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Wash. Democrats Debate Electability vs. Inspiration

ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

Let's turn now to NPR's Martin Kaste in Washington State. Martin, where are you?

MARTIN KASTE: Hi, Andrea. I'm in Kirkland, which is a suburb on the east of the Seattle metro area. I'm actually standing in the parking lot outside of an elementary school, because the caucuses - and we've been holding caucuses here in the state today - were so crowded in this gymnasium that the - large groups just spilled out.

And so people spent the last hour - half hour - debating the merits of Clinton versus Obama in pretty big circles standing in the middle of the parking lot here. And so they're breaking up now. They've just cast their votes inside of each precinct caucus. But it's - the turnout here has been easily record-breaking.

SEABROOK: I know the delegate process there in Washington State, Martin, is a little bit different than other places. And in fact this election cycle is pretty different. There are primaries and caucuses, right?

KASTE: Yeah, there always - for a long time in Washington State primary has been vying with the caucus system for which should matter more. The state legislature and the state government tends to push for the primary to mean something. But technically - not technically - legally it's these caucuses that really matter in terms of the delegates on the Democratic side. The Democratic Party today is determining its delegates via these caucus meetings.

Now, on the Republican side they split the difference. So the Republican caucuses, also meeting today, will determine half of their delegates, but the other remain - the remaining half of the Republican delegates will be allocated ten days from now in that very primary. So the primary means something only for the Republicans and there it only means 50 percent.

SEABROOK: And did you talk to voters today, Martin? What'd you hear?

KASTE: Oh, my gosh. I was - I spent the last hour here at this Democratic caucus, and the passionate interest here and the sort of tearful - the angry debates about electability versus inspiration. The Clinton and Obama people were just so revved up to try to win it for their person, people standing on tables and giving speeches. It felt a little bit like one of those sort of 19th century, you know, American democracy ideals you hear about in your civics class, you know. It was pretty inspiring really to watch.

SEABROOK: NPR's Martin Kaste at a caucus site in Washington State. Thanks very much, Martin.

KASTE: You're welcome. And let me turn back to you, Ron, NPR's Washington editor. We heard from Greg in Louisiana - Greg Allen - that Bill Clinton is out of the closet. I mean that in terms of the closet he's been stuffed into after not doing too well for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

RON ELVING: Yes, he became controversial there in January after really taking the lead for several days, pretty much being the spearhead for the campaign of his wife. That did not seem to be helping them going into South Carolina in particular. And that event did not go well for her. So after that, his profile was dramatically lowered.

But they have brought him back in selected areas, particularly where there's a large African-American population and where they're trying to damp down some of the enthusiasm for Barack Obama and counter that with the man who was very popular in that community when he was president, Bill Clinton.

SEABROOK: And of course in the run-up to Super Tuesday we saw surrogates - so-called surrogates - campaigning for Barack Obama, including Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama, his wife, and others. Are we seeing them back on the campaign trail today? Do you know?

ELVING: It has not been that kind of big dramatic bringing out of the big guns for Barack. And on the Clinton side, it's been primarily a matter of key members of the family, Bill and daughter Chelsea.

SEABROOK: Okay. Thank you very much. NPR's senior editor Ron Elving.

ELVING: Thank you, Andrea. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Andrea Seabrook
Andrea Seabrook covers Capitol Hill as NPR's Congressional Correspondent.
Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy. He has been focused on police and use of force since before the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and that coverage led to the creation of NPR's Criminal Justice Collaborative.

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