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Post Politics Hour

In the Loop: On the Hill by Lois Romano
Lois Romano (Julia Ewan - The Washington Post)

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Lois Romano
Washington National Political Reporter
Thursday, February 28, 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.

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Washington Post national political reporter Lois Romano was online Thursday, Feb. 28 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest in political news.

The transcript follows.

Get the latest campaign news live on washingtonpost.com's The Trail, or subscribe to the daily Post Politics Podcast.

Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts

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Lois Romano: Good morning, and thanks for joining me today. I look forward to tackling your questions.

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Washington: Why hasn't John Edwards endorsed yet? Is he waiting for some strategic reason, or is he legitimately undecided?

Lois Romano: My best guess would be that he feels he can have more influence with the remaining two candidates in terms of their message if he doesn't endorse; that both candidates asked for his support, but short of that asked him to stay neutral; and that many of his supporters already have made their choice, so it doesn't matter, and therefore he's better off staying publicly neutral.

Of course, he knows who he favors.

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Naperville, Ill.: Good morning and thanks for chatting. Does the Obama-McCain dustup about Iraq pose an even bigger problem for Clinton, as it seems to crowd her off the front page at precisely the time she needs maximum exposure? Doesn't it also give the impression that the November match up is going to be Obama-McCain, so maybe voters will be wasting their votes on Hillary?

washingtonpost.com: Clash on Iraq Could Be McCain-Obama Preview (Post, Feb. 28)

Lois Romano: You raise a very good question, and the simple answer is yes. Any press coverage, assumptions or GOP posturing that treats Obama as the nominee hurts Clinton as she is fighting to stay viable.

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Bethesda, Md.: I just saw a quick recap of the president's press conference this morning, and he claims the U.S. isn't headed for a recession. How, I ask you how, can the president make this claim when the evidence is as plain as day that we are?

Lois Romano: He acknowledged that the country was in a "slowdown." I think he simply was saying that we are not in a full-blown recession just yet. He also noted that the stimulus steps haven't had time to work.

I will say that the president is at that part of his administration where his legacy is important to him, and he doesn't want to leave office with the economy in the tank.

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Fairfax, Va.: I can't help but think John Lewis has fallen prey to the Obama rhetoric bandwagon. No black man in America wants to go on public record as saying they support Sen. Clinton, especially with Obama doing well. This has nothing to do with what is right for the country, and everything to do with "keeping the faith." Wake up, people, and really pay attention to what Obama is shoveling -- because if you don't, you soon will be knee-deep in it.

washingtonpost.com: The Trail: Lewis Switches Endorsement to Obama (washingtonpost.com, Feb. 27)

Lois Romano: Ouch. You must be a Hillary supporter.

John Lewis switched to Obama for one reason: nearly 70 percent of his state voted for Obama, and Lewis was sent to Washington by the people of Georgia. He respected the will of the people, which is what our elected officials are supposed to do.

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Boston: Please comment on the wisdom of Sen Clinton opening the debate with a complaint about her treatment, complete with a reference to "Saturday Night Live." As a professional woman, I've never found complaining to be helpful in achieving my goals -- might gain me sympathy, but who really wants a victim to run the country? How is Sen. Clinton doing with professional women these days?

washingtonpost.com: In a Crucial State, a Contentious Debate (Post, Feb. 27)

Lois Romano: She stated a fact: She routinely has gotten more questions, and the first question. We all deal with these issues differently, and Sen. Clinton chose to air hers. I didn't see it impacting her one way or the other. Her greatest support is among women over 60, and she has done well with professional women in recent years. More recently, some of those women have moved to Obama.

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New York: Clinton and McCain are close to each other, philosophically and in terms of their donor support. In fact, McCain's campaign manager, Charlie Black, is a lobbyist whose firm is wholly owned by the lobbying firm of Mark Penn, Clinton's chief strategist. Isn't it conceivable Clinton will "scorch the earth" to help McCain if she is unable to beat Obama herself?

Lois Romano: What planet are you on? Absolutely not. She'll support the Democratic nominee.

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Baltimore: I'm old enough to remember Will Rogers's famous quote about not belonging to a political party but being a Democrat. Well, I really thought we Democrats would regain the White House after these disastrous past seven years, but only the Democrats could find a way to nominate the candidate most likely to lose to John McCain -- a 46 year old two-year Senator.

I'm sorry if I seem old, because I don't get Obama. All I can think of is Harold Ford losing in Tennessee by several percentage points despite polls showing him winning or tied up to the end. I do not believe that the majority of voters is ready to vote for any African American (short of Colin Powell) when they get behind the curtain in the voting booth. Does anyone else notice that many of Obama's wins came in caucus situations, where there is a herd mentality and public position taking? I hope I'm wrong, but when November comes around we only will have ourselves and the media to blame. Any comments?

Lois Romano: Sen. Obama has proven to be a shrewd politician and candidate. He has gotten better and better since he first stepped onto the presidential stage. Moreover, he has shown great appeal among independents (as does McCain), and as most junkies know, elections are decided by the 15 percent who are swing voters. You should not underestimate Obama. He will be a very strong opponent for McCain.

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Bethesda, Md.: How important will the portrayal of a McCain presidency just being four more years of Bush presidency be for the Democratic nominee? Can McCain successfully be tied to Bush?

Lois Romano: That certainly will be a line of attack the Democrats will pursue, but many people remember there was no love lost between the men in 2000. He can be tied to Bush on Iraq.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Doesn't Nancy Pelosi's position as Speaker of the House undercut the historical nature of Sen. Clinton's campaign? There still hasn't been a woman president, but there is one third in line to the president, who holds a very powerful position.

Lois Romano: Not at all. First of all, I'm not sure most Americans know much about Pelosi. Secondly, she was elected Speaker by her peers in Congress -- she didn't run a national campaign.

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Claverack, N.Y.: Let's say the results from Texas and Ohio are such that Hillary squeaks out a victory in Texas and Ohio, but the delegate margins make it transparently clear the race is over; she can't catch up. But, because she "won," she says she's soldiering on to Pennsylvania. Would you, in your judgment as a journalist, think the Pennsylvania primary should be covered like a contested primary, or should the story pivot to the conventions and general election?

Lois Romano: Journalists will continue to cover this as a contested primary as long as neither has the requisite number of delegates.

Obama has 1,365 delegates; Hillary has 1,268. They need 2025 to capture the nomination. If those contests are close, then they end up increasing their delegate counts in tandem.

That said, I suspect there will a moment coming up where one of them increases their delegate count by several hundred. While it may not bring him/her to the 2025, it is at that point where party leaders start thinking about someone stepping aside.

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Rolla, Mo.: When Al Gore lost in 2000, I was at first angry at his campaign managers, but through the years realized he should have controlled things and he that was his failure. We already are seeing finger-pointing within Sen. Clinton's campaign as to what went wrong and and who is to blame. In the end, if Sen. Clinton loses after being the clear favorite a few months ago, doesn't the blame rest at the top? Isn't she in charge of the whole thing?

Lois Romano: Yes, the buck stops with her. In this case, there will be ample blame to go around: Who spent the money so quickly? Who pushed to rest the whole campaign on the early states and not be prepared in the later states with organization and money? What role did Bill Clinton play in hurting his wife?

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Atlanta: Is the GOP doing anything to siphon more of the black vote, as George W. Bush did in 2004, or are they conceding even the black Republican vote to Obama?

Lois Romano: Of course they are not going to fold their tent completely -- they will do what they can. But they also know you can't stop a tidal wave. I assume they largely will concede at least the Democratic black vote to Obama, and use their resources where they feel that they can make some headway.

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Kansas City, Mo.: What do you think of Sen. Clinton's complaints on the media's treatment of her? I saw Paul Krugman of the New York Times termed it "Clinton Rules," which he described as "the term a number of observers use for the way pundits and some news organizations treat any action or statement by the Clintons, no matter how innocuous, as proof of evil intent." Anything to what he is saying?

washingtonpost.com: Hate Springs Eternal (New York Times, Feb. 11)

Lois Romano: This has been a hard campaign for Clinton with respect to the media.

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Anonymous: Nice story about Bill Clinton's "handler" the other day. Why wouldn't Hillary have kept the bombastic Bill on a shorter leash and monitored his actions more closely if she saw him messing things up so much?

washingtonpost.com: Bill Clinton's Aide, Now in the Story (Post, Feb. 27)

Lois Romano: Sometimes things happen so fast that it takes a campaign a split second too long to realize things have gone south. Bill Clinton's approval ratings are very high and Democrats like him -- but that doesn't mean they want to elect him to a third term. The campaign likely assumed that given his popularity, he had some latitude.

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Odenton, Md.: I was just reading the article on the Dingells in Michigan. How exactly do socialite wives of politicians become superdelegates?

washingtonpost.com: The Sleuth: Debbie Dingell -- Angst-ridden Superdelegate and Congressional Spouse (washingtonpost.com, Feb. 27)

Lois Romano: She's an accomplished professional and Democratic Party activist in her own right. I don't know by what criteria she became a superdelegate, but I promises it's not because she's a socialite wife. My guess is that she may be a member of the Democratic National Committee.

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Chicago: Am I wrong to think there's some benefit to dragging out this Democratic primary season? It keeps the candidates front-and-center, usually with some positive angle to the reporting, and prevents Republican attacks from taking center stage. Obama and Clinton have all this money they've raised but can't spend in the general contest, so they get to keep putting their message out.

Lois Romano: At a certain point, it becomes harmful. For one, a prolonged fight creates prolonged tensions, making it harder for the party to come together again. Secondly, the nominee needs time to prepare for the general.

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Chicago, IL: Thanks for taking questions. Everything I have read indicates that early voting in Texas is through the roof, particularly in the areas where Obama is expected to do well. A huge turnout in a state with an open primary (which Texas is) generally has resulted in an Obama blowout. Yet the polls show that it is still relatively close between the two. What gives?

washingtonpost.com: Clinton, Obama Target Early Voting (AP, Feb. 28)

Lois Romano: Haven't you learned to ignore polls after the New Hampshire debacle? I have.

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Anonymous: McCain has begun his general campaign pitch of labeling Obama as soft/timid regarding standing up to terrorists (though he also paints Obama as trigger-happy as when he repeated the already-debunked story that Obama wants to bomb Pakistan). I think this could be successful for McCain, unless Obama can come up with more succinct ways of saying that involvement in Iraq weakens the U.S., such as in terms of resources (including financial) -- though so far Republicans do not acknowledge that spending $10 billion (?) a month in Iraq and Afghanistan has any impact on the U.S. economy (heck, we can still afford tax cuts). Has McCain found a sure-fire winning theme?

Lois Romano: No, he hasn't found a sure fire winning theme. But Obama in many ways can be harder to run against than Clinton. Clinton had a record to attack. McCain likely will harp on Obama's inexperience every which way he can until something sticks.

_______________________

Lois Romano: Well, it time to end -- thank you all for joining me. As always, you ask probing and thoughtful questions. Tune in in a couple of weeks.

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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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