Transcript: Howard Wolfson on 'FOX News Sunday'

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: So here's where we stand with three primaries left. Senator Obama has a commanding lead and needs just 66 delegates to clinch the nomination. That magic number increased to 2,118 when the deal was struck on Florida and Michigan.

For more on what the Clinton campaign does next, we are joined by top strategist Howard Wolfson.

And, Mr. Wolfson, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."


WALLACE: As we said, the rules committee action yesterday leaves Obama just 66 votes short of the magic number to clinch the nomination.

Given that he's likely to pick up in the neighborhood of 40 more votes in Puerto Rico today and South Dakota and Montana on Tuesday, isn't the Democratic race over?

WOLFSON: No, not at all. You know, we do have these important contests today and on Tuesday. We expect a lot of voters to come out. We hope to do well especially today.

And we're going to continue to make the argument to superdelegates. We're going to argue we've won the popular vote. More people have voted for Senator Clinton than Senator Obama.

More people have voted for Senator Clinton in these primaries than anyone in the history of primaries. That's an important metric that superdelegates ought to be looking at.

And we're going to argue that if you look at the states that Senator Clinton has won — Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, West Virginia — we've won the key states that a Democrat needs to win in order to be nominated, and we're ahead in the electoral college today against John McCain.

Barack Obama is losing in the electoral college against John McCain.

WALLACE: But — and I'm going to get to some of those arguments in a moment — just look at the math. If I'm even close to right, he'll be about two dozen delegates short on Tuesday night. How do you stop him?

WOLFSON: Well, we know we've got a road ahead of us. And we know we've got work to do.

I think that superdelegates are going to be persuaded that the person who's won the most votes ought to be our nominee. That's a very important metric and speaks to the broad support that Senator Clinton has in this country — more than 17 million people, more people voting for her than Barack Obama.

And I think superdelegates are interested in who's most electable against John McCain. We have to elect a Democrat.

And if you look at the states she's won, as I mentioned, and if you look at the electoral map as it stands today, looking at polling, we do better against John McCain than Barack Obama does.

WALLACE: But, Mr. Wolfson, all this talk about popular votes, all this talk about which state one candidate can win or has won, and the other candidate — is a complete reversal for the Clinton campaign.

Let me take you back to something that a very wise man named Howard Wolfson said — I love you smiling — said in February. Let's put it up on the screen. You said, "We don't make distinctions between delegates chosen by millions of voters in a primary and those chosen by tens of thousands in caucuses. We are interested in acquiring delegates, period."

Question: Why were delegates the only issue in February, and now you're talking about everything but delegates?

WOLFSON: No, we are interested in acquiring delegates, and neither of these candidates is going to have the requisite number of delegates needed to secure the nomination, we believe, on Tuesday. So then it comes down to the superdelegates.

And they're going to look. Senator Clinton has won more votes. That's important for superdelegates. It speaks to her popular support.

You know, this party has not nominated somebody who didn't win the most votes in the primary since 1972. 1976, 1980, '84, '88, '92, '96, 2000 and '04,the person who's won the most votes was our nominee. We think that's a good tradition. We ought to keep it.

We also believe that on the basis of the electoral map, that people are going to — superdelegates are going to look and say, "We want to get the best nominee, the most electoral nominee." So delegates are critical.

But neither of these candidates is going to have the requisite number of delegates needed to secure the nomination.

WALLACE: During the rules committee meeting, the Clinton lead representative there, Harold Ickes, said that Clinton, quote, "reserves the right to take the matter of Michigan to the credentials committee," which would not have its final meeting until the convention, the first day of the convention, in late August in Denver.

She wanted — we're talking about Michigan now, which is what he's talking about appealing.


WALLACE: She wanted 73 delegates. She got 69. That's a difference of four. And since they're only getting half votes, it's a difference of two votes.

You're telling me that she's going to keep this race open for three months over two votes in Michigan?

WOLFSON: Well, let's talk about what happened yesterday, because there was a very important principle at stake.

Senator Clinton was fighting to ensure that the votes of Michigan and Florida were cast. Senator Obama had a different position. We're glad that in the end he came around. We had the meeting that we had yesterday.

Senator Clinton said, "Let's count all the votes and let's apportion the delegates in exactly the way that they were cast in the primaries."

With Florida, the committee did that. We're very satisfied with the Florida decision. It's not everything that we would have wanted, but that important principle was honored.

In Michigan, that important principle was violated. Delegates were actually taken away from Senator Clinton, the first time that anybody can remember that happening, and delegates that should have gone uncommitted were apportioned to Senator Obama.

So with regard to Florida, the important principle that Senator Clinton was fighting for was honored — let's count every vote, let's apportion the delegates in the way that the votes in the primaries were cast. In Michigan, that important principle was set aside.

WALLACE: I understand. But we're talking about four delegates. She wanted 73. She believed she got 73. She got 69, in fact, from the rules committee. That's four delegates and two votes.

WOLFSON: Well, there's a principle at stake here, and it's a principle that is the bedrock principle...

WALLACE: And you're going to keep the whole Democratic fight going on for three months over two votes.

WOLFSON: It's not over two votes. It's over a principle. It's two votes that were taken away from us, and it's 55 votes that were given to Senator Obama that should have been uncommitted. But there's a principle at stake here.

Senator Clinton hasn't made a decision about whether to appeal this or not. She said she reserves the right to do that, and we do reserve the right, because if the Democratic Party doesn't stand for fairly apportioning votes that were cast in a primary, what's to prevent the next set of folks from taking more delegates away from a candidate?

WALLACE: I understand all the arguments that you've made about popular vote, about electability, about the kinds of states she's won in.

If you don't persuade the party, if you don't persuade the superdelegates, and Obama reaches that magic number of 2,118 Tuesday night, Wednesday morning, will she either suspend or end her campaign?

WOLFSON: We're going to be working hard to make sure that doesn't happen.

WALLACE: But if it does happen.

WOLFSON: We're going to be making sure — we're going to work hard to make sure that it doesn't.

WALLACE: Are you leaving open the possibility that even if he reaches the magic number she won't end her campaign?

WOLFSON: I'm not going to accept the premise of the question.

We're going to work as hard as we can to convince superdelegates, who, in the end, are going to decide this nomination one way or another, that Senator Clinton is the best nominee based on the fact that she's won the most votes, and the best nominee on the fact that she's won the key states, and the best nominee on the fact that she's got the best map.

WALLACE: But you've got some problems here. You had Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, who said, "We think this will be over next week." You had Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate — "I think it will be over next week."

Even on your own rules committee on this big issue of principle, Michigan, you had 13 supporters on that committee. You only got nine votes, which meant — I think eight votes, actually, which meant that four, five of your own supporters jumped ship.

At some point, doesn't Senator Clinton risk looking like a bad loser who's more concerned with her own personal agenda than she is with what's best for the Democratic Party?

WOLFSON: Well, let's look at the last four months. You know, it was actually in February that the first calls for Senator Clinton to get out of the race began.

Since then, we've won more votes. We won more states. And we've won more earned delegates.

WALLACE: I know, but it didn't start — Mr. Wolfson, the race didn't start until the end of February.

WOLFSON: I understand.

WALLACE: It started at the beginning of January.

WOLFSON: My point is that people have been predicting Senator Clinton's demise for four months. And during that period, we've gotten stronger. Barack Obama has gotten weaker.

So I understand there are some people who'd would like to end this for Barack Obama next week. We respect that. They're going to make their case to superdelegates to do that. There have been people who've been trying to end this for Barack Obama since New Hampshire.

We're going to continue to make the case until we have a nominee. We believe that nominee would be Senator Clinton.

WALLACE: But if he gets to 2,118, he is the nominee, no?

WOLFSON: Well, I hope — and we're going to work hard to make sure that doesn't happen.

WALLACE: There's been a lot of talk from your campaign, including from the senator, including from her husband, former president Bill Clinton, that she is the victim, the target, of sexism.

But when she wins most of the vote — most of the vote — against Obama of white working-class men — when there was a recent study, a study out this week, from Pew Research which indicated she's gotten overwhelmingly positive coverage just as favorable, just as positive as Obama's, what are you talking about?

WOLFSON: Well, Senator Clinton hasn't described herself as a victim. I think that's an unfair characterization. Senator Clinton is a fighter. She's somebody who's working hard for this nomination.

WALLACE: She's talked a lot about how she believes she has been the target of sexist remarks.

WOLFSON: Well, there are an awful lot of our supporters who are very concerned about the coverage in the media. I think at the...

WALLACE: As I said, Pew Research says it was 67 percent positive.

WOLFSON: Well, it doesn't always look that way from where I sit. But you know, we'll have an opportunity to dissect how this race was run and how the media covered it in the years ahead. Right now, our focus is on the nomination.

WALLACE: But is sexism part of that? I mean, is that part of your appeal to superdelegates, that she is losing this or she's being discriminated against because she's a woman?

WOLFSON: No. Our argument to superdelegates is based on strength, not on weakness. Our argument is we've gotten the most votes and we'd be the most electable. That's a strong argument that says Senator Clinton would be the best nominee against John McCain.

WALLACE: This week, Father Michael Pfleger, a Catholic priest with longtime ties to Barack Obama, mocked Clinton, saying that she as a white woman felt that she was entitled to the presidency. Obama immediately disavowed those comments, but you said that was not enough.

Given the fact that he has now, as of late yesterday, disavowed his membership, stepped down from his membership, in the Trinity United Church, is that enough?

WOLFSON: Well, I think voters will be the judge of whether it's enough or not. I think that the comments were outrageous. They were divisive. I think that they — in a time in which the party is working towards unity, they were inconsistent with that goal.

And voters in the end will have to make a decision about Senator Obama and his relationship with his church.

WALLACE: But would you have him say more, or are you satisfied with what he...

WOLFSON: Look, I don't think the initial comments were particularly strong with regard to what Father Pfleger said about Senator Clinton. I think he should have been stronger in condemning those remarks specifically.

Senator Obama gave a fairly generic response to what were some very pointed and specific attacks against Senator Clinton. But in the end, voters will be the judge of this.

WALLACE: And I'll try at it anyway. Given what Father Pfleger said from that pulpit, given what Reverend Wright said, right for him to leave the church?

WOLFSON: Well, Senator Clinton has been clear for some time that if she had been a member of that church, she would have left it. That was a decision that she clearly would have made. She made that clear. I think a lot of Americans probably agree with that.

In the end, I think that all of these issues get hashed over by voters, and they're going to have to make a decision about how Senator Obama has handled this.

WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there. Mr. Wolfson, thank you so much. Thanks for coming in.

WOLFSON: Thank you. Thank you.

WALLACE: Talk to you again soon.