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Washington Post White House Reporter Anne E. Kornblut.
Washington Post White House Reporter Anne E. Kornblut. (washingtonpost.com - washingtonpost.com)

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Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post National Political Reporter
Wednesday, May 7, 2008; 12:00 PM

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 Anne E. Kornblut was online Wednesday, May 7 at noon ET to discuss the latest in political news.

The transcript follows.

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Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts

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Anne E. Kornblut: Greetings all! Thanks for joining today. What a long night ... and it keeps on going! Please send in any and all questions.

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Arlington, Va.: Hey Anne, how are you? Are you personally going to pressure Hillary to drop out so you don't have to travel to West Virginia? But if you do have to go there, they will probably treat you like a movie star, so enjoy the red-carpet treatment!

Anne E. Kornblut: LOL, yes, we are getting many jokes these days about what the press corps' role in encouraging her to get out to avoid more travel might be. And I must give credit to my colleague Perry Bacon, Jr., who has been doing a lot of heavy lifting on the road of late -- the Bataan Death March, it's being called. That said, it's actually a real treat to get to see so many states in one season. I think I'm personally up to 35. Who else can say that?

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Silver Spring, Md.: So, predictions on Obama's veep? I'm big on Joe Biden. Likeable, white elder statesman with loads of experience and foreign policy gravitas. I understand the Webb sentiment, but he seems like a bit of a loose cannon. Your thoughts?

Anne E. Kornblut: It's funny, we were just having this same discussion last night (caveat, of course, being that the race is not over). Biden is obviously a spectacular candidate, as is Sen. Chris Dodd for similar reasons, but neither would bring an important electoral college state along -- although it has been awhile since that truly mattered. Other names we hear: Gov. Napolitano, Gov. Richardson, maybe even John Edwards again. Bob Graham? Dianne Feinstein? And then of course there is ... Hillary Clinton.

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Haddonfield, N.J.: There is a lot of talk now about Democrats "healing their party" or somesuch now that the nomination appears all but locked up for Obama. Does Obama need to make an overture to Clinton and her supporters with his veep pick? If so, who? Hillary herself? A woman, maybe McCaskill or Sebelius, to bring all those females who have been strong for Hillary back into the fold? Or maybe a staunch Clinton supporter like Clark or Strickland? P.S., Don't tell my girlfriend, but I have a big secret crush on you...

Anne E. Kornblut: You're going to hear more and more about the Great Healing, I suspect, in the days ahead. The Clinton campaign -- while not talking in any way about dropping out -- already very openly is saying that there is great work to be done if she's the nominee repairing the damage on both sides, and I think you're right that if Obama wins, he is going to have to prove to those women, many of them older, that he is both up to the job and also respectful of their original choice. McCaskill and Sebelius -- or, as mentioned in the previous post, Napolitano or Feinstein -- are all possibilities, as are Clark (who would bring military credentials) and Strickland (who has that great Ohio machine). But we have all summer to dwell on this! (And we will).

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Alexandria, Va.: Thanks so much for doing these chats; you consistently present the most insightful comments of anyone on The Post staff. Your Section A story today came very close to the concept of concession, but obviously doesn't indicate that the Clinton camp officially is considering it -- merely that individuals are glumly contemplating the possibility. Given the results to date, and given the Clinton camp's reversion to seeking do-overs (such as new rules on Michigan and Florida), when -- if ever -- do we start to hear concession talk from campaign higher-ups?

Anne E. Kornblut: Great question -- and believe me, it's what we're all focused on answering. I suspect we will not hear talk of concession until the candidate herself is at that point. Having come this far, with the results still essentially what they were a week ago, a month ago, the Clinton campaign doesn't have any inherent reason to rush this process now. And her advisers, having worked this hard, are going to take their cues directly from her.

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Seattle: Great to have you on, Anne. Hillary gave a defiant speech last night, but do you think she's thinking about an exit strategy today?

washingtonpost.com: Video: Clinton Speech (washingtonpost.com, May 6)

Anne E. Kornblut: Hi there! Thanks for the question. I can't tell you what she's thinking privately (if only I could!) but publicly she is keeping up a very brave, full-steam-ahead attitude. She's told her staff to look forward to West Virginia; her advisers were all sunshine and roses on the morning conference call with reporters. That said, she is sure to hear an earful from superdelegates when she meets with them today -- not to mention from political pundit types, who started writing her campaign obituary last night.

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Boston: Anne; I saw last week on Michelle Malkin's Hatefest (tm) and again this morning on "Fox and Friends" that the right's new focus attack on Obama is the Bill Ayers photo. (Although Malkin is on an ironic tear on Michelle Obama's "bitterness.") Any chance that these guys will learn we don't care about nonsense? Any chance you guys learned from Rev. Wright and won't fall for the freak show?

Anne E. Kornblut: I thought it was really interesting that Obama started to talk about the collective "hatefest" in his speech last night, going out of his way to say, "I'm not naive." He and the rest of the party are bracing for this -- and more. And I would dare say that it's actually not something the mainstream media can either "fall for" or refuse: If you think back to the Swift Boat campaign, that was driven in all sorts of media, and not immediately picked up on by the rest of the press as a potential problem for Kerry. Anyway, that's not much of an answer perhaps, but I would say that it's going to happen, and that this race will be "bitter" one way or another, even if McCain himself says he doesn't want it to be (as he has).

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Silver Spring, Md.: Wasn't Obama favored to win Indiana just a few months ago, and didn't his campaign outspend Clinton in the state where 25 percent of the population gets its media from the Chicago metro area where Obama was a community organizer, state senator and U.S. Senator for 20 years? African Americans make up 22 percent of North Carolina's population, and Obama wins by 15 percent. Somehow Clinton is the loser in all of this?

Anne E. Kornblut: It's a great question, and hits on my favorite subject du jour: of expectations management. It seems to me that the Clinton campaign didn't do as good a job of managing expectations last night as they had in earlier races -- she allowed the "she's-catching-up-in-North-Carolina" story line to take hold, and it became a given that she would win Indiana in the final days. Because you are right, in a different climate, it could have been regarded as a wash at worst.

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University Park, Md.: Hillary loaned a total of $11.425 million to her campaign. Is that a sign of poor fundraising, or poor budget planning?

washingtonpost.com: The Trail: Clinton Lends Her Campaign $6.4 Million (washingtonpost.com, May 7)

Anne E. Kornblut: Her official campaign answer is, natch, neither -- but simply that Obama outraised her and thus was able to outspend her, and she loaned herself money in order to remain competitive and to demonstrate her commitment to the campaign. Of course, that doesn't really answer the question, and you are right; with better budget management, the race could have evolved differently (say, not spending so much during her 2006 re-election, or holding back some resources to compete in the post-Feb. 5 states that gave Obama his current advantage). She obviously has done well in fundraising, but started out with a different approach from Obama's, targeting larger donors who have subsequently maxed out. So in short, I'd say it's a combination of factors. Thank you for the question.

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Alanya, Turkey: Hello. I haven't heard anything yet about a possible "superdelegate stampede" to Obama as a result of yesterday's votes. While a huge number seems unlikely, is there any sense that we may see a decent number of uncommitted delegates break for Obama in the next few days in an attempt to end this quickly? It would seem logical, as Clinton's chances are slim and she doesn't seem willing to give up. Thanks much!

Anne E. Kornblut: You've identified exactly what the campaigns are working on at this very moment. Clinton is planning to meet with uncommitted superdelegates today, and Obama has a meeting scheduled for tomorrow. The Obama campaign obviously would love a big sweep to help end this thing, but the Clinton campaign is by no means giving up, and is working to at least keep big numbers from shifting before the voting ends on June 3.

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Plainsboro, N.J.: Sen. Clinton was expected to lose in North Carolina and win in Indiana. That is exactly what happened. So why the "it-is-all-over-for-Hillary" coverage today?

washingtonpost.com: Clinton Aides Doubtful About Future (Post, May 7)

Anne E. Kornblut: This is similar to the earlier question, and it's a really good one. To the extent that the coverage is a result of expectations being mismanaged, I think that Clinton's smaller-than-expected margin of victory -- coupled with the fact that it came so late last night, and seemed to be such a nail-biter -- added to the sense that it wasn't definitive, certainly not as overwhelming as Obama's in North Carolina, and didn't provide her that "extra" push she would have needed to turn the trajectory of this race around.

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Boston: Why should Hillary call it off now. The race has been over for a month and a half, but Hillary and Obama have been out there mobilizing the Democratic 50-state strategy. The real question is, will she now temper her attacks on Obama?

Anne E. Kornblut: Totally. (Did I just say totally?) I think there's a very good case to be made for her staying in, seeing it through (she is not, after all, a quitter) and thus not angering her supporters, who still hope she has a chance. Even if she had accepted that she were going to lose in the end, it would provide a way for a graceful exit, assuming she did not try to "tear Obama down." On the other hand, if she feels she still has a real shot at winning, she would be unlikely to soften up. Stay tuned...

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Bow, N.H.: I saw today that someone in the Clinton campaign finally admitted that they lost this in February. Has anyone tried to explain what they were thinking back then letting Obama roll up the big (now insurmountable) margins?

Anne E. Kornblut: I haven't heard a really good answer to that excellent question; there is going to be a lot of finger-pointing, I suspect, as the race winds down and we all try to examine where it really went south. One theory is that the Clinton folks never dreamed it could go past Feb. 5, and thus didn't save any money or create a map for that month, which was when Obama rolled up those delegates.

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Re: Ayers: What does it say about the state of our media that despite all the attention given to the Obama-Ayers connection, even folks paying attention haven't learned what the Woods Fund actually does? (FYI, it awards hundreds of small grants a year to activists, neighborhood groups, think tanks, and arts and culture projects in Chicago's most-forgotten and blighted communities.) Wouldn't you expect that with all the words written, clips run, and tenuous connections aired, the media at least would inform their readers or viewers (even accidentally?) about the actual relevance of the subject at hand?

Anne E. Kornblut: This is good advice. I'll check it out.

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Waltham, Mass.: Hi Anne. Great coverage of the race, especially today's story on what Clinton campaign insiders think. I was wondering what you thought of The Post's Chelsea piece that came out a few days ago, and whether you think Chelsea should be more open to questions about what she does, and if she's sharp enough on some of the questions she gets. Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: Too Solemn for Her Generation? (Post, May 4)

Anne E. Kornblut: It was a really interesting piece, wasn't it? I have to admit that while I would love for Chelsea to open up more -- I'm a reporter after all, and I do think it's unnecessarily hard for her to maintain this public-private duality she's adopted -- she of course has every right to behave however she wants. She obviously feels it's working for her. It may be a little unfair to demand that Chelsea represent her generation in some new way -- she is who she is, and on balance she seems to have turned out pretty well -- but I'd say that at the end of the day, I give her points for coming out of the shadows for this campaign and hitting the road -- which she never had done before, and which (I can attest all too well) is not easy.

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Hartford, Conn.: My understanding is that a candidate cannot accept or borrow more than the regulated ($2,300) limit from a spouse. Where did Hillary get the initial $5.5 million and now the additional $6.4 million from? I believe her book revenues were half that. Did she sell her extra cojones?

Anne E. Kornblut: If the candidate and spouse share money, the candidate is entitled to spend half that on the campaign. So, because the Clintons don't keep separate funds, she has access to 50 percent of the money her husband has earned in recent years. That said, if I'm doing the math right, she's spent about $11 million, which is about what she herself made on her book and her Senate salary. Good question.

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Stamford, Conn.: On the BBC World coverage last night, the (British) commentators said the Clinton campaign aides thought pro-Obama forces in Lake County deliberately were holding back reporting of the results so that Clinton would have to delay her speech. Did you hear anything of that kind?

Anne E. Kornblut: I heard that BBC report, but haven't heard anything to substantiate it. Certainly Obama had an opportunity to dominate the airwaves for a few hours last night, but that's in part because of the time difference -- his state's polls (in North Carolina) closed first, he won first, and his aides went out right away with their spin about what it meant.

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Re: "Superdelegate stampede": Not a stampede, but I did find it interesting that uber-superdelegate George McGovern, early anointer of Clinton, publicly has switched to Obama and says that Clinton should drop out now.

Anne E. Kornblut: You know, I'm actually not sure McGovern is a superdelegate, with voting power, but he certainly is a prominent and important former backer of Clinton's. That is a big blow to her campaign, and comes at a tough juncture for her, there is no question.

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Alexandria, Va.: Veep Candidate? Ed Rendell. Big-city mayor, big-state (electoral) governor, big-time Hillary backer (but not too scorched earth during the Pennsylvania primary) and -- not well-known -- Jewish.

Anne E. Kornblut: Let the list grow...

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Re: Managing Expectations: Anne, I think I disagree with you on the execrations game playing a part in how she comes out a loser in this. She is losing ... and if she said "I'll win Indiana, but just by one or two points," her delegate count still falls short. The reason she is being perceived as the loser of the night is that she made no strides forward in overcoming the delegate count and getting closer to the nomination. She just keeps losing ground, and is running out of states...

Anne E. Kornblut: You are absolutely right. My point is only that we knew that ahead of time -- that the delegate count probably would not change by much -- and yet the margins from last night seem to have changed the tone of the way we are all discussing it nonetheless.

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Prescott, Ariz.: So if you are going to discuss Obama-Ayers, you really need to talk about what you think about the ties between McCain and G. Gordon Liddy. Much of America thinks Liddy is as big a (unrepentant) terrorist as Ayers, and McCain takes money from the guy, calls him a "old friend" on Liddy's radio show, and held a fundraiser at his house.

Anne E. Kornblut: Interesting observation, which I will pass on to our McCain reporters. Thank you.

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Teaneck, N.J.: The Clinton campaign again is talking today about how they came from behind to win in Indiana. I, however, checked a list of polls, and Clinton led most of them over the past couple of months. How did she come from behind?

Anne E. Kornblut: What they said on the morning conference call was that she had been down 8 points in their internal polls just a few months ago. Of course, we don't regularly get to see the internals, so...

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Maryland: There are many states like mine (Maryland) where Obama scored a huge victory, but where the superdelegates (e.g., Mikulski, O'Malley) are committed to Clinton. Couldn't Obama put the squeeze on these superdelegates (who are facing elections in the years ahead) by convening huge rallies where the states' voters would call on their elected officials to represent the will of the people? After seeing the crowd Obama turned out on a frigid Monday afternoon in Baltimore, I only can imagine what he could generate on a sunny June Saturday.

Anne E. Kornblut: Absolutely, and this will be part of the game plan. In the case of McGovern, for example, the Obama folks talked to him yesterday and encouraged him to make the switch. Those superdelegates are going to be facing a lot of heat in the next few days...

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Also, Plainsboro...:... Indiana has far fewer delegates than North Carolina. In fact, Obama's rout of Clinton in North Carolina (and almost even position in Indiana) actually means that Obama comes out way ahead when it comes to delegates (and popular vote, not that it matters), after last night. His huge lead in North Carolina erases the additional delegates Clinton got in Pennsylvania, too. Sorry ... according to the math, she really is toast. About the only thing she can hope for now is an implosion by Obama, which -- after all the stuff that's been thrown at him to date -- doesn't seem all that likely.

Anne E. Kornblut: And another on this subject ... thank you...

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Wish Again, Michigan: It makes steam come out of my ears when I hear Hillary talking about how the Michigan delegates "must" be seated, how that state's votes must count. She was the only one on the ballot -- this is Soviet-style electoral politics! Could someone please dig up a clip of her saying that Michigan wouldn't count, and then juxtapose it with last night's speech? The blatant unfairness of claiming credit for an uncontested state really bothers me.

Anne E. Kornblut: You are in good company; I've heard many, many complaints about this quote from her. That is one reason that the idea of a revote was floated at one point, and also why there is so much resistance to simply seating the Michigan delegates proportionally.

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Arlington, Va.: Sen. Clinton keeps talking about the gas tax holiday and how important it is, but as a sitting United States senator, she actually has the power to move this idea forward. So has she (or Sen. McCain, for that matter) sponsored legislation to make this happen?

Anne E. Kornblut: I have absolutely no clue. Great question to pursue.

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Democratic National Committee Rules Committee: Any word leaking on what the staff recommendation will be to the Rules Committee re: seating the disputed Michigan and Florida delegations? Will it still matter at that point in late May?

Anne E. Kornblut: I'm done predicting what will matter when, and I don't know what the recommendations are at this point. But I would go out on a limb and say this will be the best-attended rules and bylaws committee meeting in a while.

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Crestwood, N.Y.: Strange coverage last night; while many of the cable pundits seemed to be giddy over the prospect of Clinton's political demise back before New Hampshire, the Chris Matthews of the world looked a little burned out and resigned last night, as if they weren't sure that Hillary really, truly was on the way out. Or maybe she's garnered some grudging respect from the boy's club? Where do you think she goes from here, assuming that the whole thing is a few weeks away from the end? I think that on balance, her fight against the torrents of media hostility has helped her immensely, and the negatives will be forgotten. You agree?

Anne E. Kornblut: Well, the winner writes history, so it will all depend on what happens. But I think you are right -- no matter how it turns out, her resilience will be front and center in how it is described in hindsight.

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New York: In Obama's speech last night, he told American voters they could choose not to be distracted by phony issues raised by Rove's Republicans and relentlessly enabled by the press. His message was directed at the fall campaign, but it was also aimed at you folks in the media, telling you that he understands the media is distracting the country and knows how to deal with it. Apparently the endless media onslaught (using Wright and flag pins) didn't actually harm him at all in the primaries (based on polling and vote results). ... Given that the old media rules and truisms obviously are being clobbered by reality, are we maybe about to enter a brave new world with regard to politics and the media? Or am I kidding myself?

Anne E. Kornblut: If only I knew! I think the media often is given too much credit and/or blame for peddling petty issues that are in fact being driven by the other side; heaven knows we all ignored Wright for the better part of a year, until it was fully dredged up on YouTube. In the end I believe (and yes, perhaps I'm naive, but still) that it is up to the voters to either see through issues and deem them petty and meaningless, or to consider them meaningful and take them into account as they decide to vote.

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Re: Bill Clinton: Bill covered -- and really worked -- North Carolina, but it didn't seem to work (or perhaps she would have lost by a larger margin but for Bill)? How do you see it? As a corollary to that question -- has Bill lost his luster because of this campaign?

Anne E. Kornblut: Really hard to say, in my view. For one thing, it's hard to prove a hypothetical (e.g. that she would have done worse without his campaigning). In general, I think the conventional wisdom is that the former president has come far down off his prior pedestal in the course of this race. But I bet he himself would acknowledge that, and say he knew it would happen if he got into the mix, but that he wanted to do so for his wife. He's too smart not to know what happens when you join a tough campaign.

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Lake Forest, Calif.: Good morning ... George McGovern lost the election. He lost primarily because he was to far to the left to get the votes of the more moderate voters. Why on earth would Hillary Clinton listen to McGovern's advice?

Anne E. Kornblut: Good point!

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Arlington, Mass.: Anne, I'm curious about the Republican crossover in Indiana. Can you tell by the exit polling data if it made up the 18,000-plus difference in the popular vote? I could understand Republicans voting in the Democratic primary if they truly were enamored of Clinton or Obama, but how many were just mischievous votes to skew the outcome?

Anne E. Kornblut: We're actually looking at this very question, and should have a piece in the paper soon (maybe tomorrow?). Generally speaking, it is tough to measure people's motives, and especially so this year when so many Republicans and independents have expressed true interest in supporting Obama. But "the Limbaugh effect" is something distressing some Democrats now, it is true.

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Roseland, N.J.: Taking lessons from the great Kennedy/Carter wars, will the main stumbling block in uniting the party be not so much "how will you appeal to white-collar voters" as "how much of my campaign debt can you retire"?

Anne E. Kornblut: Bloomberg, anyone? Edwards? Teresa Heinz?

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Baltimore: Speaking of expectations, Hillary is expected to win two of the next three contests by fairly wide margins -- West Virginia and Kentucky. Oregon seems to be Obama country by the demographics. Wouldn't it be a bit embarrassing to Obama if she quit and then won two big victories over him while she wasn't even running? She helps Obama more by staying in the race, at this point.

Anne E. Kornblut: Perhaps, although I suspect that if she were to leave the race, the whole story would turn into Obama vs. McCain and not much notice would be paid to those races. But as of now, she is not quitting, so it's all hypothetical...

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Washington: As an African American woman, I am torn between the political and historical significance of each candidate; however, I hear the analysis of how race is affecting the race at a great deal more than any discussion of gender from the media. Why is that? Is that fair?

Anne E. Kornblut: Students are going to be writing dissertations on this question (and many others involving identity politics, I suspect) for a good long while. I'm not quite sure myself yet.

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Re: The Expectations Game: Anne: Hillary didn't just fail to manage expectations, she helped set false ones by saying North Carolina would be a "game-changer." Where does that rank on the list of disastrous moments in this campaign season for her?

Anne E. Kornblut: I'm not sure, but that's a good idea, a list of "bests" and "worsts" for each of them. Thanks for that!

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Chicago: Late night Anne? Thanks for taking my question. There was much discussion about whether Hillary wants to be vice president and whether Obama will offer it to her (after last night I just don't see a way Obama does not get the nomination). What have you heard? Does Hillary want it? Would Barack offer it to her?

Anne E. Kornblut: It's all speculation at this point. If I had to guess, I'd say she probably would take it, but that Obama would have to think long and hard about offering it to her. But again, I have no inside knowledge here.

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Anne E. Kornblut: Thank you all so much for joining today, and with such great questions, as always! Please keep them coming, and I look forward to chatting again soon. Have a terrific week.

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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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