Exclusive Interview: Clinton Looks Ahead to Mississippi

Clinton talks about a Michigan, Florida do-over and sharing the ticket with Obama.


The day after her victories in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island, Sen. Hillary Clinton was scheduled to take some time off, but she went ahead and gave interviews to four major early-morning TV shows. She started the following day at her Washington, D.C., home with conference calls to plan the next phase of her presidential campaign. Then she hopped into a car and headed for a 1:30 p.m. meeting with retired military officers who have endorsed her candidacy. On the way, she spent nearly a half-hour on the phone with U.S. News and talked about politics, policy, and charisma. Excerpts:

On how she won the last round of states March 4

We had a great operation in the three states we won. A lot of people counted us out, but I campaigned as hard as I could, and I was in states where you know sometimes people themselves feel like they've been counted out. But they keep fighting and coming back. And I think that I'm talking about the issues in a way that makes sense to voters. You know, we've got so many challenges ahead of us. And I'm very specific in telling people what I would do as president because I want them to hold me accountable. I think that it's important after the seven years of President Bush's administration that we really tell people what we mean and mean what we say to them. On Barack Obama

Each of us has a record. We'll be putting out my record and where appropriate drawing the comparisons and asking questions about where he stands. I'm focused right now on going to Mississippi, where I'm going to be tonight. On the limits of charisma

I really do believe that words matter and they have the ability to inspire, which is critically important in politics and governing, and I have no doubt that that is a major part of whatever the equation is for someone winning elections. It's also important that there be action and experience to back up words because you've got to be able to produce results for people. At the end of the day, it really matters whether you have delivered on what you've promised and whether people are better off than they were when you started. I obviously believe that I can speak well enough to communicate to voters and to enlist their support. But that's not why I ask them to support me. I ask them to support me because of what I've done for 35 years and that I want them to hold me accountable because I believe that it does take strength and experience to make change. And it's not an either-or issue. Words matter, but actions matter more. On how the current campaign compares with past campaigns

You know, Ken, this is one of the more civil campaigns I've been through [laughs]. I mean, really. Maybe that says something about all the campaigns that I've been involved in, but I think the comparisons that we're drawing, at least up until now, have been totally fair. They're not personal. They're on the issues and positions and campaign tactics. I really look back on all of the campaigns I've been part of, and this is probably the most civil and most positive one in my memory. On a "do-over" in Florida and Michigan, which held nominating contests that broke Democratic Party rules

I would not accept a caucus. I think that would be a great disservice to the 2 million people who turned out and voted. I think that they want their votes counted. And you know a lot of people would be disenfranchised because of the timing and whatever the particular rules were. This is really going to be a serious challenge for the Democratic Party because the voters in Michigan and Florida are the ones being hurt, and certainly with respect to Florida the Democrats were dragged into doing what they did by a Republican governor and a Republican Legislature. They didn't have any choice whatsoever. And I don't think that there should be any do-over or any kind of a second run in Florida. I think Florida should be seated. On saying in a TV interview that she might choose Obama as her running mate

I think that it probably did [get more attention than she expected] because I was responding to the great yearning in the hearts of Democrats that we be united and that we come together as soon as this nominating process is complete and really go into the fall elections with a lot of strength. And obviously many people have talked to me about what would make that come true. And I think that it's presumptuous to be specific, but clearly there's a lot of interest in that.