Pa. Mayors' Primary Picks Transcend Race Philadelphia's Mayor Michael Nutter has endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY). Lancaster's Mayor Rick Gray is backing Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). One month ahead of the contest, near-record numbers of voters are registering and a recent poll gives Clinton a 12-point lead.
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Pa. Mayors' Primary Picks Transcend Race

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Pa. Mayors' Primary Picks Transcend Race

Pa. Mayors' Primary Picks Transcend Race

Pa. Mayors' Primary Picks Transcend Race

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/88689989/88689973" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Philadelphia's Mayor Michael Nutter has endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY). Lancaster's Mayor Rick Gray is backing Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). One month ahead of the contest, near-record numbers of voters are registering and a recent poll gives Clinton a 12-point lead.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

With five weeks to go before the Pennsylvania primary on April 22nd, both campaigns are preparing for a long, hard battle for votes. We're joined by two mayors from Pennsylvania. Both are Democrats, but they're on opposite sides of the line on this election.

Michael Nutter is the mayor of Philadelphia. He has endorsed Hillary Clinton. And Richard Gray is the mayor of Lancaster, and he joins us from Harrisburg. He supports Barack Obama.

Thanks to both of you for being with us.

Mayor RICHARD GRAY (Democrat, Lancaster, Pennsylvania): Good to be here.

Mayor MICHAEL NUTTER (Democrat, Philadelphia): Michele, thanks a lot, and hello Mayor Gray.

Mayor GRAY: Hi, how are you doing?

Mayor NUTTER: I'm all right.

NORRIS: Mayor Nutter, Mayor Gray, I want to ask you both about the political story that dominated the news earlier this week: Barack Obama's speech on the racial divide and his ties to his controversial pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

Michael Nutter, from what I understand, some within the Hillary Clinton campaign while uncomfortable with this issue of race coming once again to the surface, nonetheless saw a real opportunity in the moment to cement Clinton support with white working-class voters. Is that political opportunism or political reality?

Mayor NUTTER: Well, I think Senator Clinton is being a good candidate and talking to all constituencies; she goes everywhere, she talks to everyone. I don't know that's there's anything for Senator Clinton to do with regard to Senator Obama and the, you know, dilemma that he has faced in dealing with, you know, some pretty inflammatory remarks by his pastor. So Senator Obama is dealing with that. Senator Clinton is trying to be a good candidate, and whether talking about the urban agenda or Iraqi war as she was in Philadelphia just the other day, she's just going about being a candidate. She's, you know, more than comfortable talking about a variety of issues whether it's race or gender or other challenges in America. But those are issues that Senator Obama has to deal with himself.

NORRIS: Barack Obama is increasingly relying on African-Americans in delegate-rich districts, in urban centers to offset Hillary Clinton's advantages among Catholic voters, among blue-collar voters, among white ethnic voters. If that trend and that racial gap continues in Pennsylvania and beyond, will that undercut his core message that he's the candidate that can unite America, that can create a new kind of political coalition, something this week he called a more perfect union?

Mayor GRAY: Well, Michele, I think it's natural for people to vote for individuals in their own, sort of, affinity group. I mean, we never had a problem with Irish men voting for Irish politicians or Italians voting for Italian politicians. I think it's only natural that African-Americans would be attracted to a candidate who has a real possibility of being elected president of the United States and who is African-American. I'd submit Senator Clinton gets a certain amount of votes from women because she is a woman, and they feel that she would better understand gender problems in the United States and the discrimination that's been foisted upon women over the years. So, I don't think that's unusual for that to happen.

I would hate to see people in our party emphasize that fact and perhaps jeopardize our general election in such a way that we would lose. I would hope that that wouldn't happen and I would hope that all of us would recognize that we have two exceptional people here. And during this primary campaign, the last thing we want to do is destroy whichever one is nominated - destroy their opportunity to be elected president.

NORRIS: Both candidates have said that they want to focus on issues going forward, so let's turn to some of these key issues in Pennsylvania. Polls show that Hillary Clinton has a slight lead overall among voters. But on some of the key issues, such as the war and the economy, the margin between the two candidates is very, very slim.

Among voters who are most concerned about the economy, 55 percent of them favored Clinton. Again, that's a very slim margin. Last question - and I'd like each of you to answer briefly, if you could, and I know it's dangerous to ask a politician to give a brief answer, but I'm going to ask anyway.

Mayor GRAY: That's right.

NORRIS: I'd like you both to briefly explain why voters in Pennsylvania should expect that their financial outlook would improve under first an Obama administration?

Mayor GRAY: I think a Barack Obama - if you look at his life history, when he got out of college, he went and worked with unemployed steel workers. When he got out of law school, he was certainly, probably, the premier law student in the United States. He could have written his own ticket.

What did he do? He went back to Chicago and worked with people who were out of work. I think you have someone here who understands the problems of the average person. And I think the disaster that George Bush has made of our economy is going to take a lot of work and a lot of getting out of, but you would have someone in that position who can relate to the average working person in the economic hardships that currently exist for them.

NORRIS: Michael Nutter, why would Hillary Clinton be a better steward of the economy?

Mayor NUTTER: Well, I think at the same time, again when we talk about the experience issue and the life experiences, Hillary Clinton, you know, came out of Yale not exactly without prospects herself but decided to go and work and open a legal clinic to help the poor - her work with the Children's Defense fund, in looking after children and families. Well, her experience whether as first lady of Arkansas or first lady of the country, and certainly as a United State senator has always been looking out for other people. She, I mean, in my conversations with her at least, I mean, it's very clear to me that Senator Clinton, she gets it, she understands what cities and metropolitan areas are about, and how best to serve people. So, I think, it is again the experience -and which I refer to as experience and good judgment.

NORRIS: Michael Nutter is the mayor of Philadelphia. Richard Gray is the mayor of Lancaster in Pennsylvania. Thanks to both of you.

Mayor NUTTER: Thank you.

Mayor GRAY: Thank you, Michele.

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