals and pick up some delegates.

INSKEEP: Can I just mention, both of these candidates have insisted that race is not an issue, is not supposed to be an issue here. But last week we had a supporter of Hillary Clinton, Geraldine Ferraro, having to disassociate herself from the campaign after some remarks on race. And now it seems to be Barack Obama's turn to be in trouble on some racial issues.

LIASSON: Race is definitely an issue in this campaign. Of course, both candidates say they don't want it to be, especially Barack Obama, who has really run to transcend racial divisions. But you do see a very strong racial divide in the primary results. Something that Hillary Clinton, in an indirect way, says is one of the reasons why Barack Obama would not be as good a general election candidate because he can't carry those working class white votes.

INSKEEP: OK. Well, we'll continue listening and watching. Thank you very much to you both. NPR's political editor Ken Rudin. Thank you.

RUDIN: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: And our national political correspondent is Mara Liasson. Mara, thanks.

LIASSON: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Good to hear from you. And you're hearing them on MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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