The following is a transcript of an interview with Hillary Clinton and the Sioux Falls Argus Leader editorial board on Friday May 23, 2008. This fifteen minute segment contains the “assassination” reference as well as a discussion of why Clinton stays in the race and her strategy for winning the general election.
The tape segment can be downloaded from the Argus Leader |here|.
I understand it’s customary to “clean up” the vocalized pauses and crosstalk that occurs in normal conversation to make a transcript more readable, but since there has been some controversy about whether certain comments in this interview “open a door wide into the soul” of Senator Clinton, I have left them in for accuracy and for the amusement of any soul-augurers.
HILLARY CLINTON: I think, if you look at this campaign, ahh, starting in late February, moving forward, ahh, I’ve done much better, ahh..The longer this campaign has gone on, the better I’ve done…which I think is an interesting observation. I lead in the popular vote. More people have voted for me, not only more than my opponent, but more have voted for me than, ahhh, anyone who’s ever run for the nomination of a political party in our country, ahh, and…there are a lot of people who really believe in me and support me because they think I would be the best president. And I think…
Having the campaign go on until the people in South Dakota actually get to vote, ah, is a very important part of democracy. I readily accepted Senator McGovern’s offer that Senator Obama and I appear side by side. I have accepted that. I have urged that. I think that the people of South Dakota deserve it. He doesn’t seem to want to debate me or even appear on the same stage with me, which I think is kind of strange since he’s certainly have to do that in the fall, I would expect, if he is our nominee. Ahhh, so, I feel very good about my campaign, I’m very grateful for the support that I’ve received against pretty daunting, ahh, ahh, you know, mountains to climb, ahh, because people have been declaring it over for many months, and…voters seem to have a different idea and keep coming out and voting for me and… I hope to do well here in South Dakota.
ARGUS LEADER: The reports this morning and over night were that, uh, your campaign had certain contacts or overatures to Mr. Obama’s campaign in, …in the past 24 hours, and were working on some sort of deal for your exit.
HILLARY CLINTON: That’s flatly untrue. Flatly, completely…untrue.
ARGUS LEADER: No discussions at all?
HILLARY CLINTON: No discussions at all. At ALL. And…now, I can’t speak for the seventeen million people who voted for me, uh, uh, I have a lot of supporters, uh, but it is flatly untrue, and it is not anything I am entertaining. It is nothing I have planned. It is nothing I am prepared to engage in. I am still, you know, vigorously, uh, you know, campaigning. I am happy to be here, looking forward to campaign here, going to Puerto Rico tomorrow. I expect to be back here before the election.
But this is part of an ongoing effort, to, you know, end this before it’s over, and you know I’m very heartened by, you know the strong support that I’ve shown in Kentucky and West Virginia just in the last two weeks, ah, they sure don’t think it’s over. The people who are here in South Dakota looking forward to vote–they don’t think it’s over and I sure don’t think it’s over.
Neither of us has the number of delegates needed to be the nominee, and every time they declare it, it doesn’t make it so. Neither of us do, and I’ve never seen anything like this. I mean, I have perhaps a long enough memory that, uh, many people who finished a rather distant second behind nominees, ahh, went all the way to the convention. I remember very well 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, where some who had contested in the primaries, you know, were determined to carry their case to the convention. I’m ahead in the popular vote. Less than two hundred delegates separate us out of four thousand four hundred. Michigan and Florida are not resolved. No one has the nomination. So I would look to the , uh, uh, camp of my opponent for the source of those stories.
ARGUS LEADER: Well, I was just going to ask. One presumes…
HILLARY CLINTON: (laughs)
ARGUS LEADER: (crosstalk)….where it originates…
HILLARY CLINTON: I think so. But that’s been the pattern for quite some time now. I’m…Honestly, I just believe that this is the most important job in the world. It’s the toughest job in the world. You should be willing to campaign for every vote. You should be willing to debate any time, any where. I think it’s an interesting juxtaposition, ahhh, where we find ourselves and,…I have been willing to do all of that, during the entire process, and people have been trying to push me out of this ever since Iowa, ahh…
ARGUS LEADER: Why?….
HILLARY CLINTON: I don’t know,…
ARGUS LEADER: ….why?…..
HILLARY CLINTON: ….I don’t know….I don’t …I find it curious, because…it is unprecedented in history. I don’t understand it, you know between my opponent and his camp and some in the media there has been this…urgency to end this, and you know, I … historically that makes no sense, so I find it a bit of a mystery..
ARGUS LEADER: You don’t buy the unity argument?
HILLARY CLINTON: I don’t. (crosstalk)….because again I’ve been around long enough, uh,… my husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary, uhhh..somewhere in the middle of June..
ARGUS LEADER: …June…
HILLARY CLINTON: (crosstalk)…right?… We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June, in California, ah, I…I just don’t understand it. There’s lots of speculation about why it is, but ah,…
ARGUS LEADER: What’s your speculation?
HILLARY CLINTON: You know, I don’t know. I…I…I find it curious and I don’t want to, uh, attribute (laughs) motives or uh, strategies to people because I don’t really know…ahhh…but it is a historical curiosity to me.
ARGUS LEADER: Does that have anything to do with gender?
HILLARY CLINTON: I don’t know that either, I don’t know. You know, I’m not one to speculate on that because I …I think that uh, I want to be judged on my own merits and I think I am. But, uh, others have.
ARGUS LEADER: It sounds like what you’re saying, then, to those who are looking forward to voting on June 3 is that there will be a competitive race on the day that they vote.
HILLARY CLINTON: That’s right, that’s right,…well, if I have anything to do with it….
ARGUS LEADER: (laughs)
HILLARY CLINTON: And the other thing that I want South Dakotans to really think hard about is…winning in November. The electoral map is…the target here. And consistently over the last weeks, I have had a considerable lead, in that electoral college calculation, over my opponent, and…
A source that is perhaps suspect to all of us as Democrats, but seems to have a pretty good track record, Karl Rove does a rolling assessment, and ABC News got a hold of his maps and his calculation last week, and it coincides with everything that I’ve seen from every other source. If the election were held today, I would win. I would beat McCain, and McCain would defeat Senator Obama. I was just in Florida…. Every poll for the last three, four months,… I defeat Senator McCain, McCain defeats Obama. In the battleground states that we have to win, and in the anchor states that any Democrat must win, ah, I’m ahead. So if South Dakotans are concerned, as I am, that we place our best candidate, our stronger candidate, against Senator McCain in the fall, the evidence is overwhelming.
Now if you look at the states that I have won, it totals 300 electoral votes, give or take. Now some of those states a Democrat is not likely to win. We can compete, but it’s tough. But states that I’ve won that I know I can win, like Arkansas, and West Virginia, like Kentucky, like Florida, like Ohio–where again I defeat McCain, and McCain defeats Obama–are states that we have to win, if we’re going to be successful. Senator Obama has won states totalling about two hundred seventeen electoral votes, far below the threshold of what we need–two hundred seventy–and the Rove analysis, which is, as I understand it, a calculation based on every public poll available, because there’s a theory that apparently he subscribes to, as do others, that any one poll is not as good as averaging all polls. And polls within individual states that are done locally, as well as national polls that go into those states, will give you a better picture.
HILLARY CLINTON: Now does that mean that my opponent can’t win? Of course not. But does it mean, based on what we know now, if you were a South Dakotan who would your better bet be, to actually win the White House? It would be me. And I think that that’s a very important piece of information. And it’s one of the reasons that I am competing and continuing to compete because my goal here is to win in November. I respect Senator McCain. He’s a friend of mine. But I do not believe he has the right ideas for our country, and I do not believe he should be the president after George Bush. It would be like a continuation–economically, and in Iraq–of Bush’s policies. So I think Democrats need to think very carefully about this vote in South Dakota.
ARGUS LEADER: Are you saying that you don’t think Obama can win?
HILLARY CLINTON: No, I’m saying he can win..
ARGUS LEADER: …the states you’ve been in…so strong in…
HILLARY CLINTON: I’m saying …
ARGUS LEADER: Ohio, ….
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, let me say it this way
ARGUS LEADER: West Virginia…
HILLARY CLINTON: Based on the evidence now, and the the margin of my victory over McCain and McCain’s victory over Obama, he will have a much harder time. Of course he can win. Anything can happen in politics.
ARGUS LEADER: If he were the nominee, would you campaign for him in those states?
HILLARY CLINTON: Absolutely. Absolutely. I have said I would do anything and everything I am asked to do. I am a Democrat, and an Amercian, and I think the damage that George Bush has done to our country is considerable, therefore we must have a democratic president. I think the odds are greater that I woud be that president than my opponent. That doesn’t mean he can’t win, that doesn’t mean I won’t move heaven and earth and do everything I can, if he is the nominee, to help him win. But I ..I’m a real believer in evidence-based decision making, and if you look at the evidence, as this campaign has gone on, I’ve gotten stronger and stronger. If you look at where I get my votes, it’s primarily from primaries, and that’s where I get my delegates. If you look at where he gets his, it’s primarily from caucuses, which are not representative and are largely uh, driven by the most activist members of our party . I believe I have a stronger base to build on, to acheive victory in the electoral college, uh, and I’m going to do everything I can do to make that case. If I make it, I will be the nominee and I will win. If I’m not successful making it, I will do everything I can to elect a Democratic president.
ARGUS LEADER: It sounds like your strategy to win is essentially… rests now on Michigan and Florida.
HILLARY CLINTON: No, Neither of us has the delagates we need.
ARGUS LEADER: Well, he’s closer than you are.
HILLARY CLINTON: He’s slightly closer than I am. Slightly. I mean, less than 200 out of 4400. One of us has to get to 2, 210, and neither of us is near there yet. He keeps saying “oh, but I’ve gotten to two thousand twenty-five”, but that excludes Michigan and Florida. I don’t think it’s smart for us to have a nominee based on 48 instead of 50 states. Hopefully Michigan and Florida will be resolved on May 31st, when the DNC rules committee meets. But even then, we still have to convince superdelegates. Now, superdelegates are in this process for a purpose. Their task is to exercise independent judgment. And the independent judgment they should exercise is: who is the stronger candidate to win in the fall. And if they exercise that independent judgment, they should look at all the evidence, and they should make their conclusion. I’m waiting to see the electoral map that leads my opponent to the 270 delegate number. That’s all I ask, and that’s what a superdelegate should ask. Show me the map. It’s not the math, it’s the map. And I can show you the map about how I’d put together a majority of 70 electoral votes.
ARGUS LEADER: In your mind what would a fair resolution to seating the Michigan and Florida delegates?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, in my mind, it would be fully seating the delegate, and here’s why, Even…though…they moved their dates, I think there were extenuating circumstances for both. The case is clearer for Florida. Florida has a Republican governor, a Republican legislature, and I mean huuugge majorities in both, not just a close divide. They determined they were going to set their date to benefit Republican candidates, and Democrats really had no choice in the matter. They could have said “we’re going to be pure, we’re not going to participate”–they never could have afforded to run a primary in Florida. That would be…prohibitive. So they did go along with it. But I think there were very understandable reasons why they did. And..1.7 million people showed up. It was a totally level playing field. We were all on the ballot. There was little or no campaigning, so nobody was in there. The voters took it very seriously because they thought it was important, and they voted. And the idea that voters should be punished, for what was, at worst, an acquiescence…
UPDATE: The Argus Leader has a transcript available–without all the “unmm’s” and “you know’s” that conversational speech has. Unfortunately it’s not in HTML form–you have to download it and open it with Word. So you can’t read it if you’re in the public library and you can’t read it if you don’t have word on your computer. The link to download is at the upper right corner of the page |here|.
Updated Update: I have gotten a Microsoft Word program running (curse Word 2007/Vista!) and have downloaded and posted the transcript from the Argus Leader |here|.