Can Hillary Clinton Come Back? Karl Rove Handicaps Her Chances on Super Tuesday II

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," March 3, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: We get right to our top story. It's the eve of Super Tuesday II, just hours before Hillary Clinton's last stand. The fight is in Texas and Ohio, where the latest polls show the New York senator and Barack Obama in a dead heat in Texas and Hillary holding on to a slight lead in Ohio.

According to the latest Rasmussen poll out of Ohio, Hillary Clinton leads with 50 percent of the vote, compared to Obama's 44 percent. In Texas, a Rasmussen poll finds Barack Obama with statistically insignificant one point lead over Hillary Clinton. Obama's camp sees these numbers as good news, saying that Hillary Clinton needs to win by at least double digits in each state if she's to make up her deficit in the delegate math.

With us now FOX News contributor, former Bush adviser Karl Rove. Karl, welcome back. You do all the math. You know all these numbers. Which side is right in terms of what it takes for Hillary Clinton to stay in this race mathematically?

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, they need — both sides are spinning here. If Hillary Clinton wins Ohio and Texas tomorrow night, even if she loses the delegate count in Texas, which I think is likely, she stopped Obama's momentum, and she does have room, albeit a heavy, a big hill to climb — she does have room to still secure this nomination.

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Neither side is going to win it without the Super Delegates, but, at the end of the day, somebody's going to be ahead in the elected delegates, and that's probably going to have a big impact on the super delegates.

COLMES: So you're not saying that she's got to win with 65 percent, as has been suggested, or that it's got to be not by one or two points, but by a large margin. You're saying, even if she wins at all, she stays in.

ROVE: I think she stays if she wins Ohio and she wins Texas in the popular vote, and Rhode Island in the popular vote and the delegate vote, because if she does that, then, in all likelihood, we're going to see the delegate gap narrow between the two, not a lot. But remember, with proportionality, nothing moves very rapidly here.

We've been through nearly 30 some-odd contests, and there's a 100- delegate margin between the two of them. I mean that's awful close.

COLMES: If you were advising — and I know you don't advise Democrats — but if you were advising Hillary Clinton, what do you advise her to do at this point?

ROVE: Well, she's actually in the last four or five days run a pretty disciplined campaign. Now, se took a gamble with this particular ad she's been running in Texas that says basically it's a question of experience. Do you think he has the experience that would allow him to be commander in chief, and she's making also the argument of the Republicans are going to raise this issue in the general election. I'm raising it now so you can take it into consideration as you begin to think about who you want to be our party's nominee.

Now, that's not going to be enough between now and April 22nd. She's going to have to crystallize in people's minds why it is that she ought to be the president, their nominee for their party and therefore, their best hope for president, as opposed to him. Between now and the 22nd of April, there's a lot of days, but she's got to be focused and disciplined and appropriate.

At the beginning of last week, she was throwing these wild, you know, flailing movements, and it wasn't working for her. So she's got to be more disciplined — like she's been in the last 72 to 96 hours.

COLMES: Specifically in terms of message, because if she stays in and there's that length of time between the next group of contests, is the message the red phone who answers it? Does she go beyond that, do something else? How does she keep the message and break through to change the momentum?

ROVE: She can't just — she will have used this message for this particular group of primaries. She's now got to figure out how, before April 22nd, she refreshes and sharpens that message. My suspicion is, given her next contest is Pennsylvania, that we see a lot more about the economy and jobs. There's one contest next week, Mississippi, which everyone believes will be his. It would be nice for her to get a little bit more than people expected her to get in a Southern state with a very large African-American population.

But if she's focused on the 22nd of April, she's going to have to find a way to refreshen this message, and I think it's probably jobs.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Hi, Karl. It's Sean. Welcome back to the program here. I'm dying to get your thoughts on this. She came out with this red phone ad and Barack Obama's response. What did you think of that?

ROVE: First, I thought the add was a little bit derivative, because it is clearly something reminiscent of what Roy Spencer, Texas campaign chairman, did for Walter Mondale when he was his ad maker in 1984. But on the other hand, I've been talking to a variety of friends in Texas over the last several days, and almost universally, they think this ad helped crystallize in peoples' minds her principal campaign theme against Barack Obama.

I'd been there in Texas myself for three days the week prior, and I noticed that all of her surrogates, which are mostly elected Democratic officials — I was in South Texas and San Antonio — they were hammering Obama on the lack of experience, on the thinness of his record. And so I think between the surrogates, these elected officials, and the ad, she probably did herself some good.

Now, it did make the entire national message Iraq, because he very carefully came back and turned it into a question of judgment. But I think people who were already prone to be against her because of the war in Iraq had already made the decision to be against her.

HANNITY: There's reports out today that she's actually thinking about taking this all the way to the convention, and when we factor in proportional distribution of delegates, and the fact that she's now considering fighting for Florida and Michigan here, what does that do to the Democratic party in general?

ROVE: Well, look, there are three scenarios for this, and the one that most people hang on is that they think the Democrats are going to be ill-served by this process. They are going to get to the convention. They will be exhausted. They will blood each other. They will have bloodied each other up, and it will be ugly.

Now, I admit that's the conventional wisdom, and it might be true. But let me suggest there are two other alternatives. One alternative is that they go to the convention, and they have a close contest; at the convention it is resolved, and one candidate wins, and they get an enormous burst of positive publicity, particularly if it's Obama who comes out of that situation. And as a result, they end August on this very high note and really drown out the Republican convention that comes the week following.

The third scenario is that they continue to battle until the convention or maybe not all the way to the convention but close to the convention, and as they battle, in essence, they're marginalizing McCain, who gets little of the attention. If you look at the coverage of the last week, for example, there have been a lot more column inches and a lot more time on the evening news that have been devoted to the Democratic contest than to McCain or the Republican contest.

HANNITY: If she tries to seat Florida and Michigan, as she has now said she would — I'm trying to be as discerning and objective as I can, because she promised back in September that she wouldn't do this. Why do I look at this fundamentally as cheating and will most Americans see it that way, Karl?

ROVE: Look, there's no good answer to Michigan and Florida. On the one hand, if she attempts to get them seated, it's, as you say, running counter to what she may have said before and to the Democratic party rules. On the other hand, you know, the last time we only had 48 states at either the Republican or Democratic convention was 1956. And the fact that they would not allow two big battle ground states, Michigan and Florida, to be represented at the Democratic National Convention could be a huge blot on their party going into the fall election.

The Republicans saw this and said, we're going to sanction states that go outside the window, that is to say move their primaries too early, by cutting in half their delegates. But the Democrats gave them a very draconian, if you go outside the window, run your primary too early, you get zero delegates. I think that's put the party in an untenable situation.

HANNITY: All right, Karl Rove stay right there. When we come back, I want to ask you who might make a good VP for Senator McCain.


HANNITY: We continue with our friend, FOX News contributor Karl Rove. All right Karl Rove, I never, ever doubt my good friend Bob Novak, and he's saying that you're suggesting that Mitt Romney would be a good VP choice for John McCain.

ROVE: Well, I talked with Bob recently, and we got to talking about the vice-presidential choice, and I shared with Bob, I've been traveling around the country recently — in fact, tonight I'm at the University of Pittsburgh where I'm a guest of the Pitt Program Council. And as I go around the country, I'm hearing a lot of conversation about VP, and I told Bob I was surprised by how often I was hearing the name Mitt Romney, and there seems to be some level of enthusiasm for the M & M ticket, "McCain & Mitt."

HANNITY: All right, but is that Karl Rove's choice?

ROVE: I'm going to try to remain to be a little objective and detached. I'm just reporting to Bob what I heard. And I was in Florida, southwestern Florida on Friday night. I heard it there. I mentioned it tonight, I met with the Pitt College Republicans before the speech I'm going to make later on tonight. I met with the Pitt College Republicans earlier this evening. They asked me the question of what I was hearing about it. I shared with them the M & M ticket, and there was a lot of enthusiasm there for it.

But I'm hearing Pawlenty of Minnesota, Sanford of South Carolina, Burr of North Carolina, Purdue of Georgia. You know, McCain has six months to make this decision. The Republican convention is not until the first week of September. So, fortunately, he's going to have a lot of people suggesting names and giving him advice and a lot of time to look at this.

HANNITY: I personally think it would be a good choice. But I don't think anyone's going to be asking little ol' Sean Hannity's opinion here. Let me ask you —

ROVE: I'm hearing that name Hannity out there too, Sean. Are you willing to serve?

COLMES: Are you leaving this job?

HANNITY: That would be Alan Colmes' dream.

COLMES: Welcome to "Colmes' America."

HANNITY: Colmes' America right here. I think it's funny. I want to talk to you in terms of strategy, Karl, because there's nobody better in this business than you are. We keep hearing about Barack Obama and his background now. This Rezko trial that's going on, the controversy over Barack Obama's pastor, the association with William Ayres of the Weather Underground. Do you think any of these controversies should be played up by the Republicans or is that frankly the job of people like me?

ROVE: Well, look, I do think that what really matters about Barack Obama from the Republican perspective ought to be his values, his views, his actions, his beliefs, the things that he would do as president. Now, obviously, this several decade — almost two decade long relationship with Mr. Rezko is something that needs to be examined. I understand a lot of people in the Chicago media believe all of the questions have not been asked and answered, as Senator Obama believes. That's something that's going to play out.

But I think the Republican campaign would be best advised to keep its focus on those things that would come to bear if he were to be elected president, his values, his views, his actions, his philosophy. And clearly when The National Journal magazine finds him as the most liberal member of the Senate, there's a lot of material there that they can use. They ought to treat what he says and what he believes with seriousness and make that the focus.

COLMES: Being liberal is a good thing, I thought.

Let me ask you this; the Tennessee Republican party put out a release called anti-Semites for Obama. They show that picture, the dress picture in the Somali garb. They used his middle name. Then they reissued it without the picture and without the middle name. Was the Tennessee Republican party responsible in doing that? Is that a good move?

ROVE: They were wise to take off the picture and wise to get rid of this fascination with his middle name. He had nothing to do with picking his middle name, and people who dwell on it are helping him, because it is a visible attempt to sort of depict him as something that he's not, a Muslim, and it back-fires. They were smart to get rid of it. They were wrong to have it in the first place.

Look, he has been associated with, in the past, political figures in Chicago who are controversial. Louis Farrakhan is not somebody that anybody in the mainstream of American politics should give the time of day to. And the fact that he danced around the question of whether he both renounced and rejected him in the Democratic debate recently him was a problem. This is a very unpleasant guy, who says very ugly things about lots of different people, and is way out on the fringe of America and should be left there by any politician.

COLMES: Karl, he did renounce it. He did reject it. He used all those words. Even prior to the debate, he did the same thing.

ROVE: He did.

COLMES: I don't know what more he has to say to make that acceptable to those that have a problem about any association.

ROVE: Alan, I thought in the debate he didn't seize the moment to quickly — in fact, he played a word game with it. Even the moderator came back to him and at that point, he sort of said well, OK, if you want, I'll reject and renounce it. But I mean, the point is rather than — it was a narrow one, I reject his anti-Semitic comments. Well, he has a lot of other reprehensible things to say. Rather than saying, I reject this one narrow part of him, he should have said, I reject what he stands for, and you know, I don't associate myself with him in any way, shape, or form. And instead it was this sort of word game back and forth, having to be pushed by Senator Clinton and the moderator, and then it looked like a word game.

I'm just saying it would be better for him if he said, look Louis Farrakhan is not what I want to believe. That is not what I want to achieve when I bring people together in American.

COLMES: It seems like he did that. I don't know what more he has to do to make that association separate. But he used all those words.

ROVE: Well, he finally did. Good for him for doing that finally.

COLMES: We thank you for coming on tonight.

ROVE: Thanks, Alan.

COLMES: Thanks for being here.

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