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updated 6/8/2008 11:52:49 AM ET 2008-06-08T15:52:49

MR. TIM RUSSERT:  Our issues this Sunday:  It is over, as Barack Obama proclaims victory.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL):  I will be the Democratic nominee for the president of the United States of America.

MR. RUSSERT:  And Hillary Clinton finally concedes.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY):  Today, as I suspend my campaign, I congratulate him on the victory he has won.

MR. RUSSERT:  How did this freshman U.S. senator from Illinois beat the former first lady and the former president?  Will she, should she be picked as the vice presidential running mate?  And what will the Obama vs. McCain campaign be like?  Insights and analysis from the NBC News political team: Ron Allen, NBC News correspondent covering the Clinton campaign; Lee Cowan, NBC News correspondent covering the Obama campaign; David Gregory, NBC News White House correspondent and host of MSNBC's "Race for the White House"; Andrea Mitchell, who covers all things politics for NBC News and MSNBC; Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News correspondent covering the McCain campaign; and Chuck Todd, political director for NBC News.

And in our "Meet the Press Minute," 40 years ago this week, after winning the California primary, Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles.  On March 17th, 1968, the day after he announced his candidacy, he appeared on MEET THE PRESS and talked about his campaign.

But first, we have an official presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States, Barack Obama.  And we are joined by the NBC News political dream team.

Welcome all, together at last.

MS. KELLY O'DONNELL:  Nice to be home.

MR. RUSSERT:  From all across the country right at this table, here we are.

MS. O'DONNELL:  This is the first time...(unintelligible).

MR. RUSSERT:  Let's start.  Here was Hillary Clinton yesterday at the National Building Museum in Washington.

(Videotape)

SEN. CLINTON:  Life is too short, time is too precious and the stakes are too high to dwell on what might have been.  We have to work together for what still can be, and that is why I will work my heart out to make sure that Senator Obama is our next president.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  David Gregory, did she do what she had to do?

MR. DAVID GREGORY:  I think so.  I think it was a gracious speech.  She conceded, she said that she's prepared to lock arms with Barack Obama.  "Yes, we can," she told her supporters, parroting his campaign theme.  It was a time when she definitively said, "This is over.  I congratulate him.  He's done something historic.  We've done something historic as well, but it's time to give the ground." The question that she's faced all week compared to how she ended the campaign earlier in the week on Tuesday was whether a graceful exit was still possible.  She hit all the right notes yesterday after meeting with Barack Obama this week, so now we'll see.

MR. RUSSERT:  Andrea Mitchell, on Tuesday the tone was much different, including the introduction of Senator Clinton.  Let's watch.

(Videotape)

MR. TERRY McAULIFFE:  Are you ready for the next president of the United States of America?

SEN. CLINTON:  This has been a long campaign, and I will be making no decisions tonight.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  What happened between Tuesday and Saturday?

MS. ANDREA MITCHELL:  Charlie Rangel.  Pressure from her own biggest supporters.  It was Charlie Rangel who first catapulted her into contention for the Senate.

MR. RUSSERT:  The Democratic congressman from Harlem.

MS. MITCHELL:  The Democratic congressman from Harlem, her biggest supporter, who said, "How can we, as members, deal with this?  He is the nominee, you have to accept it." And there was such anger among some of her supporters. They didn't understand her mindset, which was, "I just won South Dakota.  I have all of these votes.  I have to thank my supporters.  I have to pull them along with me." She thought she had time, that she could take a week or longer.  She had no intention of giving the speech Saturday until her own Democrats came to her and said, "Enough already.  We can't live with this, we have to get off the fence." There was a lot of pressure, and she finally did come to it.  And it is a question as to whether people will remember the lack of grace on Tuesday--her own supporters said people don't understand her emotional connection and that she needed time--or the speech on Saturday, which I think was a perfect coming together of everything she needed to do.

MR. RUSSERT:  Ron Allen, what was going on inside that Clinton campaign on Tuesday night and then what we saw on Saturday?

MR. RON ALLEN:  I think a lot of emotion.  I think it did take some time to get from Tuesday to yesterday.  It was a very--I think it was a very painful thing for Senator Clinton to do.  I think it was a very difficult thing for her to do to give this speech.  And I know that in the room yesterday, for her supporters, we looked them in the eye, you could see that they really never believed that they were going to be at this moment.  They really--and I think Senator Clinton also, in her heart, she still believes that she should be the nominee.  And I think she really believes that she is the stronger candidate and, and, ultimately, she still wants to be president of the United States.

MR. RUSSERT:  Lee Cowan, the Obama campaign.  I read that Senator Obama watched the address live on the Internet.  What was the response from the Obama campaign watching Senator Clinton yesterday?

MR. LEE COWAN:  I think it was, "Finally.  She actually said it." I think on Tuesday night there was a sense that she had stolen the spotlight a little bit when she came out and didn't concede.  I think a lot of people could sense that he was a bit taken aback by that.  It's one thing to be able to come out and claim victory, but it's another thing to have your rival actually recognize that you've, you've taken victory.  I think he'd much rather have had that on Tuesday as opposed to having it Saturday night.  So I think he wanted to step back, he wanted to let her have the spotlight, but I think he thought, "Finally now, we can move on and start focusing on John McCain instead."

MR. RUSSERT:  Kelly, John McCain has spent the week reaching out to Senator Clinton, praising her, condemning the media for the way they treated her, trying to embrace some of the constituencies that are important to Senator Clinton--women, blue collar workers, Hispanics.  What did the McCain campaign watch and how did they react yesterday as opposed to Tuesday?

MS. O'DONNELL:  Well, I think they viewed the span between Tuesday and Saturday as helpful to them.  If there was still a sense among Hillary Clinton's supporters that they had somehow been wronged or disappointed, that's an opportunity for John McCain to embrace Hillary Clinton as he did. Now, throughout the campaign, we saw him much less contentious when it ever came to Hillary Clinton.  He would always save his fire for Obama.  So he's been preparing for this because they knew all along her voters could potentially be their voters.  So it was certainly a warm embrace over and over in these last several days.  And so the delay for her to finally concede, they saw as an opportunity.

MR. RUSSERT:  Chuck, when we look at some of the comments made, I thought this one from Geoff Garin who became the top strategist for the Clinton campaign, and I'll share it with you and our viewers.  "Asked why the campaign could never crack the superdelegates, who had started out predisposed towards her candidacy, Geoff Garin, one of the top strategists" for Senator Clinton "said, `I think it's a mystery and an irony, and an irony in the sense that Hillary was seen as inevitable when it didn't matter and Obama was seen as inevitable when it did.'"

The Clinton campaign always believed that those superdelegates would come around to them in the end.  But when Obama had a lead amongst elected delegates, those supers were not disposed to "overturn" that decision.

MR. CHUCK TODD:  You know, the biggest myth of this campaign was that somehow the Clintons controlled the apparatus.  They didn't.  And, and, you know, I look back and I think that the, the two moments before the campaign even started were clues as to how difficult this was going to be for them.  One was the election of Howard Dean as DNC chair, and the other was Democrats winning control of Congress in 2006 and the ascension of Nancy Pelosi as one of the leaders.  Here they had two of the sort of three cogs of the Democratic leadership, in Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean, who were waiting for there to be a crack in this inevitability armor of, of the Clintons.  And once there was, it's as if they were just waiting.  And it wouldn't have mattered if it was Barack Obama, Mark Warner, had he run, or John Edwards.  Whoever ended up filling the vacuum of the anti-Clinton, they were going to rush to them.  And I think that that's something the Clinton campaign never appreciated.  I think they thought that it was sheer will they would get those superdelegates with them.  They would get whatever rulings they needed, whatever primary calendar they wanted.  But every step of the way, nothing went their way on process in the inside, and I think that shocks a lot of us today that they lost the inside game.  It's one thing to lose the outside game, votes and all that stuff, but they lost the inside game.

MR. RUSSERT:  David, it's amazing when you look back at this, in December of last year, right before the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton was ahead in the polls 2-to-1, ahead in money 2-to-1, had all the structure, all the inevitability going for her, and this--and as he describes himself, this "skinny black kid with big ears from the south side of Chicago" has beaten Bill and Hillary Clinton.  It's an extraordinary, historic story, the first African-American nominee of a major political party.

MR. GREGORY:  It is, it is stunning.  It's stunning both from a historical point of view and a political point of view from where he came in this race. And his own sense of stick-to-itiveness in this campaign before Iowa when he kept trailing and he was under a great deal of pressure to play a different sort of game and to go after her more directly and start frontally assaulting her politically.  And, and he held off from doing it, and he took a lot of flack from that in the press and even from his own advisers, but he stuck to a particular game plan.  And then he was so successful in Iowa and this enthusiasm continued to build.  And I'd say about these superdelegates, as well, I think it's striking.  I think there was a tipping point at some point, and we'll look back and say this race was over a long time ago because the superdelegates reached a point where they said, "We are not going to overturn the will of the voters and somehow deny the first African-American candidate for the presidency at this level the nomination based on another argument that's a subjective argument about whether he's fit, actually, to beat the Republican.  That was, that was a striking turnaround.  And I don't think there are a lot of profiles in courage, by the way, among these superdelegates.  I mean, Congressman Lewis from Georgia did switch and, and went with Obama.  Other than that, this was a real mass that was waiting for some, some real direction.

MR. RUSSERT:  Lee Cowan, Senator Obama met with his staff in Chicago at the end of the week and, through a closed door, you could hear him say that "if we had lost Iowa, it would have been over." That caucus in Iowa, January 3rd, when he won and Hillary Clinton came in third, really did catapult his candidacy.

MR. COWAN:  Oh it did, and it was, it was a, it was a, I think, a testament to their organization on how they were able to get out; and then also a testament, I think, to their plan past Iowa, what they were going to do--not only what worked there, they think is going to work well in some other states and it ended up doing.  They didn't change their campaign a whole lot after Iowa.  I mean, they kept to the same strategy of working on those caucus states, getting those, those, those supporters and volunteers out to these states en masse.  The organization of this campaign, I think, is something that's going to go down in history.  I think people haven't seen anything, anything like this for quite some time.

MR. RUSSERT:  To that point, Ron Allen, Hillary Clinton said, "This will be all over on February 5th."

MR. ALLEN:  Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT:  The race would be over.  And if you look at the calendar now between February 5 and February 19th, Barack Obama won 11 primaries, caucuses in a row, netted a gain of 120 elected delegates, which is almost exactly the margin he won amongst elected delegates.

MR. ALLEN:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  Does the Clinton campaign now acknowledge that they blew it in terms of organization and allocation of resources?

MR. ALLEN:  I think that one big thing they did wrong was to underestimate their opponent.  And that's something you should never do in politics, and they, they did.  And, as Lee pointed out in Iowa, I think that the most important thing about that was that Barack Obama won.  And I think up to that point the question was, can he win in places like Iowa?  Can he, can he actually--will the country embrace this candidacy, this person of color?  And I think by winning there, he really just--the floodgates opened and particularly a lot of people in the African-American community I think, at that point, really came around and said, "OK, this actually just might happen, so let's get on board." And then on to South Carolina and onward and that--just a crescendo of things.  And I think, at that point, the Clintons were somewhat overwhelmed.  You know, they, they were taken aback by this. They never thought that that was going to happen.

You remember at, at the start of this, Senator Clinton was even leading in the polls amongst some African-American voters, and, and that completely flipped around.  And not to say that that was the only thing that put Obama over the top, but again, I think just the notion that he could win, once that was established, the superdelegates, everyone else, it just took off from there.

MR. RUSSERT:  James Carville, who ran Bill Clinton's campaign in 1992, said in December, "Obama is an extraordinary talent, a stallion.  And right now he's in the stable.  If he breaks out of that stable in Iowa, it could be all over."

MS. MITCHELL:  And, in fact, when we were focused on her comeback in New Hampshire, the real story was that, behind the scenes, they were coming up with this plan for Super Tuesday that the Clintons didn't have.  The Clintons were focused on the big states.  They thought--they kept, till the last minute, still say, "Well, the big states we can win." But the point was that he was getting as many delegates--he got more delegates out of Idaho as she got out of New Jersey.

MR. ALLEN:  Mm-hmm.

MS. MITCHELL:  And so they had figured out how to gain the congressional districts, which ones would produce an odd number so that they could pick up an extra delegate.  They had this mathematical formula down.  It was field work.  And now when they say, "Well, they'll merge some of the field operations," they'll pick off one or two, they already have made contact with a couple in Ohio, a top operative, for instance, from the Clinton, from the Strickland team, governor of Ohio.  But the field operation that Barack Obama put out there was so far better than anything that the Clintons had.

MR. ALLEN:  I think they, they really were the machine, and I think the, the campaigns almost changed roles.  And I think that's something that, that we perhaps don't focus on--enough on about Obama's campaign, the nuts and bolts of it, the politics of it...

MS. MITCHELL:  Exactly.

MR. ALLEN:  ...the, the groundwork of it.  We talk about the speeches and the phenomenon and all that.

MR. RUSSERT:  In a 2008 campaign, I was watching a rally in South Carolina with--everybody had given their e-mail and their cell phone number as they walked in.

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT:  Once they're there, the emcee said, "All right, hold up your cell phones and send messages now to five people.  Text five people....

MS. MITCHELL:  And it captured it.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...that you think should be part of this organization."

MS. MITCHELL:  And that becomes their e-mail fundraising base.

MR. COWAN:  And that was part of it, I think, is this, this campaign is--these are 20 and 30-somethings that were driving his campaign.  Very smart 20 or 30-somethings, but...

MS. MITCHELL:  Interesting that he watched her on the Internet.

MR. TODD:  Exactly.

MR. COWAN:  Yep.

MS. MITCHELL:  That told you so much, because Hillary Clinton...

MR. RUSSERT:  He was at the golf course, Andrea.

MS. MITCHELL:  But that's the point.  First of all, he was...

MR. COWAN:  But--that's right.

MS. MITCHELL:  He--she would not have had that sense of watching it on the Internet.

MR. RUSSERT:  Exactly.

MR. TODD:  It's one eye...

MS. MITCHELL:  It's a different generation.

MR. RUSSERT:  Exactly.

MR. TODD:  This is one eye toward the general election.  When the McCain campaign delivered the letter with the town hall challenge from Senator McCain, from campaign manager Rick David to the Obama campaign, Bill Burton, their spokesman, said, "Why didn't you e-mail it?  You didn't have to--you didn't have to hand deliver it."

MR. RUSSERT:  There's nothing wrong with snail mail.

MR. TODD:  No, but it is that generational divide.

MR. RUSSERT:  Don't forget, don't forget, don't forget...

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...Hillary Clinton announced on the Internet.

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

MS. O'DONNELL:  Yes.

MR. RUSSERT:  "Let's chat.  Let's have a conversation." The--I tell you, the intensity of this campaign, even Upper Deck baseball cards is involved in this campaign.  Here's how they captured yesterday.  There's Hillary Clinton embracing Barack Obama.  Looks a lot like Jason Varitek of the Boston Red Sox, we won't go there.

MS. MITCHELL:  Yeah.

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah, exactly.

MR. RUSSERT:  But how the world has changed.  Remember back in March, Hillary Clinton was talking about perhaps she might be willing to take Barack Obama on her ticket.  Let's watch.

(Videotape)

SEN. CLINTON:  This is a moment of historic celebration for America, but you got to make a choice.  A lot of people wish they didn't have to.  I've had people say, "I wish I could vote for both of you." Well, that might be possible some day.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  David Broder, now that the roles have reversed, wrote this the other day in The Washington Post.  "Obama still has great gifts and substantial assets.  So the first imperative at this point is to stop retreating and regain the initiative--starting with a clear assertion of his absolute right to choose his own running mate and not be pressured into a decision by the Clintons or their friends.

"As it was for Ronald Reagan at the Republican National Convention in 1980, who had the wisdom to reject the plot to install former President Jerry Ford as his vice presidential nominee, this is the big-time decision that could define a leader and lead to a victory."

The Associated Press has put out a story with pros and cons, and we've taken the liberty of interweaving some comments the campaigns made during the course of this.  Here's the first pro.  Hillary Clinton:  "She helps with white, working class voters." And remember the comment where she said Senator Obama was elitist because he said "bitter, small-town people, gripping to their guns and to their religion." John McCain would do this:  "McCain envisions a November victory built in part around attracting large numbers of the millions of voters who turned away from Senator Barack Obama's promise of change during the primary campaign.  Buoyed by polls showing a quarter or more of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters planning to back McCain, his advisers have already started wooing the white working class voters and women who made up the bedrock of her coalition.  They plan to echo and expand Clinton's critiques of Obama:  that he's out of touch with middle America, and too unseasoned to be president." Now the con, of course, is this.  "She undermines your core message." Remember this radio ad back in January from the Obama campaign?  Let's watch.

(Videotape)

NARRATOR:  (From campaign radio ad) Hillary Clinton, she'll say anything, and change nothing.  It's time to turn the page.  Paid for by Obama for America.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Lee Cowan, how does the Obama campaign overcome the core message, "It's time to turn the page on the Clintons and the Bushes." For the last seven presidential elections, a Bush or a Clinton has been on the national ballot.  How do they do that and select Hillary Clinton as VP?

MR. COWAN:  I don't, I don't think they can.  I think that they see a role for the Clintons, obviously, for both of them.  But I think they see them much more effectively being used out in the field, having Hillary Clinton go out there and talk about health care.  Have Bill Clinton help out a lot with those middle class white voters.  I think that's the role that, that they see the Clintons playing, not something that they want to share the ticket with, necessarily.

MR. RUSSERT:  How about this?  Associated Press says this in terms of a pro. "She has enough experience and political heft," as demonstrated by this ad. Remember this one.

(Videotape)

NARRATOR:  (From Clinton political ad) It's 3 AM, and your children are safe and asleep.  But there's a phone in the White House, and it's ringing.  Who do you want answering the phone?

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  The con, according to AP, however, is "You two don't seem to like each other very much." Remember this from January.

(Videotape)

SEN. CLINTON:  I don't think I'm that bad.

SEN. OBAMA:  You're likable enough, Hillary, no doubt about it.

SEN. CLINTON:  You know--thank you so much, Barack.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Ron Allen.

MR. ALLEN:  I had a thought.  Remember the meeting at Dianne Feinstein's house the other day?

MR. RUSSERT:  Friday night.

MR. ALLEN:  Secret meeting.  The, the story went Barack said, "Oh, we're leaving," and they were laughing and all that.  But some--we really don't know what happened.  It might have been that she was "throwing the kitchen sink at me," then "The buffet's coming." Remember that line?  That could have been transposed onto that particular event.  And who knows what went on that--and that's one of the biggest mysteries in my mind, is what is their personal relationship?  Do, do they get along?  And the other way I look at it, it's sort of like, you know, in our own world if, if you were looking for a promotion to a job, and some guy who's 15 years younger than you came along, who you'd mentored, and, and got the job and everybody rallied around him, how would you feel?

MR. GREGORY:  But they didn't mentor him.

MR. ALLEN:  And if, if that's...

MR. GREGORY:  They didn't, they didn't mentor him at any point, they just had to deal with him bursting out on the scene.

I think for Barack Obama, look, this is his party now.  The Clintons are always going to have to be managed--right?--because they are formidable couple, including a former president and now a nominee who, who, who had a very successful campaign.  So this is a difficult choice for Barack Obama. What is his political brand, and how is he going to deal with this force within the party?  This will be an exercise in great judgment for him.  And yes, he's beaten her, and that's significant, but it's not over yet.  Because the way he handles this selection or, or lack of selection of her will be seen as very, very important.  He has to get them to fall into line, to work towards his ends.  Now, if that's best served being inside the administration, that's one route.  If it's having her in the Senate and championing health care, that's another route.  But they are going to have to be managed, and Barack Obama's got to walk a very difficult path here to get them under his wing now, which might be difficult for them.

MS. MITCHELL:  In fact, I think that the meeting--the reason for the meeting was partly to tamp down all of that speculation and to clear the brush so that she could have her moment yesterday and be surrounded by her supporters and embrace him.  And...

MR. RUSSERT:  But it was Senator Clinton, Andrea, with the New York congressional delegation on Tuesday who said she'd be open to the vice presidency.

MS. MITCHELL:  And, in fact, she is open to the vice presidency.  She wants it.  She clearly wants it.  And what the choreography of the meeting at Dianne Feinstein's was to say, "This is going to be my decision." Now, you can look at the, the clues.  He chooses Jim Johnson to head the team doing the vetting, not a fan of Hillary Clinton.  I mean, there are all sorts of other kind of inside games going on there.  But if it comes down to he has to make a decision and sees where the numbers are, I could imagine a scenario where he would choose her, and yesterday's speech was an audition.  And look at the crowd and look at the composition of that crowd.  And by coincidence, actually, not by planning, it was held right at the end of the Race for the Cure, that you had thousands of women who had just been running and walking to try to raise money to cure breast cancer, and a lot of the people in that crowd were wearing the T-shirts and the hats.  It was a ready-made crowd just four blocks away.

MR. RUSSERT:  Chuck, isn't, isn't this the bottom line?  In August, Barack Obama will look at the electoral college map, look at the polling data, see how he's doing with white women and Hispanics, blue-collar workers, and make a tough, hard-headed, cold-hearted decision as to whether or not he needs to put Hillary Clinton on the ticket?

MR. TODD:  I think that's right.  I mean, it, it is going to come down to the map.  I think what's interesting is I found out yesterday that a top Clinton aide has been reading a lot of Kennedy--a lot of Johnson and Bobby Kennedy biographies to learn what was that rivalry like.  And this person said to me it is very similar, the LBJ/Bobby Kennedy.  He's reading this stuff, and he's sitting there saying, "Wow, there's a lot of similarities here about how both of the principals did everything they could to keep their aides from bad-mouthing the other." Lots of, lots of odd interplay there.  But for this to work, there is another secret meeting that needs to take place, and that's between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.  And I'm told that Bill Clinton is not over this yet.  Hillary Clinton is over this, to a point.  Bill Clinton believes that he was turned into a racist and believes the Obama campaign did it to him, believes that the Obama campaign has tarnished his legacy in the '90s.  That "turn the page" stuff is a way of saying the '90s were a failure, not a success.  The bitterness in Clinton world is in that Harlem office where President Clinton resides.

MS. MITCHELL:  And some people...

MR. RUSSERT:  We're, we're going to...

MS. MITCHELL:  Tim, some people felt that he looked like he had been crying yesterday.

MR. RUSSERT:  Yeah.  Yeah.  I think...

MS. MITCHELL:  Some people close to him.

MR. RUSSERT:  We're going to get to Bill Clinton in just a second, because there's some things he did say and we want to put them into perspective and focus.

But you do raise the issue, Chuck Todd, of what would it be like if Hillary Clinton was the vice president with Bill Clinton as an adviser to her? Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security adviser to, to President Jimmy Carter, was on "Morning Joe" the other day and talked about how he envisioned Hillary Clinton as the vice president.  Let's watch.

(Videotape)

DR. ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI:  If she was vice president, there's at least a high risk that it will be a dysfunctional presidency because in the executive office of the president, across the street from the White House, there would be a government in exile and also a government in waiting.  And that wouldn't create a very good atmosphere.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  "A government in waiting."

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah, you know, and one of the things you said, and I think correctly, was that Obama will make a tactical, hard-headed decision about the landscape of the electoral college by August.  But I also think he's going to think about how he governs and with whom he governs.  Let's bear in mind that the role of the vice president now is so much more powerful.  And he's run a campaign where one of the edicts sent down the line was "no drama." There could be a lot of drama with Hillary Clinton as your VP and the former President Bill Clinton around.  And I think that's something that he may really want to have to deal with.

MR. RUSSERT:  Now, the--another pro, according to the AP for Hillary Clinton, "She puts a battler on your team." She knows how to fight and how to engage, how to attack.  Here's Hillary Clinton here during the primary.

(Videotape, March 6, 2008):

SEN. CLINTON:  I think it's imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander in chief threshold, and I believe that I've done that.  Certainly Senator McCain has done that.  And, and you'll have to ask Senator Obama with respect to his candidacy.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Ouch.  Commander in chief.  AP said the con is "Battlers can overdo it." Here's an example.

(Videotape, January 21, 2008)

SEN. CLINTON:  I was fighting against those ideas when you were practicing law and representing your contributor, Rezko, in his slum landlord business in inner-city Chicago.

SEN. OBAMA:  No, no, no, no, no.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  See how those Democrats love one another, Ron Allen.

MR. ALLEN:  You know, when you hear that stuff, it sounds impossible.  But when you walk into an arena with thousands of people screaming for Hillary Clinton, you, you think it is possible, as a real practical matter.  And I think that she's a much different person at the start of this campaign that, than now.  And there really are people out there who I think are "Hillary Clinton Democrats." And most--the most important thing, of course, for the Democrats is to win.  And, and that's what Barack Obama's, Barack Obama's going to have to look at.  And, you know, 18 million voters, if we can find all 18 million, is 18 million voters.  And there's a lot of emotion, a lot of passion, and they're going to need that to, to get them over the top because it's probably going to be a close election.

MR. COWAN:  And the more involved that she is, I think, doesn't it take away the "I told you so" argument that, you know, if he doesn't end up winning some of the big states, the more involved she is, the less chance there is for her to point fingers and say, "See, I told you that perhaps..."

MS. MITCHELL:  Well, I think whether she's on the ticket or not, you're going to see her out there campaigning as much as he would want her to be, in targeted areas, because she now has to validate the fact that she is not a sore loser.

MR. RUSSERT:  Bill Clinton, as Chuck Todd brought up, here's how the AP handles that.  Pro of putting Hillary on the ticket, you get Bill Clinton. Con, you get Bill Clinton.  And as recently as last week, Bill Clinton was saying that Senator Obama had others "sliming" his wife.  This is some of the compilation of just a few of the things Bill Clinton said during the course of this race.

(Videotape)

FMR. PRES. BILL CLINTON:  (January 7, 2008, Hanover, NH) This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.

(January 26, 2008, Columbia, SC) Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice.

(April 22, 2008, Pittsburgh, PA) You always follow me around and play these little games.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  What happens now, Chuck Todd?  One suggestion yesterday, the Bill Clinton redemption tour where he goes to Appalachia and goes town to town and says, "I know Barack Obama, and he is in a position to help you economically.  You have to overcome some of the cultural, race concerns you have and embrace his candidacy."

MR. TODD:  Well, look, I do think that the Hillary Clinton campaign did find finally a way to use Bill Clinton.  And frankly, Gore and Kerry now must look back and say, "Why did we send him to African-American urban areas?  We should have sent him to these rural areas.  The guy is pretty good at this and, and--when he's in Bubba mode, and when Bubba's talking to Bubba." The problem is, as we found out during this campaign because we can't help ourselves in following the guy around, he's a constant newsmaker of the wrong kind.  So wherever you send him, we're--we in the media are going to gravitate to him. He is a former president, it's not like any other surrogate.  And he is going to not be able to help himself talk about his own legacy in the '90s.  And all of a sudden he'll redo trade deals or redo stances that Obama will have.  And I think that that's the risk that the Obama campaign doesn't want to take. That said, he does need to figure out how to reach out.  There is the, the, the bitterness between President Clinton and, and the Obama campaign.  And so, therefore, Barack Obama is, is, is very, very...(unintelligible).

MR. RUSSERT:  I remember reading those polls, Ron Allen, that you pointed out to in South Carolina where Senator Clinton was ahead amongst African-American voters.  Then came some of the comments that Bill Clinton made.  I went to Cleveland, Ohio, to do the debate with Clinton and Obama, and a big, black security guard came up to me and said, "You see Bill Clinton, you tell him thanks for making us 90-10 for Obama," and I just, "Whoa, I don't--not in the business of transmitting messages, sir, but I appreciate your comment."

Lee Cowan, how bad is the blood between Barack Obama's campaign and Bill Clinton?

MR. COWAN:  Well, I don't think--they don't talk about it a lot.  I think it's, it's fair to say.  I mean, I think that they, they sort of let Bill be Bill.  And I think now, obviously, they're going to have to face it and have to figure out exactly how they're going to, how they're going use him.  I think the danger, like, like Chuck said, is how far do you let him go off the leash and--if you can put a leash on, on Bill Clinton and all.

MR. RUSSERT:  They announced the other night that Bill...

MR. GREGORY:  The Clinton campaign couldn't do it.

MR. COWAN:  Right, exactly.

MR. RUSSERT:  They announced the other night that Bill Clinton was going back to his Harlem office to re-engage on work on his foundation, and may be out of politics.

MS. O'DONNELL:  That's...

MS. MITCHELL:  Well, they announced that...

MS. O'DONNELL:  I think if you look at how Hillary Clinton performed in the Senate, she was not overshadowed by her husband there.  She was a woman standing on her own, building relationships across the aisle.  So if you're looking for how would she govern, that's one model.  And if you send the former president back to do the good works that many people said he didn't get credit for during this cycle, maybe you offset that image a bit.

MR. COWAN:  And how effective was that in the...

MS. MITCHELL:  They, they announced that, that he was going back to the office specifically because of concerns that he was really clouding her message.  And that--but there is resentment.  You, you asked Lee about the feelings in the Obama camp towards Bill Clinton.  There's a lot of resentment that Chuck was touching on among the Bill Clinton team, and they do feel, and I think he does feel, that Obama always was able to stand above the crowd, but that people working for him were putting the stuff out and "sliming" Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.  They really feel that very strongly, and so there is a lot to overcome there.

MR. ALLEN:  Yes.

MR. RUSSERT:  But if there's going to be a Hillary Clinton vice presidential candidacy, and there is a vetting process, the Obama campaign seems to be pretty clear that Bill Clinton would be part of that process...

MS. MITCHELL:  Which means...

MR. RUSSERT:  ...whether contributions to his foundation, his presidential library, whether or not he'd still be able to give speeches around the world.

MR. GREGORY:  Right.  And, you know, in 2000 when Bush ran against Gore and Clinton would do something, Bush's line was "The shadow returns." And he would joke with Clinton about that, and Clinton had a good laugh, he--the two of them, Bush and Clinton, had a good laugh at Al Gore's expense.  But that's the same issue here, that Bill Clinton is still the shadow that returns.  Now, for Hillary Clinton he was essential.  Without him, Hillary Clinton would not have had the, the establishment support, the money and, and the heft to really launch her own presidential campaign.  But then there was also downsides.  But look, Bill Clinton, I think, is a receding figure in Democratic politics. Barack Obama is a huge force.  He is a phenomenon.  He is creating so much enthusiasm within the Democratic Party.  Bill Clinton is a major, major star in that party, but his role is changing.  And I think we're really going to be--we're going to watch the beginning of that change how--whatever role he plays here.

MR. RUSSERT:  We're going to take a quick break, we're going to come back and talk about Obama vs. McCain.  That's the reality.  Our NBC News political dream team is with us.  We'll be right back.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  And we'll be back with more of our NBC News political team.  An in-depth look at this race after this station break.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  And we are back.  It's all about the electoral college map. And, Chuck Todd, let's take a look at it; you helped put this together. Barack Obama, dark blue states, ones that you think are safe Obama seats--states.  California, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont.

The light blue lean Obama:  Maine, New Jersey, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington. Put those together, he has 200 of the necessary electoral votes.  He needs 271.

Here's John McCain.  The deep red:  Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming.

The lighter red lean McCain:  Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota.  Put those together, 200 electoral votes.

Now let's look at these toss-up states.  There they are in yellow.  Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin.  That's 138 electoral votes still out there.  But, you know, if you put together those leaners that we talked about and the toss-ups, here's the map, there are 26 states in play.  The light red, the light blue and the yellow:  269 electoral votes.  This race is wide open.

MR. TODD:  It's a giant electoral map.  It's as big as ever.  And, you know, we're, we're all watching this.  There's a lot of us that sit there, and they, they remember the 2000 election, the 2004, and so we're automatically assuming, "Boy, this is going to be another one-state swing, where we'll be able to do what John Kerry loves to do.  "If you just filled up the, the Buckeye stadium, you know, with enough people to switch their vote, I'd have one Ohio in the electoral college."

But you look at the bigger landscape, and you realize there is potential--landslide potential for either one of them where they could sweep those toss-ups and win a bunch of leaners.  And that's why, if you're wondering what a McCain landslide would look like, well, it would mean he would carry Minnesota, Oregon and New Jersey.  If you're wondering what an Obama landslide would look like, it would include him carrying a lot of states like Indiana, Missouri, a couple of states in the South.  So that's why it's fun to put the whole thing out there.

The likelihood that we would have a third straight presidential election that was decided by one state, it's, it's unprecedented.  It's what we dream about, but it is unprecedented.  And the likelihood of an electoral landslide is much greater.

MR. RUSSERT:  I'm going to make you crazy.  If, if Barack Obama wins the same states that Al Gore won...

MS. O'DONNELL:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...or the same states John Kerry won--Gore won New Hampshire--New Mexico and Iowa.  Kerry didn't win those.  Kerry won New Hampshire, Gore didn't win those--win that one.  If Obama wins those three states, New Mexico, Iowa, New Hampshire, it's 269-to-269.

MR. TODD:  And then we have to figure out--and then we figure--and then we remember, North Dakota's House delegation is worth just as much as Florida's House delegation.  And that's one vote for McCain and one vote for Obama.

MR. RUSSERT:  Kelly, what is the McCann--McCain campaign thinking when they look at that electoral college map?

MS. O'DONNELL:  Well, the word that comes to mind is they say, "It's doable." They know the history they're running against with the barrier-breaking candidacy of Obama.  They know about the enthusiasm gap where he fills arenas, 20,000 people at times, even more.  But they say, if you look at the nitty-gritty of map, they see opportunity.  New Hampshire is where his candidacy was resurrected.  He spends a lot of time there.  We will be going back there, following him, even this week.  So he sees that as potential.  New Mexico, narrowly won by Republicans in the last two contests, a neighboring state for him.  He believes he's stronger among Hispanic-Americans, especially because of his immigration stance, which nearly killed him in the Republican Party.  So they think it's possible.  And even though they know there's going to be a big bump for Obama, they think, in the state contests, if you drill down, they've been studying this, he is within a few points.  And they think there is potential there.  That's why they're on the air with advertising in a number of those states, and they think they have enough money to stay on the air to try to avoid Obama being able to define McCain early, which has sometimes, you know, spelled disaster for candidates who were behind at the beginning.

MR. RUSSERT:  And, traditionally, the Democrat wins Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin, but they're always very close, all within a few points of each other.

MS. O'DONNELL:  I...

MR. GREGORY:  And, you know, I think independent voters are going to be so interesting to watch in this cycle because you've got two candidates who have demonstrated success among independent voters, notably John McCain.  And we know that in the '06 congressional election cycle, Democrats really made inroads among those independent voters, many of them disaffected Republicans who will still be disaffected going into this election.  And that's the contest here.  For Barack Obama, he's got to appeal among independents, but he's also got a lot of question marks over his head.  And for John McCain, how close is he to Bush in the mind of the independent?  That group of voters becomes important, and you've got two candidates here, really, in a, in a unique ability to go after them.

MR. ALLEN:  I look...

MR. RUSSERT:  When you look at the states that are toss-ups, everyone, it's interesting--Virginia, Chuck, Colorado--those are states that Democrats didn't think they could compete in.  Obama's campaign, Lee Cowan, they think they have a real chance, don't they?

MR. COWAN:  They do.  And not only that, I think there are some states that they think are probably perhaps too red to ever really go blue, but they're still going to campaign there in the hopes that perhaps that distracts John McCain a little bit of having to spend money in some of those states.  I mean, this is going to be a 50-state strategy.  The Obama campaign says they certainly have the money, depending on what they do to go with the 50-state strategy.  And if they do campaign harder in some of these very red states, that may mean that John McCain has to sort of make sure that he doesn't lose those.

MR. RUSSERT:  Might, that is, the 50 states become 26 pretty quickly.

MR. COWAN:  Well, probably, that's true.

MS. O'DONNELL:  Yes.

MR. RUSSERT:  But, nonetheless, it will force him to spend money where he doesn't want to spend money.

MR. COWAN:  Right.

MR. ALLEN:  I was just going to say that I think a landslide one way or the other is more likely than not because it's such a unique set of candidates that you have.  When you see John McCain and, and Barack Obama standing next to each other, there's a 25 or so huge difference in age.  It's a generational thing.  Obama's trying to change the entire electorate with all these people that he's brought in.  And, and that's why we're--it's a question of war and peace, it's a question of do we stay in Iraq or do we not stay in Iraq?  And so the issues are clear, the candidates are clear, and that's why I think it's more likely than not that there'll be a--the electorate will go one way or the other.

MR. RUSSERT:  There clearly are big differences on big issues:  the war in Iraq, Iran, health care.  Issue after issue.

MR. ALLEN:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  But the contrast that you point out, Ron, is very, very striking.  Here is Barack Obama Tuesday night in St.  Paul, where the Republicans will hold their convention in August, proclaiming victory.  Let's watch.

(Videotape)

SEN. OBAMA:  Because you decided that change must come to Washington, because you believed that this year must be different than all the rest, because, because you chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears, but to your greatest hopes and highest aspirations, tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  That same night John McCain gave a speech, and this was the backdrop, as he stood in front of the wall rather than people, and even by loyal Republican standards did not measure in a way that they had hoped. McCain's people readily admit that's not what they do.  That's not what he does.  He then called for a series of town meetings where Obama and McCain would travel around the country in the same plane.  That's what Barry Goldwater had recommended--suggested to John Kennedy back in 1963 before Senator--President Kennedy was shot.

Andrea Mitchell, this contrast that Ron Allen talked about couldn't be more striking, but can't McCain take advantage of it by saying, "I'm not an orator. I'm a comfortable shoe that you can trust, who's been around, who will do the right thing."

MS. MITCHELL:  Yeah.  He has to make age his friend, not a deficit.  And he has to try to work the experience.  Now, experience didn't work for Hillary Clinton as the mantra.  Change was a much more compelling message, according to any measure that we've looked at in this campaign year, but he--if he can find enough ways to undermine Obama's authenticity or experience on big issues.

Now, when you look at the very first speech he gave after getting the nomination, becoming the presumptive nominee, the AIPAC speech to the pro-Israel group, there are issues there.  He, he was not exact or precise in the language that he used when he talked about Jerusalem being undivided. There, there are codes in foreign policy, and by talking about Jerusalem remaining undivided, he seemed to be walling off--no pun intended--any Palestinian hope for a negotiated solution, which in every negotiation going back years, has included some way of dividing Jerusalem among the parties.

MR. RUSSERT:  If the Republicans understand the issues--the economy, gasoline over $4 a gallon and going up, the war in Iraq, eight years of George Bush cutting against them--they do have to undermine whether or not Barack Obama has the capacity to sit in the Oval Office.  I think that's the undercurrent of this commercial by John McCain that is being run in battleground states. Let's watch a part of it.

(Videotape)

SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ):  I hate war, and I know how terrible its costs are. I'm running for president to keep the country I love safe.  I'm John McCain, and I approve this message.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Chuck Todd, clear--couldn't be more striking.  He's going out there saying, "I can protect you.  I can keep you safe."

MR. TODD:  You know, it's funny.  Now that the--next week, Obama's starting this economic tour.  Next week, John McCain is going to focus on the economy. Both of them got their nominations because of their stances in national security.  OK, Barack Obama would be nothing without Iraq.  He would not be the nominee of the Democratic Party.  John McCain would not be the nominee of the Republican Party without Iraq.  And now these two guys want to--both of them want to have this national security debate, and the country's begging them to have a debate about the economy.

And what I'm wondering is, we're seeing--and look, you see John McCain trying very much to keep this about national security, because he believes that's his trump card.  He believes that's the one time where age matters and experience matters.  But the first candidate that figures out how to talk to working class voters about the economy and feel their pain is going to be the one that eventually wins this election.  And neither one of them are good at it yet. Barack Obama's not good at this yet, and neither is John McCain.

MS. MITCHELL:  He's not--you could...

MR. TODD:  And, and, you know, the funny thing is, if we thought this was going to be an economy election 18 months ago, there'd be different nominees today.

MS. MITCHELL:  But you could argue, though, that the gas tax in Indiana was a critical moment for him, because he closed in Indiana because people rejected the, the gimmick aspect of the gas tax holiday and accepted his version of it. So he may have a way of talking about the economy.  That was one instance where he did.

MR. TODD:  He's got to give them something.

MS. MITCHELL:  But you're absolutely right.

MR. TODD:  He's got to give them something.  He still doesn't know how to give people this idea that they might get something.

MS. O'DONNELL:  But, Tim, the message of that spot was, "I hate war." The McCain campaign knows that it is considered to be the candidate who is most associated with continuing the war.  So you're hearing John McCain talk in a new way about the war in Iraq, trying to say to those voters, "It's not that I want to keep fighting.  If anyone knows about the, the pain of war, it's me. And I would be the better candidate to get us out in a responsible way." He is really trying to address that anti-war sentiment in the country.

MR. RUSSERT:  Should we stay?  Should we go?  Should we talk with our enemies or not?  This is a big difference on these issues.

MR. ALLEN:  I think foreign policy--and I love foreign policy--is going to be really crucial for Barack Obama.  And the, the speech about Israel that Andrea mentioned also jumped out at me, about this notion of Jerusalem being divided or undivided.  Obama has, has gotten where he is, in large part, by opposition to the war.  There's not been a lot of debate about specific things.  Yes, will we talk to dictators or not.  But what are we going to do in Iraq?  What happens when you remove these troops one month at a time?  What do you do in Israel?  What do you do in Iran?  In, in very specific terms, I'm sure that's where John McCain feels like he can make a lot of ground.

MR. RUSSERT:  Unanswered questions.  We have to go.  Before we do, once again, Upper Deck baseball cards, trying to capture the history of this race. Here's Barack Obama, number 42, the Dodgers, that's Jackie Robinson.  John McCain trying to block that plate and hold on.

MR. GREGORY:  Yogi Berra.

MR. RUSSERT:  Which, which leads me to Robert F. Kennedy.  We're going to talk about him in our "Meet the Press Minute."  But look at this.  He gave a speech to the Voice of America all around the world 40 years ago.  And despite what was going on in the country, particularly in Alabama, Bobby Kennedy said this:  Things are "moving so fast in race relations a Negro could be president in 40 years." This is in 1968, we're now in 2008.  "`There's no question about it,' the attorney general said.  `In the next 40 years a Negro can achieve the same position that my brother has.' ...  Kennedy said that prejudice exists and probably will continue to ...  `But we have tried to make progress and we are making progress.  We are not going to accept the status quo.'" Extraordinarily prescient, which leads us to our "Meet the Press Minute."

Just after midnight on June 5, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy proclaimed victory in the California primary.

(Videotape)

SEN. ROBERT F. KENNEDY (D-NY):  Now it's on to Chicago, and let's win there.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  But Robert Kennedy never made it to Chicago.  Moments after that speech, he was shot in a kitchen corridor of the Ambassador Hotel and died the next day.

He appeared on MEET THE PRESS March 17th, 1968, the day after he announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States.

(Videotape)

MR. LAWRENCE SPIVAK:  Our guest today on MEET THE PRESS is Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York, who yesterday declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States.

SEN. KENNEDY:  I intend to talk about what I feel needs to be done for this country to heal the deep divisions that exist between races, between age groups, and on the war in Southeast Asia.  I think that we're more divided now than perhaps we've been in 100 years.

I'm going to have a very, very rough road ahead of me.  I have five months even before the convention comes.  I have to go to all of the states.  I have to go to the very--various primaries.  I have to present myself and my policies and my programs not just in opposition to President Johnson, but what I think can be done for this country and for the rest of the world and for mankind, because we are the leader.  I have to present that to the rest of the American people.  Then they will judge and the Democratic Party will judge.  I don't think I'm asking for a free ride.  I don't think I'm asking for an easy road.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Robert Kennedy's brother John was killed in 1963, also by an assassin's bullet.  Their youngest brother, Ted, is the senior senator from the state of Massachusetts and is bravely battling brain cancer.  And we'll be right back.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  And my thanks to the NBC News political dream team.  You had an easy Sunday in the cushy studio, now back out on the road, all right?

That's all for today.  We'll be back next week at our regular time.  If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.

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