FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
We're going to dig a little deeper into the primary season with a couple of our favorite politicos. Mary Francis Berry is a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania. Ron Christie is vice president of the lobbying group, DC Navigators. He's also a former special assistant to President George W. Bush. Hello.
Dr. MARY FRANCES BERRY (Professor, History, University of Pennsylvania): Hello, Farai.
Mr. RON CHRISTIE (Vice President, DC Navigators): Hello, Farai.
CHIDEYA: So what do you think of what you just heard? Mary, is it a situation where the African-American voting populous being split in the primaries does something good, something bad? I mean, how are we to interpret this?
Dr. BERRY: Oh I think it's great whenever you have competition for - it's great for the candidates so that they can try to appeal to those voters and think about them. But the most interesting thing I thought about David's - the survey he talked about was the data that shows that a majority of the people surveyed more supported Clinton than supported Obama. And the thing that I have seen that's so interesting about that phenomenon is that even people who are African-American and support Clinton - there's not a lot of criticism of them even from people who are Obama supporters.
When Jackson ran in '88, if you were black and you didn't support Jackson, people would say, well, why aren't supporting Jesse Jackson? He's a black guy running for president. And they wouldn't even ask you, you know, what he was for. Now, I think the Clintons' sort of aura, whatever policy wants, when I think about it - in the black community people, love Bill Clinton and they think - you see Hillary there, they think about all those nights they were at the White House, and all the black preachers who have slept there, and all the things that happened, and the good times, and the employment, and so they feel so good about them that even if they're supporting Obama, they don't say, well, gee, you should be supportive. It's not the same phenomenon, so I thought that was very interesting. But it's good to see competition, and there is a lot of support for Obama.
The sad part, I think, is that Edwards doesn't get any play - very much play at all because Jesse is right. Edwards is - his policy positions on a lot of the issues are very refractive to the problems in terms of the problems that black people have.
CHIDEYA: Ron, what about the Republican field? You have a situation where, basically, Republican candidates, so far, are not rating very high with most black voters, and Giuliani is the name that they know best, but he was viewed unfavorably by almost half of the people surveyed. Do Republican candidates really have the chance of capturing the imagination of at least a few black voters?
Mr. CHRISTIE: I think they do; I think if you look at 200 when President Bush captured 9 percent of the African-American vote and then in the reelection in 2004, that percentage had gone up to nearly 12 percent, which represented an increase of several million additional African-Americans voting for a Republican candidate. I think that there is the opportunity to capture the imagination, and the hearts, and the enthusiasm of folks in the black community, but, thus far, I'm disappointed that the leading Republican candidates running for office haven't patched in to that enthusiasm, haven't patched in to that imagination, and haven't specifically asked for the vote.
One of the things that I found for being in politics for nearly 17 years now is that you have to ask people for their support, not when you're just looking for them to vote for you, but to solicit their input, to get their ideas, and to continually come back and ask and say, what can we do better, what should we be doing better. And that was one of the rapports that I had with both the president and the vice president of the United States when I was in the White House of - don't go to neighborhoods and ask just because you're looking for the vote; go because you actually want to hear what people have to say, and after a while, they'll take to you.
But, as we've discussed before, Farai, I think the biggest mistake that the Republican candidates made was not going Tavis Smiley's debate several months ago at Morgan State University outside of Baltimore. There was a golden opportunity for Republicans to say that we're serious about soliciting the input and the voices of the African-American community. And candidly, they blew it.
CHIDEYA: Mary, very briefly, do you think that was a very deep stumble?
Dr. BERRY: I think it was a stumble. They should have taken the opportunity to do it. Even if somebody booed them, it still would have been okay - they'd been there. And the problem with Giuliani is - who's the frontrunner, I guess, nationally in the national polls, is that when most African-Americans think of Giuliani, they think Amadu Diallo getting shot and all these other people who've been shot and his attitude toward it at that time. They have very negative points of view about him, and I guess he knows that.
CHIDEYA: And Abner Louima where the police officers…
Mr. CHRISTIE: Right.
Dr. BERRY: Right. You think about…
CHIDEYA: …involved said, it's Giuliani time.
Dr. BERRY: Absolutely. Absolutely.
CHIDEYA: Not that Giuliani asked them to say that, but…
Dr. BERRY: Absolutely, Farai. So that they needed those candidates - needed to go to Morgan State. They need to reach out. They need to be somewhere where they're invited by some black people to stand up and talk to them and answer questions.
CHIDEYA: Well, I want you guys to stay with me. We're going to keep going on with this in a minute.
And we're talking to Mary Frances Berry, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania; also, Ron Christie, vice president of the lobbying group DC Navigators. They're in our Washington studios.
And just ahead, we've got more on politics.
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