Guys Predict Winners of Super Tuesday, Super Bowl XLII

The guys in this week's shop — Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette, Arsalan Iftikhar and Lester Spence — talk about the latest round of political debates, surprising developments on the campaign trail, and predictions on who will win Super Bowl XLII.

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LYNN NEARY, host:

I'm Lynn Neary. And this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Coming up, your words with Web producer Lee Hill.

But first, it's time for the weekly visit to the Barbershop where the guys talk about whatever is in the news and whatever is on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shape-up this week are freelance writer Jimi Izrael, editor and civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, political science professor Dr. Lester Spence, and Ruben Navarrette, a syndicated columnist. And I know the guys have a lot to talk about, so take it away, Jimi.

Mr. JIMI IZRAEL (Columnist, Lexington Herald-Leader; Writer, TheRoot.com): Hey, hey, fellows, welcome to the shop. How are we doing?

Dr. LESTER SPENCE (Department of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University): Hey, what's happening, coach?

Mr. IZRAEL: L-rock, you back again for the first time, welcome.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: I am back. I forgot I had that name.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ARSALAN IFTIKHAR (National Legal Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations; Contributing Editor, Islamica): We all have a nickname in the shop. There's always a name.

Mr. IZRAEL: That's right.

NEARY: Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, you know what? Check this out. Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton faced off in the first of a two-person Democratic debate last night. You know, this is down from eight - down from a race of a - on the Democratic side, down to two from eight. What do everybody think of the debates last night? L-rock, since you're back again for the first time, get this party started. Drop those ballistics.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: Well, listen. We have some tape from that debate with a pretty friendly affair, I think. Let's get a sense of that from the tape.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): I was friends with Hillary Clinton before we started this campaign. I will be friends with Hillary Clinton after.

NEARY: Well, that's a…

Mr. IZRAEL: Mm.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: I don't know about that. (Unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Yo, they are. Yo, do you think they play - you think they played too nice or was that my imagination?

Mr. RUBEN NAVARRETTE (Columnist, San Diego Union Tribune, CNN.com): How convincing was that, you know? It's just - I'm going to (unintelligible) my folks said about a month ago, there was a truce. And that lasted, like, eight minutes and then they went all bad. It all went bad.

IZRAEL: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: It was in South Carolina and Bill Clinton played a whole deck of race cards against brother Obama, all this stuff happened. And this is what campaigns are about. So I expect as they get more competitive, it will get raucous again. But there's two kinds of debates: There's debates with fireworks and there's debates like this one. There were subtle differences to these candidates. You just had to pay attention.

Mr. IZRAEL: Mm-hmm. A-train.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, you really had to pay attention. I mean, last night at the Kodak Theatre, I mean, it was a love fest between Hillary and Barack. And, you know, obviously, it was nice to see, I think - you know, the one message that I got and I think the rest of the Democratic Party got was that, you know, come November, you know, regardless of what's been going on in the primary election, we're going to have a unified Democratic Party. We are going to be unified behind the Democratic candidate to make sure that the administration and the White House changes then. And I think that - I agree with Ruben - I think that there were subtle differences. I think that if you weren't listening to them, you probably were going to miss them amidst all the Hollywood elite that were there, but it was definitely a love fest.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yo, the good Dr. Spence.

Dr. SPENCE: I think we might get to this later, but this really - this debate really brought to me - brought home to me the lack of presence of John Edwards.

Mr. IZRAEL: Mm-hmm.

Dr. SPENCE: What I meant, I think the reason you saw them coming together so much is because only when Edwards was in the picture could you actually make the claim that there was a difference between Obama and Clinton, and then when he - once he leaves, that's no longer apparent.

Mr. IZRAEL: But you know what?

NEARY: Well, yes - I want - can I ask you a question? Because I was just - just wanted to respond to something that was said, which is that there is going to be a unified Democratic Party at the end of this. I wonder if there's a lot of hostility between these two camps that's yet to be played out yet and how much that's going to hurt them.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right. And I agree with you. I think there's a lot of hostility. I think the key is that there is a lot more hostility towards the current administration. And I think that come November, once - you know, whoever ends up surviving the, you know, the marathon of the primary election, I think that we're going to see a very strong and vibrant Democratic Party coming out in ensuring that we get enough, you know, vote turnout in November.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Not so fast, though. I think there's a lot of African-Americans out there who are rightfully fed up with the Clintons. They are through with the Clintons. They are tired of the Clintons. And I think that they're going to look at Bill Clinton in South Carolina, and they thought, wait a minute. Do we really want to go eight more years with him? And so, I talked to a lot of African-Americans, particularly young - get this - young black people who are not…

Mr. IZRAEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: …so thrilled about embracing the idea of a Hillary candidacy if Barack Obama loses.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, yeah. I mean, I don't want…

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, I think…

Mr. IFTIKHAR: …I don't want to embrace Hillary Clinton either. But I'm saying that, you know, again, I think the Democratic Party is more mobilized to assuring that, you know, we get a change in administration.

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, check this out. We both - we all know the Republicans, Giuliani and Edwards dropped out earlier in the week. Now, where is that - where is Edwards support going to go? Does anybody know?

Dr. SPENCE: He's likely going to go…

Mr. IZRAEL: I mean, he's not committed - I don't know.

Dr. SPENCE: …Obama.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Obama.

Dr. SPENCE: Yeah.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah.

Dr. SPENCE: He's going to - well, the thing is, I think he'd be wise to really play his cards close to the vest as long as possible because…

Dr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah.

Mr. IZRAEL: Mm-hmm.

Dr. SPENCE: …as witness in the debate last night, nobody really - with the exception of a brief discussion to subprime mortgages - nobody really talked about Edwards' central issue. And when he spoke to them after suspending his campaign, he pushed them to deal with poverty. So I think you're going to see him hold his cards close to his vest until you see one of them make more of a stand.

So the bigger question is, is where will the people who backed him go? And that's going to be split down the middle.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right. And I agree with Lester. And the only thing that I'm slightly…

Mr. IZRAEL: Go ahead, A-train.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: The thing that I'm only - the thing that I'm slightly concerned about is the fact that I hope that Edwards doesn't hold his cards too long. You know, now that he's out of the race, I think that, you know, he has a window of opportunity to really, you know, milk his political influence. But I hope he doesn't wait too long and, you know, get, you know, overshadowed by other news stories that will be upcoming.

Mr. IZRAEL: You know what? He's out of the race, but he used some peculiar language. He said he's suspending his run for president. Lester, does this mean we're going to see him again?

Dr. SPENCE: No. But what I think that means is, kind of, a technical term used to - given his concern with poverty, I think he wants to signal that he's not ending the campaign against the issues that are dear to him, but rather, he's just like putting it in abeyance for the moment. So, it's kind of like a technical term. It's like a legal term.

Mr. IZRAEL: Now, R, is that how you read that?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah. I mean, that's a euphemism for, you know, I'm leaving. People leave, you know? You have - you said at the beginning, there were eight Republicans, eight Democrats. Plenty of things happened - people vote, fundraisers start channeling their money one way or the other. And all of a sudden, if you have no money to compete, then it's over for you. And now it's essentially a two-person race, and there's nothing Edwards can do about that.

I mean, what's he going to do? Threaten to come back into the race to bring his one delegate with him? So what?

Dr. SPENCE: Why not? I like it.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah, and I also think he…

Mr. IZRAEL: Go ahead, A-train.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: I think what he meant was that, you know, this is not the last that you've heard of me.

Mr. IZRAEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: I agree with Lester. You know, I think that he is sort of going to be a future vanguard of poverty issues, you know, whether it's at the elected level or more at the, you know, honorary level. I think that, basically, what he was saying is that, yeah, you know, my presidential candidacy for 2008 might be over, but this isn't the last you've heard of me.

NEARY: And I just want to say that I'm Lynn Neary. I'm sitting in for Michel Martin today. And you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. You're listening to the guys of the Barbershop, so back to you guys, and back to you, Jimi.

Mr. IZRAEL: You know what? On the GOP side, John McCain has pulled ahead. And he's not alone. He's got people now. Well, he's had people, but now, the good Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Mel Martinez are in his corner. Ruben…

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah?

Mr. IZRAEL: You know, McCain is so - well, he's pro-immigrant, certainly, relative to Mitt Romney. What does this mean, now that he's got two immigrants in his pocket, so to speak?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Look Attilla the Hun is pro-immigrant compared to Mitt Romney.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I think there's a lot going on here. Rick Perry, who is at the other end, the Republican governor of Texas from the right wing, is endorsing John McCain. And Rudy Giuliani, most significantly, endorsed John McCain.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I think a lot of Republicans are really scared of a Mitt Romney presidency because they don't know where this guy stands. He's just mush.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: And they don't trust that. And there - even people who disagree with McCain on various issues are flocking to McCain, because at least you know where he stands. He's a grown up, okay. He's a grown up. And that's what these very serious people - I'm interested in why it is that Republican governors who served with Mitt Romney as a fellow governor when he was in Massachusetts, why they're endorsing the other guy.

Mr. IZRAEL: Hmm.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: And…

NEARY: Do you want to hear some tape? We have some tape of Mitt Romney talking about immigration. Let's play that.

Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Former Governor, Massachusetts; Republican Presidential Candidate): The key is this. These individuals are free to get in line with everyone else that wants to become a permanent resident or citizen, but no special pathway. No special deal that says because you're here illegally, you get to stay here for the rest of your life. And that's what I found to be so offensive with the Z-Visa, which was in the McCain-Kennedy bill. It said all illegal aliens, unless you're a criminal, you're all allowed to stay here for $3,000 for the rest of your life. And that's a mistake.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: So, Dr. Spence?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. SPENCE: We talked about this last week, right?

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Mm-hmm.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right, right.

Dr. SPENCE: So the GOP has - at the national level, the GOP has a problem in that they're basically the white party. And that message, that sends a clarion signal to Latinos of - and to Asian immigrants or people who emigrated here from other countries, that these guys don't want you. And it doesn't matter.

Mr. IZRAEL: L-Rock…

Mr. IFTIKHAR: They could be citizens.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right? Yo, L-Rock, well, how do you see that? Is that - does he - is he on point there?

NEARY: You talking to me?

Mr. IZRAEL. Mm-hmm. I'm talking to you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. SPENCE: Only L-Rock here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: Well, you know, I think that in terms of immigration, you know, I think that's going to be one of the big issues in the final election, in the ultimate election. And there's going to be a pretty clear choice, I think, on which way to go between the Democrats and the Republicans. I think that's going to be one of the issues that people are going to be looking at pretty hard. And it's obviously very important to Republicans.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, and also, you know, to echo Ruben's sentiment, I think that, you know, if we want to encapsulate the current McCain phenomenon, I would call it the Mojo Express. I think that, you know, McCain's resurgence really shows the importance of political momentum.

You know, all the momentum is going towards McCain right now, you know? And all it takes many times is a primary win. Like Ruben said, you know, fundraisers, you know, tend to, you know, channel their money depending on which way the wind blows. And, you know, it's blowing in McCain's direction right now on the Republican side.

Mr. IZRAEL: Okay. What was…

Mr. NAVARRETTE: (Unintelligible)…

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, speaking of clear choices, yo, the Super Bowl - Patriots, Giants.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah.

Mr. IZRAEL: Fellows, who you got?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Come on.

Mr. IZRAEL: A-train?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Eighteen-and-0. The New England Patriots have, you know, surpassed the record that has withstood the test of times for 35 years. They should entitle the Super Bowl varsity versus junior varsity, regardless of…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IFTIKHAR: …who was representing the NFC. I'm sorry. And the funny thing is I'm actually a Buffalo Bills fan. And so, the Patriots are like a divisional mortal enemy for me. But as a football purist, I mean, you just got - you can't hate on the fact that this is a perfect season.

Mr. IZRAEL: The R, check in quickly.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yes, I'd say, you know, hey, the Patriots beat my Chargers, so what can I say? Go Giants.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Spence?

Dr. SPENCE: I played ball with Tom Brady in Michigan. He's a Mister, man. I got to go with them.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Nice.

Mr. IZRAEL: Really?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: How did that end up?

Dr. SPENCE: We did all right. I was the weakest guy. But he could go.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Brady's gangster. I'm sorry. Tom Brady is gangster.

Dr. SPENCE: Yeah, he will.

Mr. IZRAEL: All right. Well, you know…

NEARY: Well, what about this ankle? What about this ankle problem?

Dr. SPENCE: Oh, he'll be fine.

Mr. IZRAEL: They say his ankle…

Dr. SPENCE: Tom - Tom Brady…

Mr. IZRAEL: He's not mobile, anyway.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Exactly. He's like, you know, he's like, I can't run anyway, so it - why does it matter if my ankle is a little taped up? I mean, like I said, this is varsity versus junior varsity. And Brady on his worst day is better than 99 percent of the NFL on their best.

Mr. IZRAEL: Is everybody watching it at home? Or are they going to go to a friend's house? What's up with that?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: (unintelligible)…

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah, friend's house.

Dr. SPENCE: I going to be working.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: All right, fellows. We'll take you to…

NEARY: Now, you know what? You didn't ask me who I'm backing, huh?

Mr. IZRAEL: Oh, L-Rock.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: L-Rock.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Oh, (unintelligible). Who you got?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: (unintelligible).

NEARY: I'm not backing either one of them.

Mr. IZRAEL: You know what?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IFTIKHAR: You're a true prognosticator.

Mr. IZRAEL: And as Giuliani and Edwards said earlier in the week, that's a wrap.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Fellows, thank you so much for coming to the shop. I got to throw it back to the lady of the house. Welcome back. We'll see you again, L-Rock.

NEARY: Good talking with you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Yep.

NEARY: Jimi Izrael joined us from WSSU in Tallahassee, Florida. He writes for TheRoot.com. Ruben Navarrette writes for the San Diego Union Tribune and CNN.com, and he joined us via phone from San Diego. Arsalan Iftikhar is a contributing editor for Islamica magazine and a civil rights attorney. He joined us from our studios right here in Washington, D.C. And Dr. Lester Spence is an assistant professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University. He joined us from WYPR in Baltimore.

Gentlemen, it was good talking to you again. Thanks for joining us.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Thank you.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Thank you.

Dr. SPENCE: Thank you.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yep, yep.

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