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CNN Live Event/Special

No Bias No Bull: Race In The Race: The Great Unknown

Aired October 11, 2008 - 22:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. I'm Campbell Brown. Welcome to a special edition, NO BIAS, NO BULL: RACE IN THE RACE: THE GREAT UNKNOWN. We're going to start tonight with cutting through the bull. On November 4th, once inside the privacy of the voting booth, how many people will factor in the color of the candidate's skin? How much is race really a part of this race? Can we even know before Election Day, before the votes are cast and counted? Those are the questions we're going to explore tonight.
There are a few things worth considering here. In a recent CNN Opinion Research Corporation Poll, 37 percent of Americans said that race will be a factor in how they vote. Now, what exactly does that mean? Well, here's what Barack Obama himself said about race as a factor to "60 Minutes."


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are there going to be some people who don't vote for me because I'm black? Of course. There are probably some African-Americans who are voting for me because I'm black. Or maybe others who are just inspired by the idea of breaking new ground. And so, I think all that's a wash.


BROWN: Now, pollsters say it's hard to know if it's all a wash. Some argue that the polling on the issue of race can be unreliable. This is based on the idea that if people really do harbor prejudice, they often don't share it with pollsters. They save it for the voting booth. We'll tell you more about this. It's something called the "Bradley Effect." And of course, there is an overtly ugly side to all of this, and we've talked about it on this show.

Blatant acts of race bathing on the campaign trail. McCain's surrogates introducing Obama by using his middle name, Barack Hussein Obama. Something the McCain campaign has denounced. But also angry reaction by Obama supporters to words they see as code, words that to them have racial undertones. But to others, they just don't. There has been an overreaction by extreme partisans on both sides. And maybe it's unavoidable. But it should not drive the conversation or dominant the debate. And we're going to try to push beyond that tonight.

Our focus, as I said, RACE IN THE RACE: THE GREAT UNKNOWN. And we begin with some surprising poll numbers that suggest that Obama is right. His race may help him with voters just as much as it hurts him. Joe Johns is here with a snapshot of where we are in the election right now.

Joe, we know it's going to have some sort of effect. I mean, whether it can sells each other out, the positive and the negative, it's a wash. Sort of remains to be seen. But you say looking at the polling, it's kind of unexpected what the results might be.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, and it is complicated. And it probably depends on what questions you ask and how you've ask the questions. But the vast majority of voters, more than 85 percent say race does not make them more or less likely to vote for either of the presidential candidates. But there is a little surprise here according to Gallup.

If you look at the people who are more likely to vote for a candidate because of his race, 9 percent said they would vote for Barack Obama, while 7 percent said they would vote for John McCain. And among voters who said they were less likely to vote for a candidate because of his race is pretty much a dead heat. 6 percent said they would vote for Obama, 6 percent said they would vote for McCain. These are very small numbers so no sweeping conclusions. But the poll does suggest that when it comes to race and the decision voters will be making in November, Barack Obama may actually have a tiny little advantage. So in fact, people seem to be saying, they're more likely to vote for Obama because of his race.

But what people seem to be more worried about these days is age. A Washington Post-ABC News Poll showed that 48 percent believe age is important, while 52 percent said it's not important. What we don't know is whether they were concerned about a candidate being too old or too young. Either way, it's much more important than race to them. 84 percent of voters said they just don't care about race. But there does seem to be an inconsistency here which could still be a problem for Barack Obama.

40 percent of white Americans hold at least a partly negative view towards African-Americans. An A.P. Yahoo! Poll conducted by Stanford University basically played word association games with white voters giving them a choice of several positive and negative words that might describe blacks. For example, 20 percent agreed that the word violent strongly applies.

Still, any preconceptions voters may have about race don't seem to apply much to Barack Obama. 87 percent of voters said they would be comfortable with Obama being the first African-American president.

BROWN: Interesting, Joe. And you're right about the different polling and the way the questions are asked being such a factor here. I was going through some of it today, and it really depends on how you phrase the questions in terms of the kind of answers and the numbers you get. So, it's a lot to figure out. Joe Johns for us tonight. Thanks, Joe.

Now, what voters actually do on Election Day is what really matters. So do these polls represent what's actually going on in their heads? Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider has a few ideas on that. And Bill, pollsters talk about something called the Bradley Effect. We hear about it, certainly a lot lately. Explain to people what that is.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hidden racism. White voters tell poll takers that they're going to vote for the black candidate, but then when they get in the polling booth, they don't. It appears to have happened back in 1982 when a black candidate, Tom Bradley, was running for governor of California. He was predicted to win that race, but he lost narrowly to a white candidate. It may also have played a role in Jesse Helms' re-election victory over a black candidate in 1990. Hidden racism.

BROWN: So, OK, you mentioned '82, the Bradley race, that was what 26 years ago. The country is very different now, I think you could say. We've advanced somewhat in terms of our attitudes. Do you think it still exists, The Bradley Effect?

SCHNEIDER: Well, it appears to have gotten smaller. The research indicates that in 2006, the last midterm election, the pre-election polls were actually pretty accurate in predicting how the races would go if there was a black candidate and a white candidate. And one new report says that in a lot of southern battleground states right now, the -- that Barack Obama is doing much better than John Kerry did four years ago.

BROWN: Well, let me ask you about that. I mean, are there certain states where the Bradley Effect may be more of an issue than in other states?

SCHNEIDER: There are several battleground states right now where Obama's margin is very close, like Florida and Ohio. Now, take a look at Florida. It's very interesting. Obama leads by 3 points. 5 percent of voters say that they're unsure. Very few black voters are unsure how they're going to vote. If those unsure voters end up going for McCain, that would overtake Obama's lead in Florida, which is very narrow. So, Obama cannot feel comfortable unless his lead is larger than the number of unsure voters.

We could also see a reverse Bradley Effect. Where an African-American candidate does better than predicted. You could see that in Virginia and North Carolina, if black turnout turns out to be unexpectedly high. We might also see whites voting in unexpectedly high numbers for Barack Obama if they want to make a statement for change. What could happen is, economic anxiety could overwhelm the Bradley Effect.

BROWN: Interesting stuff, Bill. Basically, you're telling us, we don't have any idea. We're not going to know until November 4. But thank you for clarifying that.


BROWN: How little we do know. Bill Schneider for us tonight. Bill, thanks.

BROWN: So, if you are Barack Obama, the Obama campaign, how do you deal with the Bradley Effect if it even exists, and how much have Americans' attitudes about race shaped Barack Obama's campaign. Candy Crowley has been digging in to this part of it for us.

And Candy, you've been covering Obama for a long time now. What are your sources telling you? Do they worry about this -- this Bradley Effect, or do they see it as a relic?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Listen, I talked to several people in the Obama campaign about this over time. They're not that worried about it. And, you know, campaigns generally say they're not worried about something that might be negative for them. But honestly, they look at it and say a couple of things.

First, they believe that the Bradley Effect now over a quarter of a century ago was when this happened, that people weren't all that sure that whatever they told a pollster would remain confidential. They think people now have more faith that their neighbor is not going to find out if they say, no, I'm not going to vote for this guy. You know, because he's black, or just no, I'm not going to vote for this guy.

They believe that most of the people who would not vote for Barack Obama because he is of mixed race have already said, Look, I'm going to vote for John McCain. And they also believe that this is just an election where identity politics will be trumped by economic politics. They said it's sort of -- you know, has floated all the votes to an even keel here, because everyone is so hurt by this. So they see those two factors. And sort of say, look, we just don't think there's a Bradley Effect. Look back at the primaries. Look where he won.

His first win was nearly 99 percent white Iowa. They say the polls, with the exception of New Hampshire, proved largely accurate at that time. There was no Bradley Effect with Barack Obama. The polls did pretty much show what came to be the outcome. And they say the reason they were so off in New Hampshire, they believe is that there was so little time between Iowa and New Hampshire that the polls couldn't catch up with the big shift over the weekend. So, they're just not, at this point, all that worried.

BROWN: Well, are they, I guess, trying to take advantage perhaps of what Bill called sort of the reverse Bradley Effect, with massive get out the vote efforts in states with large black populations, large African-American populations?

CROWLEY: Well, sure. But I mean, you know, that's certainly going to help if there is a Bradley Effect. But they say, listen, this wasn't about let's bring in as many African-American voters or as many liberal white voters as we possibly can to overwhelm the Bradley Effect. They just wanted to bring them in to have a convincing victory as they did in Iowa. They said, you know, we have brought in tons and tons of white votes as well as lifted up black registrations. They said it wasn't because of the Bradley Effect, it was that we wanted to bring more people into the system that we thought were going to vote for Barack Obama.

BROWN: Candy Crowley for us tonight. Candy, thanks. Appreciate it. In a moment, our political panels take on the Bradley Effect, if it exists. And later, there is a generation gap in this election. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I stand on the street corners with Obama signs. And we've had people pull up and say to our face, we will never vote for a black man for president.


BROWN: The racially charged senior citizen vote. That's still ahead.



LARRY KING, HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: Do you feel that here, an anti- black vote?

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SEN. BARACK OBAMA: People talk about it all the time, but it's theoretical in the case of this election, because...

KING: But you have a past case to look at.

M. OBAMA: ...but also, look where we are, Larry. Barack Obama is the democratic nominee. If there was going to be a Bradley Effect, or if it was going to be in play, Barack wouldn't be the nominee.


BROWN: Michelle Obama doesn't buy the idea of a racial bias in the polling. Let's see if our political experts agree with her. CNN contributor Tara Wall, deputy editorial page editor of the "Washington Times" and a former senior adviser to the Republican National Committee with us. CNN contributor Dana Milbank, national political correspondent for the "Washington Post." CNN political analyst Roland Martin. Also, a radio talk show host and he is a supporter of Obama's. And here with me again, senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

Bill, good to see you, too.

Let me just get everyone's take on this idea of what we were talking about earlier, the Bradley Effect, whether or not it exists.

Roland, what do you think?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it does. The Bradley Effect, it's called the Harold Washington effect. It's called the Doug Wilder effect. Look, we don't know what's going to happen. We don't hope it happens. But remember, when Doug Wilder ran for governor of Virginia, he was up seven or eight points prior to the election, in 48 hours. He won by less than half of a percentage point -- BROWN: But while we were talking about earlier, Roland, and Bill and I discussed this. You heard the Obama campaign say, this is -- the world's changed. That yes, that happened, but a lot of change since then. You're not seeing it play out now.

MARTIN: Campbell, Campbell, the reality is, they are concern about the Bradley Effect. Look at 2004. I told it to many people in the campaign. They don't want to make race a significant issue because they know it is a major issue. But they are concerned about it. 2004, 19 Electoral College votes were decided by less than 50,000 votes. George W. Bush carried Iowa by 10,000, New Mexico by 6,000, New Hampshire by 9,000, 23,000 in Delaware. And so less than 50,000 people turned for state. And so you have to be concerned about people voting based upon prejudices.

BROWN: Tara, what do you think?

TARA WALL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there's a lot of prejudices out there. There's ageism. There are some people who won't vote for John McCain because of his age. Maybe because of sexism, because he put Palin on the ticket. You know, I think Michelle Obama was absolutely right. And that if there was a Bradley Effect, so to speak, he would not be the nominee. I think we are looking at a very historic moment. It's a great moment for all Americans. And I think of it, you know, we should take note of that.

The fact is, he's getting the majority of white support. He is ahead, you know, by most standards in the polls. And I think that absolutely -- I mean, look, if we're going to look at this race, about race, obviously there are issues with race you're not going to change people's minds overnight. There are bigots out there, of course. But I think it's minuscule in comparison to the actual supporters he has. And the number, obviously, of white folks that are going to vote for him.

BROWN: And I should just mentioned, too, that Tara is a McCain supporter.

WALL: Well, I haven't come out and endorsed anyone yet.

BROWN: Oh, OK. All right.

WALL: No, I --


BROWN: I should say a Republican then.


WALL: I am a Republican conservative. I have not endorsed anyone.


MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE), you're not voting for McCain? BROWN: Interesting. Well, OK, let me turn to Dana now. Dana, you know, it seems like every reporter has an anecdotal account of hearing people say that they won't vote for a black man. You heard a woman earlier in our show say that -- who was a part of the get out to vote effort. Do you think these stories are real? And widespread, I guess? Are they just isolated examples?

DANA MILBANK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, they're real but they're anecdotal. I think if you take a Bradley Effect, the reverse Bradley Effect and throw in a triple Lutz and a double toe loop, but probably you've got a wash out of this whole thing, because there's so much evidence on both sides of the equation.

I think to the extent that there's a racial effect in this election, it's already baked into the polls. It's not that people are lying to pollsters, but in that A.P. Yahoo! Poll that was cited earlier, the extrapolation from that was that if Barack Obama were white, he would be another six points ahead of where he is now in the polls. So, race is playing a role in this election, but it doesn't appear to be the sort of thing that's going to surprise everybody on Election Day.

BROWN: Do you agree with that, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: I do. I think it's already there. When people are asking as I'm often asked, why is this race so close? Race may be a reason for that. But the Bradley Effect means people are lying. That means are there even more whites who are saying they're going to vote for Obama and they won't. That probably is very small right now. In fact, McCain depicts Obama as a risky choice. But we've seen again and again that when people are anxious, and fearful and desperate for change, they'll take some risks.

MARTIN: But Campbell, the problem in this whole dialog is we're sitting here saying -- oh, he's up five, six, eight points. That is the point of the Bradley Effect. You have Tom Bradley up several points, Doug Wilder up several points. Harold Washington running in an overwhelming Democratic state. The point when we say it's a small effect, that's the point. Small numbers of people in tight races could throw them. Obviously, we don't know what's going to happen, but that's the whole point of it.

BROWN: All right, guys --

WALL: For many different reasons. There are many reasons people don't vote for people -- racism, sexism, ageism, many reasons.

MARTIN: We understand that, Tara.


WALL: And in more significant numbers.


MARTIN: We get that. We get that. But it could change an election.


BROWN: Guys, hold on. We've got a lot more to talk about. We're going to stay with our panel for much more of the show.

We know a certain percentage of voters won't support Obama because of his race. For older Americans, the numbers are even higher. We're going to go to the Battleground State of Florida, and see how racial bias could affect the senior citizen vote.


BROWN: According to the Census Bureau, people 65 and older make up 12.4 percent of the population. But in recent elections they've cast almost 20 percent of the ballot. So, senior voters could be hugely influential this year. And there are questions about how their views on race could play out in the voting booth. David Mattingly is in Miami where he talked to some older voters about race.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're looking at a generation gap, Campbell. Older voters might be watching younger voters this time around and learning something new about racial bias.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): They lived through the turmoil of the civil rights era. Most were still old enough to vote when segregation was still accepted in this country. And for some senior Americans, decades of racial attitudes still affect how they might vote today.

(on camera): How often does race come up as a reason not to vote for Obama?

BERNARD PARNESS, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Basically, it doesn't, but the clues are an excuse. I'm not sure who he is. After two years of watching a campaign, and I tell them, what you're telling me is you're a bigot.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Retirees in South Florida tell me Obama's race will cost him votes in November. They can't say how many, because not everyone will admit their biases. But these senior Democrats campaign for Obama. And say sometimes attitudes are surprisingly blunt.

(on camera): People don't just come out and say, I can't vote for a black candidate. Do they say that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, and I heard that.


EILEEN BERMAN, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Yes. I stand on street corners with Obama signs, and we've had people pull up and say to our face, we will never vote for a black man for president.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): While that new Gallup Poll which found 6 percent of all voters are less likely to vote for Obama because of his race, experts say the rate of racially charged voting among seniors is higher.

ANDREW KOHUT, PEW RESEARCH: Older voters, especially less well- educated older voters, tend to have less tolerant views toward African-Americans. They are more of the group of people who hold these intolerant views and as a consequence are less likely to support Obama.

MATTINGLY (on camera): By a show of hands, how many here have had someone say to them, I cannot vote for Obama because he's black?


MATTINGLY: Almost everybody?


MATTINGLY (voice-over): Obama is actually the second choice for most of these senior Democrats. Their first choice was Hillary Clinton. It's a generational divide within the ranks.

ANTHONY GREENWALD, PROJECT IMPLICIT: We assume that's partially racially based, but the poll numbers that we have don't actually break it down as to whether it's due to issues or due to racial factors.

MATTINGLY: This election will be the first national test that produces data to measure how racial bias of the 20th century plays in the 21st. For now these senior Democrats say maybe the time has come to close the generation gap with younger voters who have supported Obama from the start.

PARNESS: The young people that I meet in this campaign see no color. They see Barack Obama as a well-spoken, educated American, period.


MATTINGLY: The seniors I talked to had individual experiences with racially biased voters. But overall, they don't believe that race will be enough, or important enough to enough people to matter much when there are so many critical issues weighing on this election.


BROWN: David Mattingly for us tonight. David, thanks.

And it's not just black and white attitudes that could affect this race. There is also a religion. The bogus claim is still out there that Obama is not a Christian. We're going to look at that when we come back.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't trust Obama. I have read about him. And he's not -- he's not -- he's a -- he's an Arab. He is not --



MCCAIN: No, ma'am. No, ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with.


BROWN: You heard that McCain in Minnesota saying I can't trust Obama. He is an Arab. John McCain very quick to correct her. But this is why we're asking tonight how people with deep feelings about race and religion will vote. Let's go back to our panel now. To Tara Wall, Dana Milbank, Roland Martin and Bill Schneider.

This, another example of the rumor out there, which is completely false. We can't say it enough. That Barack Obama is a Muslim. And one recent poll, 13 percent of people thought that that is the case.

I mean, Roland, why does this idea persist?

MARTIN: Because we have Americans who are wholly ignorant of other societies. All they see is the name Barack Obama. Look, he said it last year. He said as long as my name is Barack Obama, I'm going to be an underdog running. Look, if you showed probably the average name to somebody in Ghana, they would probably see the name and say, oh, that's a Muslim country. 80 percent of Ghana is Christians. But again, people just see that and say, oh, he's got to be a Muslim, look at his name. No, he's a Christian as he is.

BROWN: Dana, what did you think of McCain's response? You saw him immediately knock that down obviously. But this has come up more than once out at these rallies. Is the McCain campaign doing enough, I guess, to tamp it down?

MILBANK: Yes. It's extraordinary how much it comes up, just even this week. McCain was in the building, Palin was in the building and there's some guy out there saying Barack Hussein Obama over and over again. So, up until this point, I think people were saying that McCain was not doing enough. He sort of riding the tiger here and riling up people, but not pushing back.

And what he has finally done is honorable. In fact, is probably going to cost him some of the enthusiasm among his voters. But he's finally doing something. I don't think that that's going to get at the 10 percent or whatever who are still believing that he's a Muslim. I think the only thing that could fix that is to get them to watch Campbell Brown on CNN.

BROWN: Tara, what do you make of all this?

WALL: Well, it's flat out ignorance, quite frankly. I mean, ignorant folks. And I think that, you know, John McCain did do the right thing, the noble thing. He, in fact, one of the other hecklers -- he also, you know, I got an e-mail, sent out immediately, say they don't condone what some of these folks were saying in the audience.

And I think he needs to obviously continue to do that and denounce that. You're always going to have, you know, ignorant folks in every audience, in every rally. I think that's what both sides. There had been times that Obama's had hecklers as well. I've certainly had hecklers. But I think he's doing the right thing and he should consistently do that in order to continue to educate even some of his own base who are just, quite frankly, ignorant of the facts.

BROWN: Bill, let me go back to the piece we saw a moment ago from David Mattingly, talking to elderly voters down in Florida -- obviously, a crucial battleground state. And it seems, based on David's reporting, that for elderly voters in particular, race is more of a factor perhaps than for the population at large.

Do you think that's true?

SCHNEIDER: I think it is true. Elderly voters are sometimes less well-educated because they had less of a chance to go to college. And also they grew up in a different era. I grew up in the south when racism was part of the system. It was official. You had a Democratic Party define as the party of white supremacy, where a lot of voters -- elderly voters in this country grew up in that system as well.

And let me point out something else. The Internet, one of the reasons why these rumors now spread, the Internet does a lot of good. But a lot of these stories and rumors are spread very efficiently by the Internet.


BROWN: Yes, go ahead, Roland.

MARTIN: The beauty of David's piece is that you heard individuals saying what they had been told individually. I've had people who were canvassing for votes in California who were Hispanic, who said that they heard all kinds of racial rhetoric from Hispanics as well. This is not just a black and white issue.

And so the key is is not what the poll says, it still comes down to what does an individual decides when they have to push that button of bubbles at the end and that's the unknown. And so, when we look at the polls and stuff, we don't know people's personal feelings. That gut comes out as oppose to what the head is saying.

BROWN: All right, guys, stand by. We've got more to talk about.

Senator Obama said he wanted to start a national conversation on race, so as we near Election Day, has that happened? We're going to take that on, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BROWN: We want to climb inside the heads of voters for a minute now and see whether there's actually something in the human brain that affects the way we process race. And whether any of that could come into play on November 4th. Randi Kaye is actually been talking to one of the nation's top psychologists about that, and has an interesting report for us.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's really fascinating, Campbell. The campaigns this year are paying close attention not only to voters, but to clinical psychologists. Emory University Psychologist Drew Westen wrote the book "The Political Brain," and has developed software that probes the subconscious of voters to see what they really feel about a candidate. Well, he says what you think you're feeling may be different from what your gut or subconscious is feeling. And in the case of racism or prejudice, that may really have an impact at the voting booth.

Westen said the way to test people's subconscious for racism is by showing them subliminal images of a black man. The images are so quick that they don't even have time to process it consciously, only subconsciously, which really gets at a gut level feelings. People who don't think they have a racist bone in their body may have it show up in their brain.


DREW WESTON, AUTHOR, "THE POLITICAL BRAIN": We have much of the way we think and feel is actually governed by processes that are completely outside of our awareness. Only probably 1 percent or 2 percent of our thinking and feeling is really conscious. But 85 percent of Americans will tell you that they don't like the idea of racial discrimination. And it's not that they're lying, it's just that unconsciously we often have different feelings than we have consciously.


KAYE: Now, when voters react subconsciously, the region of the brain that's associated with emotion is more engaged than the area that controls logic. Now that part of the brain is called the amygdala. So, take a look there. It's that little almond shaped nugget. And when it is aroused, reason goes out the window. So, when people say they are not racist or prejudice, they are telling the truth simply because they don't know what's in their subconscious.


WESTEN: If you're over 50, then by definition you grew up in a time when there was overt racial prejudice. If you've ever been mugged by a black person, if you've been a person who has had -- has been passed over for a job because of affirmative action program or you thought that that's why you were passed over for a job, all those things register.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KAYE: Often these feelings don't show up in polls because you can't ask people conscious questions about subconscious racism because, Campbell, they simply don't know it exists.

BROWN: So, what do they think is going to happen on November 4th? Who chooses in the voting booth? Is it the subconscious brain or conscious brain?

KAYE: That's what we wanted to know, because that is the key question. And Westen said that we will see unconscious attitudes activated in the polling booth. Normally, fear wins out in the booth. We saw that after Hillary Clinton's 3:00 a.m. ad ran in Ohio. People said they didn't like it, but it worked. The fear got into their subconscious and she beat Obama in Ohio. But right now we have a very unique situation where people have fears about losing their 401(k)s and their assets. Westen said it's very likely come Election Day, those conscious fears about the economy will actually outweigh the subconscious fears some may have about Barack Obama's race.

BROWN: Interesting stuff. Randi Kaye for us tonight. Randi, thanks.

I know some of our panel had some strong opinions about this. When we come back, I want you to know what the guys think. Will subconscious racism actually be a factor in November? We'll talk about that when we come back.


BROWN: Just before the break, Randi Kaye brought us a report looking into how the human brain processes race. The big question is how this could come into play on Election Day. And our political panel has a lot to say about this. Dana Milbank, Roland Martin, Tara Wall and Bill Schneider, joining me once again.

And Roland, what we heard in Randi's report with psychologist Drew Westen is this theory that people make decisions about the candidates with their gut more than anything else. How do you see race playing into that?

MARTIN: I mean, it's a fact. It's a matter of what a person thinks and feels. I mean, I can't tell you, Campbell, how many times I've gotten on the elevator looking just like I am and the way I'm dressed, and somebody will clutch their purse because I'm all set, and they just simply see a face. And so, we do that. You know, we hit the locks on our car; we roll the windows up because our fear takes over. And so, we make decisions based upon gut.

We all remember the story when Reverend Jackson ran for president. He was in Iowa, and a white male voter came out and said, Reverend, I did everything I could, but I just could not press that button to vote for you. I mean, that takes over when people are in the polls. I hope people are voting based upon qualifications, based upon talent, on issues. But again, that may take over.

BROWN: Dana, you know, here's the counter, I guess. On a gut level, does Barack Obama's race, or could it actually help him in a way? Reinforce his message, which is change?

DANA MILBANK, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, Campbell, I should congratulate you. I think that's the first time the phrase arousal of the amygdala has ever been in the cable news.

BROWN: We do what we can.

MILBANK: But certainly, it has been and can be argued that Obama's race is helping him, and particularly among the younger voters who want to make a statement on race -- a statement that the nation has changed in a certain way. But in terms of the sort of subliminal aspect of this, no doubt Roland is correct. There is -- some of this going on here. But as the report concluded, there's also this sort of screaming trumpet in the voters' ears about what's going on in the economy, and that is almost certainly going to wipe out whatever sort of subliminal gut level things they may be thinking.

BROWN: And Bill, you say the polls just off of Dana's point say exactly that, that the economy trumps everything. Everything else is secondary.

SCHNEIDER: That screaming trumpet.

BROWN: Even you gut.

SCHNEIDER: That screaming trumpet he just talked about. That trumpet is very loud. And it obliterates all the other sounds. It's an amazing campaign. It's being controlled by events, not by what's happening on the campaign trail. Not even the debates are making a lot of difference. They've had very little impact, because people are fearful and they're anxious, and a lot of them want change, and that's what's driving them.

BROWN: And the candidates are being swept up in this.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, of course, they are. And it means that, you know, in Washington, we look at everything McCain says and everything Obama says and Sarah Palin, and we think this is going to swing all those voters, and they were amazed to discover nothing much changed. But when something happens on Wall Street, oh, boy.

MARTIN: But Campbell, Campbell --

BROWN: Yes, go ahead.

MARTIN: I don't want to come across as a skeptic. I pray that people are going to make decisions based upon qualifications. But here's the difference. There's a difference between somebody responding written or on the phone saying, this is who I'm going to vote for. But it's a physical act to actually vote. And that's what that book talks about in terms of this whole gut level. Because when you physically have to press that button, it's a whole different deal between what you're saying on the phone. And so, I hope that's the case. But again, we don't know.

BROWN: Tara, let me ask you about something, because you've always said we've got to be careful when we make these generalizations. Black voters, you pointed out a number of times, are not a monolithic group.


BROWN: But if you look at some of these poll numbers, McCain has almost no black support. I mean, it's 2 percent I think in the polls.

WALL: Yes, you know, and I just want to add to Bill's point, too. Bill made a good point. The economy is one color, and that's green, and that impacts everybody. So, I do think that is obviously the biggest issue for most voters this election.

Yes, I mean, the fact that, you know, 2 percent to 5 percent potentially blacks that will vote for McCain, again -- look, overall, folks will vote for Obama -- black, white, for a host issues, for whatever personal reasons which you do have a contingence within that who will say, who have told me they don't necessarily agree with his policies. But that, you know -- but because he's black. It's historic for whatever reasons.

You have what Shelby Steele in his book says -- you know, talks about white guilt, white liberal guilt are reasons. So, in that way, yes. You know, race could play a positive, you know, role for him in that, that's an affirmative action for some folks who will vote for him for that reason. I will say of the folks who say that they're just voting for him because of his race, it goes beyond that. Because they essentially feel like they at least feel like that he brings hope so to speak. That he offers that hope.

It's nothing they can put their finger on, they just feel that he will turn things around. I think that that's probably more apparent much more so in the black community, and that's why you see those numbers.

BROWN: Right. Go ahead.

MARTIN: I need to correct one thing there, in that very same book by Shelby Steele about men. He believes that Obama will not win because of that very issue of race in the same book. But Campbell, here's also the deal. The last three presidents, John Kerry, Bill Clinton, Al Gore -- I'm sorry, Democratic nominees, they were all white. Black folks voted for them anywhere from 90 percent to 94 percent.

So the reality is when you get in the general election, it's a matter of -- in terms of he's a Democrat. But I do agree there are African- Americans who are making that decision. But again, we just don't know, in terms of -- when folks walk into the poll, that's the great unknown.

BROWN: Right. All right. To Dana, to Tara, to Bill and Roland, thanks to everybody. I appreciate it, guys.

Barack Obama's father was black, his mother was white. So, what does that make him, and how much does it matter in 2008?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's acceptance that this is a post-racial, multi-cultural country. Barack Obama exemplifies that, has lived that and has run a very smart campaign where race has been in the background. Almost never put forward explicitly.


BROWN: Some voters, though, do see a difference, black versus biracial. How to define Obama and why? That's coming up next.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Don Lemon here at the CNN world headquarters. We'll get back to our Special Investigations Unit story in just a little bit. But we want to tell you what's going on.

Tonight, President Bush has made an unannounced visit to the G-20 meeting. A gathering of finance ministers from industrialized and developing nations. With just 100 days left in office, Mr. Bush is trying to stem the growing global financial crisis. Earlier, he met with finance ministers from the G-7 and world economic superpowers. They're up working late and we are as well.

Now to a very tense presidential campaign trail. We want you to take a listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't trust Obama. I have read about him. And he's not -- he's not -- he's a -- he's an Arab.


LEMON: Well, John McCain took the mike away from that woman and tried as best as he could to reject her comment and to inform her that he wasn't an Arab. But as this campaign created the question is, has this campaign created an environment that fosters hateful words. Has this campaign created an environment that fosters hateful words? We want to hear from you. Go to Or reach out to us on any of those platforms you see there on your screen.

I'm Don Lemon. Those are your headlines. Again, we are up late working for you 12:00 midnight Eastern Time. We'll be here for you live in the CNN NEWSROOM as they work out those agreements. And the financial crisis in Washington. We will be here for you for any developments. We'll see you then.


BROWN: Racial identity has always been an issue for Barack Obama. Earlier we mentioned a recent poll showing that Obama could lose 6 percent of the vote because of white voters' bias. However, as the candidate often mentions, his father was black, but his mother was white. To some voters that makes Barack Obama biracial. Not the same as black. National correspondent Jason Carroll has been looking in to the identity issue and has a fascinating story for us. JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely is. And you know, this is a subject that has been debated in communities of color for years. But now that debate is being seen on a whole new level as Senator Barack Obama makes his bid to become the country's first African-American president. Or should that be the country's first biracial president.


CARROLL (voice-over): He has always been up front about his heritage.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the son of a black man from Kenya, and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather.

CARROLL: His biracial background both a source of inspiration for him and for others, and a tool he says that has been used against him.

OBAMA: The only way they figure they're going to win this election is that they make you scared of me. You can't risk electing Obama. You know, he's new, he's -- doesn't look like the other presidents on the currency.

CARROLL: What Senator Barack Obama looks like versus who he really is, is a murky topic.

MICHAELA ANGELA DAVIS, CULTURAL CRITIC: First of all, he can't say I'm a white guy named Barack Hussein Obama. You know, no one's going to buy that. We're not ready for that.

CARROLL: James Burnett is a columnist for He wrote one titled Barack Obama is white.

JAMES BURNETT, COLUMNIST, MIAMIHERALD.COM: That's a great conversation starter, because, you know, if anyone insists on calling him black and exclusively black, then there's an argument from the other side that someone could say, well, he's white because, you know, 50 percent of him is anyway.

CARROLL: So how should Obama be identified? The media and many others took a cue from how he identifies himself, black or African- American. Even though he is biracial. Obama explained it this way on Charlie Rose.

OBAMA: By definition, being African-American means you're a hybrid person. Because we have all these strains -- Europe, Africa, Native America And I would broaden that to say by definition if you're an American, you're a hybrid person.

CARROLL: But Obama also recognizes being biracial isn't just about self-identity. In an election, especially, it's also how others identify you.

OBAMA: If I'm outside your building trying to catch a cab, they're not saying, oh, there's a mixed race guy.

CHARLIE ROSE, PBS: OK, not exactly.

OBAMA: I ask you to believe.

CARROLL: The subject of Obama's background doesn't often surface in the campaign. Some analysts say part of the reason, race is an explosive topic. It's there, but no one wants to openly talk about it. But others say Obama's appeal and lead in some national polls show that he is transcending past prejudices.

MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, TIME MAGAZINE: There's acceptance that this is a post-racial, multi-cultural country. Barack Obama exemplifies that, has lived that and has run a very smart campaign where race has been in the background.

CARROLL: But make no mistake, even as the country has made enormous strides in equality, racial identity is an area still evolving.


CARROLL: Campaign or not, we as a country are going to have to get used to the idea of how we identify biracial people. The latest census shows their numbers are growing.


BROWN: Jason Carroll, interesting stuff, appreciate it.

Racial identity, one of the most emotionally charged issues in America today. A prominent African-American woman made an impassioned speech on the subject the other day -- a speech people have been talking about ever since. We're going to hear that and more when we come back.



DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: This is a more tolerant, a more open, a more progressive society. And yet we're having this conversation because he's biracial. He spent nine months in the womb of a white woman. He was raised for the first 18 to 21 years by his white grandparents.


BROWN: CNN political contributor Donna Brazile there on Barack Obama, and the subject of race. And we want to get a few thoughts now from our political panel again. Tara Wall, Dana Milbank and Roland Martin.

And Dana, you know, earlier in the campaign, Barack Obama talked about starting this national conversation on race. And you're out there in the real world talking to voters. Is there a conversation that is taking shape?

MILBANK: Well, there is not exactly the conversation he had in mind. He made that statement right in the middle of his whole Jeremiah Wright problem. And occasionally the conversation since then has also turned in sort of an ugly direction as when Governor Keating was talking about him being a creature of the street.

But in a more positive way, the conversation has been going on in living rooms and all over the country just by virtue of the fact that there is a black man who may well be the next president. And because he is so far ahead in the polls at this point, there is rightly or wrongly a perception that if he does not prevail on Election Day, that race will have played a role in that.

BROWN: Tara, what do you think? The campaign, he's been a part of this campaign for two years essentially. Has the conversation evolved during that time?

WALL: Well, I think, you know, the fact that the issue has been raised I think is good. I think it has to be expanded and I think you can't do it just alone in an election year. It should be expanded. I think it should include white -- not just white racism, but black racism and other types of racism that exist. That's part of the discussion, a part of the dialog.

You know, I hear from folks on both sides of this, you know, I hear from folks who say that, you know, 90 percent of black folks are voting for Barack Obama because he's black, and against McCain because he's white. You know, the percentage within. And so I think those issues should certainly be explored beyond the greater issues that we're talking about just within an election cycle.

BROWN: Roland?

MARTIN: 90 percent of black people are voting for Obama because he's a Democrats. The numbers actually support that in the last several elections. But this whole notion of the conversation, you do have sort of a different race conversation being played out. You know, Campbell, every time I hear Sarah Palin talk about a hockey mom, talk about being NASCAR dads, soccer moms, Wal-Mart moms, talk about Joe Six-Pack, I don't think she's talking to me. I don't think she's talking to people who look like Tara.

WALL: She's talking to me, because I'm from Middle America. I know exactly what she's talking about, because I come from where she comes from. I absolutely do.


MARTIN: No, Tara. No, Tara. Tara --


BROWN: Come on, Roland. You can't deny that Tara believes that she's got a connection and she's hearing what Palin is saying. You've got to hand her that.


MARTIN: No, it's not a question of being monolithic. It's also understanding it. Because when you look at who is showing up, we know -- political strategists know exactly what those phrases mean. They know that. OK? They're not talking to African-American women. In 2004, when --

WALL: You're putting us in a box.

MARTIN: That meant white suburban women.

BROWN: Right.

MARTIN: So, we can't deny the reality.

WALL: You're putting us in a box. I played soccer. My mom was a soccer mom. I played soccer when I was a kid. So, once again we're putting black folks in a box.

MARTIN: OK. Tara, it's not a box.

WALL: We are not monolithic. And there are, there are host of folks that...

MARTIN: Tara, it's --

BROWN: Roland, let her finish.

WALL: ...that address our issues, including whether it's Sarah Palin, whether it's Barack Obama, whether it's Michael Steele. Listen, we have to hear from a host of these leaders as black folks, not one segment of society that's only speaking to one issue. And that's part of the dialog.

BROWN: All right.

MARTIN: She's not talking to folks like me and you, you know it.


BROWN: We got to end it there.


BROWN: In fact, thank you, Tara, Dana, Roland. Appreciate your time, guys. Have a good night. Thanks for watching.