Democratic Superdelegate Explains Switch From Clinton to Obama

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This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," May 1, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GREGG JARRETT, GUEST HOST: Now to a super switch. Obama scoring yet another superdelegate today and this is a big one. Get this — the former DNC Party chair, used to be a Hillary Clinton supporter, and he is here tonight to explain why he flipped sides.

Joe Andrew is live on the telephone from Indiana. Joe, why did you switch from Clinton to Obama?

Video: Watch the interview

JOE ANDREW, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN (ON PHONE): Well, Gregg, these are always tough and personal decisions, but watching Barack Obama over the past 18 months, I became like millions of other people who have seen him, inspired by how and what he is doing and how he's trying to bring a new politics, a new attitude to this process. I don't know him well, but what I have learned during this process made me believe that he really can help us focus on the serious problems we've got across this country that people are worried about.

JARRETT: But Joe, let me stop you there. I mean, things have changed in the course of the last month or two. People are not now as positive about Barack Obama as they were a month ago, his big loss in Pennsylvania, of course, the furor over Reverend Wright. He seems to be sinking, Hillary is surging. Why switch now?

ANDREW: Well, because this is not opportunistic. I'm not switching because I think that Barack Obama is going to win. I'm switching because I have a personal basis. I become convinced that this political feeder that so many of us, including myself, have been part of is as much part of the problem as the failed policies of George W. Bush.

We all learned the long lesson from Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, which is that we just need to play their game better than they do. And then, Barack Obama comes along and said, "You know, we don't have to play their game at all. We can be principled, we can talk about complicated issues and get a good solution and not pander." You have to act as a perfect example though.

JARRETT: But Joe, you know politics swings like a pendulum back and forth. Norman Ornstein, he's a well-known political scientist, he described the superdelegate imperative as follows, let me quote, "Theoretically, your responsibility as a superdelegate is to do what is best for the party. That is, to pick a winner."

And Joe, if the polling data shows that Clinton has a better chance of winning in November, why wouldn't you pick her as the winner?

ANDREW: Well, first off, I disagree with a very narrow definition of what superdelegates have got to do. I, first up, disagree we should even have superdelegates.

JARRETT: You don't want to win?

ANDREW: No. It's the guy who has churned (ph) the Democratic Party when Al Gore got 550,000 more votes and was not seated as the president, I think intellectual consistency would require us to say — instead of superdelegates we ought to just have primaries and whoever gets the most votes ought to win. But we've got the rules that we got. And now, it is mathematically impossible for either of these candidates to become the nominee without the superdelegates voting for them.

JARRETT: But in a matchups against John McCain, Hillary Clinton does better than Obama and in our recent poll by a margin of 10 points, Democrats think Clinton have a better chance of beating McCain in November. Wouldn't that necessitate your sticking with Hillary Clinton?

ANDREW: Gregg, look, there are as many polls that show that Barack Obama is ahead of John McCain as there are who show that Hillary Clinton is ahead of John McCain. It's not about the polls today. It's about — is someone bringing out the millions of new people, bringing this energy and enthusiasm and taking principled stands just like Bill Clinton did in 1992.

Barack Obama is the Bill Clinton of 2008, the very things that brought so much of him into the party, about Clinton (ph), the promise of a new politics that he's then delivered, that he's exactly the kind of message that excited people of Barack Obama.

JARRETT: Joe Andrew, former DNC Chairman, who has just now switched from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama. Thanks very much for being here.

ANDREW: Thank you for having me.

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