'Special Report' Panel on Undeclared Democratic Superdelegates

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from May 12, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's an encouraging sign that our campaign is making progress, and that super delegates are moving in our direction, that they think I can be a strong candidate in the general election.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: John Kennedy didn't have the number of delegates he needed when he went to the convention in 1960, but he had something equally as important. He had West Virginia behind him.


BRIT HUME, HOST: Well, I'm not going to say West Virginia is not important. I like West Virginia — wild, "wonderful West, by god, Virginia," as they say. And that's all fine, but Hillary Clinton is acting as if it could make all the difference, and who knows?

But some thoughts on all this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — FOX News contributors all.

Let's take a look at what has happened now. In the overall delegate scorecard, Barack Obama leads now by going up or getting close to 275 or whatever delegates.

In super delegates, where Hillary Clinton had led in the beginning and led by a lot, in the super delegate category, he had a total of nearly 800 of them, 281 have now declared for Obama, only 271 for her, and 24y are undecided. He needs 170 or 172 to be nominated out of the 247- -you see the numbers there — to put him over the top to end all these goings on.

Why won't they do it one way or the other?


HUME: Let me introduce you — oh, I did already.

LIASSON: They will eventually. They're just not doing it right now.

HUME: Why not?

LIASSON: Because they fell, first of all, out of respect for Senator Clinton, that she can play this thing out. It's only until June 3. It is not like this is going to go on until July or August.

And I think they also, I think, want to let West Virginia and Kentucky happen. I think you will see them in a very orderly fashion sort themselves out and put him over the top.

And don't forget, he is going to get delegates in these states.

HUME: I know he is. So what's going to happen is — isn't it more likely or at least as likely that this is a little bit hard to do one way or the other, and they don't wants to do it for that reason?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think there are a couple of good reasons for not doing it now. One is Hillary Clinton still has this tiny chance of winning the nomination. It's 99 percent Obama's, but only 99 percent.

And then there is another reason. This was some very good advice that Karl Rove wrote the other day, and that is the one thing you don't want to do is push Hillary Clinton out of the race and give her and all her supporters, some of whom are quite emotionally attached to her, give them a grievance. You want to unite the party.

Let the thing play out until June 3. You have a much better chance of uniting the party.

And then when you read what Obama is missing because this race is still going on, one of them was — David Broder said in his column, and I never miss a David Broder column, said "He needs a rest. He needs a nap." That's ridiculous.

And another is "Well, he can't concentrate on McCain." He's spending a lot of time on McCain these days. So I think both of those reasons for ending it now aren't very good.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I love the storyline here. Months ago when Hillary had the lead in super delegates, it was said Obama has the people, but Hillary had the unelected hacks.

Now that he is in the lead, all of a sudden the super delegates are the party elders who embody the wisdom of the ages, and some of them are even elected on their own.

Look, they were hacks yesterday and they are hacks today. The sign of a hack is that he goes with the wind, and the wind is blowing Obama.

It is not because in the last few months these super delegates have been won over by the eloquence of his distinctions on healthcare and universality. It is because it looks as if he is going to win, and these people would like to be considered for Deputy Secretary of Agriculture in the Obama campaign.

HUME: I know but, my question though is why even more of them haven't broken and gone over to him?

KRAUTHAMMER: Because there is small chance that it could be Hillary Clinton. It is small but it exists.

HUME: It would be much of a chance if the all broke for him; if they all broke for him it would be over.

KRAUTHAMMER: But that is the prisoner's dilemma — if they all did. But all of them are in separate cells, and they don't know what the other guys are doing. So it is a classic case of everybody is looking over his shoulder.

LIASSON: But there is a lot of tapping on the walls.

KRAUTHAMMER: There is a lot of tapping on the walls, but they want to see what's going to happen tomorrow night. If she wins in a blowout —

HUME: . . . she does?

KRAUTHAMMER: — 40 points, and it happens again in Kentucky, it will raise the buyer's remorse. A lot of Democrats are thinking are we actually going to nominate a guy who is going to lose an election in the most unlosable year in the last 50?

LIASSON: Look, there are some Democrats who feel that she can't get the nomination and he can't win the general election. There is a bit of a dilemma.

But, look, these super delegates, the majority of the ones that are undeclared are from states that he won, and they're going to fall in line pretty soon. And super delegates don't want to do this. They wish they didn't have to.

HUME: Why not?

LIASSON: Because it's hard, but their traditional role was to put a frontrunner over the top, not to break a tie.

BARNES: What weenies. If they don't want to do it, nobody is making them. They don't have to be super delegates. They can step down and let somebody else do it if they don't want to.

But I just don't see what the rush is here. We didn't see this rush in 1980 when Jimmy Carter was challenged by Teddy Kennedy and it was clear by this time that Carter was going to win. Kennedy went all the way to the convention.

HUME: Fred, I will tell you what the rush is.


HUME: I was trying to make it so you wouldn't have to go up to New York every Tuesday.

BARNES: Well, you failed so far.

HUME: I sure have, and you're not helping.

When we return with our panel, who is John McCain looking at as a potential running mate? We'll examine the state of the Republican "veep- stakes," as everybody always calls it, next.



QUESTION: Have you narrowed your choice of running mates?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you busy? Could I just mention — no, we are in a process.


HUME: That's about all he'll say, McCain, about who he might choose as the vice presidential nominee. So the question arises, what does our panel think about that? Well, what do you think, Fred?

BARNES: I think he's not thinking about it much. Why should he? Why does he have to worry about it now for? He can wait until early September. He can wait until after the Democratic convention.

HUME: He's got to start investigating people.

BARNES: He does, he has to investigate a lot of people. But I don't know that he is even doing that. It is way too early to worry about that, and he shouldn't.

And besides, as you heard, Brit, it's a process.

I think there are certain criteria that matter. One, he has to pick somebody that is a plausible president — that's usually the most important thing. Two, somebody that doesn't hurt with his own party. In other words, he can't name somebody that is pro-abortion, that would drive away a good chunk of his party. And then you need somebody who might help.

The perfect nominee was when JFK picked Lyndon Johnson. One, he was a plausible president, and he also brought the state that mattered, Texas, which won the election.

It won't be that easy for John McCain. There is nobody like that around.

My own view is I thought Romney would be the best one, but McCain-Romney ticket, have you seen the poll numbers on that?


BARNES: They have not been god.

So maybe he should throw the long ball. One of the things is you could not get a state from some vice presidential running mate but just somebody who gives you a lively, interesting ticket, one of the ones who just work the way Clinton and Gore just worked.

HUME: Mike Huckabee, maybe?

BARNES: No. I was think of somebody much younger. And I will have to give my colleague Bill Kristol credit for this — and that is who was the single most impressive younger Republican?

HUME: Bobby Jindal.

BARNES: Indeed — the governor of Arkansas.

HUME: Louisiana.

BARNES: Louisiana, yes.

LIASSON: The problem is that because McCain is so old, by definition he is going to get somebody younger. But what Fred said is important, that they have to be ready to be president immediately, almost more so than other Vice Presidential picks. They have to have some foreign policy background and, hopefully, some domestic experience or domestic policy experience, which he lacks, where he is a little bit weaker. I think that is a tough road to hoe. Plus they have to be conservative enough.

I think Rob Portman is one name that has been batted about. He is a former Congressman from Ohio. I don't know if he can bring his state, but that would certainly help.

HUME: But he knows the government, and he was the Bush budget chief, right?

LIASSON: Budget chief now.

HUME: Well, yes.

LIASSON: That's a possibility.

I think McCain has a very, very tough choice.

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, this is a year in which the choice is going to be a do-no-harm. It's not going to add anything. You just don't want to screw it up.

Jindal will be on the ticket in 10 or 15 years, but right now he's just out of high school. This guy is one year over the constitutional lower limit of age, and if you are going to run against Obama and say he's inexperienced, you can't have a guy who is 36 with no experience in foreign affairs as your running mate.

Huckabee — there's a lot of talk about that, and there is actually a report that he is a number one choice.

HUME: Was Jindal in Congress as long as Obama before he ran for governor?

BARNES: Four years.

HUME: That's about the same, isn't it?

BARNES: The think about Bobby Jindal — he has every bit of experience and in some way more impressive experience than Obama does.

KRAUTHAMMER: But it is still almost none, and if you're running against Obama on experience, you don't want a guy on your ticket who raises the issue in your own camp.

Huckabee, I think, is an attractive guy and he's got a future, but I think he's not going to bring anything McCain doesn't already have. McCain has got problems on taxes, and he's got problems on social issues, on immigration, which Huckabee compounds. His constituency of evangelicals will go with McCain anyway.

What McCain is a conservative, established, who doesn't have a lot of baggage, and is a credible president. Romney is the guy.

HUME: If it doesn't poll well what is the point of doing it?

KRAUTHAMMER: Polls are polls. We are six months out, and I —

HUME: Is there a woman or an African-American he could name?

BARNES: Condoleezza Rice is plausible.

HUME: Would she do it.

BARNES: No. You can't name somebody who is a representative of the Bush administration.

I would add one thing about what Charles said about experience. Experience is not a problem for Obama. Hillary Clinton has been pounding away on that and it hasn't helped her at all.

HUME: Some of it has helped her. She has done pretty well.

BARNES: People don't care about experience much, and if they did, Obama wouldn't be there.

So I think Jindal could fill that. Look, it would take a week or so for Bobby Jindal to convince the country that he is a plausible president. And if he failed, he wouldn't help the ticket. But I think he could.

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