Tony Snow on Whether Disaffected Democrats Will Vote for McCain

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

BILL HEMMER, CO-HOST: Some Gallup numbers tonight showing the following in a McCain versus Obama match-up. Today, 28 percent of Hillary Clinton's supporters would go for John McCain. Did you get that? In a McCain versus Hillary Clinton match-up, 19 percent of Obama's supporters would go for McCain.

Here with us now, former White House press secretary and our good friend Tony Snow. How are you, Tony?

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TONY SNOW, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm doing fine, Bill. How are you doing?

HEMMER: Hey, you look great, man and nice to have you back here.

Howard Dean said this today about John McCain, "His empty rhetoric today cannot change the fact that he steadfastly stood with President Bush from day one and is now talking about keeping our troops in Iraq for 100 years."

In Iraq for 100 years — whether true or not, is that something that sticks onto McCain?

SNOW: I don't think so. I think actually what is going to happen is that as events continue to unfold in Iraq - look at what's going right now. You've got Iraqi forces in the lead in Basra going after Shia militias. They're doing it in Baghdad. You have dramatically reduced casualties, dramatically increased participation by the Iraqis.

The surge is succeeding. The real question is it going to take Howard Dean 100 years to figure out what is going on, on the ground right now? I think that John McCain gets credit for being one of the few people to have the courage to make the right call, one that was unpopular but necessary. That was a year ago, January, when he came supporting the president on the surge.

Meanwhile, people are going to ask Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, "Wait a minute, this is working. It's good for national security, and yet you didn't support it. Why?" I think this actually works to McCain's benefit —


HEMMER: There's McCain there on the screen there from his speech - a significant foreign policy speech made earlier today in the state of California. I'm not sure what your take is yet on the Hillary Clinton- Barack Obama battle.

Bill Clinton said this today in West Virginia. He said, "I know Hillary is gaining on them when they say, quote, `Oh, let's shut this down now; we don't want to be divided.'"

I don't know what that tells you but it tells me that Clintons are not going away. And if you heard Greta's interview earlier today with Hillary Clinton, she got no inkling from Hillary Clinton that she's ready to bow out any time soon.

SNOW: Of course, and now going - I noticed Bill Clinton is great at twisting things. The Obama people have not said, "Shut this thing down." What they've said is, "Let's go ahead and do it to the end. But on the other hand, you guys try to steal super delegates, well, it's not going to work."

Bill Clinton has this wonderful way of trying to artfully change the topic, so he puts the other person on the defensive. I'll tell you the people who were desperate. When the Clintons began to make the argument about a month ago and Bill Clinton more recently did so in saying that, you know, the only way you can have two of them is to nominate Hillary.

Well, you know what? It may just be that Democrats only want one of them. You mentioned the Gallup poll. Rasmussen had a poll today where they asked Democrats who should drop out. Twenty-two percent of the Democrats said Hillary; 22 percent said Obama.

They've got a little problem here, because whoever drops out, their backers may be sore losers and they may become McCain backers.

HEMMER: Of the two big issues, the Rev. Wright and the Sniper-gate that we're now calling it, does either one have a bigger impact on the Democratic electorate, do you think?

SNOW: I think they're both character issues. In the case of Rev. Wright, Barack Obama wants to have it both ways. He wants to be able to say, "All those are reprehensible." But he also wants to be able to say, "But I'm not going to run away from my buddy."

Wait a minute. You've got to stand up and take a position. What he's tried is to sort of finesse it, and you can't. This is a character call. What do you believe in? What do you not believe in? What do you think about America — America's role?

And the problem for Barack Obama is that his political record is far to the left of his rhetoric. His rhetoric is wonderful - it's unifying and healing and all that sort of stuff. Unfortunately, he doesn't have anything to back it up with.

When it comes to Hillary Clinton and the Bosnia stuff, the most fatal thing that can happen to you in politics is for people to laugh at you. You played earlier Jay Leno talking about this. This Bosnia thing — she's made the claim at least half a dozen times in public.

Interestingly, years ago when she did it for the record, she got it right. But what's going on - well, she's polishing up her resume. When you do that, people think maybe you don't have enough on the record to support you or make your case right now.

HEMMER: Tony, thank you for your time. And a nice tan, by the way, my friend. You look good. It's good to see you. Thank you, Tony.

SNOW: Thanks, Bill and Megyn.

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