Clinton Chair McAuliffe "Looking Forward"

Terry McAuliffe, as Democratic National Committee Chairman
AP
Political Players is a weekly conversation with the leaders, consultants, and activists who shape American politics. This week, CBS News' Brian Goldsmith talked with Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe about fundraising, infighting, and whether he could ever support a revote in Michigan and Florida.


CBSNews.com: Your campaign just announced that you've raised more than five million dollars online since Tuesday. How much are you going to spend in Wyoming on Saturday and Mississippi on Tuesday?

Terry McAuliffe: Well, I'm not in the habit of telegraphing what we're spending in states. We're going to spend what we have to to do what we have to do.

CBSNews.com: And do you expect to win either of those contests?

Terry McAuliffe: Listen, we're going to do well. There are delegates that we need to win there. Obviously our main focus coming up is Pennsylvania. But we're putting people on the ground. Hillary's traveling to those states. And I always stay optimistic. We're going to give it all we have.

CBSNews.com: A lot of your supporters, as you know, have second guessed the decision not to compete in a lot of the caucuses in February. And that's how Senator Obama overtook her in elected delegates. Do you have any regrets about that strategy?

Terry McAuliffe: You know, I can't look back. We had political professionals who made decisions on the spending allocations. I know where we are today. 28 million votes cast. There's a difference of a few thousand votes. That's it. The delegate totals now with 41 contests, primaries and caucuses having completed, the difference in the delegates is less than two points. I'm looking forward.

CBSNews.com: A lot of people in the political community are talking about that big front page article in the Washington Post [on Thursday]. The headline says, "Even in victory, Clinton team is battling itself." Is there anything in that article that you think is inaccurate?

Terry McAuliffe: I didn't read the article. And, as I've said on television, I don't have time. I spend my time on the road. I'm fighting--like many, many people in this campaign--day in and day out. We're putting our hearts and souls into this campaign.

We're making the argument why Hillary Clinton should be the next President of the United States of America. And that's what I focus on. I don't waste my time. And people spend their time talking about who did what, it's just something I don't do.

CBSNews.com: But you're chairman of the campaign. Do you worry that so many of your aides seem to be pointing daggers? And the daggers are almost all pointing at your chief strategist, Mark Penn.

Terry McAuliffe: Well, I have conveyed to the campaign manager here, Maggie Williams, that she needs to make it clear--which she has to everybody--that if you're going to talk to the press, talk to them about Hillary Clinton and what we have to do to be competitive. And talk about why Hillary Clinton has to win the election. And talking to reporters about who did what in the campaign is a total waste of time. And Maggie Williams has conveyed that message to the entire staff.

CBSNews.com: Will voters get the impression if Senator Clinton can't manage the campaign, how can she manage the White House?

Terry McAuliffe: As I say, I haven't read the article. I'm not wasting my time reading the article. I know where we are. We've got a big fight coming up in Pennsylvania. People want to know who'd be the best commander-in-chief, who would keep us safe, and who would be a great steward of the economy. And that's what I spend my time on.

CBSNews.com: Senator Clinton made a comment Wednesday on the CBS Early Show, saying that a Clinton/Obama or an Obama/Clinton ticket might be where this is headed. Is that supposed to convey the impression to voters that they can still vote for Senator Clinton, but not lose Senator Obama because he's going to be on the ticket later?

Terry McAuliffe: I get asked this question every day on the campaign trail myself. I think both of these candidates have tremendous assets. And I think they'd bring a lot to the Democratic Party. But, let's be honest, we're in a healthy primary debate fight over winning the nomination.

No matter what happens, it is so close. As I say, both candidates have brought 13.5 million each to get them to vote for them. And we'll see where we go at the end. Hillary's message is, Barack Obama is a very distinguished individual.

Our point is Hillary Clinton would be the best because of her experience dealing with the issues. That's why, [yesterday], she met with 30 generals and admirals. That's why General Shelton just endorsed her the other day. The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Her leadership on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Her leadership, obviously, in New York after 9/11. On all those issues, people know that Hillary Clinton will keep them strong and safe. As well as her leadership on health care, on dealing with the home mortgage issue, the credit crisis, the battered economy.

Our point is this is why Hillary Clinton would be the best commander in chief. And we'll see where we go. We got a long way to go. There are 12 contests left. We have at least, we estimate, five million people more to vote. So we're focused on winning the nomination.

CBSNews.com: And also this week, the governors of Florida and Michigan came out and seemed open to a revote in those states for their delegations to count at the Democratic convention. What is the position of your campaign on a possible revote?

Terry McAuliffe: Well, what we have said is that these folks have already voted. I mean, people talk about a revote. But there is no appetite in Florida or Michigan by the state legislatures. I mean, there's no money. Who is going to pay the tens of millions of dollars to do this?

I've been informed that the Florida legislature, under no circumstances, would pay to have the Democrats redo it. So I agree with what has been said. The governors of both states have kept saying that the state parties in these two states need to work with the national party and come to some resolution of this matter. We just can't leave 2.3 million voters, 1.75 million in Florida, and over 600,000 in Michigan, who went in and voted. They've already voted. And we just need to count the votes.

CBSNews.com: One proposal I heard was for a Jefferson/Jackson party fundraiser in each state headlined by the two candidates that would raise the money to pay for the primaries. Are you ruling that out?

Terry McAuliffe: I doubt they could raise that kind of money. They've already voted. No reason they have to go back and vote again. And to spend anywhere from 15 to 30 million dollars, money that could be much better spent getting ourselves ready to beat John McCain.

CBSNews.com: So you're ruling out the Clinton campaign ever supporting a revote?

Terry McAuliffe: I'm saying they've already voted, let's count the votes. I'm saying that the state parties in those states need to work with the national party and figure out how we count the votes that have already been voted.

CBSNews.com: What's been the most surprising part of this year on the campaign trail for you? Some parts of it have obviously happened differently than you planned. What are the lessons you've learned?

Terry McAuliffe: Well, I can say personally we have been on this thing going on close to our fourteenth month. This has been a very long campaign season. I think you have seen tremendous interest. I think we've had five and a half million more voters who have voted in the Democratic contest than the Republican contest.

I just think there is such an appetite out there, such enthusiasm, excitement from the Democrats to get us ready for the general election. We're all going to come together at the end. We're going to be a unified party. I remind everybody that Bill Clinton did not win the nomination until June of 1992.

But nothing in particular has surprised me on this campaign. I said, from the start, 14 months ago, this is going to be a long process. We got two great candidates now. We've got great ideas. And what I focus on now is explaining why Hillary Clinton would be the best commander in chief of the United States of America.

CBSNews.com: So you see June as the end date of this contest?

Terry McAuliffe: Well, obviously, Puerto Rico is June 7th [Puerto Rico has since voted to hold their primary on June 1st]. I believe there are hundreds of automatic delegates who will begin to make up their mind after June 7th. Speaker Pelosi told everybody, "Let's let everybody vote. Let these five million people vote first." It is clear that both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, both of these candidates are going to need some combination of automatic delegates in order to secure the nomination.



Terry McAuliffe is chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. From 2001 to 2005, he served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, where he raised a record $535 million over four years--outraising the Republican National Committee. He oversaw the construction of a new party headquarters and a new voter ID list, with 170 million names, called Demzilla. He has also served as finance director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, finance chairman for Dick Gephardt's 1988 presidential campaign and the Clinton/Gore re-election campaign in 1996. He chaired both the 1997 presidential inaugural and the 2000 Democratic convention in Los Angeles. McAuliffe is a lawyer and investor, and is a graduate of Catholic University and the Georgetown Law Center. He is married with five children.

By Brian Goldsmith