Post Politics Hour
Monday, February 25, 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. 25 at 11 a.m. ET.
The transcript follows.
Worcester, Mass.: Good morning. Sen. Clinton seems to have gone back to her "win ugly" campaign by trying to attack Sen. Obama. Why didn't she do this during their debate last week? Is she randomly swinging back and forth between an "attack" strategy and a "be nice" strategy, or do you think she has made a choice to be tougher on the campaign trail than on national TV?
Trying to be objective -- I voted for Sen. Obama, but I do think the idea that "Sen. Clinton supported NAFTA when it mattered" is simpler and more compelling than "Sen Obama is misrepresenting me." How do you see those competing narratives playing out in Ohio and Texas? We have seen the Clinton political machine escape seeming defeat so many times in the past that I am leery of assuming Sen. Obama has this campaign locked up. Thank you.
Shailagh Murray: Good morning everyone. I'm running a little late so I'll get right to the questions...
The Clintons are fighters and survivors, and that's why it's so hard to believe the situation that she is in -- which is bleak. Even folks who don't like Clinton had viewed her as the inevitable nominee -- and I think she probably viewed herself that way, maybe until it was too late. Anyway, her negative turn seems to be aimed at stopping Obama's momentum, so she can hold on at least to her Ohio lead. I wouldn't read too much strategy into this back and forth. When you're trying to stay alive you're looking for anything that works.
Hagerstown, Md.: Ralph Nader is the gift that keeps on giving to us Republicans. How upset are the Clinton and Obama campaigns that he just basically gave the election to John McCain?
Shailagh Murray: My hunch is that a month from now, people will have forgotten Ralph Nader is even in this race.
New York: Shailagh, while I understand that many party elders and luminaries are supporting Obama out of real conviction, I also get the feeling that there's also something of a payback going on against the Clinton "machine." Do you have a sense of how widespread this feeling is, and what the reason for it might be? Thanks.
Shailagh Murray: Not sure it's payback -- although it's true, there is some resentment -- as much as a sense that the Clintons are not the best face of the Democratic Party these days. Politicians tend to be brutally practical. Who can best lead the party as it tries to expand regionally, especially out West, and appeal to new generations of voters who tend to be less ideological? True, core Democrats love the Clintons, but to start winning national elections, what about all those folks who remember the Clintons as much for Marc Rich as for Bob Rubin?
Albany, N.Y.: Please explain why are Democrats obsessed with Ralph Nader? If someone votes for Nader they know that by not voting for the Democrat it might help the Republican and vice-versa. It doesn't hurt the Democrat any more than someone who doesn't vote or votes for another minor party candidate. This is just so stupid
Shailagh Murray: I would say Democrats are annoyed by Ralph Nader, not obsessed by him. They blame him for George Bush.
Palo Alto, Calif.: Who watches the watchers? "Saturday Night Live" hit the nail right on the head. If Obama gets the nomination, it will be because the press so desperately wanted him to be the candidate that they completely threw out any notion of objectivity to push Obama down America's throat like they were making foie gras. What systems/procedures does the press have or can it put in place to prevent this from happening in the future? Like the rah-rah running up and the war the failure to push to impeach Bush, its a permanent stain on the credibility of the press. We need you guys to hold yourselves to a higher standard.
washingtonpost.com: Achenblog: Obamabots Skewered on Saturday Night Live (washingtonpost.com, Feb. 24)
Shailagh Murray: Let the Obama backlash begin.
New Haven, Conn.: Hi Shailagh -- I enjoy and frequently am entertained by your chats -- thanks. So I think Clinton is very intelligent, well-intentioned and solid on policy. Unfortunately, she appears to have been hijacked by warring factions of her own campaign -- one day, the kinder, gentler folks have control, the next it's the nuclear folks, making her sound like a scolding ma. What is going on here?
Shailagh Murray: Flattery gets you everywhere! Thanks for the kind words.
No doubt about it, deconstructing the Clinton campaign will fill books and consume countless hours of cable news airtime for months and months to come. But the problems are actually pretty typical: Staffers with too much authority, smothering the candidate. No spending discipline. A deeply flawed business plan. Presidential campaigns are like car racing -- intricately constructed team-based operations that only look easy.
Ontario, Calif.: How come Barack Obama, who is from Africa, can be president, but Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is from Austria cannot?
Shailagh Murray: Because Barack Obama, whose father was from Africa, was born in the United States.
Yorktown, Va.: I'm just munching popcorn and watching in delight as the Democrats embarrass themselves. Today we get Nader and Farrakhan weighing in, and the "dressed" photo. Hillary's toast -- and all self-inflicted (that $10 million for Mark Penn was well-spent). Obama is saddled with baggage like Farrakhan, the Weather Underground, and ultra-left, anti-trade, tax-everything policies. You really still believe that the generic Democrat wins this race?
Shailagh Murray: Did I ever argue that the generic Democrat would win in November? Uh, I doubt it.
I suppose this is what Sen. Clinton means by "vetted," but I think there's plenty of all this to go around. Do you really think, given the past week, that John McCain is going to have an easier year?
Richmond, Va.: Shailagh, I'm a big fan of your chats. Thanks for doing them. My question is what would you say was the single biggest error the Clinton campaign committed?
Shailagh Murray: More flattery!
Single biggest mistake: Giving Bill Clinton such a high profile role on the campaign trail.
Portland, Ore.: Presuming that Sen. Clinton essentially ties Sen. Obama in Texas (but he picks up more delegates) and she wins Ohio by a small margin, will that be enough to cause her to shut down her campaign? If not, what will it take? Thanks.
Shailagh Murray: This is the doomsday scenario: an ambiguous outcome that allows Clinton to deliver a victory speech, even as the delegate math becomes insurmountable. We just don't know how she will respond. The days following March 4 will, one way or another, determine Sen. Clinton's political fate.
Ann Arbor, Mich.: I for one am sick of hearing that the media shoved Obama down my throat. I'm an educated adult who read the statements, watched the debates and came to an intelligent conclusion to support Obama. Fact is, many Democrats think Hillary will mobilize the Republican base in a general election as well. I will also say that I am very pleasantly surprised at the tone of Obama's campaign vs. Clinton's. Think of the muck Obama could dredge up against Clinton, and does not. The last-day pardons alone by Bill would do it, given that she takes credit for his presidency.
Shailagh Murray: Glad to hear your political disenfranchisement has not discouraged you from participating in the Post Politics Hour.
And thanks for writing.
Fairfax, Va.: How concerned are Democrats about Sen. Obama's potential appeal to older, middle- and lower-income voters, who so far have gravitated toward Sen. Clinton in the primary? I would imagine those kinds of voters are important in swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, among others.
Shailagh Murray: Very concerned, which is why Sen. Clinton is pushing back so hard on Obama's NAFTA and health care critiques, both aimed at that constituency.
Floris, Va.: Posting early, hope that's okay: In Chris Cillizza's and my favorite ex-Richmondite's Sunday article, and also the other story by Alec MacGillis, all of you seem to believe that carrying red states will be very difficult for Obama based on 2004 returns and other data. Have you considered that Bush had a near 60 percent approval rating in 2004 versus 30 percent today? Have you considered that the economy was growing at a four percent rate in 2004, versus less than two percent now? Also, most people were looking forward to the end of Iraq war in 2004, with Rumsfeld talking about "a few dead-enders" who just needed to be rounded up before we could leave. A Des Moines Register poll yesterday had Obama beating McCain 53 to 36 percent. I rest my case.
Shailagh Murray: I predict we will write 100 or so different versions of this story between now and November. But the bottom line is the same as it ever was -- the candidate who carries not red states, but purple states, is the candidate who will win the White House. The battle is not for Kansas, Alabama and Idaho, but for Missouri, Iowa and Pennsylvania. True, plenty of disillusioned Republicans are there for the taking, but there simply aren't that many of them to swing a deeply red state stocked with values voters who would be more inclined to stay home than vote for a Democrat.
San Diego: I can't help but think that Sen. Clinton's tone and comments about Obama over the weekend (particularly her speech in Rhode Island) did her campaign no favors. Do you believe that her message resonated with a significant fraction of voters, particularly the independents she would need to win in the fall?
washingtonpost.com: Clinton Tests Out Populist Approach (Post, Feb. 24)
Shailagh Murray: As I suggested earlier, this seems more an effort to depress the Obama vote than a Clinton growth strategy. But who knows, it could work.
Norfolk, Va.: Shailagh, if Hillary's biggest mistake was giving Bill such a big role, isn't that kinda 180 degrees from what everyone said a few months ago? Wasn't he the golden boy? Her greatest asset? I think the truly surprising thing is how awful he was on the trail -- combative, vindictive, rude. Maybe he doesn't want his globetrotting millionaire lifestyle curtailed?
Shailagh Murray: I don't think Bill Clinton just became that person when he hit the campaign trail. Observing him in recent months, he seemed a different man than the political magician who occupied the White House for two terms. Maybe the calculation was that he would revert to form. But it didn't work. I don't see how anyone could interpret it as a successful strategy.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving: Moderate Republican here, as likely to vote Democratic as Republican in a presidential election. Just putting my two cents on the table -- nominating Obama is the best thing the Democrats could do for McCain. Painting Obama as out of touch with middle America is going to be a very easy thing to do (think Weather Underground, wife not proud of America, belongs to church with race-baiting pastor, etc).
Shailagh Murray: Yeah, a Republican! Lots of Democratic questions today, not that I mind...
It's pretty clear that Obama's path forward, if he makes it beyond next week, will be a lot bumpier. But that'll be true for McCain as well. Obama is a tough and shrewd politician -- hello, he's beating Hillary Clinton! So don't worry, the fun is just beginning.
See you soon and thanks to all for participating. Cheers.
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