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Q&A: Terry McAuliffe Q&A: Terry McAuliffe

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Q&A: Terry McAuliffe

Hillary Rodham Clinton's Campaign Chairman Looks Ahead To This Weekend's Contest In Puerto Rico And The DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee Meeting

XM Radio's Tammy Haddad spoke with Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign, for the May 30 edition of "National Journal On Air." This is a transcript of their conversation.

Q: Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the DNC, now chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign. Now let me see, you're on the fifth year of this campaign, right Terry?


McAuliffe: Yeah, this thing is the campaign never ends.

Q: Well, but this weekend is the culmination of all the work, everything that you have done, how do you think it is going to work out for you? Of course we've got the DNC meeting this weekend.

McAuliffe: It's a big weekend. We've got Rules and Bylaws on Saturday. Hopefully, they rule on Saturday, but they've reserved the rooms for two days. It could go into Sunday. I heard that there's 10,000 people who are coming on Saturday -- I can't believe this. But we'll see what happens. Tammy, we've been clear: Let's seat all the delegates. Florida and Michigan paid a horrible price. Nobody campaigned. They didn't make any money. There weren't millions spent. And we need to move forward.The big thing for us now, Tammy, is how do we win the general election? We have got to say to Florida and Michigan, "You count. We care about you." I've said this before. If I were Senator [Barack] Obama's campaign, I would have said six weeks ago, "You know what? Seat everybody." Be magnanimous. You know what? He is still going to be ahead in the delegate count. Who cares?


Q: Do you -- just for those of us who don't know the arcane, and I do mean arcane, rules -- has a deal already been cut behind the scenes and it'll just be announced?

McAuliffe: Absolutely not. No, gosh, no. No. Uh-uh. At least according to Harold Ickes, who I spoke to. No. Listen, you've got the Rules and Bylaws. I know most of the people on this committee. I'll be honest with you. Most of them, they're not candidate-driven. They are actually rules-driven. I mean, there is a group of people who just love the rules of the DNC.

Q: Right, so why would--

McAuliffe: When I was chairman of the party, I relied on these people.


Q: Well why--

McAuliffe: I didn't sit and read the rules.

Q: I was going to say, "Didn't you come up with this committee?" But...

McAuliffe: Well, I did. I appointed a lot of the members, but I relied on them. I mean they actually love sitting around reading the DNC rules. I just figured my talents were better elsewhere.

Q: On a summer afternoon on Saturday, and now we're hearing -- this is news, ladies and gentlemen -- possibly Sunday, they could be sitting around, eating bagels, sipping orange juice and trying to decide how the rest of this election will play out. But isn't it -- if they're all about the rules, and if I understand the Rules Committee correctly, they already made the decision if someone violates the rule and goes early, as Florida and Michigan tried to do, that they would pay the price of losing 50 percent of their delegates, right?

McAuliffe: That's right.

Q: So, if that's true, why would it -- I mean, what's going to happen tomorrow?

McAuliffe: Here's the interesting thing about this. I mean, the rule is 50 percent. For whatever reason, Tammy, the committee went and took away 100 percent of the delegates. The rule is fifty percent. Had we done 50 percent, like the Republicans did, which I threatened to do when I was chairman, you and I wouldn't be having this conversation today. But they then did 100. They have totally alienated the folks in Michigan and Florida. They are so angry. These two states -- Florida and Michigan -- for the general election, we got to have them in our electoral college basket. If we don't, it puts so much pressure on other states we're not ahead in today. And that's the issue: What do we do now? They've paid a horrible price.

The rule, I actually would say, worked. It kept other states from moving up. But you know what? We got to look to November 4th. John McCain is going to ram this down our throats, saying, "Hey look at the Democrats. You know, they're, they're not counting your delegates. They're only counting half." And that's what I think. And the DNC's responsibility now is, Tammy, how do we prepare our party? How do we have the tools to get us ready to win the general election? Cause that's what this is all about -- winning November 4th.

Q: You're on your way to Puerto Rico, right?

McAuliffe: I am. I can't wait.

Q: Now you're so far behind in delegates. Let's state the obvious -- how do you get up every day and how do you keep the candidate motivated? I know how you're always motivated.

McAuliffe: I'm always jacked up. I'm pumped up. It's just, I love life and I'm having fun. I've had a great time on the campaign. Hillary has been a friend of mine for 25 years. I'm with her because I believe in her and I believe she'd be spectacular. I think Barack Obama's great, but you know what? I think Hillary would be better. She's my friend and I am a loyal guy. You know what? There's not enough loyalty in politics anymore, or in life. And I am there with her no matter what she does.

Q: Puerto Rico. You're there in Puerto Rico.

McAuliffe: I'm up in Puerto Rico. I've got my flowered shirt on. We're leaving about 1 o'clock today. I'm jacked up. We're going to get down there.

Q: You got Ricky Martin on your team.

McAuliffe: Ricky Martin just endorsed.

Q: Living la vida loca.

McAuliffe: Which is a big deal in Puerto Rico, I should say.

Q: Oh yeah, it sure is.

McAuliffe: And then our victory party, Tammy, is 6 o'clock Sunday, in San Juan. I hope you or your listeners can come down with us.

Q: XM is everywhere.

McAuliffe: I love it. And then I honestly think we'll pick up a 100,000+ votes more towards the popular vote, which at the end of this argument, our argument will be, she got more votes than anyone else in the history of American politics in a primary. She wins the general election. And we'll be close on delegates. Out of 4,400, Tammy, I think it'll be less than 150.

Q: How much time, Terry, is spent wrangling superdelegates or keeping your own delegates in the tent while all of this plays out?

McAuliffe: Oh, we've got a huge team at the headquarters and that's all they do. Same thing for Senator Obama's campaign. All they do is call delegates. Hillary calls delegates. President Clinton calls delegates. I call delegates. It's what you do all day. And I think most of them at this point -- everybody understands, Tammy. They're going to wait until after everybody votes on June 3rd. Then I think they'll move pretty quickly. I think they want to be part of the nominating process, and they got to make the decision: Who is it that best can win this White House in November?

Q: You don't want to go to the convention?

McAuliffe: I certainly don't want to do that. I don't think anybody wants to do that. I do believe we'll have good resolution tomorrow, and then we'll have the voting done and then someone will get the magic number to be the nominee. And I've always said that.

Q: And will there be a group hug at the end of this?

McAuliffe: Definitely. This party is going to come together. This has not been an overly cantankerous primary. Tammy, you and I have been around a long time. This couldn't compare to what happened in '92. We have brought out 20 million more voters than came out in 2004 during our primary/caucus process. We got to win the White House. I mean, think -- 36 million people, Tammy, have come out and voted. That's extraordinary. And we will all be together. But you know what? We're in a primary battle. And I tell Democrats, be careful, this woman will have received over 18 million votes for president -- the highest of anyone, ever. Be very careful how we deal with this thing and if, I say, people look like they're trying to kick her to the curb.... Her 18 million passionate supporters. This is not how you unify. Let's unify the party.

Q: Well how do you do that though? I mean if you're coming from different points of view, I mean, other than the obvious, you're talking about two candidates who have different points of view and have campaigned against each other. That's all well and good, but how do you -- and I ask because I think, as someone who has covered politics for 25 years, that the Republicans are much better at group hugs and that they make it really work for them. And even now, as many complaints as there are within the Republican party of John McCain, they are working together. There is a group hug all over America with all the Republicans, even if they're holding their nose.

McAuliffe: It really has got be to between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton -- the two of them getting together and talking. That's not anyone else. Not the staff. It's not friends. It's the two of them. Now, as we go through this campaign, there are difference of issues, but they're not substantive, big gaps in the policies on health care and education. So, I do believe we'll pull together, and I think we'll do it relatively quickly. We had a tough primary in 2004, but, boom, remember March 25th? I had the big unity dinner in Washington. Every candidate, Former President Clinton and [Al] Gore and [Jimmy] Carter. You know, we'll do it. We'll get together because we understand how big the stakes are.

Q: Well, we'll see if you're right about that. That sounds pretty darn exciting. Sounds like some great coverage all weekend too. Now, I have to ask you about the big controversy over Scott McClellan's book. I wonder if you think the American people will look at this administration differently. I'm asking you to be the political analyst now, not giving your point of view. Do you think it is too little, too late? This is the first time that an insider, someone very close to the president -- who by the way looks pained when he says negative things about his president. Do you think the American people, the next NBC/Wall Street Journal poll will reflect that people feel different about this president, this administration or about the war in Iraq?

McAuliffe: No. I think the feelings towards George Bush were there. I mean, he's got a 27, 29 percent approval rating. I think for most people to say, well I already knew all this. I didn't think he was telling the truth on Iraq. So I just think it solidifies that number so he can't move up. Does he move down more? I don't think so. As an analyst, I would say I don't think this good for John McCain. I would also say, and I got to add a personal thing, I never like it when someone works for someone and then comes out and writes a book trashing them. I just think that is, I don't care if it is politics or life, if he was that upset about everything, he should have quit. Remember Gerald Ford's press secretary quit when he disagreed with pardoning, Ford pardoning Nixon? If you don't agree, then get out. I just find it abhorrent the way these people come out and write books about their boss. It made them money, it made them prestige, it gave them all this power and then they turn around and slap them. I got to tell you, I don't care who it is -- Democrat, Republican -- it's wrong.

Q: One question left: Will you be chairman of the Chelsea Clinton running for m'mm-m'mm-m'mm?

McAuliffe: If Chelsea Clinton decides, I will be there 100 percent. I have been with her on the campaign trail. She's gone to like 150 campuses. She's been to 48 states. She has been a huge draw. She is spectacular, but I think right now, she's leaving it up to her mother to be the one out there. But if she ever goes, I'm there with her. Listen, I chaired the husband's re-elect. Chaired the wife's. Now listen, I mean, what the heck? Might as well do the daughter, too.

Q: Alright.

McAuliffe: I'm all in Tammy, all in.

Q: Alright, Terry McAuliffe. Watch for him this weekend. And big action at the DNC Committee.

McAuliffe: Right. And get down to San Juan.

Q: OK, great. Terry McAuliffe, chairman, thank you for being with us here on National Journal On Air.

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