Michael Steele: Democrats' Worst Nightmare?

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," June 1, 2006, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: What is the Democrats' biggest nightmare in their effort to regain power in the House and the Senate this November? Well, according to a syndicated column this week by FOX News analyst Bob Novak, a strong, smart African-American Republican from a Democratic state.

He was talking about Maryland's lieutenant governor, Michael Steele, who's running for Senate against 10-term Congressman Ben Cardin.

The lieutenant governor joins us right now.

Governor, thank you for being with us.

LT. GOV. MICHAEL STEELE, R-MD., MARYLAND SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Hey, it's great to be with you, Neil. How are you doing, man?


STEELE: Great.

CAVUTO: You know, I was reading a lot about your history and was intrigued. I guess you were maybe 18 at the time you were galvanized by a speech by Ronald Reagan in the 1976 Republican Convention, one that nominated Gerald Ford, I might point out.

STEELE: Right.


STEELE: Exactly.

CAVUTO: What was it that he said then that intrigued you then?

STEELE: Well, he sounded a lot like my mother, and how I was raised and the values that she taught me.

When he talked about America finding its better self and taking responsibility and being a leader and all the things that, you know, coming off out of Watergate and all of the stresses and strains that we were going through as a nation, he kind of capsulized for me how you can grow out of adversity, how you can grow out of conflict into victory.

And that's a message that resonated with me, because it's a message my mother taught me growing up in a segregated city, which Washington, D.C., still pretty much was, in many spots, at that time, when I was growing up in the late '50s, early '60s and, certainly, through the adversity of my own personal story, with my dad being an alcoholic, and a wife abuser, and dying subsequently from his alcohol abuse.

Out of that tragedy, victory can come. And the victory is the fact that I'm the lieutenant governor of my state, serving as the only African-American lieutenant governor in the nation. So, that's...


CAVUTO: That alone is an anomaly. But...

STEELE: Yes, well. Yes.


CAVUTO: But with your fellow African-Americans, I mean, is it difficult to say, I'm a Republican?

STEELE: No, it's not, because that's the origins of our political history is in the Republican Party.

The difficulty is when our party fails to respond in kind and talk directly about empowerment and the values of hard work and all those things that African-Americans, like all Americans, have great respect for.

What has happened is, we have become sort of a political shell of ourselves, and as we have been defined by our political opponents.

What I'm about is defining who we are. This is a change election, Neil. And you have talked about it. And many of the commentators around the country has. And Maryland will be no different. And my bottom line is, if you are ready for change, then get ready for Michael Steele, because we're bringing a new message of empowerment, of hope, of opportunity, but not just hope for hope's sake.

We are talking about turning hope into action, making things real for people by starting to listen to them and pay attention to their needs.

CAVUTO: Yes, but, in order to do well, you have to buck the odds, where African-Americans vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

STEELE: Right.

CAVUTO: Depending on whether I buy Bob Novak's figures or not — he is a lot smarter than I am, so I will.


CAVUTO: He says you need to get 20 to 25 percent of the black vote...

STEELE: He is right.

CAVUTO: ... to have a chance. Is that true?

STEELE: He's absolutely right.

And, right now, by the Democrats' own poll, which was part of a background brief that they did on me, 37 pages, they found that I'm right now carrying a solid 14 percent of the African-American vote in my state, with an additional 44 percent leaning towards or inclined to vote for me this November.

CAVUTO: Well, why do you think so many African-Americans end up voting Democratic? Is it they don't trust Republicans? And, if that's the case, how do you get the word out that that's not the case?

STEELE: Well, if you only have one side talking at you, Neil, who are you going to listen to?

And, over the past 24 to 30 years, you have not had a Republican voice that has been consistent in drilling down and talking about the issues that are important to African-Americans, education, health care. You don't have to come up with a different message. You don't need to come up with some special formula or some secret handshake.

It's a commonsense agenda that speaks to empowerment and ownership and creating value within the community. That's what I have been doing as lieutenant governor over the last three years. It's resonated. And that's why some of my opponents are a little bit nervous right now.

CAVUTO: All right.

Well, I know Republicans are certainly looking forward to you.

Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, thank you very much.

STEELE: Thank you, Neil.

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