WASHINGTON – The following is a partial transcript of the Feb. 17, 2008, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington. While Republicans are uniting behind John McCain, the Democratic race couldn't be tighter.
Joining us now, the Democratic governors of two battleground states that may well decide the race. Ted Strickland, who supports Hillary Clinton, is in his state of Ohio. And Jim Doyle, who's endorsed Barack Obama, comes to us from Wisconsin.
And, Governors, welcome to "FOX News Sunday."
WISCONSIN GOV. JIM DOYLE: It's good to be with you.
OHIO GOV. TED STRICKLAND: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: Let's start with the political situation in your states.
Governor Doyle, the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls shows Senator Obama with a slim lead of just four points in Wisconsin and yet, Governor Doyle, the conventional wisdom is that he has to win big on Tuesday in your state to keep his momentum. Is that what's going to happen?
DOYLE: Well, we'll see, of course. You know, this is a state that is naturally very much a state for Hillary Clinton. If this were a couple of months ago, I think you'd be looking at polls that would have shown her 15 points, 20 points ahead.
Bill Clinton's carried Wisconsin with very big margins twice. She and her husband have been here on many occasions. The demographics of the state that the Clinton campaign talks about often match up in Wisconsin. So this is a state that I think if you were looking at this a few weeks ago you'd say is a Hillary Clinton state.
But something extraordinary has happened here over the last couple of weeks, and I've just been a witness to it as I've traveled with Barack Obama — the enthusiasm, the excitement, the incredible crowds.
This is something really different that's happening from anything I've seen in politics, and I think that it is going to be a close race. But I think given what we have seen here over the last week that it's very likely Barack Obama will win.
But again, this is a state that's — if you look at all the demographics and you look at the prior voting history, this is a state that will be very close.
WALLACE: Governor Strickland, let's look at the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls in the state of Ohio, which shows Clinton with a huge lead of 17 points.
STRICKLAND: That's right.
WALLACE: Governor, doesn't she have to win big in Ohio in two weeks, on March 4th, to have any choice at the nomination? And will she?
STRICKLAND: Well, I think she'll do very well in Ohio. I've been with her for two days. Bill Clinton's going to be in Ohio today. I'll be with him throughout Ohio. She's being well received here.
Her message of health care coverage for all Ohioans and Americans, her job creation efforts, her concern that we begin the process of bringing our soldiers home from Iraq within 60 days — all of these messages, I think, are well received in Ohio. And I think Ohio will give her a very strong vote on March the 4th.
WALLACE: Well, let me try to pin you down a little bit, because you were a little more specific last week. Let me put up a quote of yours. You said, "It would be very difficult for her," Senator Clinton, "to proceed to eventual victory without winning Ohio."
Fair to say it's a must win for her, Governor?
STRICKLAND: Chris, I don't know if I used those exact words, but I do believe...
WALLACE: Well, that's a quote.
STRICKLAND: ... there's a lot of truth — I believe there's a lot of truth in the fact that Ohio is the heart of the country. I believe as Ohio votes, we will elect a president in November.
And so I think it's very important that the senator win here. I think she will. She's, as you said, well ahead in the polls, and the enthusiasm of the crowds coming out to hear her is great.
And so we've been all over the state. We've talked to working class folks, and there are a lot of working class folks in Ohio, blue collar workers who respond very, very well to the senator's message of health care for everyone, education, and bringing this war to an honorable end.
WALLACE: There's a lot of concern within the Democratic Party right now about whether or not you could be headed for a train wreck this summer over the issue of superdelegates. Those are the elected officials, like the two of you, or big party bigwigs who get to go to the convention without being elected by delegates.
Now, Clinton strategist Harold Ickes says that he will no longer call them superdelegates but, rather, automatic delegates.
And he says that if neither candidate has clinched the nomination by the time the voting ends in June, that these superdelegates should vote their best judgment regardless of which candidate has the most elected delegates or the most popular vote.
Governor Doyle, what do you think about that?
DOYLE: I think that's wrongheaded. To me, we have a very elaborate and very democratic process in the Democratic Party, and you're watching it from little states and caucuses to big open primaries in Wisconsin and others. And that's the way the delegates are chosen.
And I think it would be an absolute disaster for the Democratic Party for the superdelegates to undo the will of the people who have been selected in the primaries and in the caucuses and by the rules that were set out.
I guess I'm of an era where I can remember Chicago in 1968 in which the party bosses took over. And particularly in the case of Barack Obama, in which he has — this has been a campaign of people coming out for the first time ever.
His messages of unity and of healing and of getting past old divisions and old politics — to see that, this movement — and I know Ted's seen some nice crowds with Senator Clinton, but wait till he sees what's going to happen in the next couple of weeks as Senator Obama comes into Ohio, the kind of incredible grassroots enthusiasm.
I just think it would be a disaster for the Democratic Party to thwart what has happened out in the caucuses and in the primaries. And so I really hope that the party is — that the superdelegates are going to honor the choice of the people who have been selected through the primaries and caucuses.
WALLACE: Let me just ask you to quickly follow up on that.
STRICKLAND: Can I speak to that, Chris?
WALLACE: Wait, I'm going to ask you, Governor Strickland, in a second.
But let me ask you just to quickly follow up on that, Governor Doyle. When you compare it to Chicago in 1968, and for those of us — and I guess the three of us are old enough to remember that — that was a pretty bitter convention.
Are you predicting that if the superdelegates thwart the will of the people we're headed for another Chicago in '68?
DOYLE: No, we're not headed to another Chicago, and I don't mean to imply that the — all the violence. I mean, it's a different time, and I think...
WALLACE: Well, no, I didn't mean that. Yes.
DOYLE: ... but I do think that the idea of a Democratic Party moving forward with a nominee who is someone other than who the majority of the people of the country, through the Democratic primaries and caucuses, have chosen would be very, very harmful to the party.
And again, I really want to emphasize in the context of the Barack Obama campaign, this is phenomenal, what's happening. Look at the turnouts that are happening. He's turned little caucus states into big primary states.
WALLACE: Governor Doyle, let me bring in...
DOYLE: So it's very important that...
WALLACE: ... let me bring in Governor Strickland at this point.
And let me put up first, as I ask you this question, Governor Strickland, the state of the delegates. And you can see that at this moment Barack Obama not only has a lead in the number of delegates who have been elected by the voters, he also has a lead, a sizable lead, in the number of total votes.
After the 2000 election and Al Gore talking about every vote counting, would the Democratic Party really go against the will of millions of voters?
And what do you think, Governor Strickland, the reaction would be in the African American community if the superdelegates, who are overwhelmingly white, were to go — to put Hillary Clinton in over Barack Obama?
STRICKLAND: Well, I would like to make a couple of observations. First of all, I think it's regretful that words like party bosses would be used here. We have a system of electing delegates, and it varies, quite frankly.
Caucuses elect some delegates. And you know, in caucuses, many people are totally shut out. Anyone serving in the active military can't participate in a caucus. People who are sick and confined to their homes, older people who can't get out at night, can't participate in caucuses. But that's part of the process.
Some delegates are elected through the primary system, which I hugely prefer, a primary system like we're having here in Ohio, where everyone has a chance to participate.
And then the rules allow for these superdelegates. And so those are the rules. I don't think we should change the rules in the middle of a contest.
If we want to get rid of superdelegates or if we want to get rid of caucuses, then we ought to do that in the next election but not change the rules in the midst of this election.
And to imply that somehow party bosses are going to thwart the will of the people, I think, is a distortion of the process that we have in place, that we have created as a Democratic Party.
I'm a superdelegate. I think my responsibility is to vote my conscience, and I intend to do that. And I would hope that all the superdelegates would do the same.
WALLACE: Let me ask you a follow-up, if I may, Governor Strickland. You say we shouldn't change the rules in the middle of a game.
The rules were that the Democratic National Committee said that Michigan and Florida did not get any delegates — were stripped of their delegates because they moved up in the process, and all the candidates agreed to those rules.
Do you agree that those rules shouldn't also be changed?
STRICKLAND: Well, I don't know what the candidates may have agreed to. But I think that the Democratic Party, through the rules committee, will be charged with resolving that issue. It's a very, very difficult issue and it has no easy answer.
WALLACE: But why should that rule be changed...
STRICKLAND: But we cannot...
WALLACE: ... in the middle of the game when you said that the superdelegates shouldn't be?
STRICKLAND: Well, because the rules allow the credentials committee to make those decisions. That's a part of the current rulemaking process of the Democratic Party.
That's not changing the rules at all. It's giving the authority to determine who is a valid delegate to the credentials committee, and that will be done.
WALLACE: Governor Doyle?
STRICKLAND: And that's a part of our rules.
DOYLE: Chris, I have great admiration for Ted, but he's just made two totally inconsistent arguments. Obviously, nobody's talking about superdelegates changing the rules.
What we're talking about with superdelegates is asking the superdelegates at this convention to look out for what's best for the party and to honor what has been the selection process in state after state.
As I will say Barack Obama hasn't chosen to go to one state or another. He hasn't skipped one and said it isn't good for him. He goes from one — he has carried this campaign to every single state, through every caucus and every primary.
And on the Michigan-Florida, again, I admire Governor Strickland a great deal, but the fact is the rules were the rules. They were very clear. And we have seen in every state where Barack Obama has gone and engaged, big Clinton leads have disappeared in a hurry.
So to keep him out of Florida, not have his name in Michigan, and then somehow try to bring those delegates — claim victories in those states — I think everybody who looks at that realizes just how basically unfair that is.
So the Democratic Party is the Democratic Party, and it is so important, I think, that the people who have gone out to those caucuses and gone out and voted in the primaries — that their voices are the ones that are really heard.
WALLACE: Governor Strickland, we have less than two minutes left and I want to get into one final issue with you.
WALLACE: There's been some talk — because Ohio, as you pointed out, is such a key state, so important for the Democrats to win if they're going to get back the White House, there's been talk that Hillary Clinton might name you as her running mate at the convention if she gets the nomination.
Do you think you're qualified to be vice president, sir?
STRICKLAND: Well, I don't want to be vice president. And the fact that — I'm the governor of a big state. I've served in the Congress for 12 years. But I have no intention of being vice president even if I were asked.
But the fact is I want the most qualified person to lead this country. These are dangerous times. If you compare Senator Clinton's experience and background, her maturity, with that of her opponents, there is no choice in this race.
And she has proven herself. She's a fighter. She has stood the test of time. She has withstood the attacks of the opposition. And quite frankly, we are not suggesting that any rules be altered or changed.
Governor Doyle's just wrong if he would suggest that that's what I'm saying. I want to follow the rules as they exist within the Democratic Party.
WALLACE: Governor, we...
STRICKLAND: And the credentials committee will make the decision as to who is a qualified delegate, and that's as it ought to be.
WALLACE: Governor, we have about 30 seconds less and I can make your life a lot easier over the next few months. Do you want to make a Shermanesque statement that you will not take the vice presidential nomination?
STRICKLAND: Yes. Chris, I will make it. I will make a Shermanesque statement. I love being the governor of Ohio. It's a great state. It's the heart of the country. And we will bring a great victory to Senator Clinton on March the 4th and we will lead the way in November to electing a Democrat to the presidency.
WALLACE: But you will not accept the nomination for vice president?
STRICKLAND: No, sir, I will not. I think it's presumptuous of me to even contemplate the possibility of that.
WALLACE: Governor Strickland, Governor Doyle, we want to thank you both.
And I apologize, Governor Doyle, for not asking you whether or not you want to be vice president. But we'll see how Wisconsin and Ohio...
DOYLE: Ted Strickland would be a very good vice president.
WALLACE: All right. We're going to see how Ohio and Wisconsin vote over the next couple of weeks. Gentlemen, thank you both so much for coming in.