Never Say Die? Is the 'Never Quit' Attitude Ingrained in the Clintons' Psychology?

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," May 9, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, GUEST CO-HOST: Well, Hillary Clinton is taking the fight right to Barack Obama while visiting an Oregon's children's hospital. She slammed Obama's health care plan. She challenged him once again to a debate, this time she wants it before the Oregon Primary.

Is this "never quit" attitude just ingrained in the Clinton psychology?

Julian Epstein is a Democratic strategist and a Hillary Clinton supporter and he joins me now. Julian, good to see you.


Watch our interview with Clinton supporter Julian Epstein

MACCALLUM: So, you know, I mean, this is in her DNA, isn't it? I mean, she's - they'd just do not quit, and there has to be that belief that something could happen and she wants to be still standing, right?

EPSTEIN: I think absolutely right. I think that if you look at this from her perspective, she has two options. One is to quit right now, or the other one is to keep going. I think if she quits right now, she's remembered as the candidate who quit before the primary was over. If she continues, she continues the fight.

And one of the real endearing things about the Clintons whether you love them or whether you hate them is that they never quit. And voters think that if they're not going to quit for themselves in the race, they're not going to quit for voters, in terms of advocating for voter concerns.

And she carries forward a powerful argument. I will say as a Clinton supporter, I think that Barack is more likely to get this nomination now than she is and I think she is certainly the underdog, but she's got very good arguments.

What are her arguments? I mean, I think what Juan Williams just said was true. I'm glad that it's Juan saying it -- I'd rather than Juan saying it rather than Hillary Clinton saying it, because I think it's misinterpreted -- the point about white voters when Clinton says it. But I think that Juan's statements were basically true.

The argument she can make is that -- look, she's won 75 percent of the contest in the second half of the primary season. She's winning with independents. She's winning all the big states. She's winning in all the key matchups against McCain and she is a more electable Democrat in November.

MACCALLUM: But, Julian, you know, there is a -- more than just a trickle now of these superdelegates coming in. I think eight was the latest count I saw tonight for Barack Obama. So, once that starts to happen and that turns into a waterfall, you know -- how long she's going to be able to hang in is a big question. But I want to take a look at what John Edwards, hold on...

EPSTEIN: It is better for her -- the key point here: It is better for her in terms of her political future, whether you think of 2012 or whenever else, that she lose by a hair and that she'd won in the second half of the primary season than she quit before it was over. It's a much better situation for her.

MACCALLUM: All right. You know, you're not alone - and the Clinton supporters that I've spoken to in the last 24 hours were talking exit strategy. You know what I mean? It's no longer - that that's not the conversation that we're having.

EPSTEIN: There isn't one; she's going to have to be beaten.

MACCALLUM: All right. Take a look this -- John Edwards on "The Today Show" asked who has the best chance to beat John McCain. Here's what he said.


JOHN EDWARDS, (D) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think right now Barack Obama has a better chance because it looks like he's going to be the nominee. But I think he has -- what he brings to the table is the capacity -- number one, to unite the Democratic Party; number two -- to bring in new voters, to bring in people who haven't been involved in the process over a long period of time and to get people excited about this change.


MACCALLUM: All right. John Edwards clearly not coming down on which side, which in my mind is saying he's not supporting Hillary. I don't know why he wouldn't have said -- he wouldn't have said he is, if he is. And I also want to get in this from Bill Clinton and then you can respond to both of them. Let's take a look it:



BILL CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Wrong, you're wrong. Wait a minute. I can't believe you're saying this. There are millions of pages of documents that we have released showing the exhausting work that was done, the tens of thousands of people who were consulted, the rallies and meetings we had all over the country. -- Now, wait a minute. I listen to you, you interrupted my speech. You let me talk, will you? You interrupted my speech. You interrupted my speech.



MACCALLUM: All right. You know, some folks are thinking he is kind of losing it. One person said she was -- you know, sort of like scrambled eggs, that they saw her really scrambling with this "white voter" comment. What are things like inside the Clinton relationship, in their minds right now?

EPSTEIN: Oh, I think the Clinton relationship is fine. I think people, in a strange way, admire the chivalry of the husband really fighting as hard as he's been fighting for his wife. So, I think there's an endearing quality to it. I think Bill Clinton will be just fine in terms of how people see him.

I think, in terms of John Edwards' comment -- look, if you look at the polls right now, there is no question that Hillary Clinton matches up against John McCain in the key states in a much more favorable way. Does that mean if Barack Obama is the nominee that he can't go through the process of bringing the party together and putting together a winning coalition? No.

All Hillary Clinton is saying is that she starts off with an advantage, with respect to Barack Obama, but that certainly doesn't mean by any stretch of the imagination, no Clinton supporter should say this, that Barack Obama can't be elected president. It's just going to be harder for him to do it.

MACCALLUM: All right. We'll see if they could even get together which is being -- is that they're worried about...

EPSTEIN: And will be and if he is the nominee, every single one of us, Clinton supporters, will be enthusiastically behind him. I guarantee you that.

MACCALLUM: All right. Julian, thank you very much. Good to talk you tonight. Have a good weekend.

EPSTEIN: OK. Thanks for having me.

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