Bill Zimmerman: Will race play a role in the Democratic contest on Tuesday?


Story Transcript

ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: Political commentators attributed Barack Obama’s surprise loss in New Hampshire to the Bradley Effect, arguing that white voters will not tell a pollster that they’re voting against the African-American candidate, even though they’ve already decided to do so.

(CLIP BEGINS)

NEWS SHOW COMMENTATOR: It was Tom Bradley in the California governor’s race in 1982. Polls had him ahead, ahead by a fairly healthy margin over George Deukmejian. He ended up losing. You can’t help but look at that, and particularly you’ve got to wonder what the message that this could send to African-American Democrats.

(CLIP ENDS)

To understand if the Bradley Effect and race will play a role in today’s election, The Real News spoke with political strategist and advertising consultant Bill Zimmerman.

BILL ZIMMERMAN, ADVERTISING CONSULTANT: Well, the effect did happen in the Bradley campaign in 1982. The polling showed him getting many more votes than he actually got. It happened to me the following year, in 1983, when I was doing the “Herald Washington for Mayor” campaign in Chicago. He was the first serious black candidate to run for mayor of Chicago. And we consistently polled ten points higher than we actually got on primary election day or general election day. I’m not sure, despite all the speculation, that a similar effect was happening in New Hampshire, that in fact it was, because in the past, when we noticed this so-called Bradley Effect, it was either a long time ago—I mean, Bradley was 26 years ago—or it was a candidate that was more identified with African-American activism. Barack Obama is not the black candidate running for president; he’s a presidential candidate who happens to be black. And while this so-called effect may have affected a few voters, I’m not sure it played a significant role. He was up against a female candidate, and one could argue a similar effect would apply to a female candidate. We’ve never had a woman running for president who got as far as Hillary Clinton has gotten in this process, and certainly America has no shortage of sexism along with racism. So I think in New Hampshire it was probably wrong to attribute her victory to any kind of Bradley Effect—and Obama.

MATTHEW PALEVSKY, JOURNALIST, TRNN: So then why did we hear so much about it in the aftermath of the New Hampshire primary? All the major news channels said, you know, this could be the Bradley Effect happening. Was that speculation for people who were quite sure? What are they looking at? And why are they talking about it?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, the first interest that a news organization—other than yours—has in an election is to use it to build their ratings. And they will always look for the most sensational aspect of an election story in order to put into the lead paragraph, ’cause they want to draw attention to the story that they’re telling to build their own ratings. So it’s not surprising to have seen the news media turn to racism or sexism as an underlying dynamic in the New Hampshire race or in any other race. They’ll do anything to avoid a substantive discussion of the issues, because they don’t have time to deliver a substantive discussion of the issues within the very short, less-than-30-second sound bites that they’re able to put into their newscasts.

PALEVSKY: And is race an issue, not just in New Hampshire, but in California right now with Super Tuesday coming? Is a racial dynamic playing out that’ll affect the election?

ZIMMERMAN: Race is always an issue in American politics, because race is always an issue in America. The extent to which it affects the primary in California, I don’t think it’s as great as some people have speculated about. Again, we have a black candidate and a female candidate, so this is an unusual election to begin with. We’re also a state which is much more racially diverse than most other states, not only as between black and white voters, but as between black, white, and Latino voters. So we’re used to seeing candidates who are not white prevailing in elections within this state. Whether, you know, it’s at a statewide level or a local level, it’s a more common phenomenon. So I think that dynamic plays less of a role in California than in some of the states in the Midwest or the Southeast.

PALEVSKY: Many have said that the Clinton campaign is trying to pit the Latino vote against the African-American vote. Is that true? Because it hasn’t come directly from the Clinton campaign. And if it is true, is it at work? Is there a divide there?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, there’s certainly a divide between the black and brown communities in California, and we’ve seen that manifested any number of ways. But it’s a leap to believe that that’s an underlying dynamic in the presidential race. I don’t believe that either Hillary’s camp or Obama’s camp is intentionally trying to use race to move voters, because looking at polling data, I don’t see how one can effectively use race, or for that matter use sexism, when the audience is the Democratic primary electorate in California. That’s a very liberal and tolerant electorate. You know, that’s an electorate that favored Gary Hart over Walter Mondale in ’84 that favored Ted Kennedy over Jimmy Carter, even though he was the sitting president, in 1980; it’s an electorate that voted for Jerry Brown over Jimmy Carter in ’76. So this isn’t an electorate in which it would pay the candidate’s campaign to try to exploit racism.

ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: Political commentators attributed Barack Obama’s surprise loss in New Hampshire to the Bradley Effect, arguing that white voters will not tell a pollster that they’re voting against the African-American candidate, even though they’ve already decided to do so.

(CLIP BEGINS)

NEWS SHOW COMMENTATOR: It was Tom Bradley in the California governor’s race in 1982. Polls had him ahead, ahead by a fairly healthy margin over George Deukmejian. He ended up losing. You can’t help but look at that, and particularly you’ve got to wonder what the message that this could send to African-American Democrats.

(CLIP ENDS)

To understand if the Bradley Effect and race will play a role in today’s election, The Real News spoke with political strategist and advertising consultant Bill Zimmerman.

BILL ZIMMERMAN, ADVERTISING CONSULTANT: Well, the effect did happen in the Bradley campaign in 1982. The polling showed him getting many more votes than he actually got. It happened to me the following year, in 1983, when I was doing the “Herald Washington for Mayor” campaign in Chicago. He was the first serious black candidate to run for mayor of Chicago. And we consistently polled ten points higher than we actually got on primary election day or general election day. I’m not sure, despite all the speculation, that a similar effect was happening in New Hampshire, that in fact it was, because in the past, when we noticed this so-called Bradley Effect, it was either a long time ago—I mean, Bradley was 26 years ago—or it was a candidate that was more identified with African-American activism. Barack Obama is not the black candidate running for president; he’s a presidential candidate who happens to be black. And while this so-called effect may have affected a few voters, I’m not sure it played a significant role. He was up against a female candidate, and one could argue a similar effect would apply to a female candidate. We’ve never had a woman running for president who got as far as Hillary Clinton has gotten in this process, and certainly America has no shortage of sexism along with racism. So I think in New Hampshire it was probably wrong to attribute her victory to any kind of Bradley Effect—and Obama.

MATTHEW PALEVSKY, JOURNALIST, TRNN: So then why did we hear so much about it in the aftermath of the New Hampshire primary? All the major news channels said, you know, this could be the Bradley Effect happening. Was that speculation for people who were quite sure? What are they looking at? And why are they talking about it?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, the first interest that a news organization—other than yours—has in an election is to use it to build their ratings. And they will always look for the most sensational aspect of an election story in order to put into the lead paragraph, ’cause they want to draw attention to the story that they’re telling to build their own ratings. So it’s not surprising to have seen the news media turn to racism or sexism as an underlying dynamic in the New Hampshire race or in any other race. They’ll do anything to avoid a substantive discussion of the issues, because they don’t have time to deliver a substantive discussion of the issues within the very short, less-than-30-second sound bites that they’re able to put into their newscasts.

PALEVSKY: And is race an issue, not just in New Hampshire, but in California right now with Super Tuesday coming? Is a racial dynamic playing out that’ll affect the election?

ZIMMERMAN: Race is always an issue in American politics, because race is always an issue in America. The extent to which it affects the primary in California, I don’t think it’s as great as some people have speculated about. Again, we have a black candidate and a female candidate, so this is an unusual election to begin with. We’re also a state which is much more racially diverse than most other states, not only as between black and white voters, but as between black, white, and Latino voters. So we’re used to seeing candidates who are not white prevailing in elections within this state. Whether, you know, it’s at a statewide level or a local level, it’s a more common phenomenon. So I think that dynamic plays less of a role in California than in some of the states in the Midwest or the Southeast.

PALEVSKY: Many have said that the Clinton campaign is trying to pit the Latino vote against the African-American vote. Is that true? Because it hasn’t come directly from the Clinton campaign. And if it is true, is it at work? Is there a divide there?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, there’s certainly a divide between the black and brown communities in California, and we’ve seen that manifested any number of ways. But it’s a leap to believe that that’s an underlying dynamic in the presidential race. I don’t believe that either Hillary’s camp or Obama’s camp is intentionally trying to use race to move voters, because looking at polling data, I don’t see how one can effectively use race, or for that matter use sexism, when the audience is the Democratic primary electorate in California. That’s a very liberal and tolerant electorate. You know, that’s an electorate that favored Gary Hart over Walter Mondale in ’84 that favored Ted Kennedy over Jimmy Carter, even though he was the sitting president, in 1980; it’s an electorate that voted for Jerry Brown over Jimmy Carter in ’76. So this isn’t an electorate in which it would pay the candidate’s campaign to try to exploit racism.

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


Story Transcript

ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: Political commentators attributed Barack Obama’s surprise loss in New Hampshire to the Bradley Effect, arguing that white voters will not tell a pollster that they’re voting against the African-American candidate, even though they’ve already decided to do so. (CLIP BEGINS) NEWS SHOW COMMENTATOR: It was Tom Bradley in the California governor’s race in 1982. Polls had him ahead, ahead by a fairly healthy margin over George Deukmejian. He ended up losing. You can’t help but look at that, and particularly you’ve got to wonder what the message that this could send to African-American Democrats. (CLIP ENDS) To understand if the Bradley Effect and race will play a role in today’s election, The Real News spoke with political strategist and advertising consultant Bill Zimmerman. BILL ZIMMERMAN, ADVERTISING CONSULTANT: Well, the effect did happen in the Bradley campaign in 1982. The polling showed him getting many more votes than he actually got. It happened to me the following year, in 1983, when I was doing the “Herald Washington for Mayor” campaign in Chicago. He was the first serious black candidate to run for mayor of Chicago. And we consistently polled ten points higher than we actually got on primary election day or general election day. I’m not sure, despite all the speculation, that a similar effect was happening in New Hampshire, that in fact it was, because in the past, when we noticed this so-called Bradley Effect, it was either a long time ago—I mean, Bradley was 26 years ago—or it was a candidate that was more identified with African-American activism. Barack Obama is not the black candidate running for president; he’s a presidential candidate who happens to be black. And while this so-called effect may have affected a few voters, I’m not sure it played a significant role. He was up against a female candidate, and one could argue a similar effect would apply to a female candidate. We’ve never had a woman running for president who got as far as Hillary Clinton has gotten in this process, and certainly America has no shortage of sexism along with racism. So I think in New Hampshire it was probably wrong to attribute her victory to any kind of Bradley Effect—and Obama. MATTHEW PALEVSKY, JOURNALIST, TRNN: So then why did we hear so much about it in the aftermath of the New Hampshire primary? All the major news channels said, you know, this could be the Bradley Effect happening. Was that speculation for people who were quite sure? What are they looking at? And why are they talking about it? ZIMMERMAN: Well, the first interest that a news organization—other than yours—has in an election is to use it to build their ratings. And they will always look for the most sensational aspect of an election story in order to put into the lead paragraph, ’cause they want to draw attention to the story that they’re telling to build their own ratings. So it’s not surprising to have seen the news media turn to racism or sexism as an underlying dynamic in the New Hampshire race or in any other race. They’ll do anything to avoid a substantive discussion of the issues, because they don’t have time to deliver a substantive discussion of the issues within the very short, less-than-30-second sound bites that they’re able to put into their newscasts. PALEVSKY: And is race an issue, not just in New Hampshire, but in California right now with Super Tuesday coming? Is a racial dynamic playing out that’ll affect the election? ZIMMERMAN: Race is always an issue in American politics, because race is always an issue in America. The extent to which it affects the primary in California, I don’t think it’s as great as some people have speculated about. Again, we have a black candidate and a female candidate, so this is an unusual election to begin with. We’re also a state which is much more racially diverse than most other states, not only as between black and white voters, but as between black, white, and Latino voters. So we’re used to seeing candidates who are not white prevailing in elections within this state. Whether, you know, it’s at a statewide level or a local level, it’s a more common phenomenon. So I think that dynamic plays less of a role in California than in some of the states in the Midwest or the Southeast. PALEVSKY: Many have said that the Clinton campaign is trying to pit the Latino vote against the African-American vote. Is that true? Because it hasn’t come directly from the Clinton campaign. And if it is true, is it at work? Is there a divide there? ZIMMERMAN: Well, there’s certainly a divide between the black and brown communities in California, and we’ve seen that manifested any number of ways. But it’s a leap to believe that that’s an underlying dynamic in the presidential race. I don’t believe that either Hillary’s camp or Obama’s camp is intentionally trying to use race to move voters, because looking at polling data, I don’t see how one can effectively use race, or for that matter use sexism, when the audience is the Democratic primary electorate in California. That’s a very liberal and tolerant electorate. You know, that’s an electorate that favored Gary Hart over Walter Mondale in ’84 that favored Ted Kennedy over Jimmy Carter, even though he was the sitting president, in 1980; it’s an electorate that voted for Jerry Brown over Jimmy Carter in ’76. So this isn’t an electorate in which it would pay the candidate’s campaign to try to exploit racism. ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: Political commentators attributed Barack Obama’s surprise loss in New Hampshire to the Bradley Effect, arguing that white voters will not tell a pollster that they’re voting against the African-American candidate, even though they’ve already decided to do so. (CLIP BEGINS) NEWS SHOW COMMENTATOR: It was Tom Bradley in the California governor’s race in 1982. Polls had him ahead, ahead by a fairly healthy margin over George Deukmejian. He ended up losing. You can’t help but look at that, and particularly you’ve got to wonder what the message that this could send to African-American Democrats. (CLIP ENDS) To understand if the Bradley Effect and race will play a role in today’s election, The Real News spoke with political strategist and advertising consultant Bill Zimmerman. BILL ZIMMERMAN, ADVERTISING CONSULTANT: Well, the effect did happen in the Bradley campaign in 1982. The polling showed him getting many more votes than he actually got. It happened to me the following year, in 1983, when I was doing the “Herald Washington for Mayor” campaign in Chicago. He was the first serious black candidate to run for mayor of Chicago. And we consistently polled ten points higher than we actually got on primary election day or general election day. I’m not sure, despite all the speculation, that a similar effect was happening in New Hampshire, that in fact it was, because in the past, when we noticed this so-called Bradley Effect, it was either a long time ago—I mean, Bradley was 26 years ago—or it was a candidate that was more identified with African-American activism. Barack Obama is not the black candidate running for president; he’s a presidential candidate who happens to be black. And while this so-called effect may have affected a few voters, I’m not sure it played a significant role. He was up against a female candidate, and one could argue a similar effect would apply to a female candidate. We’ve never had a woman running for president who got as far as Hillary Clinton has gotten in this process, and certainly America has no shortage of sexism along with racism. So I think in New Hampshire it was probably wrong to attribute her victory to any kind of Bradley Effect—and Obama. MATTHEW PALEVSKY, JOURNALIST, TRNN: So then why did we hear so much about it in the aftermath of the New Hampshire primary? All the major news channels said, you know, this could be the Bradley Effect happening. Was that speculation for people who were quite sure? What are they looking at? And why are they talking about it? ZIMMERMAN: Well, the first interest that a news organization—other than yours—has in an election is to use it to build their ratings. And they will always look for the most sensational aspect of an election story in order to put into the lead paragraph, ’cause they want to draw attention to the story that they’re telling to build their own ratings. So it’s not surprising to have seen the news media turn to racism or sexism as an underlying dynamic in the New Hampshire race or in any other race. They’ll do anything to avoid a substantive discussion of the issues, because they don’t have time to deliver a substantive discussion of the issues within the very short, less-than-30-second sound bites that they’re able to put into their newscasts. PALEVSKY: And is race an issue, not just in New Hampshire, but in California right now with Super Tuesday coming? Is a racial dynamic playing out that’ll affect the election? ZIMMERMAN: Race is always an issue in American politics, because race is always an issue in America. The extent to which it affects the primary in California, I don’t think it’s as great as some people have speculated about. Again, we have a black candidate and a female candidate, so this is an unusual election to begin with. We’re also a state which is much more racially diverse than most other states, not only as between black and white voters, but as between black, white, and Latino voters. So we’re used to seeing candidates who are not white prevailing in elections within this state. Whether, you know, it’s at a statewide level or a local level, it’s a more common phenomenon. So I think that dynamic plays less of a role in California than in some of the states in the Midwest or the Southeast. PALEVSKY: Many have said that the Clinton campaign is trying to pit the Latino vote against the African-American vote. Is that true? Because it hasn’t come directly from the Clinton campaign. And if it is true, is it at work? Is there a divide there? ZIMMERMAN: Well, there’s certainly a divide between the black and brown communities in California, and we’ve seen that manifested any number of ways. But it’s a leap to believe that that’s an underlying dynamic in the presidential race. I don’t believe that either Hillary’s camp or Obama’s camp is intentionally trying to use race to move voters, because looking at polling data, I don’t see how one can effectively use race, or for that matter use sexism, when the audience is the Democratic primary electorate in California. That’s a very liberal and tolerant electorate. You know, that’s an electorate that favored Gary Hart over Walter Mondale in ’84 that favored Ted Kennedy over Jimmy Carter, even though he was the sitting president, in 1980; it’s an electorate that voted for Jerry Brown over Jimmy Carter in ’76. So this isn’t an electorate in which it would pay the candidate’s campaign to try to exploit racism. DISCLAIMER: Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Bill Zimmerman

Bill Zimmerman is a political consultant and campaign manager. His previous campaigns include Tom Bradley, Harold Washington and Gary Hart.