Lanny Davis Previews Democratic Debate

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," April 16, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JULIE BANDERAS, CO-HOST: It is a big Democratic showdown tonight. We're turning to politics now. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are going head-to-head in the debate in Pennsylvania. This will be their first encounter in nearly two months and a lot has happened since then. There has been, of course, Obama's Reverend Wright controversy, then, Clinton's Bosnia flap or as we like to call it Bosnia-gate and most recently, bitter-gate, Obama's bitter-gate fiasco with all the back and forth on the campaign trail.

So, how ugly is the Philly showdown going to get?

Here now with us former White House counsel to the Clintons and current Hillary supporter, Lanny Davis. Lanny, thank you so much for talking to us.


BANDERAS: All right. So, tonight is going to be very exciting. You are dressed for the occasion. Hillary Clinton, I mean, she obviously has been ahead for a while. But she's now ahead by nine points as opposed to five points last week. Do you think Barack Obama's bitter comments had anything to do with that?

DAVIS: First of all, you know, I always dress like this when I appear on FOX News.

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BANDERAS: Oh, sure. Well, we thank you very much. You dressed appropriately.

DAVIS: Well, I think that Senator Clinton has focused on economic issues since the earliest days in her campaign. She's won every major industrial state because blue-collar workers, people who earn what is the Democratic Party's base, middle class people, have voted for her in larger numbers than Senator Obama.

So, this recent, which I do think was gaffe by Senator Obama — and he misspoke and the words that he chose were, as he says, just mistakes — still typifies that he hasn't been able to connect with blue-collar people, with people in rural areas the way that Senator Clinton has. And I think that has been a constant threat in the strength that she has shown within the Democratic Party in this primary state.

BANDERAS: Let's talk about within the Democratic Party because, of course, she does have the working class supporting her in Pennsylvania but do they trust her? I mean, that's the interesting question that I want to raise, because according to this ABC News poll, they don't. I mean, the majority say that no, they do not trust her, and not only do they not trust her, but now as opposed to May of 2006, they don't even trust her, they trust her less than they did a year-plus ago. Why do you think that is?

DAVIS: Well, first of all, I'm always amazed that people use headlines on polls one month, and then the previous month or the next month when the polls change, they don't say, gee, we were wrong to have headlines the previous month. Polls do fluctuate and she's had a hammering by the national media first over what was an honest mistake on Bosnia and she was accused of being a liar by Senator Obama's campaign and she's really suffered from, I think, some pretty heavy treatment because she made an honest mistake. So, those polls numbers do reflect that particular incident.

But overall, Senator Clinton is still winning in the major primary states. So, you're looking at national data, which you're reflecting that includes a lot of Republicans and independents. Among Democrats, if you just counted the Democratic vote, she would actually be ahead in the popular vote over Senator Obama.

BANDERAS: Right. You know, you raised a good point because that was the point I wanted to make, that she leads when it comes to the popular vote. She does not lead, however, with the delegates. She does have more superdelegates in her back pocket but I wonder if that's going to be enough come August.

DAVIS: Well, to be fair, she leads if you just count Democrats. If Senator Obama's total count, including Republicans and independents were included, she's behind by about 1 percent of the popular vote, about 130 out of 3,200 delegate votes. So, it's still very, very close.

If she wins in Pennsylvania, which I think she will, and she sweeps votes to the rest of the primaries, and if the superdelegates are going to have to judge who is really best equipped to defeat Senator McCain. Right now in Florida, she's ahead of Senator McCain by 12 percent. Senator Obama is behind by 6 percent. So, that's where she's winning within those swing states.

BANDERAS: Lanny, I only have about 20 seconds here. But here's her problem: There is no way numerically that she could possibly exceed Obama in the delegate count. In fact, neither of them are going to reach 2,025. My question to you is: Should she back out because she has been pressured to back out by June?

DAVIS: Of course not. Why should she back out if she still has a chance of winning the nomination because neither one of them has achieved a majority? I don't understand the logic. So, in other words, she should back out before even Senator Obama has won enough delegates? After he wins the delegates where he has the majority of the delegates, she should back out. Now, why should she back out before then other than Senator Obama doesn't want the competition, I never have understood that logic.

BANDERAS: And I'm only bringing that up because a Clinton supporter, Representative Barney Frank said that, and he's also a superdelegate, said that whoever trails come June 3rd, quote, "should back out, probably sooner," according to the Associated Press.

DAVIS: Look, there are a lot of advisors telling her to back out. But she won't until she's lost a majority of the votes.

BANDERAS: OK. All right. Lanny Davis, you look great and have a great time tonight. Thank you so much for coming on.

DAVIS: Thank you very much.

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