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Sweet: Obama at plane press conference, says a need to "examine" Clinton claims on foreign policy expertise. Transcript.

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Flight from San Antonio, TX to Chicago, IL

Wednesday, March 15, 2008

UPDATE Obama is joking when you read his reference to calling the top honcho at Saturday Night Live.

BO: I want to talk now so we can sleep properly on the plane. I know all of you were up at 4:30 watching the morning returns. Anyway, why don’t I just start taking questions.

Q: On the morning show this morning, Hillary Clinton said that she has long time experience, John McCain has a lifetime of experience, and you’re running on one speech from 2002, and a speech you ran away from 2 years later. What’s your reaction?

BO: Well, she’s been making that same argument for the last 13 months. The American people have rejected it because I think they recognize I’ve got 20 years of experience bringing about change. And it wasn’t just one speech, it’s been a consistent opposition to the war in Iraq, it’s been my judgment on issues like Pakistan and Iran that I think have been superior to hers, and that’s why we think we’ll continue to do well. And one of the things I hope people start asking is what exactly is this foreign experience that she’s claiming? I know she talks about visiting 80 countries, it’s not clear was she negotiating treaties or agreements, or was she handling crises during this period of time? My sense is, the answer is no. So, you know, I have not seen any evidence that she is better equipped to handle a crisis. And if the only criteria is longevity in Washington, then she certainly is not going to beat John McCain on that.

BO: One at a time, one at a time. We’re going to spend some time here guys.

Q: What do you think voters should realize or learn about Senator Clinton over the next six or seven weeks?

BO: I think that this week she made a series of arguments about why she would be a superior candidate. She made the experience argument, that she’s been making repeatedly, particularly around foreign policy and her ability to handle a crisis. So I think it’s important to examine that claim and not just allow her to assert it, which I think has been going on for quite some time. She has made the argument that she is thoroughly vetted, in contrast to me. I think it’s important to examine that argument, because if the suggestion that somehow that on issues of ethics or disclosure or transparency, that somehow she’s going to have a better record than I have, and will be better able to withstand Republican attacks, I think then that’s an issue that should be tested. So I think that over the coming weeks we will join her in that argument and because I think that I’m in a much stronger position to run against a Republican than she is, otherwise I wouldn’t be running for President.

Q: How will you adjust your campaign to make sure you don’t lose momentum at this crucial time, and also what’s your message to superdelegates?

BO: Keep in mind the context of what’s happened here. Senator Clinton and her team asserted that they had to win Texas and Ohio and the truth is they had to win them handily. We were down 20 points, we closed the gap, didn’t close it completely, they deserve congratulations for being tenacious and working hard, but the delegate count is essentially unchanged from where it was yesterday, and so now we go to Wyoming and Mississippi, we think we’ll do well this week. We feel that there is a strong possibility that we gain substantially more delegates out of Wyoming and Mississippi than Senator Clinton gained last night, and so we will continue to build our delegate lead. We will continue to campaign in every state. We will not be cherry-picking which states we deem important, because our attitude is every state is important, and you know, by taking that approach, I’m pretty confident that we’re going to end up with more delegates, having won more states, won more primaries, won more caucuses, and have more of the popular vote, and I think that going into the convention with more votes, more states, more primaries, more caucuses, more delegates, we’re going to be in a pretty strong position. And by the way, with respect to super delegates, I think it’s important to note that over the last couple of weeks we’ve gained scores of delegates, and Senator Clinton has actually lost some delegates. So even that advantage that she had has been drastically diminished.

Q: paraphrased-Will this go to the convention?

BO: I don’t think it will necessarily go to the convention floor, but I think that we will continue to accumulate delegates, and I think that the superdelegates will consolidate around that person that has the most delegates. We think that will be us.

Q: Exit polls show that people who decided very late broke very heavily for Senator Clinton, do you know why that is?

BO: Well, it’s hard to speculate. You guys are the pundits, you guys can break it down. I think that what we’ve seen happen, and I think this happened in New Hampshire, is when people say they are undecided in states where she’s previously had a 20 point lead, typically these are folks who were solidly in her camp, they had gotten a little squishy but were still leaning in her direction and then went back to where they were before, settled on voting for her. It’s not as if they were true undecideds. That I think may explain part of it. There’s no doubt Senator Clinton went very negative over the last week, and you know the ‘kitchen sink’ strategy I’m sure had some impact, particularly in a contest where many of you in the press core had been persuaded that you had been too hard on her and too soft on me. And so you know, complaining about the riffs apparently worked a little bit this week, and so you know, in addition to my call to Lauren Michaels, hopefully now people feel like everything’s evened out, and we can start actually covering the campaign properly.

BO: I haven’t said that you guys have been too hard on me. I’m just saying that I think you guys may have bought into the notion that you were being too hard on her.

Q: Senator, why do you think you’ll do any better in Pennsylvania than you did in Ohio where the two states have roughly the same demographics?

BO: Well they said that about Wisconsin and we won by 18 points, right? So every state is different. I don’t buy into this demographic argument. Missouri, Wisconsin, Virginia, in many of these states we’ve won the white vote and the blue collar vote and so forth. I think it is very important not to somehow focus on a handful of states because the Clintons say those states are important and that the other states are unimportant. If we end up winning Mississippi and Wyoming, that’s important. If we end up winning North Carolina, that’s important. This notion that somehow the, all the states I win, are somehow are not bellwether states, but the states that Senator Clinton wins, those are the important ones, is a strange way of keeping score and I don’t think it makes much sense.

Q: The sense is that, is this just a mathematical…impossible (hard to hear, about the math of Senator Clinton winning)

BO: I mean look, she is going to try to persuade the superdelegates that she should be the nominee. That is entirely within her rights and you know, there is nothing that binds the superdelegates to honor what the voters in all these states and caucuses have determined. On the other hand, you know, I think it’s going to be, it’s going to be I think for most superdelegates, pretty decisive, if a candidate comes in with not just more states, more primaries, more caucused, more pledged delegates, but also the popular vote. And I feel confident that we can accomplish that. My sense from talking to superdelegates is they will be more likely to rally around that candidate to be the Democratic standard bearer.

Q: There’s a new poll out that says that 20% or so of … are you concerned… (hard to hear)

BO: Right now we’re in the heat of battle. There’s a bunch of my supporters who I’m sure are frustrated with her and her campaign, and some of the tactics that she’s employing. You know the truth is that when you have a convention and a nominee is there, and it becomes clear that this is a contest for issues that we as Democrats care deeply about, I’m very confident that we’ll be able to rally the country together.

Q: The more intriguing thing that was said on the morning show, Senator Clinton was asked about the possibility of a joint ticket, she said that’s where she sees this to be headed, although it’s not clear who’d be on top. Are you anymore open to that now that you were a few weeks back?

BO: You know, we are just focused on winning this nomination, that’s my focus, and I’ve said before I respect Senator Clinton as a public servant, a tenacious opponent, I think it is very premature to start talking about a joint ticket.

Q: (interruption, hard to hear question)

BO: I did, I called her up. I always call her after her victories.

BO: I just said congratulations.

Q: Senator, given the facts of the situation right now, how soon do you think the nomination will be won by anyone?

BO: Well, you know, I think we’re going to be on the road for a few more weeks guys.

Q: Weeks or months?


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 5, 2008 12:04 PM.

Sweet: Clinton suggesting Clinton/Obama ticket. was the previous entry in this blog.

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