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Election 2008: Edwards, Giuliani Drop Out

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Dotty Lynch
Political Consultant, CBS News; Executive in Residence, American University Communications Department
Wednesday, January 30, 2008; 2:30 PM

CBS political consultant Dotty Lynch, who covered national politics for 20 years at the network, was online Wednesday, Jan. 30 at 2:30 p.m. ET to discuss the departures of Sen. John Edwards and Mayor Rudy Giuliani from the presidential campaigns and what they mean for the remaining candidates.

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The transcript follows.

Lynch is executive in residence at the American University School of Communication. She began her career in politics and journalism at NBC News in 1968 and joined the polling firm of Cambridge Survey Research in 1972. In 1983, she opened Lynch Research, a political polling firm where she was the first women pollster in a presidential campaign. The 2008 election marks Lynch's 11th presidential campaign as a professional journalist and pollster. At CBS News, she covered five presidential campaigns, 10 national political conventions, 18 presidential and vice-presidential debates and five midterm elections.

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Dotty Lynch: Hello, this is Dotty Lynch. I am a professor in the School of Communication at American University, and a CBS News Political consultant. Lots of politics going on today, huh?

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San Francisco: Hope I got this in in time. So, when an Edwards or a Giuliani drops out of the race, what happens to all the money they raised? I'm assuming they don't issue refunds. And is there a limit to them transferring that cash to the candidate they then endorse?

Dotty Lynch: My hunch is that they spent it all and may be running on fumes. Edwards was taking matching funds, so he probably has bills. Giuliani also has been running low. If they have any left, they can give it to other candidates or to political parties. You are right -- they almost never give anything back to their donors.

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Philadelphia ... Obama Country!: Dotty, thanks for taking my question. Now that Edwards is out and McCain has established himself as the GOP front-runner, is it possible that Obama stands to gain more than Clinton? Specifically, let's look at states with "open" primaries where independents can vote (not sure which states or how many, but there are some). If people believe McCain has it wrapped up, aren't they more likely to vote in the Democratic race, and for Obama? If there's one thing Hillary Clinton definitely is, it's polarizing, and not too attractive to independents. I know this is wishful thinking on my part (obviously), but it seems plausible. Your expert opinion please!

Dotty Lynch: Your theory about independents is correct, but it is too early to tell about Edwards's supporters. In most of the Super Tuesday states he was only getting about 8 percent-10 percent. Right now, demographically, it looks like some -- especially older and blue collar voters -- might trend toward Clinton, and Edwards's younger and male supporters might chose Obama.

But the next round of polls should answer a lot of these questions.

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Washington: What do you think about an Obama-Edwards ticket?

Dotty Lynch: That would be a very energetic pairing, but I have a feeling that Edwards may think "been there, done that" when it comes to vice president. Running for vice president may be particularly unattractive for him -- I don't think he enjoyed playing second fiddle to John Kerry.

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Fairfax County, Va.: Why have so many of the Democratic dropouts (Richardson, Edwards) not immediately endorsed someone else? It seems to me that their supporters are looking to them for marching orders on Super Tuesday and are owed a thoughtful answer from the candidate they may have volunteered for and contributed to. These people were up for leader of the free world, surely they at least can be leaders of those who followed them to the end.

Dotty Lynch: These candidates have egos and feelings. They spent a lot of time and money running against the others, and it takes some time to "get over it."

Giuliani is an exception. I think he has known for a while that Florida was not going to work for him and had decided to back McCain if McCain won the primary.

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McLean, Va.: Don't you think Edwards needs to endorse someone almost immediately to have any real effect on the race? He simply doesn't have that many delegates with which to bargain, and after Super Tuesday 40-someodd delegates aren't likely to be that important.

Dotty Lynch: I think he decided to "test" Clinton and Obama on the poverty issue if they want his support. Pretty cool move, I think.

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Electability: I'm hearing a lot of pundits say the Republicans who don't currently like McCain all that much will come around because he is "electable." That, of course, is the same logic that led Democrats to accept John Kerry so readily as their nominee in 2004 -- and look how that worked out. Could we be seeing a repeat, this time for the other party?

Dotty Lynch: If you recall, the other day John McCain's mother told them to "hold their nose" and vote for her son. It often depends how "hungry" partisans are to retake the White House. In 1992 a lot of liberal Democrats who were wary of Bill Clinton "held their noses" and voted for him because they just wanted a Democrat back.

And it will depend on how worried they are about the Democratic nominee pursuing even more policies they don't like.

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Baltimore: National polling during primary season: Will the results of the campaign, especially on the Republican side, cause the media to lose its fascination with early national polls? Last summer those polls seemingly had the Republican nomination as a two-man race -- Giuliani versus Thompson.

Dotty Lynch: Media lose fascination with polls? Never -- nor will voters. As much as everyone complains about "horse-race journalism" the first thing they ask a pollster is "who is ahead?" Rarely is the first question "what was the most important issue?" Alas.

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Phoenix: Isn't it probable that some Edwards supporters -- who were among those who disliked Clintons and who felt Obama lacked experience -- would lean toward a moderate Republican candidate?

Dotty Lynch: That could happen as well, although many of Edwards's supporters in 2008 were more traditional Democrats, older and blue-collar voters who liked his economic populist message. In 2004 he had more of an independent "yuppie" constituency.

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Arlington, Va.: Greetings. I can't help but look at the timing of the Edwards announcement as being no accident ... it effectively knocked any hopes the Clinton campaign had for Florida "victory" coverage out of the news cycle. Is this an Edwards indicator that he ultimately may come to endorse Obama?

Dotty Lynch: I think Edwards set his own clock on this one. He had to decide whether to make ad buys in some big Super Tuesday states and go out to California for the debate tomorrow night, and he looked at polling that indicated that he was not likely to get many delegates. So I think he made the announcement when it was right for him and his family and his campaign.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: How was Giuliani polling nationally? What was likely to have happened if he stayed in the race and had a chance to win some delegates in those states where he was polling better than he did in the earlier primaries and caucuses? I never saw him being able to appeal to a majority of Republicans, but he could have been an influence at the convention, in my opinion.

Dotty Lynch: His national numbers plummeted along with his poll numbers in the big states. Because most of the Republican contests are "winner-take-all" -- either statewide or by congressional district -- coming in second or third doesn't get you many delegates.

I think when he saw that he was likely to lose his home state of New York, he decided enough is enough.

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Dotty Lynch: Unfortunately, I have to go now. Your questions have been great and I have enjoyed my first "chat" on washingtonpost.com Thank you!

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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