Karl Rove on Hillary's Determination to Stay in the Race, John McCain's New Ad

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," March 31, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: We get right to our top story tonight. Senator Clinton says that she's not getting out of the race no matter what other Democrats say. And now Bill Clinton is saying the same thing. The days are ticking off the calendar until the Pennsylvania primary —that's on April 22nd.

And with no end in sight, every day sees more Democratic infighting. And joining us now with analysis of the race and Hillary Clinton's refusal to give up, the architect, Karl Rove is back with us. Sir, welcome back.

Watch Part 1 of our interview with Karl Rove

Watch Part 2 of our interview with Karl Rove

KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH ADVISER: Thank you, Sean, good evening.

HANNITY: Let's start with the question of Pat Leahy and Senator Dodd saying get out. Bill Clinton over the weekend saying relax. Hillary saying she's in it to the convention. What do you think?

ROVE: Well look, there's no reason for her to get out now. There have been roughly 3,100 delegates either elected or pledged as a result of super delegates coming out. She's 130 delegates behind. The latest A.P. poll or summary is 1,631 for Obama to 1,501 for her. There are 800 some some-odd delegates left. She's got a steep hill, but she could conceivably climb it.

Look, it does the Democratic Party no good to look like they're pushing her out of the race. The smart person in this is Senator Obama who has tried to strike a note of graciousness that it's up to her to make the decision, that she has ever right to run. Now his language portrays a little bit of exasperation. You'll notice he said my attitude is that Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants to. Her name is the ballot. My attitude and her name is on the ballot, a little dismissive.

But the point that he was trying to make is that it's up to her and she has a right to do it, is correct. Nothing is going to change between now and April 22. There's going to be a vote in Pennsylvania on April 22nd and all of these calls for her to get out are going to fall on deaf ears.

HANNITY: But it's really his surrogates that are out there leading the charge. I mean Leahy and Dodd are both Obama surrogates. Now you've brought the infamous blackboard to talk about it as it relates to cash on hand. What do you got?

ROVE: Well look, this doesn't affect the outcome in Pennsylvania at all. All these calls for her to get out don't. But they do affect the party elites and they affect fundraising and she already started in a pretty precarious situation.

These are on the on-hand cash numbers as of the end of February. She had $11 million on hand but she had $8.7 million in debts. He had $31 million cash on hand and $625,000 in obligations. That means that he had net of over $21 million advantage to her.

Now fundraising has been tough for her. It's going to get tougher as these party leaders call for her to get out, but it won't affect the outcome in Pennsylvania directly. It will only affect it indirectly to the extent that it dries up her money so that she can't run as many ads as Senator Obama can.

But these ads at this point are relatively small importance. They only make the difference between narrowly winning and narrowly losing. They don't make the difference between closing a 12-point gap to a two- point advantage like he would have to do.

HANNITY: Let me ask you then about two things here because she said — this was quoted in the The Washington Post today that she's in it through the convention, and she's going to fight to seat both Florida and Michigan. "And if we don't resolve it, we'll resolve it at the convention, that's what credentials committees are for."

Now Howard Dean responded. He said look, if we have an ugly divided convention, he told The New York Times the only way we lose is if we're divided like that.

ROVE: Well, first of all, they do need to resolve Florida and Michigan. It's hard to say that we're going to have a Democratic convention with only 48 states represented. And the last time that happened was 1956 before Alaska and Hawaii were admitted into the union. And I would remind you, there are 44 Electoral College votes in those two battleground states, Florida and Michigan, which the Democrats can't afford to lose. You need 270 electoral votes to win. If they irritate the people in Michigan and Florida by refusing a place at the Democratic convention, they're going to have hell to pay in November.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Hey Karl, it's Alan. How do you think Democrats ought to solve this Michigan/Florida problem?

ROVE: Well look, let's assume that today Senator Obama as the A.P. says is roughly is 130 delegates ahead. After this all ends in June, let's say he's 130 to 150 delegates ahead at that point among the elected and the super delegates who have at that point made their choice.

I think he ought to take a rather courageous move and say I think we ought to seat Michigan and Florida. We ought to find a better way to sanction states who go outside the so-called "window" who run their primaries earlier than we'd like. I think we ought to find a better way than kicking them completely out of the convention. Maybe we need to do what the Republicans did and only cut off half their delegates.

But seat these delegations. In the spirit of party unity, seat them. He suddenly goes from being 130 to 150 up to being 80 to 130 up, and that gives him still a pretty comfortable lead and probably brings a lot of the super delegates to his side.

But here's the problem. He's got a very narrow window to make that happen because Howard Dean has named 25 people to the National Credentials Committee. There are 161 other members of the committee who get apportioned out between Obama and Clinton after the final primary in early June on a very complicated formula that probably means one candidate gets slightly more members of the committee than the others, but the balance of power lies in those 25 Dean delegates.

And Dean is intent upon sanctioning Michigan and Florida with the death penalty, no representation at the convention. So it would take an act of statesmanship on the part of Obama to basically say look, I'm confident, I look big, I'm a statesman, I'm a leader, let's let them in and I'm going to work with Clinton to make certain that we find a solution that does seat these delegations with the numbers that they had coming out of their two primaries.

COLMES: By the way, these people calling to Clinton to get out. If they look at the numbers, 28 percent of Hillary supporters are saying they'd go to McCain if that were the case, if she got out. That would thought be very good for Democrats, and I wonder if those people urging Hillary to get out are looking at those numbers.

ROVE: Well, I don't think they are. I think Senator Leahy, when he got on television the other day sort of harrumphing and blovating up there in Vermont, I don't think he was doing his candidate any good because look, if you are a Hillary supporter, this wounds you, this makes you angry.

You'll notice Senator McCain did something very interesting when it came down to he and Governor Huckabee. He never encouraged him to get out. In fact, every Tuesday night when he beat him, he went out of his way to be gracious and complimentary and to basically say the fight goes on, and I respect Governor Huckabee as a competitor. Senator Obama attempted to strike that same tone the other night, didn't get it completely, but it was a smart thing to do.

COLMES: All right, we're going to continue. More with Karl Rove coming up right after the break.



ANNOUNCER/McCAIN CAMPAIGN COMMERCIAL: They gave their lives to their country and taught young John McCain lessons about honor, courage, duty, perseverance and leadership. Lessons he didn't fully grasp until later in his life, when confronted with challenges he never imaged. The family he was born into and the family he is blessed with now made John McCain the man he is.


COLMES: That's the latest campaign ad from John McCain. The Arizona senator appears to be reminding voters about his patriotic background as his Democratic counterparts continue to bicker.

We now continue with former Bush adviser and FOX News contributor Karl Rove. It's interesting, Karl, that John McCain advised John Kerry in the last election, hey, don't — you have to lead with your military record. Let other people say it for you. Is John McCain making a mistake by doing this himself now early on?

ROVE: No, I don't think so because look, the focus is not so much on his military record, the medals that he won, it's on a broader life story. What are the values that inform his life? What's his character like? What's the narrative, the arc of his life? What's he done with it? And I think it's frankly a very smart move on his part.

Let's put this in a little perspective. On Super Tuesday, the Pew Charitable Trust said that McCain, Clinton and Obama had roughly the same number of mentions in stories. Roughly 40 percent of every news story about the primaries mentioned their names and covered them. Today 70 percent of the stories cover Obama, 30 percent cover Clinton and 18 percent cover McCain. That's two weeks ago, that's the week before last.

So as the Democrat battles continued and the Republican battle has ended, he's been lost. And so he's smartly saying I need to come back and introduce people to me in a way that's riveting and personal and powerful. And I think it's a pretty good start to it. We'll see how it plays out over the next week or so but I think it's a very smart move.

COLMES: But isn't it to his benefit that he's not being mentioned at least in terms of the way Hillary and Barack are going at it and the negatives surrounding the Democratic candidates? And he can kind of lay back, do the rope a dope, until such time as it becomes him versus somebody else? Is it his advantage not to be in the 30, 40 percentile in terms of mentions?

ROVE: Well, it depends. There's an argument that could be made for that, and I think there's a lot of validity in what you say.

Can I do a counterintuitive thing though and suggest to you why it's to Barack Obama's advantage that this battle continues to go on?

Let's make the assumption that there is — that Hillary Clinton is not the best messenger to attack him. Her favorables and unfavorables are upside down. That is to say, she has favorables in the mid-thirties and negatives in the high forties. So when she attacks somebody, she's not very credible at it. I think there are four reasons why it might be to the advantage of Senator Obama to have this go on further.

First of all, he has press attention. People are paying attention to him and learning a lot more about him. Second of all he continues to raise money and spend money and spend it in battleground states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Third, he can only — the only person who can hurt him is himself. She's not been effective in attacking him in the last year and a half. What leads us to believe that she's going to be effective in attacking him in the next six or seven or eight or nine or ten weeks? It's only going to be him that hurts himself, and as long as he's cautious enough and there's not another Reverend Wright or another Rezko or something bigger and worse than that out there, the only person that can hurt him at this point is himself.

And finally, look, when he wins the nomination, when he becomes the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, whether it is after April 22nd or early in June, or at the Democratic convention, he is going to have the biggest rush of positive press you have ever seen in your life. And so isn't it better to have that closer to the election when it's harder for the Republican to recover from it? You know, I'm not certain...

HANNITY: Karl, it's Sean. Let me follow up on that because he certainly had to weather the Reverend Wright issue that is out there. There's a story in the "Politico" today that he's actually been hiding his true liberalism. We know he's the number one liberal, [according to] National Journal in the United States Senate. And more importantly he made a statement over the weekend talking about the issue of abortion. If people make a mistake, quote, "I don't want them punished with a baby," unquote.

ROVE: Right. To hurt him in a general election, yes. But again, that's my point. The longer the primary goes on, look Hillary Clinton is not going to stand up and say to him look, you were way far left wing when you ran for the state senate and when you ran for the United States Senate.

She's never going to stand up and say you've got the most liberal voting record in the United States Senate, according to the bipartisan or nonpartisan National Journal. She's not going to do those kinds of things.

So the shorter the general election is, the more difficult it is for those arguments to be made. Which is why I say it's counterintuitive, but it might be to his advantage to have a shorter general election and a longer primary because she's never going to attack him from the right.

HANNITY: All right, then let me ask you this because you're analyzing obviously Barack Obama here. But you know Hillary has had her own problems. Obviously the fib about sniper fire in Bosnia, also a report in the "Politico" today she wasn't paying the premiums for the health insurance for her staff. You had used the term going back some time ago that we're dealing with flawed candidates.

ROVE: Well, I said fatally flawed. I just thought the fatal flaws would show up in the general election, not so early in the primary. I said that when I forecasted that she'd win the nomination, which I'm no longer willing to forecast.

HANNITY: Do you think Barack Obama is equally fatally flawed?

ROVE: I think he's got some real flaws. And you know, I think we saw it. Look, the Bosnia thing was terribly damaging to her, but think about the list of exaggerations we have for him.

My parents got together at the Selma march and I came along as a result of it. No. You were born four years before the Selma march. We saw this week he said a new one was unveiled this week in that same Selma speech, he said my father came to the United States because of the generosity of the Kennedy family. It turns out the Kennedys funded the program that his father participated in after his father came here. You know, I was a law school professor. No, you were an instructor. I was in charge. I came up with this fantastic asbestos abatement program. I mean we've got a whole series of these for him as well.

HANNITY: Boy, I'll tell you, I think all of these will make campaign ads, and it's all getting interesting. The architect, Karl Rove with — you know, I think we're going to auction off at the end of this election season — we're going to auction off the Karl Rove bulletin board/chalk board for charity. Is that OK with you?

ROVE: That's OK with me. But I have to buy a new one almost every time I come up to New York because your staff wants me to autograph it for them.

HANNITY: I'll tell you what, I'll buy a dozen of them and we'll put on my Web site, we'll give them to charity. Thanks, Karl.

ROVE: There we go, thank you.

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