Transcript: Howard Wolfson on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a partial transcript of the May 11, 2008, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Joining us now from Hillary Clinton's campaign, top strategist Howard Wolfson.

And, Mr. Wolfson, welcome to "FOX News Sunday."


WALLACE: Why is Senator Clinton continuing to take shots at Obama? And does she have no worries that by continuing to attack him on policy, on his political standing, that she's doing damage to the likely nominee?

WOLFSON: Well, we're pointing out differences on issues, and that's appropriate. Senator Clinton is in this race because she believes she'll be the nominee. She believes she'd be the best nominee against John McCain. And she believes she'd be the best president.

WALLACE: And would you say that she's — so she's in it to win it?

WOLFSON: Absolutely.

WALLACE: And how does she think she gets from here to there?

WOLFSON: Well, it starts in West Virginia on Tuesday. West Virginia is a key state in the context of an election against John McCain. Democrats won it in '92 and '96. We lost it in 2000 and 2004.

Senator Clinton has predicted that if she's the nominee, she'll beat John McCain in West Virginia. She'll move West Virginia back into the Democratic column. It starts on Tuesday in West Virginia.

WALLACE: As we discussed with David Axelrod, she endorsed in that USA Today interview a newspaper analysis that Obama's support among whites is, quote, "weakening." Does she believe that there are some whites out there who won't vote for Obama?

WOLFSON: No, I don't think that's the case at all. Look, if Senator Obama is our nominee, we will do everything we can. Senator Clinton will and our entire campaign will do everything we can to work for him and to get him elected president.

And I am sure that if Senator Clinton is the nominee, as we believe she will be, their campaign will do the same thing.

WALLACE: Was it unfortunate to talk in such stark racial terms? Some whites are — support among whites for Obama is weakening?

WOLFSON: Well, as you say, she was referencing an analysis in the Associated Press. Both candidates in both...

WALLACE: But it's different when a candidate says it.

WOLFSON: I understand, but both candidates and both campaigns have at various points in this process pointed to the states that they've won and the coalitions and their supporters as the reason that they would be the best nominee against John McCain.

WALLACE: So she also continues to attack Obama on health care. Let's take a look at that.


CLINTON: How could anybody run to be the Democratic nominee for president and not have a universal health care plan? This is a huge difference.


WALLACE: The bigger question here is she isn't just going through the motions. She's going to continue to fight aggressively for the nomination.

WOLFSON: Well, Senator Clinton is a fighter, and it's one of the things that her millions of supporters like about her. They know that she's in this. She's going to keep going until she secures the nomination or until the nomination is decided in a different direction.

A debate about health care, an important policy, is an important one that the country ought to be having and the Democratic Party ought to be having, and it's something, frankly, that Senator Clinton has been passionate about her whole life. She's been a champion about universal health care for a very long time.

WALLACE: But what about this argument that continuing the campaign at this point is weakening the likely nominee?

WOLFSON: Well, I'd make a counter argument, which is that this campaign has been great for the Democratic Party. We have brought in a million new voters into the party, and not just Senator Obama supporters, Senator Clinton supporters, too. Record turnout in state after state after state.

We believe that this campaign has been fabulous for the Democratic Party. We've energized this party. Both candidates have passionate supporters. And at the conclusion of the process, we're going to direct that passion behind one nominee against John McCain.

WALLACE: But, Mr. Wolfson, that may have been true up till now, but a growing number of party leaders are concerned about what Clinton is doing at this point.

Rahm Emanuel, one of the congressional Democratic leaders and a former political adviser to President Bill Clinton, said this, and let's put it up. "What Hillary does in the next month is important. If she spends her time contrasting with Senator McCain, drawing distinctions that help the Democratic Party, that's productive. If it's done another way, that's not productive."

By that reasoning, attacking Obama's health care plan and saying that he's weak with some white voters is not productive.

WOLFSON: Well, look. Pundits are not going to decide this race.

WALLACE: This isn't a pundit. This is...

WOLFSON: I understand.

WALLACE: This is Rahm Emanuel, one of the congressional leaders.

WOLFSON: With a lot of respect for Congressman Emanuel, he's been a good friend of both Clintons, the voters are going to decide this. And on Tuesday, voters in West Virginia, which is a key swing state, are going to get to weigh in.

We're going to have primaries upcoming in other states after that. They're going to have their say, too.

Senator Clinton is committed to her supporters and to the voters in the upcoming states to carry this through and secure the nomination.

WALLACE: So when Rahm Emanuel, who's as sharp a political operative as you are...

WOLFSON: He is. Sharper.

WALLACE: ... says it's not productive for her to continue to draw contrasts with Barack Obama...

WOLFSON: If Senator Obama can't defend his health care plan, that's a problem. He's going to have to defend it against John McCain. He's certainly capable or should be capable of defending it against Senator Clinton.

Look, if Barack Obama wants Hillary Clinton out of this race, beat her. Beat her in West Virginia. Beat her in Puerto Rico. Beat her in Kentucky.

You know, we have key states coming up. There is no reason Senator Obama shouldn't be able to compete against Senator Clinton in West Virginia. It is, as I've said, a key swing state.

Why can't Senator Obama beat Senator Clinton in West Virginia? Voters there have heard that he's the presumptive nominee. They've seen the great press he's gotten in the past couple of days. Let's let them decide. They have an opportunity. They want to end this on Tuesday, they're perfectly capable of it.

WALLACE: So the Obama camp should stop whining?

WOLFSON: I didn't say that. I said this is a contest between two very strong candidates. Senator Clinton has amassed an awful lot of votes and an awful lot of support and a lot of passionate supporters. So has Senator Obama, to his credit.

And at the conclusion of this, I have absolutely no doubt that a Democratic family — and it is a family — will be united behind one nominee. Until then, we're going to keep arguing and fighting for Senator Clinton's candidacy.

WALLACE: Senator Ted Kennedy, another Democratic Party leader, is also upset with Clinton, says that she should not be — is not the right choice to be a running mate for Obama, and then he talked about the kind of person he thinks should be on the ticket. Let's watch.


KENNEDY: ... somebody that has — is in tune with his appeal for the nobler aspirations of the American people. And I think if we had real leadership, as we do with Barack Obama, in the number two spot as well, it would be enormously helpful.


WALLACE: Real leadership. Someone who is in tune with the nobler aspirations of the American people. Not Hillary Clinton.

WOLFSON: Well, Senator Kennedy is a great senator, very well admired. He supported Barack Obama. That's his right. I think all of this discussion about V.P. is premature.

We think Senator Clinton is going to be the nominee. If she's not, it'll be up to Senator Obama who he decides to choose. If it's Senator Clinton, it'll be up to her.

WALLACE: Does it bother you when some — a lion of the Democratic Party like Ted Kennedy says he needs someone in tune with the nobler aspirations of the American people?

WOLFSON: Look, this is a primary, and both supporters have said things that I'm sure I or my comrades on the other side wouldn't like. That's the way politics goes.

WALLACE: How deep in debt is the Clinton campaign?

WOLFSON: We had about $10 million in debt as of the last filing.

WALLACE: And does that — do you add to that the $11 million that Clinton has...

WOLFSON: No, separate.

WALLACE: So that's separate. So we're talking basically about $20 million in debt?

WOLFSON: Correct.

WALLACE: Would that be a good figure, $20 million?


WALLACE: And would Clinton welcome Senator Obama's help in retiring that debt?

WOLFSON: I think any talk of that is premature. Senator Clinton is going to be the nominee. When she's the nominee, we'll be in a position to retire our own debt.

WALLACE: And if they were to offer, if there were to be conversations about, "Gee, we could help you retire that $20 million," which is a substantial amount of money, would that affect in any way Clinton's determination to stay in this race?

WOLFSON: Absolutely not. First of all, there haven't been any conversations. I don't expect that there are going to be any conversations. This isn't about debt retirement or about the veep.

This is about winning campaigns in key upcoming states, making the case to superdelegates that based on Senator Clinton's track record, winning the big states — Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Florida — running ahead of John McCain now nationally in polls and in those key states, that we would be the best nominee.

WALLACE: You say you're not thinking about it. If she were — and you have to at least, Mr. Wolfson, entertain that possibility that it is at least possible she's going to lose — if she loses, would she be open, would she be interested in the vice presidency?

WOLFSON: I haven't discussed it with her. She hasn't discussed it with me. I've seen no evidence of her interest in it. And I think any talk of it is premature.

WALLACE: Now, Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the campaign, went on the record the other day. He also says he hasn't talked with her, but he thinks that it would be a great idea for her to do it.

WOLFSON: Well, you know, Terry is certainly entitled to think that. There are a lot of people who do think it would be a strong idea. I think any talk of it is premature.

WALLACE: Why would it be a good idea? Why would it be a strong idea?

WOLFSON: Well, look. I think both of these candidates have amassed enormous support. Senator Clinton has passionate supporters. Senator Obama has passionate supporters. There are people who may think it's a good idea.

You know, let's get to that point when we get to it. Right now we're out there trying to win.

WALLACE: Well, let's talk about that. What is Senator Clinton's view of when this race is over?

WOLFSON: When one candidate gets to 2,209, which is the number of delegates needed with Florida and Michigan. We believe Florida and Michigan ought to be counted. Two and a half million people voted in those states, record turnout.

We want those votes counted in the way that they were cast on primary day.

WALLACE: So if he gets to 2,025, which is the majority excluding Florida and Michigan, she doesn't get out of the race?

WOLFSON: Well, I think Florida and Michigan will have a sense of what the DNC is going to do on May 31st. I certainly don't envision Senator Obama getting to 2,025 before then. And I think after then, we'll be at 2,209.

WALLACE: If you're not, if they do not include those states at that point, would she continue to fight through the Rules Committee, through the Credentials Committee, to try to change that and get Florida and Michigan counted?

WOLFSON: A Democratic convention that only includes the voices of 48 states is not a good convention against John McCain.

We have got to have Florida and Michigan resolved. We've got to have those delegations seated. We've got to have those voters honored. And that's what Senator Clinton is committed to doing.

WALLACE: So you're saying if he gets to 2,025 and at the end of May — this gets a little bit into the weeds — at the end of May, the Democratic Rules Committee does not vote to include Michigan and Florida, she stays in the race?

WOLFSON: My hope is that they will. My expectation is that they will. And we are committed to seating Florida and Michigan.

WALLACE: Even if it means going to the convention?

WOLFSON: We are committed to seating them.

WALLACE: And the idea — some people have suggested, "Well, after Tuesday, she wins big victory, 2-1, in West Virginia, and that's her opportunity to go out on a high note."

WOLFSON: Absolutely not. You know, how does the Obama campaign explain the fact that they are not campaigning in West Virginia, that they've written West Virginia off? It's a key swing state.

We as a party have to be able to compete in places like West Virginia and Kentucky. Senator Clinton is committed to doing that. And it's, I think, one of the reasons why, despite all the great press Senator Obama has had, that many superdelegates are still waiting and seeing before committing to one candidate or the other.

They are concerned that Senator Obama isn't competing in West Virginia. They are concerned that he's not competing in Kentucky. They are concerned that he keeps losing the big swing states — Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

They are concerned that Senator Clinton is running ahead of Senator Obama versus John McCain.

WALLACE: Mr. Wolfson, one final question. When you hear all the pundits — and there have been some out there who have said, "It's over." You have Time Magazine...

WOLFSON: Just a few.

WALLACE: Yes. Not us. And a few — you had the Time Magazine cover, "And the winner is." It had an asterisk, but a big smiling picture of Obama. Does it tick you off?

WOLFSON: No. Senator Clinton is a person of enormous strength, and her supporters like that about her. They admire her. They admire the fact that she is sticking through this. There is no reason for her not to continue this process.

We believe we're going to be the nominee. That's what we're fighting for.

WALLACE: Mr. Wolfson, thank you.

WOLFSON: Thank you.

WALLACE: Thanks for joining us.

WOLFSON: Pleasure to be here.

WALLACE: Sounds like we'll be asking you back again.

WOLFSON: Look forward to it.

WALLACE: Thank you.