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Politico’s Mike Allen predicts Wisconsin and the Democratic race after that.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008
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HH: It’s the day of the Wisconsin primary. I begin on days when there’s big political news when we’re lucky with Mike Allen of www.politico.com, America’s preeminent political reporter. Michael, always a pleasure, where do we find you today?

MA: You’ll find me at Politico world headquarters.

HH: Okay, which is in Roslyn. Good to hear that.

MA: Exactly.

HH: I’ve got to give you the scientific headline of the day just as a curveball. Scientists have discovered a frog the size of a bowling ball with heavy armor and teeth that lived among the dinosaurs a million years ago. What do you think, Mike Allen? The Devil toad, they’re calling it.

MA: (laughing) Does it have a nickname yet?

HH: Not yet. That’s what I want you guys at Politico to work on. There’s got to be a political analogy to a giant devil toad. Maybe Bob Shrum? I don’t know. Tell me, what are the exit polls telling us out of Wisconsin?

MA: Well, all we know is, gossip at this point, but among the campaigns, Democratic officials are telling us, the chatter certainly is that Senator Obama could be headed for a big night tonight. These exit polls could be wrong, they have been in the past, as you and your listeners well know. The early evidence, the early numbers do not show any evidence, these officials tell us, of an upset by Senator Clinton.

HH: Ooh.

MA: If the trends hold that these Democratic officials are seeing, I think the story that your listeners will be hearing on network news tonight, and in the newspapers tomorrow, will be that Senator Obama ate decisively into, or I should say deeply into several of Senator Clinton’s core groups of voters, including women, people making less than $50,000, people without a college degree. Something for your listeners to watch for, on the networks tonight, you’re seeing sort of a split in the two. If they’re basically splitting those voter groups, that’s going to be very, very, very discouraging news for Senator Clinton. And I think you may well find Senator Clinton holding onto senior citizens, which is another important voting group for her, and one where Senator Obama made even bigger gains in the Chesapeake primaries. I think you might see some pulling back there.

HH: I saw the Fox News exit polls showing that Hillary had won 60/40 in the senior citizens, but that was about the…and people who valued experience. Those were about the only two demographics which their internal exit polls at Fox show her winning.

MA: That’s for tonight?

HH: Yeah.

MA: Fascinating. And so I think what you’ll hear a lot tonight on TV is where does Senator Clinton go to put together a winning coalition in these decisive states coming up of Texas and Ohio? The Ohio, and Hugh, tell me if you disagree with this, but I think that Ohio electorate and the Wisconsin electorate have a lot of similarities.

HH: Oh, Mike, I’m going to disagree with you on that. I’m a son of Ohio, obviously, and I know the Democrats of Mahoning and Trumbull County are union people. But they’re old union people. They’re not the Service Employee International Union. They’re UAW people. They’re Teamsters. And I think that’s actually her strength. I think that’s her wheelhouse. And in Texas, you tell me, I was writing over the weekend about the Latino-black split, which is potentially hugely troubling for the Democratic Party, and the L.A. Times was alluding to it almost bluntly, that this is a crisis for them. And of course, that’s Latino Democratic country. And they seem not to like Barack Obama much. So I think you could have a completely…what happens…let me ask you this. If she pulls off Texas and does okay in Ohio, does that throw the Democratic race into a cocked hat?

MA: Oh, sure. But I wouldn’t say a cocked hat, because that implies that it should be on some orderly trajectory, when as Senator Clinton pointed out in the last couple of days, it was June before President Clinton secured his nomination. So we shouldn’t necessarily get all hyped up on the speed of things. But what it’s going to mean is that the race will go on, as she hopes it will, to the Pennsylvania as the potential tiebreaker, on April 22nd. But Hugh, what you’re going to see in the next few weeks is Senator Clinton trying to raise increasing doubts about Senator Obama, that if, based on this, if she has a loss tonight in Wisconsin, Ohio and Texas are going to be basically be in the position of giving a final pass, if that’s what they choose to do, to Senator Obama. And what the Clinton campaign is going to be saying implicitly, if not explicitly, is Democrats, if you’re going to have buyer’s remorse, have it now, not when you get into a general election. So you’re going to hear her talking about this style over substance argument. You’re going to hear her talking a lot about him being, according to National Journal, the nation’s most liberal senator. You’ll hear her trying to raise questions about his personal finances. And you’ll hear her trying to raise questions about his readiness to be commander in chief, the whole experience thing.

HH: Will they use the Michelle Obama rhetoric that has been so explosive over the last week?

MA: You know, that’s one quote. Who knows what she meant. I mean, Hugh, to be honest, I have trouble getting very excited about that.

HH: Oh no, I’m talking about…

MA: It doesn’t mean it won’t be used…

HH: I’m talking about the UCLA speech, not the quote about I haven’t seen anything good. I mean the UCLA speech which we’ve been playing on this show for a couple of days now, is really quite remarkable, Mike. Have you had a chance to hear that yet?

MA: Yeah, I hear what you’re saying, and I think even if the Clinton campaign doesn’t do it directly, sure their allies might well do it. And Republicans who think that they might have a better chance against Senator Clinton may be pushing that. Hugh, do you have a decisive opinion about which one Senator McCain would have a better chance against?

HH: Yeah, I think he would do better against Hillary, because I’ve never seen anything like Obama since doing this in 1976, and I don’t know if people can count on it evaporating. My question to you is have you ever seen a youth movement this powerful? Now I’m not old enough to remember Eugene McCarthy or Bobby Kennedy, other than grieving when Bobby Kennedy was killed. But I just don’t recall anything approaching this tsunami-like unanimity of people 25 years and younger. Have you? And what’s your explanation for this with Barack?

MA: Well, no, and Hugh, the remarkable thing which none of us could have predicted, or did predict, is that this tremendous enthusiasm has translated into votes, which you and I talked about it for months, there was great skepticism about whether or not these people would actually vote.

HH: Yup.

MA: But you go to Senator Obama’s home page, right after you visit Hughhewitt.com, then if you go to Barackobama.com, rather than saying click here to join the campaign, it says click here to join the movement. So they’ve been pushing that idea. And you’ve been to his events. Your listeners have seen his events. And there’s no question about that, that there’s an excitement of volume consistently getting astounding numbers of people. My most amazing stat from the run up to the Potomac primaries, or the Chesapeake primaries, was the fact that on the same day, on one day, Senator Obama at the University of Maryland, in College Park, just outside D.C, got 17,000 people. President Clinton, across the river in Virginia, George Mason University, one of the most famous people in the world, got 1,500. And that gave you a sense of the amazing energy that there is in that campaign.

HH: What is it, Mike Allen, that are bringing the young people out?

MA: People are hearing something fresh and something different. Senator Obama has really hit the jackpot as far as having a message and a persona that fits with where the country is. You can sit down and look…I know you do this, Hugh, look at public opinion over several months. And look at a graph or a trend line. You see how people feel about the direction of the country, and then you put someone out there who gives people a chance to feel good about America, feel good about themselves, somebody completely different, and you have the Obama phenomenon.

HH: Let me ask you, I don’t know if you’ve seen Geraghty’s scoop over at the Campaign Spot yet, that Hillary Clinton failed to file enough delegates in Pennsylvania. It’s 103 delegates, and she failed to file in 11 of them. Were you aware of that?

MA: I was not aware of that, and there’s a lot of good reporting there. But Hugh, this race is not going to come down to a technicality like that. That’s why I, like a lot of my colleagues, I can’t get too excited about all this smoke about superdelegates. And sure, I’ve been following it and writing about it, but it’s not going to decide it, Hugh. There’s going to be, at some point, there’s going to be some clear momentum, a tipping point. Someone is not going to win this race on a technicality, in part because if they did, there would be such a ferocious backlash within their own party, it would be looked at by Democrats as their own sort of equivalent of what they consider Bush V. Gore. It’s just not going to turn out that way.

HH: Less than a minute, Mike. But if you were Hillary and Bill, and you could win on a technicality and get the nomination, regardless of the damage you did to the Democratic Party, wouldn’t they do it?

MA: Well, I don’t know the answer to that. People who go into this on any side, are…know what the stakes are, are going to do what they need to win. I’m just saying that I don’t think they’re going to be in that position. I think that at some point, momentum’s going to take over. I think people are either going to decide yes, Senator Obama is right for the times, or no, he’s just not ready. In the next few weeks, that will be decided.

HH: Oh, fascinating.

MA: But I just think, Hugh, that it’s not going to come down to a vote or two.

HH: Oh, that is fascinating. Mike Allen, I look forward to talking to you when I get back from vacation. From Politico.com, America’s preeminent political reporter.

End of interview.

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