Transcript: Minority Voting Influence on 2004 Election

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, June 21, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FNC SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST AND GUEST HOST: Minority voters could be President Bush's secret weapon in the upcoming election.

Juan Williams (search) is the author of "My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience." He's also an NPR senior correspondent and a FOX News political analyst.

That's today's big question, Juan: How can President Bush make inroads with minority voters?

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLTIICAL ANALYST: He's got a way to do it, Judge. You know what? People don't understand that if you look at the statistics since 2000, what you see is that now a quarter of African- American voters — just African-Americans, I'm not talking about Hispanic or anything, just African-Americans — a quarter are now self-identified as independents.

And if you get into the group that is about under the age of 40, you are looking at a third — a third — who say they're independents. And you have seen an increase from about four percent in 2000 to 10 percent now who say they are Republicans. So, this is a tremendous jump.

And what I think it indicates is there's a constituency out there among African-Americans that's anxious to hear from the president, wants him to woo them, wants to come out with ideas, proposals that might be attractive to them. And so far, we don't see John Kerry's campaign necessarily carrying the ball saying anything that would have particular energy or, you know, the Clintonesque charisma.

I just saw you talking about Clinton. None of that for the black community coming from Kerry so far. In fact, complaints that there aren't enough minorities in his inner circle. So I think the road is open for George W. Bush in a close campaign to use minority voters as his secret weapon to gain re-election.

NAPOLITANO: Do minority voters, typically African-Americans and Hispanics, still vote in huge blocks as if they were one as we have all sort of been led to believe in our political science courses up to the present time?

WILLIAMS: Well, it is the case generally, Judge, that's exactly right. But if you look at George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas, you see an exception. You see about half of Hispanics voting for him in his last race for governor of Texas. You see about a third of the African- Americans voting for George W. Bush.

But it was after he began to run for president and there were these ads used by the NAACP that portrayed him as not wanting to properly prosecute the people who were involved in that horrible murder of James Byrd (search) down in Jasper, Texas.


WILLIAMS: . that the minority vote pulled away from him. But he was a candidate who appealed to minority voters as evidenced by that tremendous support he got down in Texas.

And right now, if you look at the polls, you know, it's about a third of Hispanics who say they will vote for him coming in, but really down low, about six percent of African-Americans at the moment. He's so much ground to cover, but I think with a little investment of time and energy, he can get a big payoff both from the Hispanic community and the Black community. And I think it might actually set in place a tremendous battle where Kerry would realize he can't take the Black vote, the Hispanic vote for granted. He's got to work for it.

NAPOLITANO: All right. Now, we know that African-American leaders and office holders and we know that Hispanic office holders are against the idea of vouchers for public schools, are against the idea of a defense of marriage amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages. But aren't mainstream African-Americans, especially those in inner cities, in favor of school vouchers, and aren't mainstream Hispanics on the traditional side and against same-sex marriages and with the president on this?

WILLIAMS: Hey, Judge Napolitano, I'm the one that's supposed to do the political analysis. That was too good. You are exactly right. I mean, if you go to the heart of the matter, that's right. That's how George W. Bush can pull this off. He's got the issues. You look at vouchers, you look at school choice, he can do it.

If you look at some of the other issues out there, especially that one about marriage — you know, same-sex marriage — he's got the grassroots in the African-American and Hispanic community with him. And he's got a vehicle to do it in terms of the church because of his faith-based initiative movement, which has played very well in the black and Hispanic churches around the country.

NAPOLITANO: Does he have the courage to go into Black churches, the ability to gather African-American leaders and ministers around him so that that message can get out there, or will he run sort of a traditional country club Republican campaign?

WILLIAMS: You know, it's just not — you know, I just hope that doesn't happen. I mean, you can't be sure, because you know, I talked to Ed Gillespie (search), the chairman of the Republican National Committee, the day after my piece ran in The New York Times. And Ed said, you know, they're out there, they're working. And the way they're going to do it is not necessarily go national with it, but they are looking at certain areas. They're looking at certain segments of the Hispanic and the Black vote where, again, their message can be conveyed.

So, they invest money and time in those segments, they believe they can get the payoff according to Ed Gillespie. And I think you are going to see that because of the track record in Texas under Karl Rove (search), the president's top political advisor, is that the president feels comfortable with Black and Hispanic voters, feels comfortable with those audiences and has a message on the vouchers and on the same-sex marriage issue that you talked about.

NAPOLITANO: Before I let you go, I understand that you're going to interview former President Clinton tomorrow on your NPR radio show. What's the first question right off the bat?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, it's — we're going to tape it tomorrow, right after he does his event at Barnes & Noble in midtown Manhattan for broadcast on Wednesday morning, Judge. And I think right off the bat you want to ask him about the politics, what he thinks is going on. What's the best thing he can say about Kerry? Why should Kerry be president of the United States? Does he really want it? And you just a few minutes ago were talking about is he saving his ammunition for Hillary for president 2008? Maybe.

NAPOLITANO: I think you should ask him that. And Juan, we will be listening. Juan Williams, thanks very much.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Judge.

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