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Hillary Clinton's Run For The White House

Senator Hillary Clinton never expected such a tight race. Last fall, she was ahead in the polls by a wide margin with no serious rivals to worry about.

Now she finds herself locked in a fierce battle with her opponent Barrack Obama. But she's already won several big states and she's got her eye on two important primaries in early March, Texas and Ohio.

With the Democratic nomination in the balance, she remains focused, energized and anything but defeatist.

"Barack Obama's candidacy has undeniably gained momentum over the recent months. Have you grappled with the idea, Senator Clinton, that it could be him and not you?" Katie Couric asked Clinton.

"Well, when you're in the heat of this intense experience, the only way I know how to do it is to believe with all my heart that I'm going to be successful. That's what I get up every day and tell myself. That's what I believe. That's what I think is going to happen. So I don't entertain the other option," Sen. Clinton replied.

"Even in your deepest darkest moments, when you're exhausted, you don't think 'Oh my gosh, I'm going through this, I'm spending so much money, I'm so tired and this could be all for naught?' What if that happens?" Couric asked. "You have to, once in a while, think that. No?"

"No, Katie," Clinton said. "You can't think like that. You have to believe you're going to win."

"Otherwise leave the field and let somebody who has the confidence and the optimism and determination that a leader has to have get on that field instead," she added.

Staying on that field requires stamina, especially when she travels to three or more states in one day.

60 Minutes visited Clinton at her home in Chappaqua, N.Y, on Super Tuesday as she sat through 57 satellite interviews with reporters from across the country, repeatedly stressing her readiness to be president.

"How do you do it? I mean, the satellite interviews, the speeches, the travel, the debates, the schmoozing, the picture taking, 24/7," Couric asked.

"I do it because I really believe in what I'm doing," Clinton said.

"I knew you were gonna say that," Couric remarked.

"Well, but it's true," Clinton said.

"But I'm talking about pure stamina," Couric said.

"Pure stamina. I have a lot of stamina and I have a lot of resilience," the senator said.

Asked if she pops vitamins or drinks a lot of coffee, Clinton said, "I take vitamins. I drink tea, not coffee anymore. I have really stopped drinking diet drinks. Because I found that they gave you a jolt, but they weren't good over the long run. I used to drink a lot of them. I drink tons of water. Just as much water as I can possibly drink."

"My two secrets to staying healthy: wash your hands all the time. And, if you can't, use Purell or one of the sanitizers. And the other is hot peppers. I eat a lot of hot peppers. I for some reason started doing that in 1992, and I swear by it," she added.

Her staff is as sleep deprived as she is, many of them longtime loyal Clintonites, with a war room similar to Bill Clinton's in the 1990s.

Barack Obama wasn't seen as a serious threat to her candidacy, until he started filling large arenas and inspiring voters.

"There are two schools of thought. One is the big, huge, enthusiastic crowds don't necessarily translate totally into votes. The other is this is really a steam engine that is just getting started. This is a movement that's just getting started. And the more he's at it, the bigger it's gonna get," Couric remarked.

"I don't see that," Clinton said. "I think what we saw on Super Tuesday is that people who feel like this country's headed in the wrong direction, are increasingly saying, 'We know who we want to go with. We want someone who, on day one, can walk into the Oval Office, be commander in chief, turn the economy around. Really start solving our problems.' And I think that trumps the excitement factor, which is important. And I am very impressed and really excited that there's so many people, especially young people, who are part of our party because of his campaign. But this is really serious business. And we've got two wars going on. We have an economy slipping into recession. We have people who are hurting and are looking for answers. And I believe my campaign and my candidacy offers that."

Asked if she likes Sen. Obama, Clinton said, "Sure I do. You know, I liked him before we got into this election. I campaigned for him. I met him and his children. In fact, I went to Chicago to campaign and raise money for him. And we had a picture taken at the event, this was in 2004."

"And I put the picture in my office. It's still there. I look at Barack and Michelle and their daughters every day when I'm in my office. I think he's an extraordinary person. And we were friends before, and we will be friends afterwards," she added.

"Not one scintilla of bad blood between you now?" Couric asked.

"Not from my side, no," Clinton said. "I was sitting on that stage in Los Angeles and I was thinking to myself, 'This is what I have dreamed of my entire life,' you know."

"An African-American, a woman. I never thought I'd be the woman, but here I am. And I'm on this stage. And this is like the culmination of the efforts, the struggles, the sacrifice of so many people who came before. So whenever I look at him I think about that. I mean, it is about him, just like it is about me. But it's also about what we represent. And who could not be thrilled about that? I am," Clinton said.

"I understand when he joined the Senate he came to see you for advice. And you told him to work hard," Couric remarked.

"I did," Clinton said.

"And keep a low profile," Couric said.

"I did," Clinton acknowledged, laughing.

But Obama didn't keep a low profile. "Not for long. Not for long," Clinton said.

Asked if the media has treated her the same way as they've treated Obama, Clinton told Couric, "I think the media has certainly been very, shall we say, tough on me."

"Tougher on you than Senator Obama?" Couric asked.

"Or nearly anybody else, the best I can tell. But that's okay," Clinton said.

"You've said, 'I've been through the Republican attacks. And I've been vetted.' And cynics suggest that you're insinuating there's some deep, dark secret that is in Barack Obama's past that will be somehow unveiled by a GOP attack machine," Couric said.

"You know, that is not what I'm suggesting at all. But, you know, Senator Obama has never had, I don't think, a single negative ad run against him. He's never been on the receiving end even in this campaign. It's been incredibly civil by any modern standards," Clinton said. "Until you have been through this experience, you have no idea what it's like. And he hasn't been. He's never, ever had to face this. And I think that I am much better prepared and ready to, you know, withstand whatever comes my way."

"Are you saying he couldn't handle it?" Couric asked.

"I'm just saying that I've been there and I know how to handle it. And I think that one of the factors the Democrats should take into account as they make their decisions in these upcoming elections is who could be the best nominee to, you know, take us to victory in November," Clinton replied.

"Let me ask you about that, senator. Because in exit polls, most people thought you would make a better commander in chief. But, they said, Barack Obama would be better at unifying the country. Why are you so often seen as polarizing?" Couric asked.

"I think it's because I have been active on behalf of a lot of controversial causes like universal healthcare, like a woman's right to choose for many, many years. And that is who I am," Clinton said. "Unity for the sake of unity is not my goal. I want to unify the country around meeting big goals like dealing with our energy crisis. I want to call the country to action around global warming. I want to set some, you know, really big vision that young people can buy into. That's the best way to unify the country."

"Senator Obama told Steve Kroft that you represent the status quo, that you accept the rules of the game as it's played in Washington," Couric remarked.

"Yes, I've heard him say that. And I'm not quite sure ever what he means. It's clever. It's a sort of a clever point to make. But, of course the status quo is George Bush. The status quo are the Republicans. The status quo are the people like Senator McCain who want more of the same. I think I represent dramatic change. You know no one will ever accuse me as having the same policies as George W. Bush," Clinton replied.

Especially, she says, his economic policies.

"The president's latest budget would leave us with a $400 billion deficit. He went from inheriting a balanced budget and a surplus to a projected $400 billion deficit and a $9 trillion debt," Clinton explained.

"A deficit that that's been caused largely by a war that you authorized," Couric pointed out.

"Well, you know, when we voted to give the president authority, I think most Democrats did it as I did. They saw a sincere assessment of the situation as we viewed it at the time. But, I, at the time said, 'This is not to go into preemptive war.' And I certainly have been a critic. And the real issue now is how do we get out," Clinton said.

"Both you and Senator Obama have suggested pulling out combat troops. But if Iraq descends into an all out civil war, becomes a blood bath, will you reassess that?" Couric asked.

"When I become president, I would ask the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and my security advisors to immediately begin drawing up a plan that would enable me to start bringing our troops home within 60 days," Clinton replied. "There are no good easy or sure options in Iraq. Senator McCain has said it wouldn't bother him to stay for a hundred years. Well, it would absolutely, you know, enrage me because I see no reason for us to be even talking that way."

Her detailed understanding of Iraq and other complex issues is her specialty. A skill required by her demanding father, who set the bar impossibly high.

"President Clinton described your dad, I believe at his funeral, as tough and gruff?" Couric asked. "And I know I've read that when you brought home stellar grades, instead of praising you, he's say, 'You must be going to an easy school.' … That must have been so demoralizing."

"He really wanted to motivate me. And it worked," Clinton said. "You know, it really did. He would say, 'You can do better. You can do better. Keep going. You can do better.'"

"Do you think he'd still be saying, 'You can do better'?" Couric asked.

"Probably," Clinton replied.

It might be hard for her father to claim she isn't trying hard enough now.

60 Minutes joined Clinton on Thursday at a high school gym in Arlington, Va., as she borrowed a page from her husband's campaign playbook, stopping and shaking as many hands on the rope line as she could.

"What were you like in high school? Were you the girl in the front row taking meticulous notes and always raising your hand?" Couric asked.

"Not always raising my hand," the senator replied, laughing.

"Someone told me your nickname in school was Miss Frigidaire. Is that true?" Couric asked.

"Only with some boys," Clinton said, laughing.

In Bill Clinton's high school yearbook a classmate wrote, "See you in the White House." But now, his prominent role in her campaign has raised questions about his role in a second Clinton White House.

"I look forward to having his advice and his counsel," Clinton told Couric.

"When you say you're looking forward to his advice and counsel the notion of a co-presidency comes to mind. And that's something that people aren't too keen about," Couric remarked.

"Well, they shouldn't be. But that's not what I'm really talking about. A president always turns to those closest to him or her, to get that unvarnished advice. But, at the end of the day, it's the president who makes the decision," Clinton explained.

"What do you see yourself doing if this doesn't work out?" Couric asked.

"Well, I'll be a senator from New York. Which is a great job. I love New York," Clinton replied.

Asked if she'd be fine with that, Clinton said, "Absolutely. You know, I have a very clear sense that this is gonna work out the way it's supposed to work out. And I'm happy with that. Maybe it's because I'm a little older, I'm not so, you know, panting and anxious and all of that. And I have a blessed life. So whatever happens, I will be fine."

60 Minutes asked Sen. John McCain to appear on the Feb. 10, 2008 broadcast, but he declined for scheduling reasons. We look forward to having him on in the near future.
Produced By Robert Anderson, Lori Beecher and Ira Rosen
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