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Michigan Sen. Stabenow On Hillary Clinton's Long Political Journey


And I'm David Greene in Philadelphia covering Day Two of the Democratic Party convention. I'm in the studio with my colleague Don Gonyea. It's safe to say, Don, you and I both political junkies, also sports fans. And, I mean, I think about where this convention is taking place - it's in the Wells Fargo Center, which is where this city's beloved Philadelphia Flyers play hockey. They're known as the Broad Street Bullies, always have been. There's some bully - there's been some bullying in this campaign we've been covering, not just from Donald Trump, but, last night, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: No one relishes a fight like Elizabeth Warren. I don't know if we'll see her on the cover of Sports Illustrated with her two front teeth missing like...

GREENE: Like a hockey player.

GONYEA: ...We did Bobby Clarke from way back when. But here is what Elizabeth Warren said about Donald Trump last night.


ELIZABETH WARREN: Look at his history. Donald Trump said he was excited for the 2008 housing crash that devastated millions of American families because he thought it would help him scoop up more real estate on the cheap. Donald Trump set up a fake university to make money by cheating people and taking their life savings. Donald Trump goes on and on and on about being a successful businessman. But he filed business bankruptcy six times, always to protect his own money and stick the investors and contractors with the bill.

GONYEA: And David, the other thing Senator Warren did last night - you could see her trying to systematically dismantle the pitch that Donald Trump makes to working-class voters. There have been many fights in Congress, in the Senate, she says, over the last eight years and before that, where Democrats were trying to do something for those very working-class voters. She said Donald Trump wasn't there. He never lifted a finger. And she also described him as someone who wants to pit those Ohio, you know - white workers in Ohio against Latino workers in Florida against North Carolina - African-American workers in North Carolina. She says...

GREENE: It just seems that when you - if you are divisive, that is not helping the working class...

GONYEA: Exactly.

GREENE: ...In this country.

GONYEA: Exactly.

GREENE: And, I mean, this message though that Trump has had has been resonating in states like Ohio, in your home state of Michigan and places around the country.

GONYEA: And he is going to be working all of those states. He already has. And he's sending his running mate out there. Governor Pence will be in Wisconsin, and he'll be in Grand Rapids, Mich., later this week and in suburban Detroit later this week making that very pitch.

GREENE: Well, let's hear now from one of Michigan's two senators. It's Debbie Stabenow. She is on the line. She has known Hillary Clinton for more than three decades, actually came into the U.S. Senate the same year that Clinton did. Senator Stabenow, I know we've caught you in the lobby of your hotel, one of many hotels filled with senators and members of Congress and people. Good morning to you.

DEBBIE STABENOW: Good morning. Well, it's great to be with you on the beginning of Day Two. It was a very exciting day yesterday. This really is what democracy looks like. And after those speeches last night, you know, I'm very optimistic, very positive. I think we had a star-studded stage last night.

GREENE: Putting a positive spin on some of the - what some described as chaos, but saying that is what democracy looks like.

STABENOW: Yes it is, yeah (laughter).

GREENE: Let me just say, you've known Secretary Clinton for, as we said, more than 30 years. And you've said she was actually one of the reasons you ran for Congress. Is that right?

STABENOW: Well, yes. Well, you know, actually she and I met when I was a state representative and she was an attorney with the Children's Defense Fund. We were on a national panel in Detroit back in the '80s - we were both 5 - and we were talking about preventing child abuse and neglect. And so I was so impressed with her at that time and, of course, then campaigned with she and her husband in Michigan over the years and so on.

But I was in Beijing, and I was - a lot of my friends were urging me to run for Congress, hadn't decided. But being in Beijing in 1995 and watching what happened there - you know, the Chinese government didn't want our first lady to speak. Our State Department didn't want our first lady to speak. It was very controversial at that time. And she stood and made this amazing declaration that women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights. And I saw what was happening in that room and the just incredible reaction of the women from around the world.

And it really motivated me to decide I wanted to go from the state Senate, the state legislature, and be in our national government, focused on those issues that would affect people, not only in my important state of Michigan, but around the world.

GREENE: A personal story that we'll be hearing from - hearing about as the convention goes on this week.


GONYEA: Senator, it's Don Gonyea...


GONYEA: you're obviously - how are you? You're a dyed-in-the-wool Clinton supporter. Clearly, there are a lot of people in your home state - in our home state...


GONYEA: ...Who aren't so sure. Bernie Sanders carried the Michigan primary, and Donald Trump is appealing to his supporters now. But he's also making that hard, hard pitch to blue-collar workers in - you know, in the suburbs, in that ring around Detroit and elsewhere. How do you get those people to turn out for Hillary Clinton?

STABENOW: Well, Don, in the end, I really believe his pitch isn't going to work because it's just a pitch. I mean, there's no substance to it. Once you should get beyond the initial lines, you know, I want fair trade. I don't support TPP. But once you get beyond that and you look at this is a guy who does business in 11 different countries - at least, who makes his products overseas. And he says he does it because people - the working men and women in America make too much money.

And, you know, he - if it had been up to him, the auto industry would have gone down. And his reaction was well, they should've gone to bankruptcy. And then, they should leave Michigan for other places where they don't have to pay as much. And then when we're willing to work for less, they can come back to Michigan.

GREENE: But Senator, if I may - I mean, even though that that's how you see his message, it does really seem to be resonating, poll after poll showing that Trump is doing well with a lot of voters involved in things like manufacturing. Hillary Clinton - not polling well. What is she doing wrong? What can she do better?

STABENOW: Well, I think it's just a matter of moving forward and really clarifying what's going on and, frankly, who believes what and who's done what. And, you know, initially, you know, he comes in and talks about being the outsider and the businessman. And he says all these tough things about trade and so on. But again, it's a showman because when you look underneath it, it's not real. And so what Hillary's got is a record of actually being there - you know, being there when we saved the auto industry that's 1 out of 5 jobs in Michigan...


STABENOW: ...That, you know - being there. And so I think that's going to unfold.

GREENE: We'll have to leave it there. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, thanks so much.

STABENOW: My pleasure.

GREENE: She joins us on the line as we are covering the Democratic National Convention from member station WHYY. The folks here have been fantastic for us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.