washingtonpost.com
Live Analysis: Texas, Ohio Primary Returns

Robert G. Kaiser
Washington Post Associate Editor
Tuesday, March 4, 2008 7:30 PM

Washington Post associate editor Robert G. Kaiser was online Tuesday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m. ET to break down the returns from the Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island as they're announced, and to examine what they mean for the candidates in the 2008 presidential primaries.

The transcript follows.

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Robert G. Kaiser: Hello and welcome to what will be an exciting -- and very possibly long -- night. Please share your questions, comments and -- if you're in Rhode Island, Vermont, Texas or Ohio -- your experiences voting (or not) today.

Warning: The exit polls are totally inconclusive so far; both Texas and Ohio are very close. Be patient!

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Roseland, N.J.: Wondering if you saw Mimi Schwartz's op-ed in the New York Times today, suggesting that demographic shifts mean Texas could be in play in the general. Seems pretty far-fetched to me. If McCain has to even spend a day defending Texas, the GOP is in for a serious Alamo moment elsewhere. Even given an influx of Latino voters, do you see any merit to Ms. Schwartz's thesis?

washingtonpost.com: Lone Star Liberals Are Back (New York Times, March 4)

Robert G. Kaiser: I think there are many indications that the red-blue map we've gotten used to from 2000 and 2004 is going out the window this year. Could Texas be part of that? I am no expert on Texas, but I think a lot of states are going to be interesting this time that haven't been interesting in a while.

In an act of generosity, my colleague Chris Hopkins has given you a link to our competition, so everyone can read the piece the questioner alluded to. I read it and found it fascinating.

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La Marque, Texas: Why is the media representation so biased toward Obama? Are the powers that be in our capital afraid of Hilary Clinton?

Robert G. Kaiser: What are you referring to, La Marque?

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Has Huckabee done any actual campaigning in Texas or Ohio? Yeah, it's a foregone conclusion, but I was just wondering whether he was trying to keep his name in the papers and build contacts and organization for future races.

Robert G. Kaiser: He has campaigned quite actively in both states.

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Seattle: After tonight, and then caucuses in Wyoming on Saturday and a primary in Mississippi next week, there will be no contests until Pennsylvania on April 22. That's more than six weeks! If Hillary decides to continue, will it be possible to go six weeks before Pennsylvania without going into the dirtiest of dirty politics?

Robert G. Kaiser: This is a very good, very big question. If there is no clear result tonight -- Obama wins, Clinton wins -- then the Democrats face a grim prospect of six weeks of uncertainty.

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Jacksonville, Fla.: Can you explain how today's vote works in Texas? What are the roles of the primary and caucuses?

washingtonpost.com: How the Ohio and Texas Primaries Work (Post, March 4)

Robert G. Kaiser: Here is a good story we ran the other day explaining the Texas Two-Step.

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Rockville, Md.: Will the media narrative portray Hillary victories in both Ohio and Texas as a comeback, even though she had been leading in the state by 20 to 30 points a month ago? It would be akin to a football team with a 27-point halftime lead giving up 4 touchdowns, only to kick a game-winning field goal in the final seconds.

Robert G. Kaiser: I cannot speak for "the media," an institution to which I never have applied for membership -- indeed, whose membership no longer is clear. I think you make a very good point, and it's certainly one the Obama camp will be making, no matter the final results tonight. But let's wait and see what those results are.

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Arlington, Va.: Please help me keep my sanity! It is driving me crazy that Sen. Clinton and her campaign keep moving the goalposts, and keep contradicting their own statements without any acknowledgement of it. It is making me insane. I understand why they're doing this, but it's making them look so slimy, and it's giving me a headache. Is there any downside to this for them?

washingtonpost.com: Rough Sketch: Clinton Moves the Goalposts (washingtonpost.com, March 4)

Robert G. Kaiser: Here's a nice piece on the subject. Hey, this is politics. Spinning is part of the game, and has been for years. But you and I can remember what everybody said last week, as well as what they said today, can't we? I hope so.

I don't think there is any way Hillary can escape what her husband said recently: She has to win both tonight to avoid being told to pack it up by a great many prominent Democrats.

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Arlington, Va.: I was predicting Clinton would win by about 8 points in Ohio. Does the fact that it's currently too close to call indicate the margin may be much tighter than predicted?

Robert G. Kaiser: The difference in the exit polls is much smaller than your prediction, and within the exit poll's margin of error.

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Columbus, Ohio: It seems like many Republicans are electing to vote in the Democratic primary so that they can choose Clinton and avoid Obama in the general. Will this backfire on them?

Robert G. Kaiser: You seem to have bad information. The exit polls show that just less than 10 percent of the Ohio voters who cast ballots in the Democratic primary today identified themselves as Republicans, and they are voting decisively for Obama.

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McLean, Va.: The Clinton campaign is spinning the idea that losses in some states tonight indicate that doubts have surfaced about Obama, after 11 straight wins. That's ludicrous. Since when does a candidate have to win every race to earn the nomination?

Robert G. Kaiser: You make an important point. The winner is the one who gets the most delegates, period.

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Rockville, Md.: What are the chances we will see another 1968?

Robert G. Kaiser: Zero.

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Stockholm, Sweden: I just wanted to let you know that here in Sweden people don't care who wins between Hillary and Obama. Also, they never even consider McCain; Europeans really want the Democrats to win this one, or they may never speak to us Americans again.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for posting. I was in Europe last week and found a lot of Obamamania. But I wasn't in Sweden.

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Boulder, Colo.: Let's talk about Texas. Is this an open primary? If so, how are those swing voters being accounted for in the polls? Wouldn't an open primary greatly increase Obama's chances in that state today?

Robert G. Kaiser: Texas and Ohio are both open primaries.

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Washington: If you were covering the campaigns directly tonight, where would you want to be, Ohio or Texas? Where is the more interesting story?

Robert G. Kaiser: In my opinion, the place to be tonight is in the newsroom. There's no real story on the ground on the night of Election Day. The only things you really want to see are the speeches by the candidates, and they're easy to see in the newsroom.

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Washington: I've read a lot of news articles stating that it would be mathematically very hard for Clinton to win the delegate count, even if she wins Ohio and Texas tonight. If that's the case, why are so many TV pundits tonight talking about how she could "break the race wide open" and so forth? If the math is going to remain very daunting for her, why is the predominant message on TV so different? (I know you're not on TV; I don't hold you accountable!)

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks. What are you watching? I haven't seen anyone say "break it wide open," but I'm not seeing everything, for sure. The articles are correct; it is very, very hard for Clinton to win the majority of delegates.

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State of Confusion: I am truly amazed at how long the rumor, disproved long ago, that Obama is a Muslim sticks around. There on Fox News this morning, among the list of headlines they kept up on screen through several stories, was "Obama Muslim?" I am sure the fair and balanced folks at Fox would say they were not making any allegation, simply reporting a story about what others said -- but it is a tried-and-true practice in dirty politics that even if an assertion is false, it can also pay off to keep raising it again and again (as long as the actual opposition candidate does not do it). At least Shepard Smith of Fox News long ago said flatly that the rumor about Obama being Muslim had been disproved and that it should be put to bed.

Robert G. Kaiser: I agree with you -- lousy journalism.

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San Diego: Good morning. Last night and this morning, the news networks were continuously showing footage that at least gave the appearance of Clinton suggesting that McCain would make a better president than Obama. Isn't this just creating campaign ad footage for the Republicans? Is it going to get worse if this thing continues on to Pennsylvania? I voted for Clinton in my state's primary, but as it becomes increasingly clear that she cannot overtake him in pledged delegates, I do not want her torpedoing the party's nominee for the general election.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for posting. I didn't read those comments as endorsing McCain; I think she is trying to change the perception that Obama is more electable than she is. Incidentally, the Texas and Ohio exit polls both show majorities believing that Obama is more likely to defeat a Republican in November than Clinton.

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Liberty Hill, Texas: Just a quick note to tell you they just about ran out of Democratic ballots in Williamson County (north of Austin) around 2 p.m. Some history: You cannot get a redder area in Texas than here, and the Republican table sign-in sheet was just about empty, which is unheard of. Most of us are voting Democratic (we are an open primary as you know) as we know McCain has got it wrapped up and just want to see the Democratic race go on and see them beat each other up. The talk around town (including Austin) today is that Hillary may take this area, which is a laugher. In the general, all will go back to normal and she will wonder what happened to all the voters she got.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for posting. interesting.

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Manchester, Vt.: What happens if senior citizen McCain dies before the Republican convention in September? Is it a brokered convention, or does Huckabee automatically step up?

Robert G. Kaiser: Nothing would be automatic. Huckabee has no legal standing in this race.

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Washington: All the hoopla about Hillary and Barack is really fun, but it's important to remember what counts. If anything in politics is certain -- if history has taught us anything -- it's that you can Swift Boat anyone.

Robert G. Kaiser: Geez, that's a cynical view. Any opinions on the other side out there?

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Atlanta: It seems to me that people forget how nasty the general election will be (they always are). This Democratic primary is pretty tame by comparison.

Robert G. Kaiser: McCain is not Bush, and Rove doesn't work for him; this can be a different kind of campaign. But a lot of outside groups will be in it too, and they can be out of control.

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Grayslake, Ill.: Hi. To me, this idea of media bias towards Obama is without merit. Hillary's any-means-necessary approach is unsavory to many. Also, have we all forgotten that although Obama gets included in the Rezko commentary, Bill and Hillary were photographed with him? Knowing the Clintons, this photo was not free. Hence, the bias is unfounded, or could be in the opposite direction!

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for posting.

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The Clinton spin machine is working: Robert: I've just heard Chris Matthews talking about a possible "shift in the cosmos" (I swear) if Clinton manages close wins in Ohio and/or Texas. So, 12 straight blowout wins mean nothing. Wins in Illinois, Maryland, Virginia, Wisconsin and other states aren't important. The previous massive leads she's blown in these two states don't matter. The fact that she's likely to gain few delegates doesn't matter. The cosmos is shifting. Sheesh.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for bringing us up to date.

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Washington: Someone should tell that Liberty Hill, Texas, poster who said he/she and other Republicans were intentionally voting for Clinton in order to cause havoc that that's not exactly good citizenry. I know it's an open primary, but intentionally using our voting system to cause mischief is nothing to brag about.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

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California: In response to the question of media bias, The Washington Post ran three anti-Clinton editorials in one day a few weeks ago, and the total number of anti-Clinton editorials The Washington Post has published is much, much larger than the number of anti-Obama editorials. Anti-Clinton media bias is quite real, and extremely unfair. "Saturday Night Live" hit the nail right on the head, but much of the press seems to be in denial.

Robert G. Kaiser: Editorials are supposed to be opinionated; they have no influence on the news coverage of The Post. I don't think they are evidence of bias, myself.

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GOP in Northeast: Mr. Kaiser, these chats are indispensable. Can you explain something to a jaded Republican in the northeast? Clinton and Obama are separated (at this point) by about 100 delegates of more than 2,000 allocated thus far. Why are people calling for her to drop out? I don't know if they would if Edwards and Obama were the last men standing and Obama was only 100 off Edwards's tally. Is the Democratic contest from here on out only able to be won by Obama? Thanks.

The Trail: Clinton Down, but Not Out, for the Count (washingtonpost.com, March 4)

Robert G. Kaiser: Here is a good explanation by my colleague Peter Baker, from our online feature The Trail earlier today. Peter explains how hard it is for Clinton to prevail.

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California: Press bias even extends to which questions you take during this chat. You've had many more anti-Clinton/pro-Obama questions than the other way around. What safeguards, if any, do you have in place to recognize and prevent bias?

Robert G. Kaiser: Whoa. I am picking the questions to answer,and I guarantee you I am doing it without regard to whom the questioner seems to favor.

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Confusion: If the margin of Clinton over Obama among Democratic voters is less than 10 percent, then the 10 percent of self-identified Republicans could swing the race to Obama, right? If they are self-identified Republicans, why the heck are they voting in a Democratic race, except to screw things up and swing the race to the weakest Democrat in the general election, right? It seems like you're rejecting the idea of Republicans voting to ensure the selection of the weaker Democratic candidate out of hand, when it makes perfect logical sense.

Robert G. Kaiser: In Ohio everyone is allowed to vote in either party's primary. That's their law.

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Re: Obama/NAFTA: Would you agree that Obama has some explaining to do to his supporters -- people like me -- about denying he had contact with the Canadians about not really meaning what he said on the campaign trail about NAFTA ... and then later having to parse that denial? What was Obama doing, anyway, talking to the Canadians -- or any foreign government for that matter --about such things? I am very perplexed about such behavior. As another Obama supporter in my office said, Obama seems to be getting ahead of himself (in things like this and in other I've-already-locked-this-thing-up presumptions).

The Fact-Checker: Obama Parses His Words on NAFTA (washingtonpost.com, March 3)

Robert G. Kaiser: Here's a good analysis of what happened by our preeminent fact-checker, Michael Dobbs. Obama did not meet with anybody -- it was a University of Chicago economics professor who is an Obama advisor. It is murky, as you'll see in this story, but Michael concludes that Obama was less than frank.

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Washington: On the issue of press bias, I wonder if the people who allege it consider that sometimes one candidate gets more negative coverage than the other because there are more negative things to report. And as for alleging bias against you in this chat, well, maybe there are more pro-Obama posters out there. There's no need to see a conspiracy in everything; people should chill out a little.

Robert G. Kaiser: Wouldn't that be nice? Chilling out, I mean.

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Los Angeles: Time for some tough analysis: If Barack Obama wins Texas and Vermont and Clinton wins Ohio and Rhode Island, where does that leave us?

Robert G. Kaiser: Well, it isn't yet time for that analysis, because you're just guessing.

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Arlington, Va.: How reliable are the numbers and percentages reporting? Right now, reports show more than 700,000 individuals have voted in Texas with 1 percent of precincts reporting. This would mean over 70 million individuals voted in Texas today. Can that even be possible?

Robert G. Kaiser: I'm not sure, but I bet it's one percent of precincts, not of voters.

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Ashland, Ore.: Are the Texas primary polls still open? Are these just early votes that are being reported now? The Post indicates 496,000 votes have been counted and Obama is waaaay up. What's the deal here?

Robert G. Kaiser: Ignore these early numbers. Polls close at 9 p.m.

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Boca Raton, Fla.: I see many senior Democrats saying that regardless who wins the nomination, the party will close ranks behind that candidate. My own anecdotal evidence says otherwise. I know few Obama supporters who would be willing to support Clinton should she win the nomination. In fact, I detect downright hostility to her. Are these senior officials (i.e. Rendell et al) seeing something different, or do they have some other source for their information?

Robert G. Kaiser: Geez, in my experience, I haven't met a single partisan Democrat this year who wants to vote for John McCain. Remember Will Rogers' wonderful wise crack: "I belong to no organized political party -- I'm a Democrat." I think Democrats feel this is their year, and intend to do what they can to make it so.

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Washington: The Clinton campaign claims if Obama doesn't win all four states Tuesday, it will show buyer's remorse compared to his 11 earlier wins. Isn't any buyer's remorse better judged by movement in the Texas and Ohio polls away from Clinton over the past month?

Robert G. Kaiser: You pays your money. ... It is worth remembering how far Clinton was ahead in both states a month ago. If you were in the Clinton inner circle, what would your primary goal be? I think it might be to head off calls for her to give up and concede to Obama, even though he has a clear lead for delegates etc. So they'll come up with every argument they can, like "buyer's remorse."

At the same time, if Obama were to go into a losing streak starting tonight, that could have a big impact. But we don't have any reason to expect it right now.

We are getting more exit poll results, and they only show the race in Texas getting even closer. Essentially, both Ohio and Texas look even right now, and the margin of error of the exit polls is plus or minus four percent.

So (sorry), be patient!

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Portland, Ore.: When can we start taking these incoming numbers seriously? I mean, I know Obama is pwning in some of these polls, but only 2 percent has been counted.

Robert G. Kaiser: See previous comment.

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Liberty Hill, Texas (update): First off, they are really not trying to cause mischief, they just want to see Mrs. Clinton continue on. They want to see the race continue. Also here is a link about how we ran out of ballots at 5 p.m. By the way I voted for "Obama," as I cannot stand her -- and I am a Democrat with a Republican missus, for the record.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks very much for posting.

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Palo Alto, Calif.: Why does Obama get such a "kid gloves" treatment from the press during the primaries? When the general election comes, he'll get the full "magnifying glass" treatment. By not vetting Obama during the primaries, you increase the chance of a Republican victory.

Robert G. Kaiser: I wonder what you think of as "the press." The Post and the New York Times have written acres about Obama. Have you read all of it? I just don't agree with your characterization.

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California: But how would you know if you were biased? Is there any system of checks and balances? It's an important problem and I'm wondering if there's any way to prevent or minimize it.

Robert G. Kaiser: This is not a topic for a chat. Obviously, all decisions made by journalists are "subjective"; they aren't put up to a vote or passed on by a board of judges. But we have been doing this all our lives. We like to think of ourselves as professional and believe our job is to be "fair," not to be "objective," because whether or not anything is objective has to be, by definition, a subjective judgment. Obviously consumers have to decide what they think of our success or failure.

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Washington: Anything happening over the controversy of Clinton's ad darkening Obama to look more black?

washingtonpost.com: Liberal Bloggers: Clinton Campaign Darkened Obama's Skin in New TV Ad (ABCnews.com, March 4)

Robert G. Kaiser: I just checked this out myself, having missed it earlier. I have no info about it, sorry. Nor do I know what to make of it, I confess.

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Rhode Island: Where are the Rhode Island results? Zero precincts seem to be reporting. Can you tell us anything about the exit polls there?

Robert G. Kaiser: Polls close in ten minutes, at 9 p.m.

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"Geez, in my experience, I haven't met a single partisan Democrat this year who wants to vote for John McCain.": Hi, let me introduce myself. Hillary Clinton may be pulling off two wins tonight by attacking the most exciting, vibrant and successful (voter turnout and donations) candidate the party has produced perhaps in decades. She has dropped hints about counting her bogus wins in Michigan and Florida and getting the delegates from those races. Damn right I'll consider McCain and take my chances that a Democratic Congress can keep him in line.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks. I'd like to hear from you again in October, if Clinton turns out to be your nominee.

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Welcome back, Maestro Kaiser!: I've missed your primary night chats of late. I'm a registered Democrat from California; I voted for Obama after much agonizing. I'd like your thoughts on the dilemma of the Florida and Michigan delegates should the Democratic contest stay close (which appears to be likely tonight). Didn't the Democratic National Committee shoot itself in the foot when they "revoked" the delegates in those states, when you now have Clinton's campaign asserting they should be seated? Thank you so much for hosting this chat. Long live The Washington Post, and please ask the powers that be to find a way to deliver the print edition to Los Angeles, at least on Sundays!

Robert G. Kaiser: Well thanks! I'm afraid the days of far-flung delivery of the on-paper edition are history. You have to get used to the online Post. But it's good! Easy to read! And it's all there.

Michigan and Florida are huge problems for the Democrats unless they can decide the race cleanly without them.

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San Francisco: If Clinton doesn't win more delegates in either place, but wins the popular vote in one of them, will she still continue to campaign? The Slate.com article made a really good point, showing that (not including superdelegates) it's very difficult for Clinton to make up her numbers even with wins today. And Bill made that point about needing to win both. As a side note, I think it's sick that "Saturday Night Live" and "The Daily Show" have stooped to pandering. You can't throw a fit about being asked questions first and expect people not to mock you.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for posting.

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St Louis, Mo.: Thought you might be able to tell me how the media (there's that word again) can report the results on their Web sites before the Texas Secretary of State gets it onto hers. Thanks.

Robert G. Kaiser: Well, this is our business; it isn't hers. We post what the Associated Press gives us; we have no independent sources of results of our own.

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San Francisco: I think this "kid gloves" argument is lame. Obama catches as much crap for his middle name as Clinton did for her wardrobe. When the media isn't harping on Clinton's lack of appeal, they are beating up Obama for lack of experience.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thank you.

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Savage, Md.: Why do you think Huckabee is staying in the race? Does he want be vice president? Is he positioning for future runs or positions in the GOP?

Robert G. Kaiser: He's having a great time on the national stage. He has done amazingly well, considering where he started. He is loving all the attention, as any politician would. I have no idea what he is hoping for, but I don't think we need any special explanation for what he has been doing.

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Arlington, Va.: I'm an Obama supporter who probably wouldn't vote for Clinton if she were the nominee. I'm an independent-leaning Democrat and I've never voted for anyone other than a Democrat in a presidential vote, but I just can't stomach voting for someone who has the integrity issues I see in her. It's weird; during the '90s, I thought the rabid Clinton-haters were partisan crazies, but after watching this campaign, now a lot of their charges ring true to me. I likely would vote for McCain if Clinton got the nomination. I don't think I'm alone.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for the post. It is noteworthy that in our poll and all other national polls that I have seen show Obama running better against McCain than Clinton.

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Derry, N.H.: Have you heard any discussion of Democratic leaders trying to get together and end the race? My guess is that would be more likely if Obama wins Texas tonight.

Robert G. Kaiser: Heard nothing about that.

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St. Louis: With all the talk about media bias in favor of Obama, did you happen to see the CBS Evening News series "For the Record," which devoted 3 percent of its eight-minute report on Clinton to negative reporting vs. the whopping 43 percent devoted to negative reporting on Obama in the report on him? Google and you shall see. If the answer is "no, didn't see it," have you noticed any pro-Clinton bias on the part of CBS or any other news organization?

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for posting.

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Los Angeles: By analysis I meant some predicting and forecasting. Given your experience and expertise, can you forecast a bit about what you see happening? This is where I think analysts have most relevance and use rather than just adding another opinion.

Robert G. Kaiser: Well, I can't try to do that until I have some hard results. We really do not know yet who is going to win Texas or Ohio tonight.

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Washington: Hi, and thanks for holding the chat. Can you tell me whether Vermont's delegates are awarded proportionately, or is it winner-take-all? I've seen it reported both ways in the past two days.

Robert G. Kaiser: You can find a good explanation of Vermont's proportional system right here.

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Palo Alto, Calif.: I'm a hard-core Democrat, but I'm voting for McCain if Obama is nominated and Hillary's not on the ticket. She got a raw deal from the press and should be the nominee. If she wins, I'm convinced she'll make Obama vice president in the name of party unity. If Obama wins, I don't know who he'll choose as veep, but it most likely won't be Hillary, and he'll wind up losing the election. Obama supporters have made this personal.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this. Do you really think "Obama supporters" have made this more personal than the Clinton campaign has?

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Kid gloves. Hah.: Hillary Clinton did not whine about the press when they treated her as the inevitable nominee in the fall. What's she going to do, complain about the press when she's president? I think Obama has been very subdued, given the wealth of scandals in Clinton's past. I decided I wouldn't vote for her a long, long time ago on Bill Clinton's last day of office, when he pardoned all those people. Any thoughts I had about changing my mind reversed when she wouldn't release her tax records.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this. You make a point that has occurred to me also; clearly, the Obama camp has made a strategic decision not to dredge up Clinton scandals or try to use them against Mrs. Clinton now. I can see the argument for that; I can also see the temptation for taking the other course.

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Rocky Mount, N.C.: I know I'm extending outward, but I don't think we're going to get a clear result one way or the other. Call me crazy, but I think this extended race and a possibly contested convention might not be too bad for the Democrats. The next few months of this country's political discourse will be Obama and Clinton. McCain will be on the sidelines. McCain won't have one candidate he'll have to bash, he'd have to split resources, and will have two candidates bashing him.

As the last time this happened in this country was 28 years ago, the country will be enthralled by such political drama, and will make sure to watch, meaning more people will listen to Obama's and Clinton's campaign messages at the convention. Not a bad thing for campaign marketers. The only downside is bitterness from the loser's supporters, and if it'll manifest itself into "I don't want them to win." What's your thoughts?

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks. You certainly could be right -- though not if Clinton vs. Obama turns really ugly. In what way do you think 1980 was comparable?

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Bethesda, Md.: I'm another Obama voter who wouldn't vote for Clinton in November. I'm the person who has told everyone to vote no matter whom you vote for (I do this every election cycle) ... now I understand why some people don't vote (it's a new and uncomfortable feeling, but I just won't vote for her). If McCain changes his tune on Iraq, he's liable to get my vote in a Clinton/McCain battle. Otherwise, I will vote for only in the state/local match-ups.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks. I don't think he can change his tune on Iraq, do you?

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Washington: First, thank you for doing these chats. I'm really an admirer of yours and think you do a great job! It's starting to look like Ohio and Texas might be a lot closer than was being predicted, which seems like bad news for Clinton. What are your thoughts on what you're seeing?

Robert G. Kaiser: Thank you. Your question is hard for me because of the phrase "than what was being predicted." If you mean that the state polls in Ohio showed a clear Clinton lead, then I agree with you. Texas has been a dead heat for a week or more, according to the state polls. My own prediction was "too close to call." I was right!

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Columbia, Mo.: Dear Mr Kaiser, do you see the Clinton or Obama campaign as having been more skillful in their relations with the press so far in this campaign?

Robert G. Kaiser: Good question. Both have held the press at arm's length; neither gives many news conferences or interviews. Alas, this is now the standard approach, though before George H.W. Bush used it in 1988, no one dared.

The main device this time is the "conference call," really a spin session. Both sides are pretty good at it. In my view, the spin is mostly useless.

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California: I've heard from Republican friends that the reason they don't want to face Hillary is that they don't want the election to turn into a referendum on Bill Clinton vs. George Bush, because they know they'll lose on that one.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

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New York: I am one of those that have followed both campaigns very closely. I have read many articles, op-ed pieces, blogs, etc., in The Washington Post and New York Times. I am also a strong Hillary-supporter and will be quite disappointed if she loses the nomination, though understand that there is a high probability of that happening.

However, as much as I support her and do not want to support Obama's nomination, I would not vote for McCain, because McCain's policies are not those I want implemented. I also believe strongly that Democrats who choose to sit out are doing a disservice to their country and party, because ultimately, if you believe in the system, you should vote for the candidate you feel would run the country best.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thank you for this.

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Re: "Media Narratives" in politics: Thank you for providing this wonderful forum. One upside I see in media coverage of this primary is the intense interest the public is taking in this election. But I can't help but ask the old chicken and egg question. In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, are we the public following the lead of the media, or are they following our lead?

And I guess I'm getting old, but I pine for the relatively non-emotive days of TV journalists just reporting the incoming facts. I just now heard Wolf Blitzer characterize McCain's victory in Texas as "wonderful for John McCain." I like Wolfie, but I think the media would do the public a great service by leaving out the superlatives. To me, that's the great challenge facing the Fourth Estate today. Your thoughts?

Robert G. Kaiser: I too pine for Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley. Wolf Blitzer is no David Brinkley! I do think the intellectual heft of our television personalities has declined in the past decade or two.

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California: I think when you have a race like this, with two freshman senators (neither of which has an extensive resume), you run a different race. When you have a candidate who motivates hundreds of thousands of jaded youth voters who normally don't follow the news and view politics as a rigged system, something is changing. Perhaps it's not about the resume. Maybe it's about needing someone who inspires trust and a fresh turn in the White House. You can scoff, but "in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope" -- Obama, in a New Hampshire speech.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks. By the way, Clinton is in her second term in the Senate.

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Michigan: I'd be shocked, shocked, if Hillary did not pick Obama for her vice president to pick up his votes. Shocked. Then again, I'd be shocked if Hillary wins the nomination. Her campaign is disorganized at best. Re-enfranchise Michigan! Hold another primary!

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

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In what way do you think 1980 was comparable?: The Carter-Kennedy Democratic nomination fight at the Convention. Admittedly, the Democrats would not want to replicate that convention, but for the entire life of the conventions that I even have followed just casually -- in the sense of "I know this guy is running" -- since I was a child, a convention always has been a stage-managed affair, little more than pure theater. I think Americans would be curious to see what an "actual" convention looks like.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

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Northern Virginia: To the Palo Alto poster who thinks Obama supporters have made this personal: It does feel somewhat personal, because the Clinton campaign has been so slimy in the way they've continually moved their goalposts, race-baited, tried to reverse the rules in Florida and Michigan, and generally not waged a fair fight. So yes, it feels personal, because Clinton hasn't just waged an attack on Obama; she has waged an attack on all of us who prefer him to her. Refusing to vote for her if she's the nominee isn't sour grapes; it's a reasonable response to really slimy behavior that I don't want in a president, even if it means supporting a Republican.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thank you.

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Turnout: Do the overall turnout numbers predict anything for November? Clinton's Texas number is more than the McCain/Huckabee combined total (and she's behind for this millisecond).

Robert G. Kaiser: it looks like another huge Democratic turnout today. This doesn't, of course, translate automatically to November, but I do take it as one of many signs that this should be a Democratic year.

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O'Fallon, Mo.: I think Sen. Clinton has a remarkable record of throwing Hail Mary passes in the form of negative campaigning against Sen. Obama at the last minute -- i.e. the NAFTA memo yesterday, the "shame on you" before the last debate, etc. What do you think?

Robert G. Kaiser: I think she is a scrapper who puts winning first.

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Bush for McCain: Mr. Kaiser: The pundits are now talking about how the McCain campaign will use George Bush to help him in this campaign, now that he's the nominee. Given his approval ratings and that he's a living, breathing symbol of the Iraq fiasco -- and that most independents, not to mention Democrats, hate the war -- how can Bush possibly help him?

Robert G. Kaiser: Apart from raising money, I don't see how he can help. I have said here earlier that I think Bush's record is a terrible weight for McCain and all other Republicans to have to carry this year.

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Washington: I'm baffled by these claims of anti-Clinton bias in the press. What other candidate could lose 12 straight states, face virtually impossible delegate math, and still be treated as a serious contender? It's also important to keep in mind that she long has been a divisive figure in the U.S., and the press can't just ignore that. It's also true that she and her campaign have conducted themselves in an unattractive manner, and the press can't ignore that. But overall, she has been given the benefit of the doubt in circumstances where other candidates would not be.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thank you.

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Washington: Dick Armey just told Bob Woodward on C-SPAN that he is stunned by the number of rock-ribbed conservative Republicans who crossed over to vote for Sen. Clinton, because they believe she would be far easier for Sen. McCain to defeat in November. I know you said that, in Ohio, the crossover vote was relatively insignificant; is there similar information available on Texas?

Robert G. Kaiser: In Texas, the exit polls so far say that 9 percent of the voters in the Democratic primary called themselves Republicans. (Same as in Ohio.) A modest majority favored Obama.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Shouldn't any reporting on Obama's possible "winking" to the Canadian government on NAFTA responsibly include a mention that the current government there is conservative? I never see that mentioned. They have every reason to try to damage him for the general election -- or get the less-electable (according to most polls vs. McCain) Clinton in as the Democratic nominee.

Robert G. Kaiser: Why is the party of the Canadian government relevant?

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Los Angeles: I'm a Hillary supporter who would gladly vote for Obama if he were the party's nominee in November, which I believe is the position of most Clinton backers. Unlike the whiny Obamabots, it's not all about me me me, but I put the interests of the party first and foremost. I won't take my toys and go home if my candidate isn't nominated.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thank you.

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Hillary: I voted for Obama, but am really curious as to why many have such a visceral dislike of Sen. Clinton. Baggage from her husband's administration? Has The Washington Post, or any other respected media outlet, analyzed this?

Robert G. Kaiser: Well there's a huge collection of literature about the Clintons. Bill Clinton was a polarizing president, and she was the most controversial first lady of my lifetime. I wonder if you are a young person? There's lots of good stuff to read if you want to. John Harris and Peter Baker both have written very good Clinton books.

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Fairfax, Va.: Clinton seems to be doing better than anticipated in Ohio. How much effect, if any, do you think that Obama's supposed flip-flop on NAFTA, may have hurt him in Ohio?

Robert G. Kaiser: No. Clinton is doing worse than the polls of recent days said she would do in Ohio. She was supposed to win clearly; it's still very close.

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Los Angeles: So let me see if I have this right: Sen. Obama is happy to accept the endorsement of Sen. Rockefeller and bring him out on the campaign trail to criticize Sen. Clinton's "poor judgment" on the 2002 Iraq vote? Remind me how Sen. Rockefeller voted on the authorization of force again?

Robert G. Kaiser: Hey, Rockefeller was upfront about this: He praised Obama for having more sense about Iraq than he and a lot of others did.

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Truly...: just want to say how much The Post chats mean to your average citizen. They are like town hall meetings with those of us who rely on journalists for providing us with critical analyses of all the complex issues we face as a nation. Sorry to gush, but I think The Washington Post and reporters like yourself are, hands-down, some of the best public servants we have. Thank you.

Robert G. Kaiser: You are too kind. We get a kick out of this interaction. For the first 30-odd years of my career here I rarely had a chance to talk to readers and hear their views. This is a great art form for us.

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McLean, Va.: Why are the Ohio returns coming in so slowly?

Robert G. Kaiser: Can't answer; lousy weather out there today, but I don't have any information.

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Wheaton, Ill.: I think Northern Virginia hits on a good point I hadn't thought about. Her campaign uses words like "messiah" and mocks him and his message, essentially telling me that I'm following like a blind sheep. In fact, I think Obama would be a good president, I like his policies and proposals, and that has nothing to do with how I feel about his speeches or her. Additionally, she constantly brings up that I should vote for her because I'm a woman. I don't hear Barack telling people to vote for him because he's black. I never thought of it that way. It is personal. Thanks for the chat.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thank you.

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Fairfax, Va.: Reading this while listening to Chris Matthews declaring that McCain is going to be so hard to beat makes me wonder if there is anything the electorate can do to sweep the pontificators out of their jobs and let neutral and relatively objective people like Lehrer report the news. It undermines our democracy to allow pundits to shape the political discourse when they are accountable to no one except their corporate paymasters, whose accountability is generally a state secret. So what can we do to get these shills off the air?

Robert G. Kaiser: Stop watching them.

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San Francisco Bay area:: Is it improbable to think that the Democrats are so caught up in their own hubris, that they are incapable of recognizing the impact of their continuing failures in both the House and Senate? This morning I realized that, yes, we could lose this election because of that failure -- and our continuing divisive dogma, and personal greed!

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for posting.

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Suburban Cincinnati: Hello! Greetings from rainy and suddenly chilly Cincinnati. Two questions: I'm a McCain voter and a Catholic. I've called the local McCain office here in Cincinnati, the state office in Columbus and the Washington press office to voice my dismay about his failure to explicitly reject John Hagee's vitriolic anti-Catholicism. The wishy-washy statement is not definitive enough. As a Catholic, I'm offended; as a McCain supporter it makes no sense: there are 19,000 in Hagee's congregation, and 50 million Catholics, many in key battleground states. When he is going to stand up and say he rejects Hagee's beliefs on this issue?

The second is more of a general information question. These proportional awards of delegates in the Democratic primary are the result of the McGovern convention. Why were they put in? To be more "fair?" To my way of thinking, the system is responsible for the Democratic race continuing to go on, while McCain can take the weekend off knowing he's the de facto winner.

Robert G. Kaiser: Here's a story for those not up on it:

washingtonpost.com: McCain Seeks Distance From Pastor (AP, March 1)

This could be tricky for McCain. I don't think he has said enough about it.

The Democrats decided they wanted to be sure no bosses could determine who their nominee was. I don't think there was a single prominent Democrat who expected the nomination to be undecided on March 4 -- I certainly didn't. This system is all screwed up now. I wonder what they will do about that?

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Focus on the delegates: Robert: It's been very amusing to watch MSNBC's coverage. All of the pundits spent minutes upon minutes pontificating about Sen. Clinton's mounting a comeback and whether Sen. Obama's momentum disappeared. Then Chuck Todd, their numbers guy, comes on and shows how the delegates are awarded, and it looks like Obama might actually win more delegates than her tonight! But then they just ignore him and keep pontificating on her comeback. God bless America!

Robert G. Kaiser: Sadly, we live in an age of pontification.

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To Los Angeles: Obamabots. Enough said. The name calling of other Democrats by the Clinton campaign is disheartening. I can't stand another four to eight years of nastiness. Maybe I don't support my party. I'm voting my conscious.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

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Washington: You write: "There's lots of good stuff to read if you want to. John Harris and Peter Baker have both written very good Clinton books." And what of your old friend Carl Bernstein? He wrote the definitive book on Hillary Clinton, I believe.

Robert G. Kaiser: Carl's book is excellent. Thank you for straightening me out.

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Montgomery Village, Md.: Dumb question, but who selects the photo used on the various Web sites/TV coverage when they pop-up the winner. Are these submitted by the candidates or picked by the newsroom? Sometimes I see less-than-flattering pictures.

Robert G. Kaiser: At The Post and its Web site, photo editors pick the pix. Can't speak for others. Our goal is never to flatter anyone!

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Canada: I don't think the conservative government of Canada (which is rather moderate/centrist by U.S. standards) is interested in a McCain victory -- our people are distressed by Iraq and are fighting with the U.S. in Afghanistan ... and very much would like to get out, given that it looks never-ending (and there is no sign of catching bin Laden or eradicating the Taliban, so we're dying for nothing). Anyway, our government doesn't (to my knowledge at least) meddle in the affairs of other governments, and has enough sense to know it has no influence on U.S. elections ... and would suffer if they were seen trying anything...

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

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Wilmington, N.C.: This is more of a process question, but who conducts exit polls, and how are they used in how the media makes projections? Is it a model based on a combination of multiple exit polls and actual returns?

Robert G. Kaiser: Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, private firms, are conducting these exit polls on behalf of the National Election Pool, The Washington Post and other media organizations. The National Election Pool (NEP) is a consortium of ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, NBC News and the Associated Press. Their findings are combined by the AP and the networks with hard results and historical data to make their projections. I would note that this year (knock on wood) these calls all have held up, I believe.

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Oakton, Va.: I am an ardent Obama supporter and I will write him in in November rather than vote for Clinton. My husband is an adamant Clinton supporter who will either vote for Nader or McCain before he votes for Obama. So, just anecdotal evidence, but it seems that this race already has split some part of the base.

Robert G. Kaiser: Have you tried counseling?

Just kidding! Thank you for the post.

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Austin, Texas: So exciting! I've voted in every election since I was eligible and never knew we had caucuses also. My precinct's caucus (electing 31 delegates) had such a long line tonight that it took an hour to get everyone signed in. So great to see such a fantastic turnout and to see Texas stop being overlooked by the party, if only for this year.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks. Why didn't you tell us what happened? Please do!

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Washington: I haven't heard a lot of talk about the difference in management abilities between Clinton and Obama, but it's something that has been striking me lately. Some of what we've learned recently indicates real management failures by Clinton -- keeping a campaign manager long acknowledged by other top campaign officials as unqualified for the job until a near-mutiny finally forced her hand, not bothering to research the delegate apportionment rules in Texas until a couple of weeks ago, and not adjusting its ground strategy for months after it became clear that Obama was catching on in a big way.

The inability to make sound decisions about where to put resources and where not to, to ensure a staff is functioning smoothly and effectively, to adjust to new conditions and information, to budget, to know the rules and strategize accordingly -- that's mismanagement and incompetence that strikes at the heart of the Clinton brand, and I find it scary to think of it at work in the White House.

Conversely, Obama -- who never was billed as the manager candidate -- has built and presided over a remarkably effective organization, with rigorously disciplined ground operations churning in every state, an astounding and historic fundraising machine, and a methodical advance on the candidate whose win was supposed to be a foregone conclusion. If I were a hiring manager picking between these two, Obama seems much more competent. I'd love to see the campaigns analyzed through this lens.

Robert G. Kaiser: Interesting post. Thank you for it.

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Ottawa: Want to second what Truly said. It is wonderful to interact with (talk back to?) reporters and columnists. (And The Washington Post is my favorite paper -- humane, humorous, very friendly. A friend I don't always agree with, but what the heck.)

Robert G. Kaiser: You're hired. And of course you should get mad at us from time to time.

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Arlington, Va.: With 12 percent in, Hillary Clinton leads Obama by about 20 points in Ohio. I know it's early, and Cleveland hasn't come in yet, but that's a pretty good showing, right?

Robert G. Kaiser: No. The exit poll shows it very close. These early results are misleading, I think.

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Bill Clinton was a polarizing president, and she was the most controversial first lady of my lifetime. I wonder if you are a young person?: Bob, much as I hate to face it, I'm middle-aged! Thanks for the reading suggestions, but I still don't understand what I see as the intensely personal dislike of Clinton. I suspect, though I could be wrong, that people (including women, of which I am one) are uncomfortable seeing a woman in a "fighting" role. That could be why the GOP wants her to be the nominee; women have come a long way in our political system, but may still be viewed more negatively when they employ the same tactics their male counterparts use. As a side note, I find it interesting that some countries with large Muslim populations (Pakistan, India) have in the past embraced female political leaders more so than we have.

Robert G. Kaiser: I knew I shouldn't have guessed about your age! I apologize. I know people who respond to Hillary Clinton as a woman, but that's not the only way people respond to her.

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Beltsville, Md.: I must admit, I'm riveted by the Democratic primary. I'm an Obama supporter and I won't cross party lines if he doesn't win the nomination; I may not like some of the Clinton tactics, but I refuse to let her campaign shortcomings give the win to the Republicans. I'm still too bitter about the MC Rove fiasco to let them have another round at the White House.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

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New York: Obama's most recent statement on NAFTA made reference to "labor mobility." Do you happen to know if Obama (rightly) is suggesting Canada must liberalize its (ridiculously) strict immigration policies (for Americans) if NAFTA is to continue in essentially its present form?

Robert G. Kaiser: Sorry, I do not.

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Obamaphile: Regarding the constant harangues about Tony Rezko, the Weathermen and Louis Farrakhan, is there any "there" there to suggest that Obama actually did anything wrong, or is this just innuendo at its most insidious?

Robert G. Kaiser: Obama's relationship with Rezko is not at all clear to us. That land deal, which he calls boneheaded, was weird. I'd like to know more about it. The other two don't seem like much to me.

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Obama Democrat for McCain if Clinton wins -- an explanation: I vote based on how much I trust a candidate and their policies. Bush was against nation-building and for fiscal conservatism, but look where we are. I may not agree with all of a candidate's positions, but if I believe they are trustworthy, that goes a long way for me -- hence the nonvote (or vote for McCain) if Clinton is the nominee.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

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Palo Alto, Calif.: The claim that Clinton used "race-bating" is untrue and unfair. As a Clinton supporter, I've seen Obama's supporters use every trick in the book and then some to try to paint Sen. Clinton as racist, when she has been a huge supporter of civil rights for her entire career. That's one of many reasons that I and many other Clinton supporters never will vote for Obama.

Robert G. Kaiser: And thanks to you too.

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Washington: Regarding vice presidential choices: Obama can't pick Clinton as the vice president, for the obvious reason that his vice president candidate needs to bolster his national security credentials, and Hillary does not do that. Clark or Webb would be a good choice. The problem in terms of vice presidential choices for Clinton is two-fold at this point, as she also needs a national security vice president, but has alienated the black community -- and by the time this race is over, pretty much all Obama supporters -- to the point where not picking Obama for vice president is almost as suicidal as not using the vice presidential slot to shore up her foreign policy/national security credentials.

Robert G. Kaiser: I don't agree with your analysis, but thank you for sharing it.

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Arlington, Va.: Why does everyone think being divisive is bad? Our best presidents were divisive. FDR was one of the most divisive presidents ever, as was Lincoln. Divisive presidents get things done. Remember, Obama supporters, the Republicans hate Bill Clinton because he was effective. He was more free-trade than any Republican, he balanced the budget and created a surplus, he took the welfare issue away from them, he created jobs ... he was divisive and effective, just like many great presidents. Divisive is not bad in a president.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this.

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Palo Alto, Calif.: Do you expect Democrats to make any changes to their primary process based on what's happened this time around?

Robert G. Kaiser: Well I hope they will, but it will depend entirely on who wins and what their view of the process is.

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Alpharetta, Ga.: Obviously if Clinton wins in Ohio and Texas it would be a huge story in terms of momentum and politics, but what about delegates? After this, there are fewer and fewer. What if winning Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania barely budges the delegate count? Where do the delegates come from?

Robert G. Kaiser: At the moment it looks like the split of delegates tonight could be very close to even. That is better for Obama than for Clinton, because he is ahead.

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Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks to all for taking part. I am making a command decision here to sign off after 2 1/2 hours, because it could easily be another two or three hours before we know who wins Ohio and Texas, both look so close. There will be multiple opportunities tomorrow for you to discuss the results with various of my colleagues. Good night.

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