Week in Politics: New Endorsements NPR's Juan Williams discusses new endorsements for the presidential candidates and other developments in the race.
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Week in Politics: New Endorsements

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Week in Politics: New Endorsements

Week in Politics: New Endorsements

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

NPR News analyst Juan Williams is back with us now, a regular Friday guest.

Hello again, Juan.

JUAN WILLIAMS: Good to be with you, Alex.

CHADWICK: We've been talking about the economy here on the show. How do you see all this economic news, most of it bad, influencing the presidential race?

WILLIAMS: This is the most interesting conversation I had this week, Alex. It was with Bob Kuttner, who's one of the founders of American Prospect, and of course he's a columnist. And he was talking in terms of what has happened to the American economy and how it plays out politically.

I got the conversation started by saying that recent polls indicate 40 percent of Americans now think that we are going to have a recession in the coming year. And I wanted to know what this meant for anybody who's running for president.

Kuttner's point of view is that both Republicans and Democrats have something to fear here, that in fact the economy is now listed as the number one issue. If you look at polls, it has now superseded both Iraq and Iran as principal concerns of American voters.

And if you are a Republican, of course you have to justify why this has happened on your watch and why things like the subprime market collapse lacked regulation or any kind of intervention. But he said Democrats also have to deal with the fact that some of this started on the watch of, guess who, President Clinton, going back to the early '90s when the whole notion was that you do away with regulation, let the free market reign, but do so in such a way that it has not protected the American middle class and that somebody's going to have to pay for that.

CHADWICK: And so what is he saying? Is it going to be Republicans paying or Democrats?

WILLIAMS: He thinks there's going to be a series of bombs exploding on the economic front over the next year. So the economy will continue to be a principal concern of American voters. And he thinks that it benefits ultimately Democrats, but only if Democrats speak effectively, not just to the - in the way John Edwards has been speaking about the 15 percent locked in poverty, but speak to the 70 percent who are struggling with paying for health care, paying for college costs, paying for increasing cost of gasoline.

CHADWICK: Let's talk about the GOP candidates, because there was some interesting news this week. A lot of endorsements - Pat Robertson, the evangelical leader, backing Rudy Giuliani; Kansas Senator Sam Brownback after getting out of the presidential race says he's now behind John McCain; and yesterday former Governor Mike Huckabee got the nod from Donald Wildmon, he's the founder of the American Family Association. Any meaning in this?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know what I think, is that evangelicals, the kind of Christian right, doesn't have a candidate. I think that's the meaning. And so what you see is that things are kind of diffuse.

And when it comes down to, like for example when Wildmon endorsed Huckabee, he's talking about values and family values and bringing us together. And when Robertson backs Giuliani, Robertson is talking about putting strict constructionist judges on the court.

So everybody now's got a different agenda, different way of looking at it. I think what you're seeing here, Alex, is the decline of the power of the evangelical right in American politics, but specifically among Republicans.

CHADWICK: Then there's this one. Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police chief, was indicted last night. He's a good friend of former Mayor Giuliani, who tried to get him to be the country's Homeland Security chief. How's that going to play out there?

WILLIAMS: Well, Alex, you and I are friends. I don't think it's the friendship that's the problem here. I think it's the idea that the former mayor says he's a man who, you know, turned New York City around, he's a great judge of character, he's a courageous man, he reacted well after 9/11. And this really calls into question his judgment about individuals and the idea that he knew some of the problems that Kerik was involved with and continued to endorse him.

What you're getting here, I think, is a sense that there's a crack in the great facade of the great leader, the great judge of character, Rudolph Giuliani. It could be a problem down the way, an opening for his opponents.

CHADWICK: My unindicted co-conspirator friend regularly on Fridays, Juan Williams. Juan, thanks again.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Alex.

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