Post Politics Hour

In the Loop: On the Hill by Lois Romano
Lois Romano (Julia Ewan - The Washington Post)
Lois Romano
Washington National Political Reporter
Thursday, February 14, 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 Lois Romano was online Thursday, Feb. 14 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest in political news.

The transcript follows.

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Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts


Lois Romano: Good morning everyone. We have had much extraordinary political news in the past two weeks, so there's much to talk about. So let's get started.


Naperville, Ill.: I was just looking at the calendar of upcoming contests and saw Washington. Washington had a caucus last week and has a primary next week. What is the deal with that? How do delegates get awarded if Obama wins one (the caucus) and Clinton wins the other (the primary)?

Lois Romano: This is from Washington secretary of state's Web site:

In 1988, more than 200,000 Washington voters signed an Initiative to the Legislature proposing that a Presidential Primary be held.

The Legislature adopted the initiative in 1989, and it is authorized in Chapter 29A.56 of the Revised Code of Washington. The law states:

The presidential nominating caucus system in Washington State is unnecessarily restrictive of voter participation in that it discriminates against the elderly, the infirm, women, the disabled, evening workers, and others who are unable to attend caucuses and therefore unable to fully participate in this most important quadrennial event that occurs in our democratic system of government.

The Legislature further emphasized that the presidential selection process must be more open and representative of the will of the people.

A Presidential Primary allows each Washington voter to participate in the nomination process, not just political party insiders who participate in the caucuses.

Political parties retain the authority to decide if they will use the Presidential Primary to allocate delegates to the national nominating conventions. The political parties may also use caucus results, or a combination of primary results and caucus results.


Colton, N.Y.: Hi Lois, Thanks for taking our questions. What are we to make of McCain adviser and ad man Mark McKinnon's assertion that he would watch an Obama-McCain matchup from the sidelines, while supporting McCain personally? It only adds to the feeling that this election year isn't politics as usual. The Fix: McCain's Inner Circle -- Revisited (, Feb. 14)

Lois Romano: What he said was that he wouldn't be comfortable being part of a team that attacks Obama. McKinnon has been doing McCain's ads for cost out of loyalty -- I wouldn't write him off yet.


Atlanta: Apparently, Hillary Clinton doesn't think my state is "significant." I want to live in a significant state! Where should I move?

Lois Romano: Well, no state is significant if you didn't win it. I assure you it would become very significant if she were the nominee.


Boston: Time to get out a calculator. If the Democratic primaries were similar to the Republican's, where it's winner-take-all, would one candidate be comfortably in the lead, or would it still be close? Which do you think is a better system, winner-take-all or proportional?

Lois Romano: I don't have time during the chat to work up the calculator, but its good question. I suspect Obama would still be ahead.

Personally, I think the proportional system is more representative.


Washington: Morning, Lois -- I've seen a recent quote from Mark Penn where he basically asks: "Could we possibly have a nominee who hasn't won any of the significant states, besides Illinois?" Now, I get what they are trying to do with the primary (downplay Obama's wins, pump hers up), but this would seem to be the dumbest thing a so-called political strategist could say. If Clinton is the nominee, a lot of those states (Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado, Virginia) are expected to be swing states. Clinton is going to need them to win. Hasn't Penn just basically wrote a McCain ad with that statement?

Lois Romano: The Clinton campaign understandably is doing all it can to diminish Obama's wins -- but a victory is a victory. The Obama campaign ran a very shrewd strategy by going after all the caucus states. Clinton went after big states -- not because she thought that would make her a better president but because she thought that was how she would win the nomination.

I'm sure Mark Penn now wishes the Clinton campaign had paid more attention to the caucus states.


Raleigh, N.C.: Good morning! Clinton's team is leaking a lot, but then, it seems like that's just an exacerbation of a trend, rather than something new. Obama's team is very cohesive. To what extent is that the difference between doing well and underperforming, and to what extent is that caused by personality differences or differences in management style?

Lois Romano: All of the above. The Clinton team was more disciplined when it was the front-runner and there were fewer leaks. However, the Clinton team always has leaked, always has been filled with big egos and big personalities that like talking to the press.

Obama's campaign is more like a crusade, and so everyone is pulling together for now.


Annapolis, Md.: In yesterday's chat, a Palo Alto participant stated that "for every Obama supporter who feels this is a victory, there's a Clinton supporter who feels that we were robbed." Any idea what the chatter was talking about? In what way was Sen. Clinton "robbed"? If he or she is out there, would you please elaborate? Thanks!

Lois Romano: The Clintons feel robbed in part because they thought it was her turn, that this was her election. They don't understand how a senator of two years is besting them.


Bethesda, Md.: Lois, what is the deal with Hillary's staff jumping ship? That article from Atlantic Monthly by Joshua Greene paints a pretty distressing picture about Patti Solis Doyle! I mean, Hillary's campaign manager was watching soaps on the job while things were going from bad to worse! Can you imagine the frustration some of the staff were experiencing trying to get through to this woman? Staffer: "Patti, we're losing in Virginia, the District and Maryland big time, donors are on the phone -- what should we do?" Patti: "Shh, Can't you see I'm watching my stories -- Erica Cain is in trouble." Anyone pulls a trick like that in the real world and they get fired, not demoted! Please explain the madness. How Hillary's campaign managed itself into a ditch-and how it might get itself out (Atlantic Monthly, February 2008)

Lois Romano: Doyle was a very hard worker, close to Clinton, who may have been more useful as Clinton's eyes and hears on the campaign -- instead of running it.

It's important to know that she never was the chief architect of the effort. The strategists are Bill Clinton, Mark Penn, Mandy Grunwald, etc. -- so it would be unfair to place the loses of the past six weeks on her shoulders.


Anonymous: Julian Bond on behalf of the NAACP spoke to the disenfranchising of black voters by not counting the Florida delegates. If victory hinges on counting the Florida delegates, how far will the Clintons go to count those delegates? The Supreme Court? NAACP Head Wants Barred Delegates Seated (AP, Feb. 12)

Lois Romano: That's a big question right now. My gut is that they will take it as far as they think they can, but their efforts could have a fairness backlash. Obama didn't campaign in those states and didn't even have his name on the ballot in Michigan. The Obama campaign won't recede on this issue either.


Re: They don't understand how a senator of two years is besting them: Hey! It's three years now!

Lois Romano: Oops!


Washington: Many pundits have mentioned that although Clinton is behind in the number of pledged delegates, she still holds a wide lead among superdelegates. But considering that they aren't bound to support her, do you see some of those superdelegates publicly switching camps in the weeks ahead?

Lois Romano: Yes, they could. The will go with the winner and they will go with momentum.


Bloomington, Ind.: Hello Lois. Yesterday, James Carville was quoted as saying that if Clinton lost either Texas, Ohio or Pennsylvania, she would lose the nomination. That's a pretty big statement from one of her supporters. So, if she does lose one of those three contests, will she continue on to the convention or suspend her campaign? If she did drop out, the amount of good will generated almost undoubtedly would cause Obama's and Clinton's supporters, to put differences aside and demand her as the vice presidential candidate. The dream ticket, or just a dream?

Lois Romano: Hard to say. Clinton might be agreeable to being Obama's vice president, but I always have believed Obama would be less interested in being her veep. Regarding those states, she needs to win them with very big margins to stay competitive because of the proportional system.

The Clintons don't give up easily -- don't rule them out yet.


On the sidelines: Any thoughts on why the War Room team of Carville and Begala haven't been pulled in (or haven't been willing to be pulled in) by now to shore up Clinton's strategy?

Lois Romano: Clinton had her own team and didn't want to use all of her husband's advisers. They are consulted, but at this point I don't think they will be brought in.


Washington: Clinton's campaign has said that she would not concede even if she had fewer pledged delegates. I would like someone to ask her this directly, and Sen. Obama as well.

Lois Romano: They won't answer it yet -- it wouldn't be a viable question until after March 4. They don't even know what they will do -- and they certainly can't say they would pull out, because then no one would vote on March 4.


Obama and Florida: Obama might not have "campaigned" physically in Florida, but he did have a national ad campaign running, and his commercials sure did air in Florida before the primary. So let's not pretend that only Hillary "campaigned" there, shall we?

Lois Romano: All agreed to the rules. Is it fair to change them in the middle of the game?


Hillary's "turn"?: I've seen/heard that childish meme spread around all over the place (and repeated and repeated and repeated), yet I've never seen anybody in Clinton's camp actually cited in articles actually saying this. To me it sounds like anti-Clinton propaganda tarted up to sound real. You know, like "everybody knows Saddam is building nukes" or "Al Gore invented the Internet," etc. I think after all that, political reporters might be a bit more careful in repeating what appears to be just gossip ... unless you do have a source? (By the way, I'm for Obama ... I just don't like to see media treating any candidate unfairly.)

Lois Romano: You might not like the way I phrased it, but her advisers believed she was the most qualified Democratic and had been through the fires.


Palo Alto, Calif.: How much long-term damage have Democrats done to each other by trashing the history of the Clinton administration? I can't imagine Republicans trashing Reagan.

Lois Romano: Not much. The real damage would be if Clinton and Obama ripped each other apart right now, and they have moved away from that tactic for the time being.


Washington: You wrote: "McKinnon has been doing McCain's ads for cost out of loyalty." Isn't that resulting in an awfully big (and potentially illegal) contribution from McKinnon to McCain?

Lois Romano: I have no idea. McCain paid all the costs -- McKinnon forwent the profit. Couldn't tell you if that is a contribution.


Superdelegates: Hi there, I am reading all this info about superdelegates, but where can I get a list of the entire 796, and where can I keep track of who has pledged support already, and to whom? Full list of superdelegates (.pdf); superdelegate endorsement list.

Lois Romano: Try looking for them on the Democratic National Committee Web site.


Lois Romano: Hi everyone. It's time to wrap it up for today, but thank you for your interest and questions. Please join me in two weeks.


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