Get Out: ABC Again Ramps Up Pressure for Hillary Exit

"Good Morning America" news anchor Chris Cuomo on Thursday aggressively told top Hillary Clinton aide Howard Wolfson that it's time for the senator to get out of the race and allow Barack Obama to begin his general election campaign. At one point, after the communication director suggested that Clinton would do better than Obama in states such as West Virginia, an irritated Cuomo sputtered, "If you're going out there, as communication director of your campaign, telling super delegates Barack can't win against McCain, how is that helping the Democrats?"

When Wolfson repeated his argument that Hillary could capture West Virginia, Cuomo helpfully suggested, "And what a great contribution that might be for a vice presidential candidate." Earlier in the segment, the ABC anchor, who is the son of former New York Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo and brother to the state's current Democratic attorney general, insisted, " Why isn't this the time to get out?" An ABC graphic, just below Cuomo, reiterated, "Clinton Hangs On: How Can She Remain in Race?"

A previous piece, which aired right before the Cuomo interrogation of Wolfson, continued the "get out" mantra. GMA co-host Robin Roberts began the first segment by flatly proclaiming, "Many believe that the race should be over." In a tease, she asked, "...Has Barack Obama already crossed the finish line?" Roberts also parroted Cuomo's VP query and asked "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos about the possibility of an Obama/Clinton "super ticket." Reporter Jake Tapper, in his usual snarky tone, derided Clinton's chances: "Defying pundits, party leaders and high school math, Clinton says she remains in it to win it."

There is an obvious difference between noting that it doesn't look good for Clinton and aggressively attempting to clear the deck for Senator Obama. And that's what "Good Morning America" did on Thursday. It's fitting that Cuomo began his interview with Wolfson by stating that there's "a lot of pressure" on Clinton to get out. He then asked, "May be reaching fever pitch?" It certainly is within the media.

A transcript of Chris Cuomo's interview with Howard Wolfson, which aired at 7:04am on May 8, follows:

CHRIS CUOMO: As we've heard here, a lot of pressure on Senator Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race. May be reaching fever pitch? She says she's standing her ground, so what's the message coming out of the campaign? Who better to ask than Senator Clinton's communication director Howard Wolfson. Howard, thank you very much for joining me this morning. Let me get a quick react from you. The potential cover of "Time" magazine, can we put it up? "And the winner is," it says. A picture of, who seems to be, Barack Obama. Your reaction?

ABC GRAPHIC: Clinton Hangs On: How Can She Remain in Race?

HOWARD WOLFSON: Chris, I can't count the number of times that the pundits decided that Senator Clinton was finished. They did it in New Hampshire. They did it before Ohio. They did it before Pennsylvania. We've got a lot of fight left in us. We believe Senator Clinton is going to be the nominee of this party and the next president. We take the campaign to West Virginia today. It's a key swing state. Senator Clinton has flatly predicted that she would win in West Virginia against John McCain. We're going to show just why in the next couple of days. We hope to do well there and in the upcoming primaries after that.

CUOMO: Well, it's not just the pundits though, Howard, it's the mathematicians. I mean, if you're looking at the numbers, you know all about the numbers. With the six remaining contests, about 217 delegates out there, even if you won all of them you couldn't close the gap. Why isn't this the time to get out?

WOLFSON: Well, it is critically important to do well in the upcoming states and I think we can narrow the gap significantly if we do that, as we expect to. We also believe that the delegations of Florida and Michigan, the two states that voted in overwhelming numbers earlier this year, and for Senator Clinton, should be seated at the convention. We're having a dispute within our party about whether those two states should be able to participate. We believe that they should. Two and a half million people came out and voted, many of them for Senator Clinton. We think that those states should participate. That two will narrow the gap.

CUOMO: But, two things to look at there: First of all, even if the senator, Senator Clinton, did get Michigan and Florida, she'd still have to win 76 percent of all remaining delegates. No basis to believe that would happen. If she only gets, doesn't get Florida and gets Michigan, she'd need 88 percent. So, the math, not so good. But, also, the impact on your party of having the two states included, when Barack didn't even campaign, wasn't really on the ballot there. What effect would that have?

WOLFSON: Well, I think the impact of not allowing two and a half million people to have their voices heard at our convention would be significant. Florida and Michigan are key swing states, as you know. We need to be able to reach out to those voters in those states and say you're welcome in our party. We want you in our party. We want you at our convention. That's what Senator Clinton believes. You know, Senator Obama has consistently had a very hard time winning the key swing states. He's lost Florida. He lost Michigan. He lost Ohio. He lost Pennsylvania. Senator Clinton is running ahead of Senator Obama against John McCain in those key swing states and I think that kind of information does weigh importantly on super delegates who are looking to see who would be the best candidate against John McCain.

CUOMO: Howard, let me ask you, when does it turn from positive to negative? Dianne Feinstein, longtime supporter of Senator Clinton, said she's worried about the point of negative dividends coming here from Hillary's actions. If you're going out there, as communications director of your campaign, telling super delegates Barack can't win against McCain, how is that helping the Democrats?

WOLFSON: Well, look, I haven't said that he can't win. I think that Senator Clinton will win and she is the better nominee for our party.

CUOMO: But, You're saying he has trouble in the key states -- He's going to have troubles against McCain, a Republican--

WOLFSON: Chris-- Chris, you know that's just a fact. And super delegates are well aware of it, whether I say it or not. I mean, the fact that Senator Obama is having the kind of problem that he's having in winning over blue collar voters, that's a fact and it's a fact whether I say it on this show or not. So, we believe that this has been good for the party. We've had a million more Democrats come out and enter the rolls of the Democratic Party. Senator Obama has a lot of passionate supporters. That's great. Senator Clinton has a lot of passionate supporters. We're bringing passion and energy into this party. I think this process has been great for the party. And let me tell you, Senator Clinton campaigning in West Virginia, today, trying to bring West Virginia into the fold in November. You know that we won it in the '90s, we lost it in 2000 and 2004. That's a key swing state. We believe we can bring a state like West Virginia, like Kentucky into the Democratic family once again.

CUOMO: And what a great contribution that might be for a vice presidential candidate. Bring some passion to that question. If Hillary Clinton is given as a potential exit from her race as president, the vice presidential seat, would she accept it?

WOLFSON: You know, she has said very clearly, that is not something she's thinking about. She thinks it would be completely premature to discuss any plans about the vie presidency. She hasn't indicated any interest in it. We are focused on her doing well in West Virginia on Tuesday, in the upcoming primary states, getting Florida and Michigan seated and making our case that Senator Clinton would be the strongest nominee against John McCain.

Campaigns & Elections 2008 Presidential ABC Good Morning America
Scott Whitlock's picture