Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Obama, Clinton heats up -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

LISA MILLAR: It's just over a week until the Democrat candidates face their next primary in the US.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been trying to woo the voters of Pennsylvania - the state
considered a must win for Senator Clinton if she's to remain in the race.

But in a case of bad timing for Barack Obama, he was recorded blaming his poor performance in the
opinion polls in Pennsylvania on bitter voters clinging to guns or religion to explain away their
frustrations.

Hillary Clinton pounced on the remarks describing them as elitist and patronising and within hours
had television ads on air capitalising on the controversy.

(Extract from TV advertisement) Barack Obama said that people in small towns cling to guns or
religion as a way to explain their frustrations.

AMERICAN VOTER: I was very insulted by Barack Obama.

AMERICAN VOTER 2: I think it just shows out of touch Barack Obama is.

AMERICAN VOTER 3: I'm not clinging to my faith out of frustration and bitterness. I find that my
faith is very uplifting.

AMERICAN VOTER 4: The good people of Pennsylvania deserve a lot better than what Barack Obama said.

AMERICAN VOTER 5: Hillary does understand the citizens of Pennsylvania better.

AMERICAN VOTER 6: Hillary Clinton has been fighting for people like us her whole life.

LISA MILLAR: That's the latest Hillary Clinton ad in Pennsylvania. Well, I spoke to foreign policy
analyst at the Lowy Institute, Michael Fullilove who is also spending a year with the Brookings
Institution in Washington DC and he is back in Sydney briefly.

Michael Fullilove, is this a major blunder for Barack Obama?

MICHAEL FULLILOVE: Well I think it is biting because it is true that Obama is drawing more support
from upscale voters than Senator Clinton and so there is a kernel of truth that he is appealing
more to elites or his is winning more votes from elites than Senator Clinton who is drawing on
working class whites and democratic lifers but I'm not convinced that it is a game changer.

Obama has shown extraordinary political skills throughout this campaign. If you look at how he
dealt with the Reverend Wright controversy for example, I thought that was a far more treacherous
problem than this off-the-cuff comment and he dealt with that in a very unusual way.

Not with a 60 Minutes interview or a press conference but with a one hour speech about race in
American politics and he fixed the issue and he moved on so based on what we've seen so far of
Obama's political skills, I think he is deft enough to get out of this.

LISA MILLAR: Why is Pennsylvania so important for each of the candidates given that there has been
a bit of a hiatus between primaries?

MICHAEL FULLILOVE: Well, I think Pennsylvania is more important to Senator Clinton than it is to
Senator Obama. I mean, basically people are assuming that Senator Clinton is going to win
Pennsylvania because it is full of the sort of voters who have supported her in the past.

Not just the working class whites but democratic lifers, older voters and so on. So people are
assuming that she is going to nail Pennsylvania. I think that is a bit of a danger because if
Obama, not withstanding this problem, can make that closer than people think, then things start to
look pretty dire for Senator Clinton.

I mean, Obama already has a lead in super delegates, elected delegates I should say, that is going
to be very difficult to nail back.

Senator Clinton is leading super delegates to Senator Obama and Obama is way ahead on fundraising.
In March he raised $40-million compared to Senator Clinton's $20-million and Senator McCain's
$15-million.

So I think, notwithstanding what is happening this week, Senator Clinton is way behind and she
really has to win Pennsylvania convincingly and then do well in the next couple of primaries to
convince people that she is still in with a chance.

LISA MILLAR: There has been some suggestion that Al Gore or maybe Jimmy Carter might have a private
word to Hillary Clinton and suggest it is time to pull out. Is that conversation likely to happen?

MICHAEL FULLILOVE: There is tow ways that this can work out, if we assume that Obama is going to
win. One is that Clinton takes it all the way to the convention in August and they slug it out and
the reason for thinking that is that the Clintons are not for turning. The Clintons are not for
backing down.

But on the other hand, I guess she will be thinking like all politicians, how is this race
affecting my interests and I think the critical question for her is when the race is damaging
irreparably the Clinton brand in politics, damaging her husband's legacy.

More importantly, making it impossible for her to run for President again in the future, I think if
she sees a negligible chance of winning and she is damaging her own brand, then I think that at
that point, she is going to be more receptive to calls from senior party figures.

LISA MILLAR: Well, how much damage is the row between the two Democrat candidates have on their,
either of their support as they head into their general election in November.

MICHAEL FULLILOVE: I think on balance it is damaging them at the moment. Gallop found in March that
one fifth of Obama supporters are saying that they would support Senator McCain over Senator
Clinton and one third of Clinton supporters are saying they could support Senator McCain above
Senator Obama so there is a lot of bad blood.

But on the other hand, I think it depends on how the contest is resolved. If the contest goes right
into August and then the loser bows out without a lot of grace and doesn't really campaign
sincerely for the winner then I think this is a real problem for the Democrats.

On the other hand, if it wraps up earlier than that and there is a united front and the loser
campaigns pretty sincerely for the winner, then I think it is much less of a problem.

LISA MILLAR: Michael Fullilove, you're absorbing it all over there. Soaking it all up - what are
you tipping?

MICHAEL FULLILOVE: I think for the Democratic primary, I think that Obama is probably 80 per cent
likely to win it. I think he has just got too many advantages at this stage for Senator Clinton to
knock it back.

Looking towards the general election is much more difficult, partly because we don't know who is
going to be the Democratic candidate but McCain has a lot of strengths.

I think on the one hand he is the best possible Republican candidate that the Republicans could
have selected. On the other hand, he has a lot of weaknesses himself, not least of which is his
age.

So at this stage I think if Obama is nominated as the Democratic nominee, I would put him a nose
ahead of Senator McCain in the general in November.

LISA MILLAR: I guess, one thing we are sure of is that is that Americans have never been so
involved in a campaign before. That is unlikely to change between now and November.

MICHAEL FULLILOVE: Well, look you have got three of the largest characters in American public life
still in the race for President and they happen to be an African-American, a woman and a Republican
maverick so it is no wonder that Americans are involved and it is no wonder that Australians are
involved and the rest of the world are involved.

People around the world are following this as though it is their own national election and I think
that to some extent, that makes sense because we all have a stake in the outcome.

LISA MILLAR: That's Michael Fullilove from the Lowy Institute who is currently spending time in
Washington DC with the Brookings Institution.