Does Hillary Clinton Need to Mend Political Fences?

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," May 26, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JULIE BANDERAS, GUEST CO-HOST: Now, to the news on the campaign trail this Memorial Day: John McCain and Barack Obama are taking a break from fighting each other to honor those who have fought and are fighting for our country right now, both presidential candidates spending the holiday visiting with veterans in New Mexico.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of next week's primary, Hillary Clinton is telling voters in Puerto Rico that veterans deserve a president who will take care of them, and she says she will.

But, will she ever get that chance? Well, with Obama now less than 50 delegates away from clinching the nomination, it doesn't look very likely. But if even if she can get those delegate votes, will she have to get over a racial divide?

A report out in today's L.A. Times is saying, her standing in New York has dropped due to racial remarks made by both Hillary and her husband Bill and those comments could hurt her even though she may not win the Democratic bid and she may one day return to her day job as senator.

With me now is a senior adviser to the Clinton's campaign, Maria Cardona. Thank you for talking to us.


BANDERAS: I know that she would shriek at the idea of talking about this just yet, because she is still in the race. But I will say, aides to Clinton have said that a transition back to Senate life was really not a chief concern but it is a possibility, you have to admit.

CARDONA: Well, I think right now, what I have to say is that the only thing on the senator's mind is continuing to work as hard as she can to continue to tell voters that she will be the best nominee for our party.

You know, up to date, she has received more votes in the history of any candidate in politics, including Senator Obama. So, this thing is not over.

We don't have the nominee yet, and until we do, she's going to work as hard as she can to be that nominee and to make the argument that she is better positioned to take on John McCain and beat him more handily in November. So, until this thing is over, she is focused solely on making sure that she will be that nominee and work as hard as she can to make that point.

BANDERAS: You know, what about the racial divide, though, because many black leaders are saying that her racially charged comments not only made by herself, but her husband is, going to be a problem for her when she comes back to New York? In fact, one assemblyman from Brooklyn said that once the campaign is over, there's going to have to be a lot of work to do to heal the wounds here in New York.

CARDONA: Well, I think, you know, one of the points that both Senator Clinton's campaign has made as well as Senator Obama's campaign, is that this has been a very passionate campaign, and overall, has been very, very good for our party. The number of people that we have brought into this process, the number of people who have registered, the number of people who have participated has been a record number of people. And I think all of that is fantastic for the party.

But both campaigns and both candidates have made the point, that after this is over, after we have a nominee, everybody is going to work very, very hard to bring the party together, to work in unison, to make sure that there is one voice, and to make sure that we are able to take back the White House in November.

So, to your first point, there are going to be two senators that are going back to the Senate after this is over. One of them is going to be Senator McCain and the other will be either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton.


CARDONA: And whether it's Senator Obama or Senator Clinton, I have no doubt that they will be able to make sure that they are a strong leader for our party, and do extraordinary things with the collaboration of all of their Senate colleagues.

BANDERAS: OK, well said. And it's a good thing she's got you as an adviser.

CARDONA: Thank you so much.

BANDERAS: But Clinton's campaign, so far, has declined to comment regarding this racial divide and whether she is going to be having to heal some wounds when she comes back to New York. But one of these state senators here basically said that there are New Yorkers who feel that there is a lot of insults and slights against the entire African-American community, and they also say that Clinton, Bill Clinton, would have never made it into office if it had not been for the African-American supporters.

Does she owe anybody an apology?

CARDONA: Well, again, I think that those are comments that are made in the heat of the campaign. I think that as we have gone through this process, there have been people who have been hurt on this — again, on all sides. But I think that once this process is over, and once there is a nominee, everybody will come together, both folks from Senator Obama's campaign as well as Senator Clinton's campaign and everybody who has worked for them, and make sure that we work together as one party, undivided, to make sure that we're able to take back the White House in November. I have no doubt about that.

BANDERAS: OK. And she said, and she has remained one thing and that is that she would make the stronger candidate in the general election if she were to run up against John McCain. But what about the black votes, do you think that maybe she has lost some of those black votes and so many of those black votes would then instead choose McCain over her?

CARDONA: Well, I think that once she becomes the nominee, she will do everything in her power to go back and make sure that those who have historically supported her in the past will continue to do that, and she will do that in a way that is very respectful and in a way that everybody understands that she is working as hard as she can and will work as hard as she can, and will stand up for everybody, every single day that she is in the White House. That is her one message.

I think that, you know, no matter what you say about this campaign, the history of the Clintons, both Bill Clinton as well as Hillary Clinton has been one to work towards racial unity in this country, and she will make sure that that point is made as strong as she can once she becomes this nominee.

BANDERAS: Maria Cardona, senior campaign adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton, thank you very much.

CARDONA: Thank you, Julie.

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