California Opinion Makers Offer Campaign Advice

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California holds its presidential primaries on Feb. 5, or "Super Tuesday." Hugh Hewitt, a conservative talk radio host, Maria Elena Durazo, a Hispanic labor leader and Ted Johnson, managing editor of movie industry magazine Variety, weigh in on what candidates must do to win over the Golden State.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand.

Earlier we spoke with Dan Walters, a political reporter here in California about the challenges the presidential candidates face in this state. Over the next two weeks until Super Tuesday, we'll look in on a few of the key voting groups that a candidate has to reach if he or she plans on competing here successfully.

Let's start today with California's conservative voters to get a sense of what's on their minds. We went to Hugh Hewitt, host of a nationally syndicated talk radio show.

(Soundbite of radio program, "The Hugh Hewitt Show")

Mr. HUGH HEWITT (Host): In the meantime, 1-800-520-1234. A minute at a time for your candidate of choice, and you get your say on the "The Hugh Hewitt Show."

BRAND: He spoke with me from his Orange County Studios.

Mr. HEWITT: The people who call the show range the spectrum of the Republican Party. You've got some folks who are really - I call them Wall Street Republicans. They want as much labor as quickly as possible and they want them regularized and even turned into citizens ASAP. And then you've got the restrictionists who believe either in active or passive deportation; make it impossible for work and they believe in self-deportation. I think that's economic foolishness. I don't believe it recognizes the strength that immigrants bring to the country.

And I actually believe the most Republicans are in that vast middle. Now, who do they support as a result to that? I think Romney is the best on immigration, the most comprehensive, the most realistic. With Rudy not far behind him. Huckabee's not bad on it. He's a little softer. It's John McCain that drives people crazy when the talk turns to immigration because he does not appear to understand the demands not to turn millions of people into citizens overnight.

BRAND: Talk a little bit about the evangelical vote. Is that a big voter bloc in California? And if so, which candidate is most appealing?

Mr. HEWITT: Governor Huckabee has done a tremendous job in communicating to evangelicals that not only is he one of them but that he understands their concerns about the culture. Now he's a neo-populist. He's not a Reagan conservative. He's not a tax-cutter. He's definitely not a supply sider, and some of his rhetoric is Huey Long-ish. And that drives some evangelicals away. On the other hand, I think you have to look at the Michigan numbers. He split the evangelical vote with Mitt Romney.

BRAND: Now, you have written several books, one of them called "The Embarrassed Believer: Reviving Christian Witness in an Age of Unbelief." How do you feel about Mitt Romney's religion, Mormonism?

Mr. HEWITT: Well, I read a book about Romney called "A Mormon in the White House?" - question mark. The gap between Protestant and Catholics on one side and Mormons on the other is actually so large as not to be able to be bridged. But we share the same values. They are pro-family, pro-life, traditionally patriotic in an extraordinary way.

BRAND: Well, he wasn't always pro-life.

Mr. HEWITT: Yes, he has always been pro-life, but he was not pro-life in the public square when it came to changing the laws of Massachusetts. So I think it's possible for some people to say they're pro-choice when they are in fact privately pro-life, and Rudy Giuliani takes the same position. But on all these issues, going back to the Mormon question, none of this intersects with theology. I believe strongly that theology cannot enter into American politics without poisoning it. I've made it my point in the last year to call out anyone who gets close to religious bigotry because it's as bad as any kind of hatred in the public square and I just don't think it should be a part of our conversations.

BRAND: Hugh Hewitt, thank you very much.

Mr. HEWITT: A great pleasure to join you. Thanks for having me.

BRAND: Hugh Hewitt is a nationally syndicated talk show host.

Immigration is a big topic for Maria Elena Durazo. She heads the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. That organization represents 800,000 workers, constructions workers, janitors, hotel workers, and more. Her position gives her clout with California's Latino voters.

She took a leave of absence as a leader of the L.A. County Federation of Labor to work for Barack Obama. But last weekend's Nevada results, where Clinton won in spite of Obama's strong labor backing, put the value of a union endorsement in question.

Durazo spoke with me from a union hall south of Los Angeles.

Ms. MARIA ELENA DURAZO (Los Angeles County Federation of Labor): Any candidate in California of course needs to talk about reforming the immigration laws to make them more fair and humane.

BRAND: You are one of the leaders of the Hispanic labor movement in California, and is this a united movement when it comes to this presidential race?

Ms. DURAZO: No. I don't believe that there is a single candidate that can say he or she has the support of the entire Latino community. Most of the issues are not different for Latinos than they are for all working people. They want the same as all people and that is work hard, have a decent standard of living, have a pension, have health care.

What is different for the Latino community is the question of fair immigration laws, which allow them to progress through the system to become legalized, to become residents, to become citizens, because they know that with a legalized and citizenship status they are in a better position to make a better life for themselves and their kids. So that does play a special role in a positive way for the community.

BRAND: I wonder, is it an impossible goal to achieve unanimity, or at least a plurality of opinion among Hispanic voters, given that they are from so many different backgrounds, from so many different countries originally, and are not one monolithic group?

Ms. DURAZO: No, you're right. We don't expect to get a single point of view about any candidate from the Latino community. Our goal is to just expose the Latino community to all of the candidates. We don't expect, you know, 100 percent or 90 or 80 percent are going to go with one single candidate. Where there is unity, far more unity, is for a Democratic candidate, especially because of the way that the Republicans have treated the issue of immigration laws in this country. So when we get past the nominee for the general election, that's where your going to see far, far greater unity.

BRAND: Thank you very much for speaking with me.

Ms. DURAZO: Thank you.

BRAND: And if you're a presidential candidate who hopes to win in California, one of your must-stops for fundraising is Hollywood.

I spoke with Ted Johnson. He's the managing editor for Variety. I asked him about whether it's all about the money.

Mr. TED JOHNSON (Managing Editor, Variety): By and large, they're coming through Hollywood for money. And I think that the endorsements do matter, but I think the number one reason that candidates will swing through town and spend so much time here is that Hollywood has such a deep pocketbook.

BRAND: You always hear these stories about how, you know, Hollywood is filled with liberals. In general, do they go Democratic?

Mr. JOHNSON: There is definitely some truth to that. And if you go purely by money, it breaks out to about 70 percent Democrat and 30 percent Republicans.

BRAND: Well, 30 percent, I'm surprised it's that high.

Mr. JOHNSON: Yeah. I think that surprises a lot of people. One reason is perhaps because the Republicans in Hollywood, for a number of reasons, just don't get the attention that the Democrats have, especially during the Bush years, because Bush has really kind of ignored Hollywood. What we're seeing this year is a number of Republican candidates coming out here to raise money, in particular Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.

BRAND: And who are the Republicans in Hollywood besides Mel Gibson?

Mr. JOHNSON: What you have are a lot of big names lining up behind Rudy Giuliani. I think a lot of that has to do with his celebrity appeal and also his New York connections. Some of the celebrities who've backed him include Kelsey Grammer and Adam Sandler. Jon Voight is campaigning for him in Florida. Also Robert Duvall actually had a fundraiser for him.

BRAND: Wait, I'm sorry, Adam Sandler?

Mr. JOHNSON: Yes, Adam Sandler. He kind of goes against the grain right there.

BRAND: Uh-huh. So the candidates are in Hollywood raising millions of dollars. What do the donors expect in return, if anything?

Mr. JOHNSON: There are certainly moguls who endorse the candidate with some expectation of it helping their corporation. But I would say that overall, people aren't giving to change some sort of legislation; there just aren't enough pressing issues that really affect the business directly. They really do like the cache that comes with being able to say, I talked to Barack Obama last night. Or dare I say it, they are giving because they feel in alignment on the issues. Even here there are some purity in politics.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: And a good party every now and then.

Mr. JOHNSON: That's right. That's right. There's been plenty of those.

BRAND: Ted Johnson, managing editor for Variety. Thanks a lot.

Mr. JOHNSON: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: And in the roundup to tsunami, Tuesday, February 5th, we will hear from a number of other voter groups here in California.

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