Two former Democratic National Committee chairman appeared on “Meet the Press” Sunday, presenting distinctly different portrayals of the state of the Democratic primary race. Sen. Christopher Dodd, a former candidate himself, declared Sen. Barack Obama the de facto nominee but stated that the party and the country needed to give Sen. Hillary Clinton “a chance to settle down” and to concede at her own pace.
“She loves this party and she loves this country, and I have no doubt she will be strong behind Barack Obama,” Dodd said.
Current Clinton Campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe, however, seemed oblivious to Dodd’s assertions that the race was over, and defied the conventional wisdom of the last week that his candidate’s days are numbered.
“This is politics -- anything can happen,” he said. “She has 16.6 million passionate supporters have voted for her,” he said, adding that the remaining states deserved to be counted.
McAuliffe also asserted that Clinton is in the race through the rest of the primaries, challenging rumors that she has begun to strategize her concession. “There have been no discussions about ending the race,” he insisted.
Where both men did come together on message was the topic of party unity. “I will give a shout out to George Bush,” joked McAuliffe. “He’s probably been the greatest unifying force in the history of the Democratic party.” He also insisted that white, blue-collar workers will support Obama as the nominee and that disenfranchised black voters will rally behind Clinton if she is the nominee.
McAuliffe was energetic and optimistic as he responded to host Tim Russert’s clips and quotes from various political prognosticators calling for Hillary Clinton to concede the race to Barack Obama for the good of party unity.
“No one is the nominee [yet],” he insisted, stating that his campaign was confident that by June 3, Clinton will have clinched the popular vote, be within 100 of Obama in elected delegates, and will therefore make a compelling case to the remaining superdelegates that Clinton is the stronger candidate to take on presumptive Republican nominee John McCain in November.
“I don’t think anything is impossible,” McAuliffe claimed. “We’ve been at this for 17 months and have just three weeks to go. The race is tight, but seven million Americans have yet to vote.” He stressed that Clinton was heavily favored in West Virginia and Kentucky, two states that Bill Clinton carried, but that the Democrats lost in 2000 and 2004.
Russert pointed out the new delegate math of the Clinton campaign now includes Michigan and Florida, two states that have been sanctioned by the DNC for moving their primaries up against party rules. Quoting Clinton’s past statements by campaign strategist Howard Wolfson, McAuliffe and Clinton herself as supporting the DNC ruling to deny delegate seats at the convention for the two states, Russert questioned the campaign’s about-face now that it suits their argument. McAuliffe argued that the popular vote should count in and of itself, and that according to party rules, the convention should seat half the delegates from each state. “Barack Obama’s name was not on the ballot in Michigan,” Russert interjected.
“That was a political decision he made to pull his name off the ballot," McAuliffe retorted. "Let’s be clear. He took his name off to appease Iowa and New Hampshire.”
Quoting Clinton in a recent interview, Russert brought up the increasingly divisive topic of race, in which Clinton spoke directly of her appeal to white, working-class voters. Suggesting that the subtext of her comments were to insinuate that white Americans would not vote for a black candidate, Russert pressed McAuliffe to explain his candidate’s words.
When McAuliffe at first tried to say that Clinton was merely quoting The Associated Press, Russert followed up to say that those were not the words of the AP, but Clinton’s own. “She was paraphrasing,” McAuliffe explained. “Both Clintons have worked their whole lives on civil rights issues. This is the end of a long campaign. But the stakes are huge. We have to win on November 4.”
On the subject of campaign debt, McAuliffe insisted that the Clintons were sanguine with the debt that they were incurring, and that they were prepared to put up more of their personal fortune to keep Sen. Clinton competitive. “It is what it is,” McAuliffe offered. “You can’t win unless you’re on the playing field.”