: I'm Michel Martin. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
: rare recordings of formerly enslaved Americans as they worked and worshipped. That's coming up.
F: Douglas Sosnik, the former senior adviser to President Clinton and Ari Fleischer, the former White House spokesman for President George W. Bush.
Gentlemen, we have not talked a lot about race. I think we should for a minute. Iowa - 97 percent white. Barack Obama, one of the criticisms - Doug, you pointed out with the caucuses is they're kind of exclusive. I mean, it's, you know, I would have a hard time going, I have two little kids and - you know, if I weren't - my husband couldn't go and if he went, the babies sitter couldn't go. So it's sort of meant to tighten the circle of who can participate. But a 97 percent white state - is it important? Is it - does it say something important that Barack Obama did as well as he did?
SOSNIK: Well, regardless of who the nominee is, last night was a historic night. It really was a remarkable achievement for Barack Obama to win in Iowa. My sense is, is that race is, unfortunately, always a factor in politics. Although, clearly, people 30 and under have a different view about race. And I think that's probably one of the great unknowns in this campaign, particularly if Barack Obama continues to do well, is what factor will race play when people actually go in the booth, close the curtain, and cast their votes.
: He obviously spoke to that when he - I think the sort of the sense of history that a lot of people were - at least that he, I think, may have felt when he talked about the (unintelligible). Here is a short clip from his speech...
BARACK OBAMA: They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do.
: And here is a clip from Hillary Clinton. And I want to ask you gentleman, if you think that in essence she was answering that sort of appeal to - I don't know what you want to call it - to a sort of to history and to sort of on emotion. Here is Hillary Clinton...
HILLARY CLINTON: Today, we're sending a clear message that we are going to have change, and that change will be a Democratic president in the White House in 2009.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
: Actually, that was what I was thinking of. I have always thinking of when she said: we will win in November by nominating a candidate who will be able to go the distance and who will be the best president on day one. And Doug, I wonder how you heard that. Is she saying in a way that, you know, he can't do it?
SOSNIK: Well, I'm not sure that she was thinking about race when she said that. But I do think that she - what she has been highlighting, I think, is a fair point for her to highlight is the fact that she is battle-tested. And the Republicans in the right wing are not happily going to give up the White House. And they're going to do what they think they need to do, and do what it takes to try to tear down the Democratic nominee.
And I think the main point she's making is she's battle-tested. She's more than prepared to engage in that fight. And I think that - drawing a contrast with her background and being ready to take on that fight is what she was doing as a contrast to - implicitly, to Obama.
FLEISCHER: Well, you know, you can also make the case that Hillary is a woman so there are more women than there are African-Americans in this country. So isn't she the historic candidate. I think what it all shows is the genius of America as we vote for the people. And increasingly, race, religion, gender is a smaller and receding factor in the minds of most people. We vote for people in both parties we think are the most qualified. That's the greatest thing about our country. We don't really break down on those lines in which some other places do.
: Ari, you know, Obama with 35 percent of the vote among women, Clinton 30 percent. How and why do you think that happened and...
FLEISCHER: That's my point - is people don't just vote on the basis of their own personal identity. They vote for what they think is best for the country. And that is always been a hallmark of what sets our country apart, what keeps our democracy so vibrant. And that sends signal to everybody. It doesn't matter who you are in this country, you have a chance.
SOSNIK: I agree with that. And I would add one other point which is I don't think the people vote ideologically either. And I think that's one of the challenges that Huckabee is going to have going forward, which is he's largely as an ideologically-oriented foundation for the candidacy. And I think people do vote, as Ari said, for the candidate and not for the party or the ideology. And also I think...
FLEISCHER: No, I disagree with that. My point was they vote for both. They vote for the individual and what they're tone is - whether they connect with somebody and ideology...
SOSNIK: Well if you look at...
FLEISCHER: Ideology is always profoundly important in American politics.
SOSNIK: Did you look at the election in...
FLEISCHER: Barack Obama becomes a nominee, particularly, you're going to see a real case against somebody who is very, very liberal. And a lot of that's going to get brought out.
: Okay, Doug, final thoughts?
FLEISCHER: ...dismissed the factor of ideas, policy, ideology in elections.
SOSNIK: Well, I think that...
: Doug, final thoughts...
SOSNIK: ...what Ari said is - emblematic of where the Republican party is right now, which is - it's really on fumes from where it has been as a majority party. And they've been trying to play, successfully, I might add, for a generation - the liberal card. But I think the country has moved on. They're much more interested in dealing with the real problems of this country and not fighting the same fights and the same labels that have been used against them in the past.
: Ari, I'm going to have to invite you back so you can get the last word on the next around. Thank you so much. Ari Fleischer, the former White House spokesman for the George W. Bush administration. Douglas Sosnik, a former senior adviser to President Clinton. And Mr. Sosnik was kind enough to join me here in the studio - Ari Fleischer from New York. Gentlemen, thank you both so much for speaking with us.
FLEISCHER: Thank you, Michel.
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