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What is Hillary Clinton Doing?


This is Day to Day from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.


And I'm Madeleine Brand.

Hillary Clinton creamed Barack Obama in West Virginia by 41 percentage points. It doesn't matter. That's the opinion of most political analysts today. That's because Senator Obama still leads in delegates, the popular vote, and in the number of states won. John Dickerson is here now. He's chief political correspondent for slate.com and John, let me play you a clip of tape of Hillary Clinton last night at her victory rally in Charleston, West Virginia.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): The White House is won in the swing states, and I am winning the swing states.

(Soundbite of cheering)

BRAND: So, John, that is her argument. That she is the better candidate in the general election, that she can win these big states, states that would otherwise go to a Republican.

Mr. JOHN DICKERSON (Chief Political Analyst Correspondent, slate.com): That's exactly right. That's her argument. And her problem, however, is that Barack Obama has some counterarguments and what she needs in this moment, to convince these superdelegates to reverse the trend among pledged delegates, is a really knock-out argument. And what Barack Obama can say in return is, look, there is no evidence that these voters who are going for Clinton, these white, working-class voters, won't vote for me in a general election.

In fact, there is evidence in polling that suggests that Obama does just as well against John McCain among this part of the electorate as Hillary Clinton. And also, he can say, well, I've won other swing states. I won Virginia, which could be a swing state. I've won Colorado, and Wisconsin, and Minnesota. So, he has his version of these same arguments, and they can go back and forth. But any conversation that goes back and forth inevitably helps Obama because he's got the momentum among the pledged delegates, and now among the superdelegates.

BRAND: Still, does he not have a problem, though, with the low-income white voters? Those voters seem to continually go with Hillary Clinton and according to exit polls, a lot of them would not vote for Barack Obama in a general election.

Mr. DICKERSON: He has a thorough problem with white, working-class voters. It's gone throughout the states. He's done well in some places, Wisconsin, but most of the time he has a problem with blue-collar voters, and he's got to fix that. And he's working on it, in fact, as we speak. While Clinton was celebrating in West Virginia, Obama was in Missouri in a rural area. And he's in Macomb County, the famous sort of seed of the Reagan Democrats in Michigan, today doing a plant tour, talking about the economy, showing Democrats that he's already working on this problem as far as the general election goes. So he knows he has a problem. He's working to try to fix it.

BRAND: He's in Michigan today? Michigan has already voted, so he is focusing on the general?

Mr. DICKERSON: Michigan has voted. Of course Michigan, along with Florida, is part of this dispute in the Democratic Party about whether to seat, and how to seat, the delegates. Hillary Clinton, one of her arguments to superdelegates is that the delegates should be assigned based on the elections that were held in Michigan and Florida. Of course, Barack Obama's name wasn't on the ballot in Michigan, and in Florida the campaigns weren't competing. This is now a matter of debate that will be resolved on the 31st of May in the Rules Committee of the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton wants the delegates seated favorably for her. That's not likely to happen, but that's part of her argument for how she might be able to pull this off.

BRAND: So she needs that, and then she would need almost every remaining undecided superdelegate to go her way.

Mr. DICKERSON: Yes. She would need about 60 to 70 percent, depending on whether and how Florida and Michigan were seated, their delegates. If those delegates are not seated, let's just start with that, she would need 70 percent of the remaining delegates to beat Obama. So, it's a very tough hill to climb, and it still would be pretty tough even if she could get Michigan's and Florida's delegates seated.

BRAND: Thank you, John.

Mr. DICKERSON: Thank you.

BRAND: That's John Dickerson, chief political correspondent for slate.com. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.