Hillary Clinton photo

Interview with Katie Couric of CBS News

May 14, 2008

COURIC: Sen. Clinton, you had an impressive victory yesterday in West Virginia. But, according to our polls, an overwhelming number of your supporters in that state, 73 percent, said they would not be satisfied with Barack Obama with the Democratic nominee. Sixty-one (percent) of your supporters said the same thing after the Pennsylvania primary. Isn't that evidenced that, by staying in this race, you are dividing the party?

CLINTON: No, not at all. I mean, a primary always creates passionate feelings in supporters. My opponents have a lot of supporters who say the same thing, obviously. But once we have a nominee, which we don't yet have, we'll have a unified Democratic party.

And I'm gonna work my heart out to make sure we elected a Democratic president. I will make the strongest possible argument that anyone who voted for me or voted for Sen. Obama has much more in common than they do with Sen. McCain and the Republicans.

We cannot afford four more years of these failed Republican policies. And the only way we'll replace them, since, I'm sorry to say, appears Sen. McCain is offering more of the same, is by electing a Democratic. So I'm confident we'll have a unified party, we'll make a strong case, and will be victorious in November.

COURIC: Yet, nearly a third of your supporters in both West Virginia and Pennsylvania said if you are not the nominee they will vote for John McCain in November. So do you think staying in this race helped John McCain the most?

CLINTON: No, not at all. In fact, I believe it would hurt our eventual nominee if it is not me, if I were to get out of this race before everyone's had a chance to vote. Because it would appear as though I had been somehow pushed out. People had been deprived their right to vote.

We will finish this process. We will finish the elections that are still to come. We will seat the Michigan and Florida delegates, I hope, by May 31st. And then we'll have a nominee, or very close to it, and we'll know who the nominee is. And I will be in a very strong position, as will Sen. Obama, to make the case that we fought a hard fight, everybody participated, now it's time to coalesce behind our nominee. And I think we'll get a lot of people to agree with that.

COURIC: So that one third number, nearly one third number of people who voted for you in West Virginia and Pennsylvania saying they would rather have John McCain in November than Barack Obama, it doesn't trouble you?

CLINTON: No, because there are a lot of Sen. Obama's supporters, if you go back and look at polling, who say the same thing. That they won't vote. They'll stay home. I that's the heat of the primary speaking. And that's what happens in the primary.

But this has been a very positive and civil primary election process. And I am absolutely confident that once we have a nominee both Sen. Obama and I are gonna work as hard as we can to make the case to our supporters that they should support the nominee so we can have a Democratic president.

COURIC: You have the support of blue-collar white voters. But you only get about eight percent of African-American voters. And that's usually, as you know Sen. Clinton, what Republicans get. What do you think is behind this racial divide?

CLINTON: Oh, I think its pride. I think its excitement. I absolutely understand and respect that. But once we get to November, my supporters, his supporters, no matter who they are, are gonna take a hard look at John McCain in the course of the campaign and realize this is someone who didn't support Dr. Martin Luther King holiday.

This is someone who has supported President Bush down the line on so many of the issues that really matter to people no matter who they are and where they live. We're gonna make a very strong case why our Democratic nominee should attract every single one of the 34 million people who have voted for us.

I've received nearly 17 million, Sen. Obama's received nearly 17 million; I'm slightly ahead. Those 34 million people, they will end up voting for the Democrat because there is no reason why they should want to continue the failed policies of George Bush.

COURIC: When you give those numbers you're including Florida and Michigan?

CLINTON: Of course. Because those were legitimate certified elections that were legal and valid, and people actually exercised their right to vote. The only dispute is how do they get the delegates out of those votes?

COURIC: And I've raised this with you before, Sen. Clinton, but Barack Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan.

CLINTON: Well, that was his choice. He didn't have to take his name off. There was no rule requiring that he took his name off. But he did run, along with his supporters, a very vigorous campaign to get people to vote uncommitted. So he had a presence there, even though his name wasn't on the ballot.

COURIC: A lot of people were struck last week when you noted that you had won the support of hard working Americans, white Americans. Using those words, do you think that was dangerously close to playing the reverse race card?

CLINTON: No, not at all. I was just referring to an AP article. You know, people have voted for me because they believe I'd be a better fighter and a better champion. They believe I would fight for universal healthcare. That I'd make college affordable.

That I'd try to do something about these outrageous gas prices. That I have a real plan to get out of Iraq. So I think that, you know, there is no doubt that we've had a wonderful, incredibly historic campaign. Obviously, race and gender are part of it, because of who the candidates are. But people have been voting based on who they thought would be the better president and the stronger candidate against Sen. McCain.

COURIC: But do you think using the phrase "white Americans" was loaded and possibly polarizing? Do you regret it at all?

CLINTON: Well, I just was quoting from an article. And obviously, if it gave any pause to anyone then I regret that. But it was, you know, it was just an article that had been written, not by me, but by an objective news service. But this has been an incredibly positive and civil campaign.

And we've brought so many new people into the process that I think, you know, once we get to a nomination we're going to close ranks behind our nominee. And all voters from every part of our country are going to recognize that we must elect a Democratic president.

COURIC: If Barack Obama declares victory, Senator Clinton, once he reaches that magic number of 20 25, will you still hold out if Florida and Michigan have not been counted?

CLINTON: Absolutely. Because that's not the right number. How can we have a nominee based on 48 states? Especially two states that are so critically important to the Democratic chances in the fall. I think that would be a mistake. We're gonna finish this process in three weeks.

I just think everybody ought to take a deep breath. We're going to, by June 3rd, have all the remaining primaries. We'll have the Democratic National Committee making a decision about Florida and Michigan. And then we will be able to look at where each of us stands. And that's what I think is the proper way to proceed.

COURIC: Can you lay out for me, right now, Senator Clinton, the scenario where, over the next several weeks, you get enough delegates to win this nomination?

CLINTON: Certainly. I think that we'll do well in these upcoming contests. I think we will get delegates out of Florida and Michigan. I think the super delegates are not bound to support anyone. They don't have to stay with any person. They can make a decision today and change it tomorrow.

And their job, according to the rules of the DNC, is to exercise independent judgment to determine who would be the best president, and who would be the better, stronger candidate against John McCain. And I think I have a stronger case. I think at the end of this process that case will be self evident and we'll see what happens.

COURIC: But national polls show you and Sen. Obama doing equally well against Sen. McCain. So why do you continue to insist that you are, in fact, more electable?

CLINTON: Well, those are national polls. But if you look at state-by-state polls, which is, after all, how we conduct national elections, because you have to get to 270 electoral votes, I've won states with more than 298 electoral votes. Sen. Obama has won states with 217 electoral votes.

Now, some of the states I've won, like Texas and Oklahoma and Indiana are long shots to be in the Democratic column. But many of the states he's won, like Alaska and Idaho and Utah and Nebraska and Kansas are also very long shots. And I am closer, if you look at the electoral map, in fact, if we had the same rules as the Republicans have, I would be the Republican nominee right now.

And I think it's time people start looking at the electoral map. I know one of the news channels had an electoral map during their coverage last night. And . it's a pretty convincing story. I've carried the big states. I've carried the swing states. I've carried the states a Democrat has to carry in order to win.

COURIC: After your victory in Pennsylvania, you mentioned super delegates a minute ago, after your victory in Pennsylvania, Barack Obama won, so far, the commitment of 57 super delegates. You've netted 15. Aren't things trending his way in the super delegate department?

CLINTON: Well, I think we both have been picking up super delegates. I think that will continue. But I go back .

COURIC: But he's gotten 57, Senator, and you've gotten 15.

CLINTON: Well, but I go back to the basic point. The game isn't over. The elections aren't over. No buzzer has sounded. We have to get to 2,210 delegates and then we'll have a nominee. And, until we get there, we're not likely to know who that nominee will be.

COURIC: Can you just help me understand, and perhaps viewers as well, I thought the reason Michigan and Florida weren't being counted was because they defied the DNC calendar.

CLINTON: Well, they did, but so did other states. And the other states didn't face any kind of penalty. And that's the argument that is being made by, obviously, people from Michigan and Florida. Who are pointing out that if the DNC rules are to be applied evenly then other states would have also been penalized?

The Republicans faced the same dilemma. They quickly disposed of it. They decided to award 51 percent . delegates. They went on. We haven't made a decision yet. But we certainly must make a decision. And that decision, I hope, will be made on May 31st.

COURIC: Your campaign is . $20 million in debt. With five more contests to go where will you get the money?

CLINTON: Oh, well, we're getting contributions as we speak. People have been incredibly generous. You know, I have raised more money than anyone ever running in a primary election, except for my opponent. We both have been just breaking every fundraising record there is.

But he has out spent me two, three, sometimes four to one. In order to compete in the contests that we've had, I've had to lend my campaign money. And, obviously, we're going to, you know, continue to ask our supporters to go to my website, HillaryClinton.com, contribute to make sure this campaign is able to compete in the upcoming contest. And I expect to be the nominee and we'll take care of whatever obligations we have. And I'm someone who always takes care of my obligations. And that is something that I will certainly intend to do.

COURIC: So, today, as we speak, you still expect to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States?

CLINTON: I do. I absolutely do expect to be the nominee.

COURIC: And, if that doesn't happen, when will you know, in your heart of hearts, it's time to say, "I gave it my best shot, but I'm bowing out gracefully?"

CLINTON: That is something that, if we come to it, I will certainly know. But we're not there yet.

COURIC: I know you said you're not going to think about this until the time comes, but . I always ask you questions you're not ready to answer; (laughter) so today is no different. A lot of your supporters, including Ed Rendell, for example, governor of Pennsylvania, and a lot of Barack Obama's supporters, really want you to consider taking the number two spot on the ticket. Will you, today, rule that out if Barack Obama is the nominee?

CLINTON: You know, Katie, I have said I will do whatever I'm asked and whatever I can do to make sure we win November. But it presumptuous and premature for either one of us to be talking about that kind of decision. It has to be considered once we have a nominee. Which I'm sure it will be. But I'm gonna work my heart out. I will do whatever I can to make sure we win the White House.

COURIC: So is the translation of that somewhat circumlocutions answer I'm open to it?

CLINTON: Well, I'm not entertaining it. It's just not even anything I'm entertaining right now.

COURIC: And, finally, most games have the opportunity, Senator, to do a "do-over." Your husband knows about this well on the golf course. Looking back on your campaign, if you had just one "do-over," what would it be?

CLINTON: Katie, I haven't had time to think about that.

COURIC: Oh, come on Sen. Clinton.

CLINTON: No . I mean, someday I'll be happy to talk to you about that. Maybe we'll do an interview in the White House. But right now I'm just too focused on today and tomorrow. I don't have time or energy to look backwards. I'm thrilled by my big win in West Virginia. And I'm looking forward to the upcoming contest.

COURIC: So if there's one do over you're not willing to talk about it publicly at this juncture.

CLINTON: I don't have the time or the energy to think about it. I've gotta keep focused on the future.

COURIC: Sen. Hillary Clinton, thank you very much for your time.

CLINTON: Thank you. It's great always talking to you, Katie.

Hillary Clinton, Interview with Katie Couric of CBS News Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/278250

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