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updated 4/30/2008 9:36:07 AM ET 2008-04-30T13:36:07

MR. TIM RUSSERT:  Our issues this Sunday:

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY):  I have received more votes by the people who have voted than anybody else.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL):  If we've won the most delegates from the voters, seems to me that it might be a good idea to make me the nominee.

MR. RUSSERT:  Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, making their case for the Democratic nomination.  How much is their battle hurting the Democrats' chances in November?  Will their fight go all the way to the convention?  With us, an exclusive interview with the man in the middle of all this, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Dr. Howard Dean.

Then, next up, Indiana and North Carolina on May 6th.  Insights and analysis from David Broder of The Washington Post, John Dickerson of Slate.com, Gwen Ifill of PBS' "Washington Week" and "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," Andrea Mitchell of NBC News and Richard Wolffe of Newsweek magazine.

But first, the primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is one for the history books.  How is it going to be resolved in the spirit of unity? Joining us, the man who must do just that, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean.

Dr. Dean, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

DR. HOWARD DEAN:  Thanks for having me on, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let's look at the latest number.  These are elected delegates. Barack Obama has 1491, Hillary Clinton has 1334.  You need 2,025.  Upcoming Democratic contests:  Guam, Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico; ending on June 3rd, Montana and South Dakota.  Four hundred eight delegates available with all those contests.  Lastly, the so-called superdelegates, Clinton has 263, Obama has 240, and 292 remain uncommitted.

When you look at all that, how and when is this nomination fight going to end?

DR. DEAN:  Well, I'm hoping it'll be over by the end of the month of June. We've made great progress in the last few weeks that I think about 50 or 60 unpledged delegates have said who they're going to be for.  And, you know, it'd be a lot of fun for you if we had a divided convention with 104 ballots; it'd break the record.  But the truth is we need to figure this out before the convention.  We need time to heal.  And actually, I'm not the most important person in terms of bringing the party together.  The most important person is the, is the person who doesn't win the nomination.  Because I can remember when, I can remember when I lost to John Kerry, I had to go out and convince my supporters--it took me about three months--that they needed to support Senator Kerry.  I endorsed him, I campaigned for him, I went all--to all the college campuses.  And that's what the person who doesn't win this, with 49 percent of the delegates, is going to have to do in order to keep the party together.

MR. RUSSERT:  There's been an interesting debate over the last couple weeks about elected delegates.  Obama has more elected delegates than Clinton.  And if you look at the remaining contests, Hillary Clinton would need to win 69 percent of the outstanding elected delegates in order to overtake his lead, which most people believe is just impossible to do with proportional allocation.  Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, former Democratic National Committee chairman...

DR. DEAN:  Yep.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...made this observation about elected delegates.  Let's listen.

(Audiotape)

GOV. ED RENDELL (D-PA):  The popular vote is, to me, a much fairer indicia than the pledged delegates because the pledged delegates are elected in a very undemocratic way.

(End audiotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you agree with that?

DR. DEAN:  Well, no, I don't.  First of all, I don't agree with it.  And secondly, look, we have a set of rules.  My job here is not to side with one candidate or the other and talk about pledged delegates or superdelegates or any of that stuff.  My job is to take the rules that everybody started with and enforce the rules without fear or favor of any candidate.  The--somebody's going to lose this with 49 percent of the delegates in Denver, and that person has to believe that they were treated fairly if--otherwise, we can't win. Look, John McCain is a weak candidate.  He's wrong on Iraq, as far as the American people are concerned.  We don't want to stay there for a hundred years.  He's wrong on the economy; it wasn't the mortgage holders that, that, whose fault this was.  He's wrong on healthcare.  We should have health insurance for all our kids.  He is not a strong candidate.

The only thing that's going to beat us is if we're not unified.  And my, in order to be unified, both the losing candidate and the winning candidate have to feel like the system was fair.  So Senator Rendell may say--I mean, Governor Rendell may not like the rules, but the rules are what we started with.  Most of them have been in place for the last 25 years.  That's what we've got to go by, whether you like the rules or you don't like the rules.

MR. RUSSERT:  You had an interview with the Financial Times and said this: "There's a gestalt in politics when suddenly people see things in a synchronous way.  Politically, there will be some feeling at the end of this process that somebody is better than the other person in terms of taking on John McCain."

Gestalt, feeling, is that what's going to decide this race?

DR. DEAN:  That's what, that's how voters vote, and that's how delegates vote.  Delegates are just like voters.  They, really, they look like voters, they are voters, and that's what's going to happen.  What's going to happen is, based on the last--you know, this is essentially pretty close to a tie here, and what's going to happen these last nine primaries and, and cauc--I guess they're all primaries--is that we're going to--there's going to be some feeling at some point and the--in the--after these last few weeks that one of these candidates is more likely to win than the other, and I think that's who's going to get the nomination.  I can't tell you who that is.  I have no idea who it is.  But that's what's going to happen.

MR. RUSSERT:  The candidate with the most elected delegates is not guaranteed the nomination?

DR. DEAN:  The rules say that the candidate with the most delegates gets the nomination, and I support the rules.

MR. RUSSERT:  So that the superdelegates could, in effect, overrule the elected delegates?

DR. DEAN:  That, you know, you shouldn't think of it that way.  So-called "superdelegates" are, in fact, elected by exactly the same people who vote for the elected delegates.  This is just--this is like an--a representative democracy.  You elect a--80 percent of the delegates, and they have to do what you ask them to do.  The others, the 20 percent you elect, essentially do what's in their best judgment, just like the House and the Senate does. Sometimes you like it, and sometimes you don't.  But these folks are elected, all, all of them, almost all of them are elected.  A tiny minority are not elected; they're appointed.  But most of them are elected.  They're elected by the same people who went to the--who go to the conventions and go to the--vote in the primaries.  They're governors, senators.  A lot of them are, are, are DNC members.  There's 21-year-olds there, there's--50 percent are women and so on, and on, on it goes.  So this should not be looked at as some bunch of cigar-smoking folks in the back room slapping each other in the back and electing the next president.  It doesn't work that way.

MR. RUSSERT:  James Clyburn, the congressman from South Carolina, said he's been listening to people, however, and this is what Congressman Clyburn had to say:

(Videotape)

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC):  (From "Countdown with Keith Olbermann") Now they seem to be feeling that the graybeards are positioning themselves to overturn the will of the people.  These superdelegates--they don't quite understand what the superdelegates are.  They think that we're waiting in the closet somewhere to, to just snatch this nomination away.  And so that's the feeling that people have got.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you believe that the elected delegates represent the will of the people?

DR. DEAN:  Yes.

MR. RUSSERT:  So that if...

DR. DEAN:  But I also believe the so-called superdelegates represent the will of the people.  They are responsible to their constituencies:  governors, senators, people running for office, DNC members, all elected by the same people who are going to these caucuses and to these primaries.

MR. RUSSERT:  But the elected delegates were elected because they ran supporting the person that won the primary or the caucus.  What should be the criteria of a superdelegate when they make their judgment as to who to vote for?

DR. DEAN:  Well, I'm not going to say what their criteria should be because that's not what the rule--the rules don't give you a criteria.  They're supposed to vote their conscience.  My personal belief is they're going to vote for the person they think, think can beat John McCain, which is what I think a lot of these voters are voting for.  I think a lot of these folks are going to the polls and are going to go the week after next in Indiana and North Carolina are saying, "Which one of our folks, of our folks, Senator Obama or Senator Clinton, can best beat John McCain?"

MR. RUSSERT:  So your personal view is that even if someone has won more elected delegates, if you think the other person would be a stronger candidate against John McCain, you'd opt for the other person?

DR. DEAN:  Tim, that is not my personal view.  My personal view is, I am the chairman of this party, we have a set of rules that have been in place for a year and a half, and I am the person who's in charge of upholding the rules whether I like them or not.  Are there some rules I might change next time around?  Yeah, maybe so.  But right now we're focusing on the rules we have. Look, that's all we've got.  No--I feel like I'm the referee here at the NCAA finals.  You know, you make some calls, but if you stick to the rules and do the right thing according the rules, you're going to end up with a decent process.  And that's what we have to do.

MR. RUSSERT:  The rules are the superdelegates do not have to...

DR. DEAN:  That's correct.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...abide by the vote, vote of the electorate.

DR. DEAN:  Right.  And I might--that's correct--and I might add that never in my time as going to these conventions, which has been back to 1980, have I ever seen that not happen.  I've never seen a situation where the, where the unpledged delegates didn't essentially end up voting the same way the pledged delegates did.

MR. RUSSERT:  The popular vote--the Obama people are saying if the popular vote is going to be the main determinate in all this, then we--why go to Iowa, why go to New Hampshire, why have a caucus rather than a primary?  We would have had a much different strategy.

DR. DEAN:  Yeah, you know, the one thing I'm not going to do is get into the various merits of the arguments between the candidates on popular vote or delegate vote.  I, I'm here to say what the rules are, I'm not here to side with Senator Obama or Senator Clinton on these arguments.  The voters will make their decisions about those arguments.

MR. RUSSERT:  But delegates nominate, not popular vote.

DR. DEAN:  That's right.  That's right.  You know, we're spending a lot of time on process, and I think most Americans care about whether they want to be in Iraq or not for a hundred years, about the economy, about health care.  I think they care about John McCain's reinvention of himself after the Keating Five.  Turned out he wasn't such a reformer, as it was.  Those are I think the, the things people...

MR. RUSSERT:  Well...

DR. DEAN:  ...are worried about.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...but the Democrats are very worried about who's going to be the nominee and whether or not the result will reflect the primary process.

DR. DEAN:  The reason Democrats are so interested in this is they want change.  Look at the number of people who've voted.  They're going to be at 35 million people who've voted in the primaries.  There'll be more people who voted in Texas for Senator Clinton and Senator Obama combined than voted for--in the general election for the Democrat in 2004.  People want change in this country.  You can't get change without a, a different party controlling the White House.  John McCain is four more years of George Bush.  He supports George Bush right down the line on all these issues.  They want change. That's why this is such an intense election.  Not because there's a fight over the superdelegates or the popular vote or--people want fundamental change in this country and they can't get it unless Senator Clinton or Senator Obama is elected.

MR. RUSSERT:  But you yourself have said unless the Democratic Party's united they will have a very difficult time in the fall.

DR. DEAN:  That's right.  And that's...

MR. RUSSERT:  So I'm--I want to focus on this unity question because when you talked to the NAACP in 2005 you were talking about black and white Americans. And you said, "The one thing the Democratic Party will never do, we'll--we will never divide Americans to win elections.  We'll never do that." And black Americans heard that and listened to it, and they point to this, Governor.  In 2004 here is the black vote:  Bush 11, Kerry 88 percent.  In 2000:  Bush 9 percent, Gore 90 percent.  And now many African-Americans, Congressman Clyburn and others, are saying, in effect, if Barack Obama ends this contest with more elected delegates and the superdelegates decide, "Well, you know what?  We're not going to nominate him.  We're going to opt for Hillary Clinton," what will black Americans do?  What will black Democrats do who have been the most loyal component of the Democratic Party?

DR. DEAN:  You know, I--this is, this is pretty hypothetical.  There's a lot of if, if, if, and you and I have both raised teenagers and we both know you don't answer too may hypothetical questions before you get in a lot of trouble.  So, you know, if, if, if, if.  The, the--we don't divide people. The Republicans have scapegoated minority groups for a long time.  First they pointed the fingers at African-Americans by calling what--affirmative action as a quota system.  Then they pointed the finger at gay Americans with an anti-gay marriage stuff on all the ballots where gay marriage was already illegal anyway.  Now they're pointing the fingers at immigrants and, by extension, Hispanic and Asian-Americans.  We don't do that in this party.  Now we happen to have an African-American candidate and a woman candidate, and clearly those groups of folks who have historically been disenfranchised in our political process have their favorites because there's an emotional pull towards those candidates.  See, at the end of the day, we have to bring that together, and as I said at the opening of the show, the most important person to bring those folks together is the person who doesn't win.

MR. RUSSERT:  But this is how deeply-seated the feelings are.  Again, Congressman Clyburn talking about former President Bill Clinton.  He said, "Mr. Clinton's conduct in this campaign had caused what might be an irreparable breach between Mr. Clinton and an African-American constituency that once revered him."

"When he was going through his impeachment problems, it was the black community that bellied up to the bar.  ...  I think black folks feel strongly this is a strange way for President Clinton to show his appreciation."

"Clyburn added there were appeared to be an almost unanimous view among African-Americans that Mr. and Mrs. Clinton were committed to doing everything they possibly could to damage Mr. Obama to a point that he could never win in the general election."

DR. DEAN:  Well, I--you know, again, I have enormous respect for Jim Clyburn, who I consider a great personal friend, but I'm not going to get in the middle of a fight over--between the Obama and the Clinton people, so I'm not going to have any comment on that.

MR. RUSSERT:  But if, in fact, the nomination was denied to Obama, who won the most elected delegates, could you unite the party?

DR. DEAN:  Tim, that hasn't happened, and I don't expect it to happen.  I expect us to go forward united, and I expect either one of these candidates, whichever one loses, to support the other.

MR. RUSSERT:  But it could become very difficult.

DR. DEAN:  Everything can be very difficult in life, and you got to work hard to make sure it isn't.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mitch...

DR. DEAN:  Which is one reason, I might add, that I'd like all the unpledged folks to say who they're for by the end of this next month, so that we have the time that's necessary to heal the party.  We need change.  Women need change, Africa-Americans need change, Americans need a change.  And this party can deliver change, but only if we're together.

MR. RUSSERT:  So play out the primaries through June, and then have the superdelegates, undecided, commit themselves?

DR. DEAN:  Well, no.  I think they should continue to commit themselves, you know, from now, as they have been over the past few weeks--about 50 or 60 more have committed themselves.  Just keep dribbling it in.  We've got--I, I, I don't know, almost three--two-thirds of them committed, and just keep going right on down and commit as you have been...

MR. RUSSERT:  You'd like them all announced by when?

DR. DEAN:  I would like everybody to say who they're for by the end of June.

MR. RUSSERT:  End of June.

Michigan and Florida.  There is a report--reports that the Democratic National Committee is having a meeting on May 31st...

DR. DEAN:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...which may in fact say to Michigan and Florida, "Well, you broke the rules, you moved your primary dates up without permission, but we're going to give you half delegates, half your elected count, half your superdelegate count come, come convention time." Is that true?

DR. DEAN:  Well, I don't know about the--what the Rules Committee's going to do.  I have no idea what they're going to do.  But here's the deal.  First, you got to respect the voters.  The voters of Michigan and Florida were not the people that screwed this all up, it was politicians.  Secondly, you have to respect the candidates.  They went in on a set of rules that everybody voted for, including Michigan and Florida, before they changed their mind, but--and so you can't really change the rules and alter the course of the race.  And thirdly, you got to respect the 48 states that did respect the rules.

Here's why the rules are important.  For the--this year, for the first time, we balanced the early primaries with ethnic and geographic diversity.  We included a state from the South and a state from the West, because we think we can win there now.  And we included states with significant numbers of minority groups who the Democrats can't win without, and those folks ought to be allowed to say early on who they think should be the president.  Now along comes two states which steps on the process.  You've got to deal with that in a fair way.  So I don't know what the solution's going to be.  The Rules Committee's going to start to work on that now as they prepare for the meeting at the end of May.  But nobody will be satisfied with the outcome because nobody's going to get everything they want.  What we strive is to be fair to the voters, fair to both campaigns, and fair to the other 48 states.

MR. RUSSERT:  Former Governor Jim Blanchard of Michigan, who's a Clinton supporter, said the Democratic National Committee has handled the situation badly.  "They have put their rules ahead of common sense, of electing a Democratic president, of voters in two major states.  ...  They're treating the rules like they're the U.S. Constitution or the Ten Commandments. They've lost their way."

DR. DEAN:  Well, they were one of the two states out of the 50 that violated the rules.  I'd kind of expect that from them.

MR. RUSSERT:  But Michigan and Florida are swing states.

DR. DEAN:  They're both very important states.  That doesn't mean they're any more important than anybody else.

MR. RUSSERT:  In fact, there were some meetings of delegates in Michigan, various conventions where Hillary Clinton is now lining up delegates, and, according to Congressman Blanchard, "We want to pick people who'll be loyal to Hillary, who would commit to her through multiple ballots." So Governor Blanchard of Michigan, former governor, is planning for, in effect, a multiple ballot convention.

DR. DEAN:  Sure.  I mean, I--look, everybody has a right to plan anything they want.  My plan, as the chair of the DNC, is to try to get this resolved before we get to the convention.  Because if you go into the convention divided, it's pretty likely you'll come out of the convention divided.

MR. RUSSERT:  Without Michigan and Florida counting, as of now, people are saying, "Howard Dean should have handled this differently.  He should have interceded and fixed this problem and not allowed us to come to a point where these two states feel dissed and it could hurt us in November."

DR. DEAN:  Well, I mean, that--it wasn't my decision to make these changes. Florida and Michigan both voted for a set of rules, then they tried to push ahead of everybody else, and that makes it more difficult for everybody.  We want to resolve this.  This is not the voters' fault in Florida and Michigan. But the fact of the matter is that you have to--you cannot change the rules towards the end of the game just to advantage or disadvantage of a particular candidate.  You can't do that.

MR. RUSSERT:  But you decided not to seat the delegations, not count the primaries.

DR. DEAN:  That's correct.  Because they stepped on the minority groups and the small states in the South and the West that needed that time to have their primaries and have their early input.

Look, it's, it's--this is like having a, a line full of people waiting for something.  If two of them jump the line and go to the front, it's not going to be long before you're going to have a riot.  Don't forget, at the time these sanctions were passed by the Rules Committee, New Hampshire and Iowa were threatening to move into 2007.  You've got to keep order, and that's part of my job is to keep order.  It's understandable that the folks you call out because they think they're more important than everybody else are going to be upset about that.  We did keep order, we do have an orderly process.  I'll defend the process.

MR. RUSSERT:  Will Michigan and Florida be seated?

DR. DEAN:  Yes.

MR. RUSSERT:  In some way, shape or form.

DR. DEAN:  In some way.  I'm determined to make that happen.  I can't--again, I can't, I can't speak for what the rules committee will do.  They're 30 very independent-minded people.  I can't speak for what the credentials committee at the convention will do.  I believe Michigan and Florida should be seated in some way because it was their--their voters did not cause this problem.  This was caused by a political problem, not the voters' problem.

MR. RUSSERT:  Seated and their delegates will vote for the presidential nominee?

DR. DEAN:  I, that's what I hope will happen.

MR. RUSSERT:  The Democratic National Committee has been taking some television advertising out about John McCain, one out on the economy.  You are now also going forward with an ad on Iraq.  Let's watch that ad and come back and talk about it.

(Videotape)

Offscreen Voice:  President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:  Maybe a hundred.  That'd be fine with me.

Voice:  President Bush has talked about our staying for 50 years.

SEN. McCAIN:  Maybe a hundred.

Ad Announcer:  If all he offers is more of the same, is John McCain the right choice for America's future?

The Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Now, Senator McCain's campaign is saying that you take those words totally out of context.  Here's how Senator McCain explained what was actually said at the town hall:  "It's dishonest because anyone who looks at the entire transcript of the exchange that I had at a town hall meeting with a man who came there, who had a legitimate point of view that he was against the war and asked--we went back and forth about how long, quote, America would be there, and I said, `Well,' he said, `How many years?' I said, `Could be a hundred.' But the case is, it's after we've won the war.  And I immediately said it's the same as we have troops in South Korea, we have troops in Japan, we have troops in Germany, depending on the security arrangement that we have.

"No one could have interpreted that exchange as me saying that we're going to be in a war for a hundred years."

DR. DEAN:  First of all, we're not arguing that he's going to be at war for a hundred years.  We don't think we ought to be in Iraq for a hundred years under any circumstances.  Think of the hundreds of billions of dollars that are being spent in Iraq, which we need right here at home right now to preserve American jobs.  That's the first thing.

Secondly, if Senator McCain believes that you can occupy a country like Iraq for a hundred years without having a long war and violence and our troops being hurt and, and killed, I think Senator McCain is wrong.

Look, our folks don't want, I--our folks, our country--70 percent of our country does not want to be in Iraq for a hundred years under any circumstances.  Senator McCain is wrong.  He is out of step with the American people, and he is wrong.

MR. RUSSERT:  He is saying it's analogous to Germany or to Japan or to Europe.

DR. DEAN:  And South Korea.  I have the same quote that you have right here.

MR. RUSSERT:  Where you have troops there, but they're not involved in conflict.

DR. DEAN:  That is correct.  Now, does anyone think, who's watching this show, that if you keep our troops in Iraq for a hundred years, people won't be attacking them and won't be setting off suicide bombs and won't be having militias go after them?  I don't think so.  And most Americans don't think so. What Senator McCain is saying doesn't make any sense.  We cannot be in Iraq for a hundred years.  Those dollars belong in America.  We're in trouble in this--in, in America.  And, frankly, the Bush-McCain economic program has put us in trouble in America.  That money needs to be here in America.

MR. RUSSERT:  The Republican Party in Virginia has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission saying that your previous ad and no doubt this one, they will insist, is being coordinated with the Obama and Clinton campaigns, it's all anti-McCain, and that it violates the election rules.

DR. DEAN:  Yeah, that is a joke.  There's no evidence for that whatsoever, and it's plain untrue.  Neither one of the campaigns ever saw this ad or knew anything about it before we put it on.

MR. RUSSERT:  Before you go, back in February of '06, when you were pushing hard to have the Democrats take over the House and Senate, which they did, you made some firm commitments, promises what the Democrats would do.  Let's watch.

(Audiotape)

DR. DEAN:  We will promise you that if you elect a majority in the House and Senate, we will not permit Iran to be a nuclear power; we will make a deal with China to get nuclear weapons out of North Korea; we will catch, capture Osama bin Laden or kill him.

(End audiotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Two years later...

DR. DEAN:  Well, two, two years later, there is a deal with North--with China to try to put an end to the nuclear weapons in North Korea.  It turns out that there have not have been, had not been nearly as much progress, according to the National Intelligence Estimate, in Iran towards nuclear weapons in the first place, and we have not captured Iran--Osama bin Laden, nor have we gotten out of Iraq.  And I have concluded that you can't get out of Iraq or capture Osama bin Laden unless you have a Democratic president.  It's not going to happen with George Bush or John McCain in the White House.  We don't need four more years of what we've had for the last eight years, and that's what you get with John McCain.

MR. RUSSERT:  Well, that was not the fine print.  You promised the Democratic Congress could do it.

DR. DEAN:  Well, I was wrong because we had a president that wasn't interested.

MR. RUSSERT:  John, you don't think George Bush is interested in capturing Osama bin Laden?

DR. DEAN:  Well, he--the proof is in the pudding, and it hasn't happened, and we haven't gotten out--gotten ourselves out of Iraq.  We know--we knew, and one of the reasons we won the election is 2006 is we knew the American people wanted us to get out of Iraq.  We tried every way we could.  Senator McConnell in the Senate filibustered and made it impossible for us to get out, wouldn't allow the vote to come to the floor.  The president vetoed several measures, just as he then went on to veto things like children's health care.  This is a, this is a party, a Republican Party that's completely out of step with what the American people want, and we now are going back to get more senators and, and, and the presidency, so that we can do the things that the American people want us to do:  get out of Iraq, spend our dollars here at home to help people who have been victimized by the mortgage crisis, and to have a health care system that works for everybody, particularly our, our children.  How hard-hearted are these Republicans who veto and uphold the veto, as Senator McCain did, of, of children's health care?  Shouldn't we at least have health care for all our children?  We need change in this country.

MR. RUSSERT:  And yet Senator McCain is tied or beating both Clinton, Obama in most of the national polls.

DR. DEAN:  That's because Senator McCain's not being challenged by anybody yet, and we intend to do that.  And this ad's part of it.

MR. RUSSERT:  Dr. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, we thank you for joining us and sharing your views.

DR. DEAN:  Tim, thanks for having me on.

MR. RUSSERT:  Coming next, what to look for in the upcoming primaries in Indiana and North Carolina on May 6th.  Our roundtable:  David Broder, John Dickerson, Gwen Ifill, Andrea Mitchell, Richard Wolffe, coming up next right here only on MEET THE PRESS.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  Our political roundtable after this brief station break.  The race for the White House 2008.

MR. RUSSERT:  Welcome all.  Let's go to the board.  Here's the latest Newsweek national poll.  These are Democrats across the country:  Obama, 48; Clinton, 41.  Indiana, the South Bend Tribune says Obama, 48; Clinton, 47. Indianapolis Star said it's 41-38, a toss-up in the Hoosier state.  The latest poll in North Carolina, two weeks old:  Obama, 47; Clinton, 34.

David Broder, where's the race?

MR. DAVID BRODER:  Up in the air and probably going to stay there for a long time.  I listened to Governor Dean, but--talking about how he wants to wrap this up.  I don't see that happening.  I can't--these are two strong candidates, and I think whatever happens in North Carolina and Indiana it would be very hard to make the case to Mrs. Clinton that she ought to quit the race.

MR. RUSSERT:  How about getting the uncommitted superdelegates to commit by the end of June so that they have an exact delegate count?  Would that avoid a contested convention in Denver?

MR. BRODER:  I don't think so.  I mean, it's a long time till the end of August, and for the Democrats to make a decision, knowing that all that time--almost as much time as this campaign has taken up to this point--would be a remarkable thing to me.

MR. RUSSERT:  John Dickerson, you write in Slate.com the following:  "Someone should call a priest or the National Enquirer.  Hillary Clinton is now come back from the dead four times.  Her win in the Pennsylvania primary wasn't just a numerical victory.  It also gave her a new justification for her long shot effort to win back a nomination that was once considered a lock for her.

"Despite her victory, Clinton's chances of catching Obama among pledged delegates have disappeared.  Unless Obama's caught giving all of his campaign cash to Tony Rezko, she's not going to win future contests by a big enough margin to tie him.  She narrowed Obama's lead among the popular vote, but not by much.  But she won something more important:  a new story to tell the superdelegates who are still trying to decide which candidate to back.  ...

"The only way candidate--Clinton can actually reverse the tide is if she can convince those superdelegates that the Pennsylvania victory proved Barack Obama is fundamentally flawed.  That is more than an academic exercise.  She needs to equip them with a set of arguments so strong that they can weather the violent uproar that will erupt in the base if superdelegates put her over the top."

Has she made more progress in convincing the superdelegates since Pennsylvania?

MR. JOHN DICKERSON:  Well, actually, no.  She's gotten three, I think, superdelegates since Pennsylvania, Obama's gotten four.  And he's got more in his pocket a little bit because, even though she did well in Pennsylvania, she's still got a steep climb of the remaining undecided superdelegates. She's got to win about 60 percent--that's a big number--and she's got to reverse this momentum.  You know, Howard Dean says, "Well, it's nearly a tie." There are a lot of people in the party who don't believe it's a tie.  They believe that Obama has this, that he's gotten this lead among elected delegates, and that if she were to overthrow that, as Jim Clyburn said, it would cause irrevocable damage in the party among these key constituencies--new voters, African-Americans--and that this would be a huge blowup.

MR. RUSSERT:  But, Andrea Mitchell, if Senator Clinton won Indiana and pulled an upset in North Carolina, then what happens?

MS. ANDREA MITCHELL:  Then she plows ahead, and I think that people are taking a harder look--as people within the party--are taking a harder look at Barack Obama.  He seems flat on the stump.  They want more meat in his speech, and they are asking questions.  Is he really seriously damaged by Jeremiah Wright, by Newsweek's poll showing a rise in people who think he's elitist, fair or not.  Probably unfair, but there is a perception of arrogance, of elitism.  That would be the argument.

The one scenario in, in which I think that this could all change is if she loses Indiana.  I think you sense that in what she said in the last couple of days.  She was, "Oh, well, I won't answer hypotheticals." She's not "I'm in it to win it" any longer.  If she loses Indiana, I think in a day or two she would be out of this.

MR. RUSSERT:  Here's the cover of Newsweek.  The "Obama's Bubba gap." And there is arugula vs. a pint of beer?  (Unintelligible)...of beer?  Gwen Ifill?

MS. GWEN IFILL:  What you don't know, Tim.  You have no idea what that is.

MR. RUSSERT:  Toss it back, Gwen.

MS. IFILL:  Well, I think that Andrea's right, but the, but except to this point, this is all about what the voters are going to do.  If they've shown one thing over and over in this campaign, it's that all of our ifs and what ifs and, and ways of slicing up the electorate, it all comes back down to what they're being told.  One of the most amazing things about Pennsylvania is how much--how little they were being told about the things they care about; how much there was not a debate about the war that happened during the Pennsylvania primary; how much Barack Obama, in trying to chase after voters in places like Scranton and Steelton, where I once lived, I'm telling you, he wasn't going to win in Steelton and only made one big appearance in Philadelphia, where his base was.  His theory, up until now, had been, "Run up my numbers in the places where I'm strong." But he only, Friday night before the election, made--had a big--one big rally in Philadelphia, while the Clintons were running rings around him in the suburbs, where he was supposed to be strong, and he didn't do as well as he was supposed to.  So there's something--it, it seems like that campaign gets thrown off balance when Hillary Clinton sets the table for where they ought to be and what they ought to say.  But what gets lost, as we slice up the electorate into the, you know, the white working class and the black middle class, and who--however else we're slicing it today, is what these people want to hear, what these voters want to hear.  And the Democrats seem, for a--the moment, to have lost the issue debate.

MR. RUSSERT:  Richard Wolffe, when Obama's bubble--bubba gap, arugula vs. beer on your cover of your magazine, what's that all about?

MR. RICHARD WOLFFE:  Well, there's no question that Barack Obama has a deficit when it comes to white working-class voters.  It's more than the issue of whether he's elitist, just as ridiculous as that argument is.  He's the son of a single mother, and he was paying off his law school loans until recently. But it can be used against him by Republicans.  We're already seeing that happening.  And, and what lies at the bottom of this working-class issue for him, in the head-to-head polls, he actually fares better than Hillary Clinton on the issue of who looks down on voters like you.  But, nonetheless, that problem is there.  The question is how many Reagan Democrats are there left? What is the blue collar working-class culture like after three decades of those jobs going overseas?  And what we're seeing here is he does badly with those voters, but he made--more than makes it up among upscale voters, the middle class, which has grown considerably, and among independents who didn't have a chance to vote in Pennsylvania.  He lost a big bloc right there.

MR. RUSSERT:  The debate over debates, David Broder.  This was Hillary Clinton in North Carolina.  She now wants Lincoln-Douglas debates without a moderator, just one-on-one with Obama.  This is what she said in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

(Videotape)

SEN. CLINTON:  The only question I can't answer is why Senator Obama won't debate me in North Carolina.  And, and I'd sure like to give an answer with a date and a time, and I said I'll go anywhere, anytime to have a debate.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  I always enjoy debates over debates, because there's history to these things.  I remember back in 2000, when Hillary Clinton first ran for the U.S. Senate, and this is what we found.  "Mark McMahon, a 39-year-old orthopedic surgeon, managed to force [Hillary] Clinton into a [Senate] primary by collecting" "40,000" signatures from "Democrats." She wanted the debate her.  She's "greeted like a celebrity at most stops." "`We're focused on the real debate in this race'" between--"`one between Mrs. Clinton and'" the "`[Republican] Mr. Lazio,'" said Howard Wolfson.  He was doing it back then as well.  And then in 2006, "During the [2006 Senate] Democratic primary season, Mrs. Clinton refused to debate her antiwar challenger, Jonathan Tasini, all but ignoring his candidacy and sidestepping his attacks on her vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq." Politicians pick and choose when they debate, David.

MR. BRODER:  Of course.  And there's--perfectly natural that they would. But, at this moment, I think Mrs. Clinton is probably representing the views of most of the Democratic voters because, just as Gwen said, those folks are still looking for answers about the questions that really affect their lives, and they're not getting that.  They didn't get it in that last debate in Pennsylvania, and they would like to get it now.  So I think she's on a very strong, popular picket--wicket with this appeal for a new debate.

MR. RUSSERT:  Andrea Mitchell, Barack Obama saying we've had 21 debates, no more before Indiana and North Carolina.

MS. MITCHELL:  Well, he's the front-runner, she's the challenger, so she needs the debate more than he does.  He certainly didn't do very well in the Pennsylvania debate.  I think that this tone of hers also helps her with this gritty fighting spirit that has to--has had some resonance with voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas.  She's hitting her stride.  You don't hear the shrill sound from Hillary Clinton any longer.  And people are saying that she's in her zone, she seems comfortable, she is very, very calm about what is going to happen.  She knows she's behind, and that it is really a long shot. Her problem is, as she tries to appeal to superdelegates and tell them that she is more electable, that every time she seems to be making progress, Bill Clinton steps in it, as he did in Philadelphia with the NPR interview, and with the interview with our own NBC reporter, National Journal reporter with the finger-wagging moment.  And he doesn't seem to understand the viral nature of these things, how they are propelled, that he can't just be out in some small town, and it won't be resonating with Jim Clyburn in South Carolina.  So she's saying she's more electable, but she is at risk--has lost this huge constituency of people who were on the fence--Jim Clyburn, who had not declared--and that is possibly a fatal blow to her.

MR. RUSSERT:  Gwen, how does Barack Obama handle this for--before the primary a week from Tuesday, saying, "I don't want to debate, I want to talk directly to the people about issues"?

MS. IFILL:  He does what she would do, which is to completely ignore her. There is--the--when you look at it from his point of view, especially given how well he does not necessarily do in debates, there's no incentive to do it. The only reason to do it is if, if there's something to gain and not more than that to lose, and I, I don't quite see how the formula adds up for him wanting to do it.

Do you?

MR. DICKERSON:  No, not at all.  And what they want to do is they want to get pictures of him with regular people, real people.  I mean, this problem with, with downscale voters exists.  They want to try and fix it.  So he's talking about things like gas prices, things that affect them in their daily lives, and talking about how his reform message affects them in their daily lives. So they don't want to be on the stage.  He didn't do well in the last debate. He hasn't done well in the debates, and all the exit polls, the people who base their decision on watching the debates always go for Clinton.  He doesn't want to be on that, that stage.  He wants to be seen with regular people, and so they're not--they're going to, as you say, ignore it.

MR. RUSSERT:  Richard, do they think they pay a political price by not debating?

MR. WOLFFE:  Minimal.  They want to--actually, you know, they think they pay more of a price by getting into the fray.  They don't think that the fray is a good place for him to be, and that's a realization that has come out of Pennsylvania.  He doesn't do attack politics as well as she does.  So they'll put that into the hands of surrogates, and, as for the sort of ambush type approach of a debate, which is how they felt, rightly or wrongly, the ABC debate was, they're going to avoid it.  And, look, anytime you hear a candidate talk about Lincoln-Douglas debates, you know they're running some way behind.  Mike Huckabee was the last guy to do that.

MR. BRODER:  But I do--I, I disagree a bit with my colleagues because I think he does pay a price.  Because the real constituency now that they're fighting over are the superdelegates.  And by her showing that he is unwilling to face her, he reminds them that in, if he's their nominee, he will have to face John McCain, who's manager, Rick Davis, has said publicly, "We want more debates." So I think this is an issue that he cannot just look at in terms of this primary.  He's got to figure out what's the effect on the superdelegates.

MR. RUSSERT:  The Pew Center has done some research about the campaign, and Democratic views have changed.  This is what they found:  "Democratic views of the tone of the campaign have changed substantially since February. Currently, half of Democrats (50%) say the campaign's been too negative," more than what was being said in February, (19%).  ...

"Two-thirds of the public, 65 percent, ...[and] even Democrats, ...  a 57% majority, see the campaign as too long."

Is this a problem, John?

MR. DICKERSON:  It is a problem for a couple of reasons.  Also, in exit polls in Pennsylvania, you saw that voters saw Obama and Clinton both as being more negative, so they're each getting hurt.  And John McCain's getting his act together.  This doesn't necessarily mean he's winning over voters, but he's getting his policy staff, he's making all kinds of mistakes kind of under the cover here while this campaign--he's made quite a lot of mistakes talking about the economy, but it doesn't get covered.  And meanwhile we have this delay in the Democrat--Democrats, who, who basically have a very good hand going into the general election, are starting now to feel unhappy, something they never thought that they would face.  And when they finally get to a Democratic nominee, then that nominee will have to go through all of the getting their legs under them process that happens once you go from being a primary person to, to being the party's nominee.

MR. RUSSERT:  Alex Castellanos, the Republican strategist, was on TV the other night and said this:  "Clinton's running the ads Republicans would love to be running so--now, so we don't have to because Hillary Clinton is doing it.  Yes, it could--would be hard for a Republican to run an ad with Osama bin Laden in it.  Not so much now because Hillary has already done it against Obama.

"It would be difficult for a Republican to run an ad questioning does Barack Obama have the strength of character to lead the country.  Well, not so much now because Hillary has already done it."

Is that a Republican sort of protecting his flank, getting ready for a rollout, or has Hillary Clinton's attacks on Obama paved the way for McCain if Obama becomes the nominee?

MS. MITCHELL:  She's written the playbook for John McCain.  They've done all the opposition research.  I think that Obama has also had some self-inflicted wounds, notably in San Francisco, the bitter comment, which just didn't play right, and I--you know, obviously I don't think he's handled Jeremiah Wright, we can talk about that.  I don't think he anticipated the impact of that and the way it would be perceived out of context or in context.  But Hillary Clinton has laid out a road map for the Republicans, and that is one of the Obama arguments.  The Obama supporters are arguing that she is destroying him, even if he is the nominee, and he is the presumptive nominee and the front-runner, certainly.

MR. RUSSERT:  Jeremiah Wright had--former pastor for Barack Obama, has re-emerged.  He's speaking to the NAACP in Detroit today, at the National Press Club tomorrow.  He was on with Bill Moyers on PBS on Thursday, and let's watch a piece of that exchange.

(Videotape)

MR. BILL MOYERS:  Barack Obama was a skeptic when it came to religion.  He sought you out because he knew you knew about the community.  You led him to the faith.  You baptized him, you performed his wedding ceremony, you baptized his two children.  You were, for 20 years, his spiritual counselor.  He has said that.  And yet he, in that speech at Philadelphia, had to say some hard things about you.  How did it go down with you when you heard Barack Obama say those things?

REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT:  It, it went down very simply.  He's a politician; I'm a pastor.  We speak to two different audiences.  And he says what he has to say as a politician.  I say what I have to say as a pastor.  Those are two different worlds.  I do what I do; he does what politicians do.  So that--what happened in Philadelphia, where he had to respond to the sound bites, he responded as a politician.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Gwen Ifill, a pastor's daughter that covers politics.

MS. IFILL:  That pastor's daughter thing is going to haunt me forever.  You know what?  I listened to that and I thought, "Exactly." Since when is Barack Obama not a politician?  This idea that he is--sure, he has, he has created himself as this "I'm above it all, I'm going to change Washington" kind of guy, but I never was confused about whether he was a politician.  I don't think most voters were confused about whether he's a politician.  And what Jeremiah Wright is trying to do now is trying to make the distinction between what they do.  If you watched the whole half-hour with Moyers, it was actually very fascinating.  Jeremiah Wright, you know, set out to prove that he was not a crazy man, and he did a good job.  He was quoting Latin, he was doing what he does--what he actually does as opposed to what we've seen.  So that's fine. The failure, however, still becomes, you know, that the Obama people are not happy to see Jeremiah Wright back out there because it gives us a chance to run all the old clips again, at the very least.

It also obscures a, a more fundamental problem which is coming up in this campaign, we are all looking for ways, in our way, to talk about race in the campaign.  But what the, the numbers have shown us, the exit polls have shown us in the last week is that what we don't want to talk about is racism, which is, I think, a, a, a real issue.  The people who said they--that race mattered to them, a lot of them voted for Hillary Clinton.  I'm not calling the voters racists, but I think, at some point, we have to get back to a word that we're very scared of using in our society, which is the reason why people vote against someone because of their race is not a positive reason, it's a negative, and racism is a negative quality.  We have to find some way to embrace talking about that in our coverage, and we're kind of nervous about that.

MR. RUSSERT:  You wrote about this this week.

MR. WOLFFE:  We wrote about this, and we polled about it extensively.  And one of the remarkable things we've seen over the course of the last year is when we asked the catchall question, "Is America ready for an African-American president?" a year ago it stood in the 50s, about 54 percent; today in the 70s.  This country, as it's watched this election move forward, is taking a different view.  Now, that's not saying the people who, who say that America isn't ready for an African-American politician are saying they are racist, they may just suspect it.  One of the things we saw in 2000 was the group that was most skeptical about Joe Lieberman as a Jewish vice president were actually Jewish voters.  So there is something of a recalibration of people's attitudes going on as this campaign has gone forward.  We shouldn't lose sight of how positive that is.

MR. RUSSERT:  David, we had in the debate--and Andrea--Hillary Clinton jumping on Barack Obama about William Ayers, the Weatherman, is one of the questions, and Jeremiah Wright.  John McCain has now picked up on the William Ayers situation.  Tom Hayden, the former radical from the '60s, has now written a piece which is basically saying, "Time out." And he writes this, "Hillary is blind to her own roots in the sixties.  ...  She was in Chicago for three nights during the 1968 street confrontations.  ...  She was involved in the New Haven defense of Bobby Seale during his murder trial in 1970, as the lead scheduler of student monitors.

"Most significantly in terms of her recent attacks on Barack, after Yale law school, Hillary went to work for the left-wing Bay Area law firm of Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein, which specialized in Black Panthers and West Coast labor leaders prosecuted for being communists.  Two of the firm's partners, according to Treuhaft, were communists and two others `tolerated communists.'

"All these were honorable words and associations in my mind, but doesn't she see how the Hillary of today would accuse the Hillary of the sixties of associating with black revolutionaries who fought gun battles with police officers, and defending pro-communist lawyers who backed communists?  Doesn't the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whom Hillary attacks today, represent the very essence of the black radicals Hillary was associating with in those days?"

Are we going to have a debate in November about past associations and pastors, or we going to have a debate about the war, health care and economy?

MR. BRODER:  One of the real assets that Obama has had has been the fact that he is part of the post-boomer generation, the first presidential candidate who really is not culturally or intellectually tied to those disputes of the '60s. The Ayers issue, for the first time, tried to put him back into that category. I think it's weak enough of a link that he can get past this one.  But he's really had a tough time now in the last two weeks separating himself from all of those controversies that people are really weary of hearing about.

MR. RUSSERT:  Has Hillary Clinton successfully put a question mark over Barack Obama's head, "Who is this guy"?

MS. MITCHELL:  She has and he has in some of his statements.  And I do think--let me just say something from being on the ground in Pennsylvania and in Ohio--I think racism is a real factor here.  I don't think it's being polled correctly because I don't think it can be polled correctly.  I think it is what you see in some of his failure to connect with a particular sector of the electorate.  And I'm not sure how you get your arms around it, but I think it is a real issue that there is a resistance to him on some level in the electorate, and you hear these things from voters when you talk to them.  "Oh, I heard that he's not really a Christian." "Oh, well, he didn't, you know, put his hand over his heart." All this willingness to believe totally erroneous things about Barack Obama, which begins to congeal, and I think it's a problem.

MR. RUSSERT:  John, how's this going to end?

MR. DICKERSON:  Oh goodness.  I--how's it going to end?  Probably sometime in June you know, unless Andrea's right and, and Obama wins big in Indiana.  And, and, you know, he's getting the drip, drip, drip of, of superdelegates, you know, which is, which is one thing we're all paying close attention to.  And about the last four months the deficit with Hillary Clinton has gone from 100 down to about 23.  He's got the momentum with this group if they continue to pick up that pace.  If, in the beginning of June, barring some extraordinary event in these primaries, they all get together and jump for Obama then it ends in early June rather than at the end.  But, as David points out, it ends only as far as sort of our chatter about it.  Nothing officially ends until August, and so there's lots of chance for mischief between when it ends in June and when they get to the convention in August.

MS. IFILL:  (Unintelligible).

MR. RUSSERT:  Gwen Ifill, based on your reporting and aware of the history of '68 and '72 and '80 when Democrats are divided, do you believe that this party can come--actually come together after this debate?

MS. IFILL:  Sure, why not?  I mean, I mean, the country has--I mean, we come together after things all the time.  This country right now seems to be riven by grievance, whether it's the grievance of people in New York who thinks Sean Bell's killer should have been, you know, convicted, or if it's a grievance of, you know, beer drinkers in Pennsylvania who don't think that Barack Obama listens to them.  Right now everyone's going to have a nice healthy argument about that.  That's fine.  But there's no reason--there's a lot of time between now and the fall, and, as John pointed out, John McCain is doing a lot of interesting things which will bear closer scrutiny when the time comes. And, you know, it's fun for us.  It's the full employment for act for journalists.

MR. RUSSERT:  Richard Wolffe.

MR. WOLFFE:  Well, I thought Howard Dean was very interesting on this.  He campaigned vigorously for John Kerry, and his supporters hated John Kerry.  Is Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama going to, going to go out there and campaign vigorously for the other candidate, the ultimate nominee?  Is one of them going to raise their hand on the stage at the convention?  You know, we're going to be looking for those things and, and testing just how strong that commitment is.

MR. RUSSERT:  Neither has any choice.  Why?  There's 2012.  That's my last word, all right?  David Broder, Andrea, Mitchell, John Dickerson, Gwen Ifill, Richard Wolffe.  We'll be right back.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  That's all for today.  We'll be back next week.  If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.

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