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

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Lois Romano
Washington Post National Political Reporter
Monday, June 2, 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 Monday, June 2 at 11 a.m. ET.

The transcript follows.

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Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts

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Lois Romano: Hi everyone! Thanks for joining me. Lets get started.

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Washington: Am I mistaken, or didn't Bill Clinton assure everyone that Hillary would abide by whatever the Democratic National Committee decided over the weekend? Now she says she reserves the right to take it to the credentials committee. Why is no one holding her to keep her promise?

Lois Romano: Yes, I believe her camp said she would abide by it. Your guess is as good as anyone's. Clinton has been saying that she's staying in until someone reaches the finish line -- which happen Tuesday. So we'll see.

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La Vale, Md.: Thanks for chatting this morning. I am totally confused about Hillary's argument that she "won the popular vote." It seems like there are so many different ways that primary and caucus votes can be counted. Is there any reasonable basis for her to make that claim without giving denying Obama any of the "uncommitted" votes in Michigan? Does that claim also require her to ignore votes from certain caucus states where accurate turnout totals may not be kept available? How do you count Texas's votes, where they had a primary and a caucus? What about states that selected their delegates by caucus on one day and then had a beauty contest on another day?

Lois Romano: Her campaign is using numbers selectively. Real Clear Politics estimates it as Obama 17,723,200, Clinton 17,588,454, which is everything except Michigan, where Obama was not on the ballot. The Clinton campaign excludes caucuses. When you count everything, the only way she can get to more popular votes, is if you assume Obama wouldn't have gotten any votes in Michigan.

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Raleigh, N.C.: Do you think Hillary Clinton would be the nominee if she had been one of the majority of Democrats in the Congress who voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution in 2002? Do you believe that "policy" position of hers has been underreported in comparison to the "process" issues within her campaign (Mark Penn, caucus states, Bill's remarks on South Carolina, etc.)?

Lois Romano: I can't answer the war question -- Iraq has receded some as a campaign issue, so it's hard to know. But I do think that when the story of this campaign is written, it will show that Clinton made a number of strategic errors, the first of which was underestimating Obama. She also assumed that voters only wanted experience, when in fact voters wanted to be inspired.

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Dryden, N.Y.: Okay. Florida and Michigan broke the Democratic National Committee rules and pretty much blew it. Their state parties agreed that the deals the DNC gave them were acceptable (indeed they suggested the remedies). Now Clinton is propagating some kind of "stab in the back" legend. In my opinion, this is crazy. Will Harold Ickes actually get away with this rubbish? Do you think it's time for the senator to come back home and talk to some dairy farmers? Has she been in the bubble way too long?

Lois Romano: Sen. Clinton truly believes she is the better candidate to beat McCain in the fall, and she's going to stay in the race as long as strategically possible. What this view ignores is that so far the right has not rallied around McCain -- but they likely would if Hillary were the nominee, giving McCain a real boost.

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St. Paul, Minn.: Hi Lois -- thank you for taking my question and for chatting with us today. Sen. Obama, at least so far, doesn't appear afraid to challenge Sen. McCain pretty aggressively on Iraq, most recently by pointing out his misstatements about troop levels. That really seemed to hit a nerve with McCain and his surrogates. How do you think this is working? Is it a more subtle way to get at the "age issue" (McCain doesn't know what's going on or can't remember), or is that reading too much into it?

Lois Romano: That may be reading too much into it. Obama certainly is hitting the age issue, but by saying things like how grateful he is to McCain for his "50 years" of service to his country. And on another occasion he said McCain was "losing his bearings."

The country is pretty sick of Iraq, so within reason, Obama can make some strong points on the issue. Where McCain may be able to shine is if something actually happens -- a terrorist threat etc. -- and McCain steps up in a strong, confident way.

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Rockville, Md.: Can Obama win without any superdelegates? If so, what is the discussion about? If not, why do people presume to know how the superdelegates will vote? Either way is difficult to give any confidence to. I guess people do have to have answers, even when they have no content or support.

Lois Romano: He needs superdelegates to win.

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New York: On McClellan: Let's ignore the shades of gray and examine stark contrasts. He can't be telling the truth now and telling the truth then, so he's either lying then and lying now, lying then and telling the truth now, or telling the truth then and lying now. Based on all we know about this administration, some of it based on insider accounts, which of these is the most plausible? I submit that it's transparently. What am I missing? What's wrong with a guy seeking redemption and ensuring his kids can go to college?

Lois Romano: Well, he says he was lying then -- but didn't know it. That he was give inaccurate information to tell the media. I suspect that's why he wrote the book -- to clear his name and his conscience. From what I read he did not get a big advance -- and he sure has had to withstand attacks from former friends and colleagues.

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Bethesda, Md.: I'm perplexed by the "this is not the Scott McClellan we knew " response from, primarily, the White House. Rove suggested McClellan "sounded like a left liberal blogger" and Novak even suggested McClellan might not be the author. What is the purpose of this line of defense? You can turn on the TV and see McClellan himself saying all the same stuff that's in the book. At some point, if everyone appears to you to be an extremist, then doesn't it follow that you are, by definition, the extremist?

Lois Romano: They are trying to suggest that he's not strong enough, or insightful enough to author such a book. He's a mild-mannered guy, so they are attempting to marginalize him.

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Rockville, Md.: Can we put the political conversation aside for just a brief moment and send our best thoughts to Sen. Kennedy, the surgeons and others who are operating on him at this time? Thanks.

washingtonpost.com: Kennedy to Undergo Surgery for Brain Tumor (Post, June 2)

Lois Romano: Thanks for your comment.

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Tampa, Fla.: How likely is Charlie Crist to be McCain's running mate? Crist has angered the "Christian" conservatives here in Florida by downplaying the need for an amendment to the Florida constitution banning gay marriage. There also are persistent rumors he's gay himself, and these rumors have been floating around since long before Crist became governor. Wouldn't McCain require total confidence that Crist is not gay to take him as his running mate? Personally I think one's sexual orientation is irrelevant, but many do not. And most of those vote GOP.

Lois Romano: Crist is being considered -- along with a dozen other people. He's young and attractive -- and from Florida, a critical state.

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Wichita, Kan.: I don't understand why Clinton, McCain and pundits slight the rhetorical skill of Obama with offhand remarks about speeches not mattering. Diplomacy depends on rhetorical abilities -- not just saying pretty words but grasping the situation at hand, something Bush and Clinton have failed to do at key times. The inspirational impact of Obama's words are a big contribution towards rebuilding the office of the president after so many years of degradation by the current and previous presidents' shenanigans and ineptitudes. Will Obama's rhetorical abilities ever be able to be a strong point that the media and pundits will rush to defend?

Lois Romano: Obama will have to consistently put forth policy positions, but its hard for voters to grasp a line of attack that dismisses someone who inspires.

The mere act of writing a speech pulls together one's thinking and goals -- and Obama confidently expresses that. He's not allowed others to throw him off message.

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Minnesota: I voted for Obama in my state's Democratic caucus in February, but at that time also would have been very comfortable with Clinton as the nominee. However, her do-anything, say-anything mentality, and her camp's recent behavior regarding the Michigan/Florida debacle has soured me to her. Are others feeling this way?

Lois Romano: Yes, I think many people feel that way. But she also has many passionate supporters. I traveled with her campaign recently and many, many people rushed up to the rope line to tell her not to drop out. That's why campaigns are called a "bubble" because in many ways you're operating in an echo chamber. The people who come out to the rallies like what you're saying and let you know that -- which in turn encourages you.

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Reading, Pa.: Sen. Nelson of Florida impressed me at the DNC rules meeting, but because he's in the Hillary camp that pretty much excludes him as a possible Obama veep -- or does it? Do you think that by reaching out to a Hillary supporter, Obama could help heal the party?

Lois Romano: That doesn't exclude him all. Pretty soon, there will be just one camp, as everyone rallies to beat McCain. Obama will select the person who he thinks can bring the most to the ticket and with whom he has a chemistry. At that point, who was in what camp simply won't matter. And of course, there's always the possibility he may like the idea of Hillary as his running mate.

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Crist Can't Survive the Vetting: In a better country, Charlie Crist would have no problem as a national candidate. Here, his private life is center-stage ... what can we do to end this fixation on private matters that have no bearing on public life?

Lois Romano: I don't know anything about his private life -- and neither do you I suspect. All rumors.

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Belchertown, Mass. -- response to Raleigh, N.C.: Lois -- thanks for taking questions. I really enjoy these chats that The Washington Post does, but I really wish that the reporters would do a better job correcting misstatements by the questioners: The Democrats in the Senate voted 29-21 in favor of the authorization to use military force, so Hillary voted with the majority of Democrats already.

Lois Romano: Thanks.

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Chicago: Hey Lois. I have read so many conflicting reporting about Hillary's vice presidential ambitions. What is the real scoop? Thanks.

Lois Romano: I think we have to assume that if her husband is campaigning for it, she wants it. I would be surprised if she wasn't very interested ... but for now, she has to say publicly that she's not interested because she's still running for president.

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Washington: I was surprised by the informal, mean-spirited letter from Trent Duffy, essentially, to Scott McClellan in today's Post. Clearly, strong rebuttals are normal on the op-ed page but this one seemed to cross a line both in informality (he called McClellan "amigo") and in petty meanness.

washingtonpost.com: Will the Real Scott Please Stand Up? (Post, June 2)

Lois Romano: It was a pretty tough editorial, likely written by a committee. This is not anything unusual for this administration, however, which has proved masters at attacking the attacker personally. I go back to what I said earlier: I suspect McClellan reflected on his time at the White House and became increasingly angry about being told information and then going out to the press corps and passing what he now believes to in bad information. And now they are throwing the kitchen sink at him.

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Boston: Just a note on Obama's needing superdelegates to win ... true, but so would Clinton. In fact, she'd need more superdelegates to win, because she has fewer pledged delegates.

Lois Romano: Yes, they both need superdelegates -- which is why Clinton was trying to keep those who were pledged to her on the reservation. Once they started defecting, her chances became slimmer and slimmer.

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Disinterested party: It has been pretty amazing to watch the Obama and Clinton camps fighting about Michigan and Florida delegates. From the outside, neither one seems to be reasonable, and both seem to be taking a political (vs. equitable or principled) approach. As an independent, I'm disinclined to take a positive view of either one based on this mess. Is either campaign considering this perspective, or are they simply fighting for every last vote?

Lois Romano: Obama is treading more carefully than Clinton because he can afford to be generous -- he's ahead. Clinton is fighting for every last vote.

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Lois Romano: Hi everyone. It's time to end now. Thanks for joining us. Maybe the next time we talk the Democratic nominating process will be over? But probably not!

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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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