Susan Milligan chat transcript

The Kennedy -Obama connection, Super Tuesday, and the evils of MySpace

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January 29, 2008

Susan_Milligan: Hello, chatters. Welcome to one of teh most exciting -- and exhausting -- presidential campaigns in recent history. I'm happy to take your questions.

adlag: Any chance of Edwards making a comeback as a VP candidate?

Susan_Milligan: Well, I suppose it's possible. Veep choices tend to be picked for what they bring to the political table -- the ability to reach a certain voter group, or a battleground state, for example. And I'm not sure Edwards has that much to offer. That being said, the delegate race between Obama and Clinton is very, very tight, and Edwards may be holding a critical number of delegates to bargain with by the time they all get to the convention. If he's in a position where his delegates could put one of the other candidates over the top, he's in a greta position to make demands. I'm not sure he wants the job, however.

Guest: A Brokered convention sounds less like democracy and more like classic washington politics...

Susan_Milligan: well, in a way. But it's also more democratic, in a way. Lots of people - and I was not one of them -- thought the nominess would be settled by Feb. 4 or even earlier. That would have made the votes of folks in later primary states pretty meaningless. If there's a brokered convention, at least everyone gets heard, more or less on an equal basis.

quacker: Has Hillary lost her edge?

Susan_Milligan: Edge in what sense? If you mean, has she lost her perceived advantage, I'd say yes -- but then, her advantage was always a little artificial, since early polls showing her way, way ahead were based largely on name recognition. That being said, she is a very smart person and an incredibly tenacious campaigner. I'd say Obama has some momentum now, after that stunning landslide in SC and the Kennedy endorsement. But Clinton could take it back with a strong showing Feb 5 -- and polls, which may or may not be accurate, indicate she's well-positioned for Feb. 5.

DotfromSouthie: Susan: It seems that some in the media actually want this to be over by Tuesday, while others want it to drag on. What's the likelihood that it's all over after Tuesday for all but two in both parties?

Susan_Milligan: I disagree that the media want this over by Tuesday. How boring that would be. I've actually never expected this to be over Feb. 5 -- first, the Democratic primaries are not winner-take-all, so ``winning'' a state doesn't mean you get all the delegates. The delegate allocation process is also very complicated, based on congressional districts. So in Nevada, even though Clinton got a bigger percentage of the caucuses votes, Obama got one more delegate. Secondly, no one ever drops out of a race becuase he or she is behind in the polls. If that were true, many candidates would not have entered the race at all. People drop out because they have no more money. And in the Internet age, candidates can raise a great deal of money very quickly. Ron Paul raised $6.3 million in one day, and he's not even a leading candidate. It is mathmatically impossible for any Democrat to take a majority of delegates on Feb. 5, though it's possible one candidate may gain unstoppable momentum after a big showing on Super Tuesday.

DotfromSouthie: Susan: Great coverage. Do the Florida results and then whatever happens on Tuesday mean Medford's own independent Mike Bloomberg enters the race?

Susan_Milligan: He's being awfully cute about it, isn't he? When the GOP appeared irreparably fractured, with no candidate seeming to capture strong support from the rank-and-file as well as the establishment of the party, a Bloomberg run seemed more feasible. But that race does seem to be narrowing. Bloomberg has a lot of moeny, but that's not all you need to run a successful race. I wonder if he wants to spend every day racing all over the country, eating bad food and never sleeping, to make an Independent bid that is hamstrung from teh start. While I do sense a growing hunger in the country for a third way, or a third party, we are still very much entrenched in the two-party system. He's got a good job, a home so fabulous he doesn't even stay at Gracie Mansion, pots of money and a nice social life. Why give that up?

politcal_guy: Hello Susan, any predictions today?

Susan_Milligan: None. Honest. Except that I don't think Giuliani will do well in Florida, and that may well force him to drop out. There are even signs he would lose his home state of New York to McCain, so he's not in great shape right now.

Thanks__Myra: Hi, Susie. Who decides which primaries are "winner takes all" ???

Susan_Milligan: OK, I haven't been called ``Susie'' since first grade, but I'll let that go. Only the Republicans have winner-take-all primaries, and not in all states.

DotfromSouthie: Is it possible that after South Carolina and Super Tuesday people will (finally) take the focus off Bill and start to listen to or look at Hillary the candidate?

Susan_Milligan: Not as long as he keeps making news with his comments about Obama. He's campaigning as actively as she is, and he's a former president. The media won't ignore him, and nor should it.

Thanks__Myra: Susie, why do guys like Rudy, Edwards, Paul stay in these races. Do they just want to gum up the works for the rest of the candidates?

Susan_Milligan: Edwards, for as much as he keeps getting beaten up in the press and in the primaries, could end up holding the delegates one of the other candiadtes needs to sew up the nomination. So he could look pretty smart this summer. Giuliani has always set his sights on Fla. and on the Super Tuesday stetas (like NY and NJ and Conn.) where he thought he could do better. And folks like Paul want to be heard (and genuinely believes he could still pull it out). I like having these outliers in the rce - they raise questions that otherwise might not get raised.

politcal_guy: Does not campaigning in Florida hurt the deomcrats? Furthermore, doesn't it show the primary process to be a little ridiculous

Susan_Milligan: The Democrats are barred by the DNC from campaigning in Florida, since Florida broke the party rules by moving up its primary ahead of Feb. 5. Democrats are allowed to fund-raise there, but not campaign. Clinton recently put out a statement saying the Florida delegates (and the ones from fellow rule-breaker Michigan) should be seated at the convention, annoying her opponents, who believe she is seeking unfair advantage. Clinton did not take her name off the Michigan ballot, so she got a hefty percentage of the vote, while Edwards and Obama, who took their names off the ballot there because of the DNC rules, got none. What would be fascinating is if Michigan and Florida, instead of being punished for their violations of the rules, end up being seated and determining the nominee.

politcal_guy: What are your thoughts on a National Primary day?

Susan_Milligan: I personally don't like it. You'd have to have a ton of money just to get in the race, and that would limit the presidential campaign to wealthy or establishment-backed candidates. I understand why some states think New Hampshire and Iowa should not be always first. But there is alos somethign very fair about having small states vote early -- it's impossible to buy either state, sicne there just isn't enough ad time to buy, and voters there expect to see candidates in person, and to get their questions answered. Big states alrady have a big advantage in the general election - did you ever see nominees battle it out in, say, Delaware? Nope; they go after the states with the greatest number of electors. Having all the states vote at once means big states would again be at an advantage - and because of the prohibitive cost of campaigning in those states, only contenders with massive amounts of money at the start could even consider running.

Thanks__Myra: Sus, on a lighter note: can Mass take another defeat in the general election?! I mean, Duke, Kerry, and if Mitt gets the nomination (but loses) will we all have to wear brown bags over our faces in shame?

Susan_Milligan: Oh, stop whining, already. You won the World Series, have been blessed with the ``perfect'' Patriots, and have a stellar basketball team. Even the Bruins aren't horrible this year. Imagine being a native Buffalonian, like me. What do we have? No national sports championships ever, and even though we produced two presidents -- Milard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland (OK, he was mayor of the Big Nickel, but wasn't born there)-- is that what people remember? No, they only remember that President McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo. So if Romney loses, drown your sorrows at a sports bar. You'll get no sympathy from me.

politcal_guy: We all know who the presidential candidates are, who do you see as possible VP nominees?

Susan_Milligan: On the GOP side, I continue to believe Huckabee would bring a lot to the ticket -- he's southern, can bring in evangelicals, and has a populist message that appeals to some Democrats. On the Dem side, I've long thought Bill Richardson would be a smart pick. He has solid foreign policy experience and could help nail down Colorado, Nevada, NM and Arizona. I expect the Interior West to be a critical battleground this November. But his primary performance was uneven, so maybe not. On the Democratic side, a lot will depend on who ends up being the nominee.

Thanks__Myra: Susan, is there any truth to the old saw that Latino voters won't vote for a black man? The NV exit polls seem to indicate a grain of truth there. That conerns me.

Susan_Milligan: We'll see. Clinton did stunningly well among Latinos in Nevada, but she (and her husband) have strong ties to Latinos. So I'm not sure it's fair to either Clinton or Obama to suggest her success there is dur to a Hispanic distrust of African-Americans.

BF: Hi Susan - thanks for taking my question! I wondering with Mass being the 5th largest state in terms of delegates, do you think we'll see Sens. Clinton or Obama stumping in Mass much in the next week? Or do you think the Dems are more interested in strategizing for the general election? What do you think?

Susan_Milligan: Yes, I do expect Massachusetts to be key - and what a nice change for the Bay State, which used to be ignored! Neither candidate has the luxury of strategizing for the general election - one of them needs to win the nomination first.

politcal_guy: What was your reaction to GW's comments last night about giving the telecom industry immunity?

Susan_Milligan: I actually had no reaction to it, since I was busy watching members of Congress sit painfully through the State of the Union like it was a senior year math class they had to take even after they got accepted into college.

mallgirl: Why would Ted Kennedy come out for Obama and not Clinton? Why not stay neutral?

Susan_Milligan: Kennedy has been coming to this conclusion for some time. He took a strong, early interest in Obama, convincign leadership to put Obama on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (which Kennedy chairs). He invited Obama into the immigraiton debate and was pleased that Obama - unlike the other presidential candidates -- was willing to help negotiate a bill on a very devisive and politically touchy issue. I think Obama reminds Kennedy of his brothers, and he thinks Obama transcends race, and can unite the country. That explains the Obama-over-Clinton question. So why not stay neutral? First, Kennedy was never going to endorse while Chris Dodd, his best friend, was in the race. After Dodd dropped out, Kennedy talked at length with his family - espeically his nieces and nephews -- about Obama. Of course,this is an excruciating decision, since Kennedy was well aware of how devastating this would be for Clinton. They are not just colleagues, but friends. They went boating on the Cape, and Kennedy helped Clitnon navigate the Senate in her early tenure, since he was really the only one who understood what her life would be like, as such a famous freshman senator. ButI think his sense was that if he really believed in Obama - and he does -- he owes it to him to endorse him publically and help him out. And former Presidnet Clinton's criticism of Obama really infurated Kennedy. The senator called Clinton, asking him to back off, and got no satisfaction from that exchange. That didn't make the decision to endorse Obama, but it sure didn't help.

Thanks__Myra: I find that no one cares much for newspapers' endorsements any more. It seems a product of a bygone era. Do you agree?

Susan_Milligan: I never read endorsements, unless it's something particularly unusual (like the NYT specifically NOT endorsing the city's own former mayor). What's most amusing to me is to wacth candidates slam newspapers and their editorial boards, then quickly e-mail all of us evil reporters when they do secure a newspaper endorsement.

politcal_guy: How would a nominee get nominated if at the convention one candidate did not have enough delegates; you mentioned Edwards making a deal?

Susan_Milligan: It would be a brokered convention, meaning yes, people who have some delegates could use their power to get some kind of deal. But there are all kinds of complicated rules involving first, second, third ballots, when delegates are free to do what they want, etc. Normally, political reporters don't need to know these ruels in detail, but I'm getting the sense I may have to brush up on them.

Thanks__Myra: sus, do you have a myspace page? or a blog?

Susan_Milligan: I hate My Space and Facebook. I think they define what's gone wrong with modern discourse -- no one talks anymore, and count``friends'' as people who visit tehir websites. I also think it's dangerous to put that much information out there on the Internet. It makes one vulnerable to stalkers, harassers and identity thieves. I have been dragged kicking and screaming into blogging occasionally for Political Intelligence on our website.

homer_2: Does Florida actually matter? It has no delegates, right?

Susan_Milligan: It does have delegates, but Florida has been bad, and it is being punished. At least for the moment - parents give in all the time, of course. The Republicans only punish Florida with a partial loss of delegates. Democrats, in a philosphy that individual and group responsibility produces the best behavior, insists it will not seat Florida's delegates, and said it would deny Fla. delegates to any Democratic candidate who campaigned there. Also, they can't play in any reindeer games. Many people think the DNC will cave in at some point, and let the Florida folks come to the party. But that could get very nasty, if those delegates would end up determining the nominee.

homer_2: which state is most pivotal in Super Tuesday. Mass. is obviously least pivotal :)

Susan_Milligan: They're all important, especially in the Democratic contests, since the delegates are allocated proportionally. But since Clinton has a natural advantage in NY -- and Obama, in Illinois -- California becomes very important. Along with Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado.....

Walthammer: What makes this year such a pendulum? The primaries and caucuses seem to be all over the place

Susan_Milligan: Democracy. Fabulous, isn't it?

politcal_guy: Have the Clintons made some people upset (enemies) in the democractic party with regard Bill's campaigning?

Susan_Milligan: Yes, some in the Democratic party are very upset about it - Ted Kennedy being one of them. But the Clintons also have many loyal supporters.

gregor778: Will Rudy drop out if he loses tonight? Maybe a better question -- why would he bother staying in?

Susan_Milligan: My guess is he will - or will soon afterward.

Susan_Milligan: Folks, there are lots of questions still up, but I'm 15 minutes over, here, so I have to sign off and get back to my day job. Thanks for the chat! Susan

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