An upbeat Hillary Clinton, fresh off her wins in Texas and Ohio, sat down for an interview with NEWSWEEK's Suzanne Smalley last Friday in Hattiesburg, Miss., before going on to Wyoming and Washington, D.C. She spoke about her relationship with women voters, her comeback strategy—and why her candidacy is good for the Democratic Party. Excerpts:
Smalley: Everybody had written you off — and here you are.
Clinton: [Laughs] Well, I really believe in what I'm doing, and I am supported and sustained by the millions of people who believe that I should be the next president.
A colleague of mine writes in an essay for the magazine this week, " [Clinton] and I are about the same age, an age when most women have become invisible to the rest of society, and there she is, energetic … and feisty and capturing the world ' s attention. " Is this what ' s fueling support for you?
I think there is a sense of identity and a common experience. You know, I know it's hard for young women to really feel the emotional connection because they didn't live through what we lived through. When I was a young woman, there were colleges I couldn't go to, jobs that I couldn't have ever had, a set of expectations that were pretty much imposed—and so women my age, we have gone through this extraordinary movement … But the true beneficiaries are our daughters and our granddaughters.
It ' s interesting you talk about that generational divide because another colleague writes an essay about feeling guilty for supporting Barack Obama. Is there anything you ' re going to do to win over young women?
Well, I think it's beginning to happen. I won the youth vote in Massachusetts and in California. I did very well with it in Ohio. And I think it's because more and more young people are starting to ask themselves, "Well, I've got this very personal feeling about Senator Obama, but I also want to be sure that I'm picking the person who would be the best president." So there is a sense of a real dilemma about the choice, which I recognize, but … I feel like we're really making progress.
If, at the end of the primaries and caucuses, Senator Obama still has a lead in elected delegates, and superdelegates give you the margin to capture the nomination, will that hurt you in a general election? And will that type of victory alienate the you ng people who are newly engaged in politics?
Well, I don't think we should speculate on what's going to happen … I think we should just proceed with the next-up contests.
What do you say to those people who say taking this all the way to the convention will hurt the party?
I think this has been good for the party. I think it has brought a lot of people in. Here we are in Mississippi as we do this interview and, I mean, thousands of Democrats are turning out. That's really exciting, so I feel strongly that what has happened has been good for the party and good for the country. I think it's going to be win-win, however it turns out.
How can you win the nomination when the math looks so bleak for you?
It doesn't look bleak at all. I have a very close race with Senator Obama. There are elected delegates, caucus delegates and superdelegates, all for different reasons, and they're all equal in their ability to cast their vote for whomever they choose. Even elected and caucus delegates are not required to stay with whomever they are pledged to. This is a very carefully constructed process that goes back years, and we're going to follow the process.
If you lose, and can ' t be at the top of the ticket, do you think you ' d be an asset to Senator Obama as a vice presidential nominee?
When you're the presidential nominee you get to pick whomever you choose to be on the ticket, and that person gets to say yes or no because, obviously, it's a very important decision. But we're not anywhere near that. It's premature, so we're just going to keep going and I'm going to try to get the nomination.
But you certainly appeal to — look at Ohio. That ' s a core Democratic —
We both have strong constituencies. I think my constituencies are broader and deeper and more likely to produce winning margins in the general election. But he also has obviously energized African- American voters, young voters, and we need to bring them together. We need to have a unified Democratic Party because we're going to win in November.
You ' ve been advocating seating delegations from Michigan and Florida. But Senator Obama wasn ' t even on the ballot in Michigan. Does making this argument risk alienating voters who think you ' re breaking the rules or changing the rules?
I don't think so. I mean, he had a choice to be on the ballot. He chose not to be. I chose to stay on the ballot. So that was a choice he made. His campaign then ran a very vigorous effort to try to defeat me with uncommitted delegates, and he lost. So it wasn't as though there wasn't a contest. There was a contest. And I won. And I won resoundingly in Florida … I don't think we should be about the business of denying voters in Michigan and Florida the right to be heard.
Will you release your tax returns before the Pennsylvania primary?
Well, we're going to do it in April, and I would assume that would be before [the primary].
The meta question: do you think you ' ve won the media back over?
You know, I've been around long enough to know it's kind of a rollercoaster ride. [Laughs]