Interview with Charlie Gibson of ABC News

Avatar

Spoken by

Hillary Clinton

GIBSON: Senator, taking a, a practical and realistic objective, maybe even cold-blooded view of this race, can you win it?

CLINTON: Of course I can. And, that’s because no one has won it yet. There is no nominee. No one has reached the 2,210 number, which is the, uh, number of delegates needed to win, if you include Michigan and Florida, and both Senator Obama and I agree that we have to include Michigan and Florida, and get their delegates seated. So I think that we’ve got some additional contests to go. We’ve got people who are trying to make up their minds, looking at who they believe would be the better president, and the stronger candidate against Senator McCain.

GIBSON: But the math is daunting. It may be after next Tuesday that Senator Obama will have the majority of pledge delegates, and indeed, superdelegates are coming to him in a rather steady flow. Indeed, in the last week, he won more of those than you were able to pick up in West Virginia.

CLINTON: Well, he, um, has, uh, to reach what is the, the magic number of 2,210. And, uh, he’s not there yet, and we are working hard. We were thrilled by our victory in West Virginia last night. It was a great validation of my message about fighting for people, and, uh, we’re going onto Kentucky, and Oregon, and the rest of the contest, and then we’ll see what happens with Michigan and Florida, and by, you know, June 4th, we’ll have a clearer idea about where everyone stands.

GIBSON: You have cited often, in campaign appearances, I’ve heard you talk about your 30 plus years in politics. If you were a pundit, commenting objectively on this race, what would you be saying?

CLINTON: I would be saying it’s one of the most exciting, closest races, that we’ve ever had, at least that anyone can remember. That millions and millions of Democrats and other Americans have been energized, and brought into the process. That each candidate has, uh, drawn, in the neighborhood of seventeen million votes. In fact, I’m slightly ahead in the popular vote, right now. And that the Democrats should be celebrating, uh, that there is so much interest and excitement, uh, about their candidates. And like everything in life, there is an endpoint. We’re not there yet, but, uh, it will be reached. But to ask someone, uh, to stop, when it’s so close, seems to defy political history, or human nature. I’ve never heard of such a thing going on. You go back and look at, um, uh, political candidates- people went to the conventions with nowhere near the number of votes they needed. Uh, Senator Kennedy kept his, uh, challenge, to President Carter, going for a long time. Obviously, we’re going to have a unified Democratic party, when we have a nominee, but we don’t have a nominee, yet.

GIBSON: Part of the equation, also, is money. And I know you’re meeting with your chief financial people, and chief financial supporters, today. How, how deeply in debt is the campaign?

CLINTON: Well, we’ve had, uh, to compete against, uh, uh, a pretty, uh, well-financed war chest. I’ve raised more money, uh, for a primary election, than anybody ever in American history, except for my opponent, and, uh, from time to time, for the last month, he’s outspent me two, three, four to one. Uh, and as you know, I’ve lent money to my campaign, and, uh, we’ve had to, uh, you know, sort of forward some money, but we’re going to be fine. We’re getting the money we need to compete in these last contests, and, uh, I’m not entertaining any kind of, uh, uh, conclusion, until everybody has a chance to vote.

GIBSON: The estimates are the campaign, though, is somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty million dollars in debt. Is that true?

CLINTON: Well, Charlie, we’re going to have enough money to compete, and, uh, I’m someone who’s always, uh, taken care of any obligation I’ve ever had, and if we have any, we will, but I hope to be the nominee, and, uh, that’ll be taken care of in due course.

GIBSON: Given the math of this election, what do you say to someone about why they should contribute at this stage, to your campaign?

CLINTON: Because I would be the stronger candidate against Senator McCain. If you look at the electoral map, I think that the argument in my favor is, um, overwhelming. I’ve won the big states that we have to win. I’ve won swing states that we have to win. I have a very broad coalition. And, if you were to apply the Republican rules, because the Republican party basically conducts their primary more in line with the electoral map, uh, because they want it to be winner take all in these states, because they know that’s a, a clearer indication of who will likely win in the Fall, or at least be much more competitive, um, I, I would already be the nominee if we had the Republican rules. Well, we don’t, so we’re playing by the rules we have, but when you win the states that I’ve won, and you put them on an electoral map, I’ve won more than 298 electoral votes. Senator Obama’s won about 217. Now, in my electoral vote total, are some states that I don’t think are going to be easy to win for a Democrat, like Texas, or Oklahoma, or possibly, Indiana. But there are many more states in his electoral map that will be very difficult for a Democrat to win, like Alaska, and Idaho, and Utah, and the rest. So, I, I think that people who are serious about us winning in the Fall, have to start looking at the electoral map, and figure out how we’re going to have a candidate who actually gets to the 270 electoral vote majority.

GIBSON: But, but that’s an interesting argument, and I wonder if you make it to super delegates. Are you saying, “I can win Pennsylvania, he can’t. I can win Ohio, he can’t. I can win Michigan, he can’t.”

CLINTON: What I’m saying is that based on the evidence we have, I have a much stronger argument to make, that I can win those states. Uh, I’ve won them, number one. Uh, and I believe that, uh, I will win them in the Fall.

GIBSON: And that he won’t?

CLINTON: Well, I will win them. Um, he could, and he has to make that case to his supporters, and to others. But I think my case is a stronger one.

GIBSON: I’m not sure much should be made of exit polls, but yesterday in West Virginia, sixteen percent of the voters in that state, as they came out of the polling places, admitted, admitted that race was the reason they voted against Barack Obama. Does, does that, in your mind, expose a fault line, in his campaign?

CLINTON: No. I think that’s regrettable, because obviously this is such a historic campaign. Uh, race and gender are facts. Uh, the first African American, the first woman. Uh, but I believe that the vast majority of voters yesterday, an overwhelming majority, uh, chose between us based on who could be better for the economy, and healthcare, and college affordability. Uh, that’s what I think is really at stake in this election, and I believe that people who, uh, look at the two of us, who look at our records, who look at our plans, who look at our ability to get things done, um, are attracted to my candidacy.

GIBSON: You’re somebody who has worked on civil rights issues for many years in your lifetime. When you see polling results like that, does it disturb you? And, and what does it say about the country?

CLINTON: Well, it does, and it also disturbs me when about the same number of people in a lot of polls say that they wouldn’t vote for a woman. It’s, it’s really regrettable. We’ve come so far in our country, and I think this campaign has shattered so many barriers.And we’re going to keep shattering them, uh, no matter how it turns out. Uh, because after all, it’s the Democratic party, who has put forth the two of us. It’s the Democratic party who has put forth candidates who are making history. And, the vast majority of the voters have, you know, taken into account, obviously who we are, but more importantly, what we stand for, and what we would do if we were their president. And I think that is to the great credit of the voters of this country.

GIBSON: You made reference to the fact that some people are concerned still about a female candidate for president. Just looking at the ABC poll of this week. Among whites who hadn’t gone to college, seventeen percent say they’d be at least somewhat uncomfortable with a black president. The same group apt to be uncomfortable with a woman president, twenty-one percent. Does that present a real obstacle for whichever one of you is a candidate, in the Fall?

CLINTON: Well, we’re breaking new ground here, Charlie. There are people, as your polls just, um, recited, who, uh, have reluctance about a woman, have reluctance about an African American. But thankfully, those are a relatively small minority, and I’m not sure that those people would ever vote for, you know, one of us, uh, so we’re just going to, you know, make it clear that we’re running for president, uh, in order to be the president, the president of all the people. I want to represent all fifty states, every kind of person that we have in the United States. I’ve always done that, throughout my entire life and career. I believe strongly in bringing people together. I’ve been a champion for women’s rights, and civil rights, and human rights, and, uh, so I’m going to keep doing everything I can to dear down any artificial barrier that stands in the way of someone being able to, uh, see, uh, the merit of a person’s candidacy. And, uh, I think we’ve made a lot of progress in the last, uh, uh, year, in this campaign, getting that job done.

GIBSON: A couple of times, you’ve quoted a different number of delegates that would be needed. Most people work on the premise of two, 2,025, you, uh, included the number over 2,200, which would include Michigan and Florida. Are there active negotiations between your campaign, and Barack Obama’s, at this stage, some sort of a compromise, that would work out a seating of the Florida and Michigan delegations?

CLINTON: Well, both Senator Obama and I agree that the delegation should be seated. It’s really not up to us, and our campaigns, uh, to make that determination. It is up to the Democratic National Committee, and they have scheduled a meeting on May 31st, which I hope will resolve it. Um, it’s not, it’s not my place, or Barack’s place, to dictate how the DNC makes that determination. It is up to them. Uh, but the important thing is to make sure they are seated. That’s why the number is, uh, 2,210, because I believe we have to seat Michigan and Florida. Uh, I know that Senator Obama agrees we have to seat them. It’s a question of, in what way we’re going to seat them, but once the numbers of their delegates are determined, then they go into the base, and then you have to get a majority of all the delegates. We can’t be sending a nominee, uh, to our convention, based on only forty-eight states. That would be a, a grave error. And particularly, these two states, that are so important for our electoral chances in the fall.

GIBSON: Uh, and I know that meeting is coming on May 31st, but I also think that if, um, that if you and Senator Obama’s campaigns came to some agreement on what should be done about Michigan and Florida, I think the party might take that, uh, as a real indicator of what ought to be done. I’m just wondering if there are conversations underway, between the campaigns.

CLINTON: No. And, and I, I, I think I would have to respectfully point out, Charlie, that, uh, the leaders of those states have pretty strong opinions, and?

GIBSON: Hmm.

CLINTON: ?Some of them are for me, and some of them are for Barack, and some of them are uncommitted. Uh, but they don’t want anybody dictating to them. They want to, uh, do this on their own, and, in each state, there’s been a challenge filed by a Democratic National Committee member, and, uh, I, I think that, uh, uh, we’re not in any active negotiations, in part because I don’t think that that’s the way this will be resolved. I think it’ll be resolved, uh, by the states, working with the Democratic National Committee.

GIBSON: To have any chance of winning this thing, at this stage, do you have to beat Barack Obama at somewhere where he might be favored? I.E., do you have to win Oregon?

CLINTON: I don’t think so. I think this is a question of who has the most votes, who has the most delegates, who’s the stronger candidate. I’m going to work hard, because obviously I value every single one of these remaining contests. And I have been campaigning in, uh, uh, each of them. So I’m going to do the best I can. But at the end of the day, it’s the total, uh, picture that will be evaluated by those who have to make this decision.

GIBSON: And the one best argument, at this stage, for Hillary Clinton- is it an issue, is it experience, is it electability? What is it?

CLINTON: Well I think it is electability, based on experience, based on the issues I stand for, like universal healthcare, a core Democratic value. And based on the states that I’ve won, the coalition that I have put together, which I believe is a stronger base, on which to run a winning, general election campaign against Senator McCain.

GIBSON: Senator Clinton, good to talk to you as always, thank you.

CLINTON: Great to talk to you. Thanks, Charlie.