Post Politics Hour
Monday, February 11, 2008; 11:00 AM
Don't want to miss out on the latest in politics? Start each day with The Post Politics Hour. Join in each weekday morning at 11 a.m. as a member of The Washington Post's team of White House and congressional reporters answers questions about the latest in buzz in Washington and The Post's coverage of political news.
Washington Post national political reporter Shailagh Murray was online Monday, Feb. 11 at 11 a.m. ET.
The transcript follows.
Chevy Chase, Md.: Why is it that Senator Barack Obama has not been able to come out with several high-level Hispanic endorsements? This seems to be his Achilles heel, yet he does not seem to be shoring it up, and the Texas primary awaits. Do you think John Edwards is going to endorse Obama after tonight's meeting?
Shailagh Murray: Good morning everyone. Bring on your questions -- I'm interested in hearing your thoughts about where these races stand and where they might be headed.
As for you, Chevy Chase, I'm not sure what you mean by high-level Hispanic endorsements. Obama was endorsed by La Opinion, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in California. One of his more active surrogates is Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who has urged him to reach out more aggressively to Hispanics, but I think we'll see plenty of that in Texas in the weeks ahead. With every new round of contests he does better with Hispanic voters, so we'll see if that trend continues.
Kensington, Md.: Shailagh, Sen. Clinton's "just wait until the big states" strategy reminds me a little of that of a prominent Republican candidate earlier this campaign season. How are Rudy Giuliani's prospects looking, by the way?
Shailagh Murray: I've been hearing that comparison a fair bit lately.
Obviously the big difference is that Clinton already has won some big contests, and of course was the prohibitive front-runner at the outset -- she is in a far more secure position than Giuliani ever was. And the big states still looming -- Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania -- should be strong territory for her, given her advantage with working-class Democrats and Hispanics. But that's assuming a level playing field -- if Obama keeps winning by these huge margins, I'm not sure it's going to stay that way.
Sunnyvale, Calif.: What did you think of "60 Minutes" last night? Did it help or hurt either candidate?
Shailagh Murray: I thought both did pretty well, which probably means not many viewers changed their minds.
Washington State: Your colleague, Kane, last week said that by his math neither Hilary nor Obama can win the nomination outright, so it will come down to the superdelegates, where she has an edge. If Obama wins the majority of delegates available from primaries and caucuses, and the majority of the popular vote in those primaries and caucuses, would the superdelegates still pick Clinton? If so, what would be the repercussions of that in the general election?
Shailagh Murray: My sense of this superdelegate conjecture is that we're wading way deep into a hypothetical swamp. The Obama campaign has gamed out the rest of these contests, and projected a tie after Puerto Rico votes on June 7 -- but this weekend it outperformed its projections in all five contests, picking up more delegates, and potentially could get more than expected on Tuesday too. It's tempting to stake out the finish line, but at this point, after all that's happened, I'm resisting.
Wingnut: What's up with the Republicans? Didn't they get the memo that John McCain is the nominee? Even W is on board!
Shailagh Murray: What's up is that Mike Huckabee refuses to go away, and still is winning states.
College Park, Md.: Hi Shailagh. I'm sitting here in my office in College Park with a view of the metro. A line have been forming for the shuttle buses to campus even though they do seem to be running every five minutes. It's cold and I'm feeling lazy. Worth the effort to go hear Obama? I'll regret it if I don't, right?
Shailagh Murray: A funny question. I can't resist.
No question about it, Obama events have become the Versailles of political tourism. If you have the time, you should go. Or go see Hillary or Bill Clinton, or anyone who's campaigning in your neighborhood.
Silver Spring, Md.: Why has there been so little coverage on the closed nature of the Democratic primary process in Maryland? I for one was chagrined to discover that after 25 years of voting in Maryland (as a Democrat), I was not registered as a Democratic Party member, and because the deadline to declare was in November, I cannot participate. I guess the notion of inclusion in Maryland seems a bit quaint.
Shailagh Murray: States are all over the map on this. (Ha ha, get it?) That said, three months in advance is crazy. If an election were ever a marketing opportunity for a party, this is it for Democrats.
Baltimore: Speaking of major Hispanic endorsements: Is Gov. Bill Richardson still on the sidelines? A little surprising, given his prominent roles in Bill Clinton's administration.
Shailagh Murray: Yep, still on the sidelines. Given that it has taking New Mexico a week to count Super Tuesday ballots, I suppose Gov. Richardson's equivocation shouldn't be too surprising.
Palo Alto, Calif.: Do we have any idea of who "the power behind the throne" would be in an Obama administration? The only one we know about in his inner circle is him, and we know he's not a "detail guy." Who's Obama's Cheney?
Shailagh Murray: Obama's campaign staff is an unusually low-key group of people, with more workhorses than show horses. I would imagine his White House would look pretty similar. One clue is the type of public official that has gravitated to him, folks like Tom Daschle and Tim Kaine, Claire McCaskill, Janet Napolitano and Kathleen Sebelius. These are not folks who take up a lot of airtime on cable news.
Phoenixville, Pa.: It was obviously a difficult weekend for Sen. Clinton ... had the tables been reversed and she had swept the weekend and was likely to sweep the Chesapeake/Potomac primary, would her supporters be calling for Sen. Obama to step aside for the unity of the party?
Shailagh Murray: An interesting question. I guess one could conclude from it that Clinton remains the de facto frontrunner.
Palo Alto, Calif.: Being a woman doesn't seem to confer any political advantage. It has been 25 years since we've had a woman on the ticket, and that was for vice president. How long will it be before we see one again?
Shailagh Murray: If Obama is the nominee, I would not be at all surprised if he were to consider a woman for vice president -- like Kathleen Sebelius, for instance.
Portland, Ore.: Hi Shailagh. It's looking like Texas and Ohio will be key states deciding the Democratic candidate; I haven't seen any polling data from these two states -- have you, and can you share the results with us? Thanks.
Shailagh Murray: I'm sorry I can't answer this off the top of my head -- but check the site realclearpolitics, which seems to keep track of everything.
Charlottesville, Va.: How surprising was the margin of victory for Obama in yesterday's Maine caucuses? And what are the experts thinking about tomorrow in Virginia, the District and Maryland, with regard to the margin of victory?
Shailagh Murray: I was very surprised by the outcome in Maine, and I know the Obama campaign was too. This is a similar electorate to Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and the northeast has until now been strong Clinton country. I haven't looked at a breakdown of caucus participants yet, but if Clinton lost ground with her core female supporters, that's a worrisome development to say the least.
Re: College Park, Md.: As a veteran of the New Hampshire tours here's what I would recommend: Huck is the best show, but be careful, sometimes the karate guy opening act goes on forever. Obama is a huge show with pyrotechnics, laser lights and all the rock star accoutrements (including being more than an hour late!). Hillary is surprisingly really, really good and compelling. Ron Paul is funny in a crazy kinda way. McCain ... well he's a bit like those 1950s bands they show on PBS fundraising weekends ... there's something familiar about going to see a guy who's been on tour for the last 20-30 years. Everybody in Maryland and Virginia should try to catch at least one or two of these shows ... it's pretty cool to see presidential politics in person.
Shailagh Murray: Thanks, tour guide!
Seal Beach, Calif.: If Obama got the nomination, what would his primary weaknesses seem to be in the general election?
Shailagh Murray: That he's a softy, compared to a tough guy like McCain. You can imagine the back and forth on negotiating with the enemy, etc. Obama and Clinton have different styles, but more or less similar views -- with McCain, the contrast is across the board.
Cambridge, Mass.: Given that it seems possible that every delegate may count, can you explain what could happen with John Edwards's delegates? Can those delegates switch to either Clinton or Obama? If so, is Edwards likely to have some influence over them in that regard?
Shailagh Murray: This is why both candidates are taking time from the campaign trail to visit John Edwards in North Carolina (Clinton went last week; Obama will go tonight). Edwards I believe has 26 pledged delegates, two more than Maine had up for grabs yesterday -- but unlike any state on the Democratic nominating calendar, the John Edwards primary is winner-take-all.
New York: The $5 million cash loan, the fundraising difficulties, now shuffling the top of her campaign team ... individually all are bad signs for Sen. Clinton, but taken together they seem to signal a campaign in real crisis. What impressions have you been getting from the Clinton camp? Given that she is unlikely to generate any good news between now and March 4, what can Sen. Clinton do to turn around her negative momentum?
Shailagh Murray: She has to defy expectations somewhere, somehow, to stop Obama's momentum. As in, do better than expected tomorrow or in Wisconsin. Win the Edwards endorsement. Launch a pickup truck tour of Texas. Anything that gives the impression that people still think she can win (which of course she can).
Claverack, N.Y.: The most surprising thing to me this election cycle: I had no idea the huge number of states that vote by caucus. I always thought it was just Iowa. It seems so odd to me -- primaries are so much easier to run, and easier for the voters as well. Why do so many states opt for caucuses?
Shailagh Murray: Because the nominating process is really a party function. Caucuses are a way for Democratic loyalists to hash things out and a way to preserve the party's influence, especially at the state and local levels. The interesting thing this year is that caucus turnout has skyrocketed along with primary turnout; in the past, cultural barriers have deterred ordinary voters from participating in these rather intimate events (it's sort of like going to a city council meeting).
I have to split, but thanks to all of you for participating, and sorry I couldn't get to every question! Have a good week and enjoy the show.
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