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Uncovering America: Race, Gender and Politics

Aired February 15, 2008 - 22:00   ET


With the candidates focused on the remaining primaries, they continue to crisscross the country today, battling it out on the campaign trail.

There are a lot of important issues in this hotly contested presidential race, of course, issues that we hear discussed in rallies and meetings every day, Iraq, the economy, health care.

But there are other issues playing out in this election, less talked about, perhaps, but just as provocative and controversial. Tonight, we're talking about two such issues, race and gender.

Throughout the campaigns of senators Clinton and Obama, the issues of race and gender have made headlines at times. While both candidates have said they should not be issues, they are. We see it in exit polls. We see it in voting patterns. We hear it in speeches and interviews. It's not a surprise, of course. Both candidates are making history.

Both hope to rewrite it, the first black president, the first female president.

And, tonight, we're going to look at race and gender on the campaign trail. Is America still divided along these lines? How far have we really come? We will also look at the importance of minority groups as a voting bloc and at some of the divisions which exist among these groups.

Is there really a so-called black-and-brown divide? Are Asian voters truly more inclined to vote for Senator Clinton? Could the Latino vote actually swing to the GOP?

There's a lot to talk about on this 360 special report, "Uncovering America: Race, Gender and Politics."

We begin tonight with allegations of sexism and racism on the campaign trail. Why do so many talk about what Senator Clinton is wearing, for example? You don't hear people talk about what John McCain is wearing.

And, of course, we have all heard radio talk show hosts mock Barack Obama for his name and his race.

Sexism and racism, is one more prevalent, more potent than the other? We will ask our panel about that just in a moment. But first, CNN's Randi Kaye takes a look at the explosive issue with a diverse group of women voters in Ohio.

Here's her report.



RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She's got that right. They're historic race to the finish is fueling a nationwide debate about how sexism and racism may be shaping this campaign. In Columbus, Ohio, at a tea party for the Junior League, we posed this question. Is sexism less offensive than racism?

BABETTE FEIBEL, OHIO VOTER: Sexism has been around as kind of an acceptable joke for years. As far as racism is concerned, it's definitely not politically correct.

H. CLINTON: We bring about change by...

KAYE: Hecklers at a Hillary Clinton rally shouted for her to iron their shirts.

Radio host Rush Limbaugh wasn't any kinder.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes?

KAYE: Her hairdos, the shape of her ankles, even her cleavage has been debated.

MELISSA BARROW KIRTLEY, OHIO VOTER: And that's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. I just think that's -- it's offensive.

KAYE (on camera): Does anyone think that, if there were similar attacks targeting Barack Obama and his race, that there would be more outrage?



KAYE (voice-over): Why do sexist attacks seem more prevalent than racial ones? Some here point to free speech, others to racial guilt.

MABEL FREEMAN, OHIO VOTER: As awful as sexism has been, people lost their lives for civil rights.

KAYE: Still, Barack Obama has had his share of jabs. Rush Limbaugh, not playing favorites, aired this song called "Barack, The Magic Negro."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Barack, the Magic Negro. KAYE: It's not just the right.


KAYE: Remember when Bill Clinton reminded voters, like Obama, Jesse Jackson won South Carolina, too?

CAROLYN PETTIGREW, OHIO VOTER: That is code for reminding majority people, he is an African-American.

KAYE: Clearly, there are consequences to perceived racial insults. But feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem says, the consequences of sexism are not taken as seriously.

She recently wrote, "Gender is the most restricting force in America, not race," and went on to say, "Black men were given the vote a half-century before women of any race."

MARY AUSTIN PALMER, OHIO VOTER: You always have to prove yourself, or go three extra miles, so that you can say, well, I'm at least at par with you.

KAYE: Clinton is a target on the Web, too. There are first cleaning laid toilet brushes and a Clinton nutcracker that cracks nuts between her legs. And remember when her eyes teared up in New Hampshire?

PALMER: They attacked her as a woman. I felt like, you know, if we cry, then we're weak.

KAYE (on camera): What would happen if Barack Obama cried on the campaign trail?

PETTIGREW: They would probably say he was very sensitive male.


KAYE: Do you think white people fear more being considered a racist than being a sexist?



KAYE (voice-over): It's unclear how racism and sexism will impact the vote. But these women admit, even focusing on the issues, gender and skin color, are hard to ignore.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Columbus, Ohio


COOPER: Well, while some will argue that sexism and racism are not factors in this election, others do, among them Gloria Steinem. In an op-ed letter to "The New York Times," the author said that gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House."

People are talking about this issue, and so are we tonight.

Joining me now, Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez, CNN chief national correspondent John King, Faye Wattleton, president of the Center for the Advancement of Women, Jane Junn, an associate professor of political science at Rutgers University.

Thanks for being with us.

Faye, let's start with you.

How much do you think race and gender, those issues, have played out on the campaign trail this time?

FAYE WATTLETON, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN: I think that, as the campaign has emerged and the momentum has shifted between Senator Clinton and Mr. Obama, race and -- and gender are taking a very significant place in this race.

But I think what's inevitable, given the characters that are now running for election, that these are sensitivities that have long been a part of the American history and of the American sensitivities. It is inevitable that we will have these conversations in this very important contest.

COOPER: Is it a conversation we should be having, Leslie? I get e-mails from people all the time who say, look, you know, this is divisive. Why -- why is the media even talking about this kind of stuff? We should be talking about us as Americans.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think, collectively, it's one of those things that's undeniable. I would agree with that.

But I think it's also people's perspective. Some people know that there is an issue of race and gender, but a lot of people tend to look past that. They tend to look at the character of the person, the quality of the person, the experience of the person who may be running for that office.

COOPER: It's interesting, John, because Barack Obama, in particular, has -- I don't know if he's avoided talking about race, but, early on, it was not an issue he would bring up. He -- and certainly in Iowa -- showed that he was transcending race among many voters.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he needs to transcend race, if you will, for political purposes, to win the election.

But Faye is exactly right. How do you avoid this issue? You have the first African-American with a chance, not only to be his party's nominee, but to be the president of the United States, the first woman with a chance to be the nominee and the president of the United States.

They both talk about discrimination in their own life, the glass ceiling, as Senator Clinton calls it. So, the candidates themselves put these issues on the table. Now, do you sometimes get into the ugly undercurrents of sexism and racism in the discussion? Of course you do.

But politics is also about math, Anderson. It's easier to get a -- to build support by going group by group, getting 20 people, 50 people, or 1,000 people to vote for you. So, you court a group, whether that's women, whether that's Asian-Americans, whether that African-Americans, as opposed to courting voters one-on-one.

JANE JUNN, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: If we look back to the history of the United States, to the previous century, 100 years ago, when we had the highest rate of immigration we have ever had in the United States, groups like Italians and Irish, they were the racialized groups, right?

COOPER: But -- but...


JUNN: Italians, Irish and -- the Irish and Jews were.

COOPER: Right.

JUNN: And, in fact, what's interesting is, nobody expects Italians today to go one way. Nobody thinks that -- there's no Irish vote any longer, except perhaps outside of Chicago. And even the state of Illinois nominated Jack Ryan to run against Barack Obama in 2004 as a Republican.


WATTLETON: I don't think that we can overlook, however, that African-Americans did not come here through the means that other immigrants have made their way to the United States.

JUNN: Right.

WATTLETON: And so Mr. Obama, like it or not, really does represent a symbol of a history that cannot be denied and that can't be eradicated. And it still is very much with us.

I think, instead of seeing this as being divisive, it is a way for us to begin to identify those sensitivities, to acknowledge them. You can't treat the illness without acknowledging that it does exist.

COOPER: Jane, you were saying that gender shows up in interesting ways, even in terms of who asks the questions in -- in polls about different subjects, whether it's a man or a woman.

JUNN: Right. For instance, when interviewers ask ordinary people their opinions on abortion, when abortion should be allowed under certain conditions, when men ask the questions of other men, vs. when women ask the questions of men, men are more likely to give more progressive responses, more pro-choice responses on questions about abortion.

COOPER: To a woman?

JUNN: That's right.

COOPER: But, if a man asks the question, they -- they will be less likely to be pro-choice?

JUNN: In comparison to the -- when the interviewer is female.

And, similarly, when black interviewers talk to white folks about their opinions on African-Americans, the answers are systematically different than if you have an interviewer who shares the same race with you.

COOPER: So, how does one overcome that? I mean, how do you -- I mean, that -- that affects in a way which is basically you can't trace that kind of stuff.

JUNN: Well, you can if you know who your interviewers are. And I think where it probably affects us most directly in terms of this election and the analysis is in exit polls, right? Where do the exit poll interviewers go? Which types of precincts? In the case...

COOPER: And who's doing the asking?

JUNN: One last thing to take away from this is, I wish somebody would talk more about or we would analyze further in this panel here people who face intersectional relationships, right, people both feel both female and minorities, right, racialized subjects, who it's a bit of a dilemma for people, right?

It's a bit of a dilemma for women of color, which way they ought to go in a Democratic primary.

COOPER: That intersection of race and gender is particularly difficult this time?

WATTLETON: Oh, absolutely.

I will say, just from my personal experience in the voting booth last week, I stood for five minutes attempting to make a decision as to how I would vote, because before me stood my history.

And I was socialized as a female before I recognized my racial categorization, classification, and, at the same time, recognizing the enormity of the history that stood before me was a real -- was enormously personally conflicting.

COOPER: It's interesting, though, because we did a piece on this in the last special that we did on race. And we got a lot of negative criticism from people who said -- I think Whoopi Goldberg even talked about it on "The View."

She said: Look, I'm offended by that question. It's not race. I don't sit there thinking about race or thinking gender. I think about issues, what issues matter to me.


WATTLETON: Well, but these issues -- the two candidates do have very closely aligned issues.

SANCHEZ: But I think there are people who will feel that -- that challenge. I can't believe I'm going to say I agree with Whoopi Goldberg on this one.


SANCHEZ: But I don't think that should be the question. I think, ultimately, people will vote their lifestyle and vote what they believe is going to be best for their pocketbook, their economic and their financial security.

JUNN: Could I just add one thing to that? it's not as if those two things can be separated. Where you are economically and financially is in many ways a function of your race and gender and that those two things are intimately intertwined. They cannot be separated.

SANCHEZ: But the biggest thing of that is, how do you see yourself? I mean, do I sit around seeing myself as, I'm the Hispanic person and this is my life? I see myself as American. I see myself as somebody who's got to grow my small business. It's the self- identity of how much -- and how much they prioritize and put race above all other things. And I think...

WATTLETON: Well, I can't discount my historic identity...

SANCHEZ: No. No. People embrace that.

WATTLETON: ... because I see myself as an American, but I see myself as an African-American in America. And that experience is very different perhaps from your experience as a Latin.

SANCHEZ: Exactly.

WATTLETON: And I only expressed how I felt in terms of my historic evolution and the -- the evolution of my -- my racial classification.

COOPER: We're going to have a lot more from our panel throughout this hour. Our special on race, gender, and politics is just getting started.

Up next: an election year and a perceived rift between African- Americans and Latinos. How real is it? We will examine the so-called minority divide. And, later, a closer look at the Latino voters, a diverse group, no doubt about it -- why most of them right now are -- seem to be giving up on the GOP. And can that be reversed?

We will be right back.



MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: He's touched on every element of this country, every race, every political party, Republicans, independents.


COOPER: Michelle Obama speaking to Larry King -- the wife of presidential candidate Barack Obama, of course, and his biggest champion, perhaps.

Obama received at least 80 percent of the African-American vote on Super Tuesday. But, among Latinos, nearly 65 percent were for Hillary Clinton. So, why the divide? In Virginia and Maryland in week, Barack Obama won among Latinos. So, I guess the question is, is that divide surmountable?

And the answer has a lot to do with the candidates and the two groups. As you will see, some say tension between African-Americans and Latinos has never been higher.

CNN's Soledad O'Brien reports.



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are among Hillary Clinton's staunchest supporters, lifting her up state after state.

The California exit polls said it all. Clinton won 67 percent of Latino votes, Barack Obama 32 percent. But, behind the groundswell, a troubling question: Are Latinos rallying for this white woman or against this black man, just because he's black?

Luis Jimenez is the Latino Howard Stern, one of the top Spanish- language radio hosts in the country.

LUIS JIMENEZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Right now, if we have a white woman and an African-American person, I think the natural instinct of the Latino would be to go for the white woman.

O'BRIEN: Jimenez argues, blacks and Latinos are competing minorities, jockeying for better jobs, higher wages, more political power. The prospect, he says, of a President Obama makes many Latinos anxious.

JIMENEZ: He's going to do more for the African-American community, and he may forget about us. I'm not saying that's the truth, but that's the way a lot of us think.

O'BRIEN: Henrik Rehbinder runs the Editorial Page of "La Opinion," the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the country. He acknowledges that, while the Latino community is hardly monolithic, a gulf does exist between it and African-Americans.

HENRIK REHBINDER, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "LA OPINION": Basically, they don't know each other. When we are talking competition, it's more of a lack of understanding of each other.

O'BRIEN: "La Opinion" endorsed Obama just before the California primary, but Rehbinder strongly denies racism fueled Clinton's big win.

The Clintons have deep roots in the community, he says, and Obama made little effort to reach out.

REHBINDER: The candidate was not really available for Latino media. So, the voters, they did not really have the opportunity to hear the candidate.

O'BRIEN: The endorsement from Rehbinder and "La Opinion" was a big opening to connect with Latinos, and the crew here says, Obama blew it.

FAY, "THE LUIS JIMENEZ SHOW": To be backed up by someone so great, someone that people listen to, and then kind of let it slip through your fingers and not do much with what you have, it's kind of like having Michael Jordan teach you how to play basketball and just forgetting everything.

O'BRIEN: Obama now has a team handling Latino media and an ad in Spanish running on Texas radio. Too little too late?

JIMENEZ: He may be the best guy in the world, but we just met. It's not racism. It's who we know and who we trust more.

O'BRIEN: Still, the trust gap might be shrinking. Exit polls show Obama gaining on Clinton among Latinos. He won them outright in Virginia. Now it's on to Texas.

Soledad O'Brien, CNN.


COOPER: Soledad will join our panel after the break for more of the perception and reality of a minority rift and the fallout in this election.

And later on this special edition of 360: sibling rivalry, two Latina sisters, both congresswomen, and divided on whom to vote for, for president. We will talk about that ahead.



MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the reasons that I think that I was able to get 48 percent of an African-American vote in my state was because I do recognize that this country ought to be the same for everybody.


COOPER: Mike Huckabee, a message of equality there, one being delivered by just about all the candidates this year.

Welcome back to "Uncovering America: Race, Gender and Politics."

African-Americans and Latinos are playing huge roles in this year's presidential election, no doubt about it. And both have clashed over issues like illegal immigration and more.

In the past, some African-Americans have accused Latinos of taking away jobs.

For more, let's bring back our panel, CNN's Soledad O'Brien, Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez, CNN chief national correspondent John King, Faye Wattleton, president of the Center for the Advancement of Women, and Jane Junn, associate professor of political science at Rutgers University.

So, issues that people focus on, illegal immigration is one of the issues that -- that has raised some concern.

WATTLETON: Yes, that has raised concerns. And African-Americans have long faced job discrimination.

And when they see jobs that they think ought to be rightfully theirs as American citizens, and newer immigrants coming in and usurping those opportunities, it does create racial tensions.

I don't think that we should also overlook the reality that those people who are nonwhite Latinos are going to be a larger minority group than are African-Americans. And that raises very significant political realities in terms of the political powers of African- Americans in our country.

JUNN: I think we have to be very careful about talking about the dynamics of the campaign.

You're not looking at voters in the same states, right? You're looking at voters in California...

WATTLETON: That's right.

JUNN: ... which are very distinctive from voters, Latino voters in particular, in Virginia and Maryland. We're not talking about the same groups of people. And it's not just...

COOPER: And, so, the issues and -- the issues they care about are very different, you're saying?

JUNN: It could be that.

O'BRIEN: I think it's changing, actually. And every single time we have a primary, we're actually beginning to see some of those numbers.

I think people, anecdotally and also looking at some of the numbers, are trying to figure out if there was a race problem between Latinos electing Obama.

Would it be possible to do? Is there some kind of racism that, for some reason, Latinos would not elect a black man? And there are a couple of things that answered against that. For example, you can look at a number of races in which Latinos were critical in electing an African-American. So, that sort of would throw that theory out of the window.

But you also raised the issue of competition for jobs. That is very real in certain communities. And then you have another side of it, which would say, well, define Latino for me. Are we talking about Mexicans? Are we talking about El Salvadorans? Are we talking about Cuban? Who are we exactly talking about?

COOPER: Right, such a diverse group.

O'BRIEN: With the most recent primary numbers that we have seen and the exit polls, you actually see Obama is gaining ground among Latinos. And that was a really interesting number to see, tiny, because you're talking about a small Latino population. I think it's 4 percent in Virginia, maybe 5 percent in Maryland.

But he has actually had some growth. But it certainly has been a topic of discussion in Latino communities and in black communities, too.

COOPER: Leslie, what do you -- what -- I mean, what is at the core of this -- this alleged tension?

SANCHEZ: I think a lot of it can be class. I think it -- and it does break down by age as well. I think you have a lot of the older generation, for example, of Latinos who may have felt -- or have some sort of anxiety. I know we used to hear it with my grandparents, for example. I mean, there were certainly tensions there.

But think the whole dynamic -- I agree with Soledad -- is changing, especially in terms of people who vote. If you want to look back, and we're talking about Virginia, for example, which has a very large El Salvadoran, Honduran population, it should not be lost that Senator -- that Governor Tim Kaine from Virginia, the Democrat, was speaking in Spanish, introducing Barack Obama.

It's a very small point, but, for that community, which is maturing politically very fast, you have to keep in mind, a lot of Latinos will vote for a candidate before they vote for a party.

KING: That -- that is the question in the Clinton campaign now. They're hoping what they saw in Virginia, the gains for Barack Obama, was a drop in the pond, and just a drop.

The question is, is it a ripple? Does it carry over throughout the community? That is the question. If it does carry over to the other groups, then Barack Obama does better in Texas, and Senator Clinton is in trouble.


COOPER: We will talk more about Latinos the GOP coming up.

But next in this special 360: They are Latino lawmakers, are they divide over whom to support for president -- their story ahead.

Also ahead tonight: courting the Hispanic vote. Can the GOP win them back before November?

That is coming up, as our special, "Uncovering America: Race, Gender and Politics," continues.



Back to "Uncovering America" in just a minute, but, first, here's your 360 news and business bulletin.

Authorities say the gunman who shot 21 people at Northern Illinois University had gone off of his meds and was behaving erratically before he went on his rampage. Stephen Kazmierczak opened fire in a crowded lecture hall yesterday, fatally wounding five people, before killing himself. Police declined to say what medicine he was supposed to be taking.

A big endorsement for Barack Obama -- the Service Employees International Union today giving him the nod and the support of its nearly two million members. Yesterday, the United Food and Commercial Workers endorsed Senator Obama. Both unions have serious clout in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Texas.

And another big endorsement from Wal-Mart, picking Blu-ray. In case you're not a gadget freak here, Sony's Blu-ray is the next- generation high-def DVD. It is competing with Toshiba's HD-DVD. You can think of it as the VHS-Betamax wars.

Well, today, Wal-Mart said it will no longer carry those HD-DVD movies, only Blu-ray.

I'm Erica Hill.

Back to Anderson now with more of this 360 special, "Uncovering America: Race, Gender and Politics," after this short break.


COOPER: Welcome back to the 360 special, "Uncovering Race, Gender and Politics. Hispanics are the largest minority group in America with more than 44 million people. For the presidential candidates, of course, getting their votes is critical. The question is, who are they voting for?

Tonight you're going to meet two Latina congresswomen from California. They also happen to be sisters. One supports Clinton, the other, Obama. We're going to look at why and what issues are most important to Latinas.

CNN's Jason Carroll reports.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are a rarity in Congress. Linda and Loretta Sanchez were born into a large Mexican-American family in Southern California. Both made history by becoming the first and only sisters to serve in Congress at the same time.

Usually, they vote the same way. Not this time.

LINDA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: I agree to disagree.

CARROLL: Linda Sanchez is backing Senator Barack Obama, while older sister Loretta is embracing Senator Hillary Clinton.

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: I think she's much more capable than Obama.

CARROLL: The Sanchez sisters are having the same heated debates many Democrats are.

LINDA SANCHEZ: We need somebody who can bring the various diverse groups together, find the common ground, set aside the partisan bickering, not be polarizing.

LORETTA SANCHEZ: This whole thing about, oh, she's so polarizing. I mean, that's what the Senators thought she would be. But she didn't become that.

LINDA SANCHEZ: I think there is a huge gap among independents who are interested in voting for Barack Obama, because they see him as the true agent of change in Washington.

LORETTA SANCHEZ: But they aren't informed, Linda. I'm just talking about people who sit there and actually work on a day-to-day basis with her, and they have been.

LINDA SANCHEZ: I'm talking about electability, to bring...

LORETTA SANCHEZ: That's not what you were talking about before. You were talking about Barack having the experience and the ability to bring people together. CARROLL: Issues affecting Latinas both? Top of the list, education, followed by health care. Loretta says, as first lady, Clinton was instrumental in pushing early education programs like Head Start.

LORETTA SANCHEZ: She just doesn't give a speech and walk away. I mean, she's always got an agenda of what needs to happen and points about milestones that she wants to reach and actual programs and actual specifics to the situation.

LINDA SANCHEZ: I have to jump in here, because I think it's very easy to point to things that were done in the Clinton presidency that were good and claim credit for them, because she was first lady. And then things that were not so good to be able to be distance yourself and say...

LORETTA SANCHEZ: Well, again, I was in the front row seat and Linda wasn't. Linda wasn't in politics. She wasn't at the -- she wasn't in the Congress during that time.

CARROLL: The two have a bet. The loser has to clean the other's house for a week. That is, if they're still talking after our interview.

(on camera) Is she going to call you later?

LORETTA SANCHEZ: No, she's going to ignore me. That why she -- one time she ignored me for two years.

LINDA SANCHEZ: I think Loretta needs to invest in some scrub pads and some dusts cloths.

CARROLL (voice-over): Both waiting to see which candidate cleans up on delegates, come convention time.

Jason Carroll, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: From divided sisters to an anxious Republican Party. In recent years Latinos have said good-bye to the GOP. They're embracing the Democrats now. The question is why and what's it then, mean, for the presidential race ahead. We'll talk about that.

And later, a diverse group, a huge turnout and a big surprise with the Asian-American in this election, coming up.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that I have represented the hopes and dreams and aspirations of Hispanics in my state. I was proud to have received over 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in Arizona in my last re-election.


COOPER: John McCain may have won Arizona, but if he wants to be president, he's going to have to do more nationwide to sway Latino voters, most of whom now favor Democrats, especially Hillary Clinton.

The Republican Party is accused of driving away Latinos. Can John McCain and the GOP, though, do anything to actually win them back?

CNN's John Zarrella reports.


MCCAIN: Nice to see you!

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator John McCain's moderate views on immigration reform don't sit well with everyone in the Republican Party.

MCCAIN: On the issue of illegal immigration, a position which...




CARROLL: On the other hand, his party's hard line does not sit well with many Hispanics. It is not McCain they dislike; it's the party. Therein lies the dilemma, said the Reverend Samuel Rodriguez.

REV. SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ, PASTOR: Will Latinos be able to look at John McCain and say we're going to support the party because of you and in spite of the party? That's the question that will be answered November 4.

CARROLL: Rodriguez, a conservative, is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

RODRIGUEZ: Blessings, take care. (speaking Spanish)

CARROLL: As president, Rodrigruez, of Puerto Rican descent, has ties to 18,000 Latino evangelical churches. He is young and powerful, and he is not happy. He calls immigration reform a debacle.

RODRIGUEZ: Who's responsible? The Republican national party. Who will pay in the 2008 elections? The Republican national party.

CARROLL: The party's tone has turned off many Hispanics, admits Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, but the Republican-Cuban American from Miami believes McCain can bring them back.

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: In John McCain, we have someone who can expand our base. President Bush, the father, President Bush, the son, did it. They got a good chunk. Ronald Reagan did, as well, a good chunk of the Hispanic vote. Well, we've lost that now because of that nasty rhetoric.

CARROLL: But Hispanics need persuading on a whole range of issues. And immigration is not always No. 1.

MARYTZA SANZ, LATINO LEADERSHIP: When you talk about issues about the health, the jobs, the issues that I have is the same issues that have you.

CARROLL: Puerto Rican-born Marytza Sanz is a Democrat. She's founder of Latino Leadership in Orlando, which registers Hispanics to vote.

SANZ: I think that it's more than the immigration situation. Right now our community is desperate with the economy.

CARROLL: And that may not help McCain.

Connie Morales is from Colombia. She was raised in New York. Orlando is home now. Morales has always voted Republican. Not this time. The economy, not immigration, turned her away. In fact, she doesn't have much sympathy for illegal immigrants.

CONNIE MORALES, SWITCHING PARTIES: We don't do much, because we have a hard time trying to get here. We had to get in line, we had to get the papers, we had to get visas.

ZARRELLA: The message from Hispanics to John McCain? We're like other Americans. One size does not fit all.

John Zarrella, CNN, Orlando, Florida.


COOPER: All right. Let's talk about Latino votes and the GOP. Is it too late for the Republicans to win them back in '08?

Joining me again, Leslie Sanchez, John King, Faye Wattleton and Jane Junn.

Leslie, is it too late?

LESLIE SANCHEZ: Not at all. One thing to keep in mind is for Republicans to be competitive, we have to be near the 40th percentile. A lot of people think, "Oh, you have to win overwhelmingly with Latino voters," but it's incremental. And if the Latinos are business minded, open-minded cultural conservatives. And you're seeing the rise of evangelical and charismatic Hispanics who are getting engaged, for example, now in the marriage initiatives.

Those are different pockets of voters who are engaged and becoming politically mature very fast. And they're going to swing either way. I mean, you've got 25 percent of Latino voters who are open-minded, independent conservatives. They're moving back and forth between both parties.

COOPER: The immigration issue, how much has it hurt the GOP among Latino voters?

KING: No question, if you look at any polling data, it has hurt them. Even if you only travel the country, it has hurt them. The tone of the debate back in the summertime where illegals are not welcome, illegals, let's round them up and kick them out, that was not the majority view of those in the debate, but it was the vocal view of those in the debate. That this is a horrible problem. Build a fence. It sounded exclusionary to many people. So the tone has definitely had an impact.

The question now going forward is you'll have a Republican nominee in John McCain who was on the other side of that debate, saying -- and still says that he believes that most of the illegals in this country should be allowed to stay and ultimately get a path to status or to citizenship.

He has changed his message considerably to address conservative concerns by saying I'll deal with that later, but secure the border first. So needs to go state by state.

COOPER: It's interesting, Faye, though. John McCain is sort of in a difficult position. If he reaches out to social conservatives and conservatives within his party to get them to come out to the polls on the immigration issue, he risks alienating more, I guess, liberal Latino voters.

WATTLETON: Well, I think that's also a possibility, but the acquaintance between the GOP and Latino voters is not new. It goes back to Mr. Reagan that put together the coalition of -- of conservative -- on the conservative positions, of Latins and Catholics, and that was a part of his great coalition.

So it really is an evolving relationship, and I think that he does have to be very sensitive and play it very carefully, lest they alienate more of the people that they had hoped to bring in over time.

LESLIE SANCHEZ: What's fascinating about Latino voters, too, is if you ask them, you know, are you a Republican or Democrat, and they -- they were so many times they say, "I don't want that label." They don't like -- "I don't follow politics at all. I don't like to be called anything. I'm an independent."

Now, where do they lean? They tend to lean -- our political kind of ideology tends to be left of center. If you look at Hispanic as a whole, which I don't like to do, but if we're talking about voting population, it tends to do that. But that is changing.

Look at candidates like Arnold Schwarzenegger of California. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Senator in Texas. John McCain in Arizona. Giuliani in New York. You can list a whole litany of Republican candidates who -- who earned more than 50 percent, 60, maybe 70 percent Hispanic support by earning and embracing and working that vote.

So the dynamic of the Hispanic vote is changing. It did and was responsible for victories for Bush in New Mexico and Florida. COOPER: What does this mean for identity politics? I mean, the way politicians get elected is by figuring out which groups to appeal to and what favors you can give to what groups and what message to tailor to whom.

LESLIE SANCHEZ: That's Democratic identity politics. Let me stop you right there.


LESLIE SANCHEZ: Let's just say that we work on ideas. Democrats work on...

COOPER: Come on. Seriously, you're among -- among friends here. You don't have to do that.

LESLIE SANCHEZ: Well, I'll be the person that mobilizes those efforts. I would agree with that.

COOPER: Really? Really?

LESLIE SANCHEZ: We talk about tax issues or business issues. We don't care about the color of their skin or ethnicity. There's a couple different things to think about.

COOPER: Really?

LESLIE SANCHEZ: It was Richard Nixon who put -- first put Hispanic votes...

COOPER: So wait. So when George Bush's nephew, who, like -- whose, I guess, mother was...


COOPER: ... Mexican...


COOPER: ... was sent out on the campaign trail to talk to groups.

LESLIE SANCHEZ: Because he could speak Spanish to talk to groups.

COOPER: That was because he was such a charging guy?

KING: I'm going to take Leslie around the country with me. She's going to rip up every -- Latinos for McCain, African-Americans for McCain, grassroots (ph) for McCain.

LESLIE SANCHEZ: I am -- I'm not saying you cannot get groups excited about identity, but...

WATTLETON: There are few excited African-Americans in the Republican Party, because you know, we said that is the party of Lincoln, because we had great...

LESLIE SANCHEZ: That's a whole other show. I'll agree with that. There are many different reason that Republicans have made some significant.

COOPER: But you really are saying with a straight face that you don't believe Republicans do the same stuff that the Democrats do and that all politicians do?

LESLIE SANCHEZ: I think when they're talking about dependency, social programs and what government entitlement programs we can provide for minorities. You know, and even if you listen to Democratic operatives, they'll say the only way that we really had tactics with Latino voters was to scare them. I'm going to shift the debate a little bit.

But it was either saying, look, we're going to provide all these entitlement programs for you. That's the misconception that a lot of Republicans have about Latinos.

COOPER: By the way, Democrats make the same argument about Republicans in terms of, you know, the politics of fear.

LESLIE SANCHEZ: People are more sophisticates in how they look at those things. People -- it's counterintuitive for a lot of Republicans to think Latinos can be Republicans or are conservative. They think that we want all these programs and entitlement programs and that's what we're looking for, and amnesty. And that's so far from the truth.

COOPER: Stick around. There's much more to discuss with our panel ahead, including Asian-American voters. We'll look at the reasons they are turning out in the state of California, at least, in huge numbers for Clinton over Obama and if that trend will change.



SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: After seven years of a president who listened only to the special interests, you're ready for a president who brings your voice, your values, and your dreams to your White House.


COOPER: Hillary Clinton after her victory in the California primary where she won nearly 75 percent of the Asian-American vote. Hillary Clinton's appeal to Asian-Americans isn't limited to the West Coast this primary season, and some are finding that surprising.

CNN's Gary Tuchman explains why.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reporters with a Korean TV station in New Jersey doing an interview with a voting expert. One of the reporters says she feels more Koreans favor Clinton over Barack Obama.

JOO-YOUNG KANG, MXTV REPORTER: She has more experience in the political forum (ph) than Obama.

TUCHMAN: In Fort Lee, New Jersey, where one-third of the residents are Asian-Americans, easy to find Clinton supporters.

SUNNY HWANK, FORT LEE RESIDENT: We've known her so many years, since the President Clinton's era, and so we -- she's a friend of Asian-Americans, we believe.

TUCHMAN: During New Jersey's primary, the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund did exit polling. The findings? Hillary Clinton, with 73 percent of the Asian-American vote; Barack Obama, 22 percent.

Our own exit polling from the California primary gave Clinton a similar edge. So why the overwhelming Clinton support?

PROF. MATT BARRETO, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: They remember good times in the 1990s. There was a lot of benefits on not only the economy, but other policies that benefited immigrants, and in particular, Asian-Americans that would cause them to remember the Clintons in fondness.

TUCHMAN (on camera): There are more than 13 million Asian- American U.S. citizens. Their numbers and influence continue to grow.

(voice-over) They or their ancestors come from China, the Philippines, India, Japan and many other countries. Vida Benavides is the leader of the Asian-American Pacific Islanders Vote organization.

VIDA BENAVIDES, CHAIR, APIA VOTE: The message of change is exciting to many young immigrants. But the message of changed to those immigrants who are here in their elderly years, who have immigrated here in the '50s and '60s, might move towards Clinton.

TUCHMAN: But this man claims there is another reason for what's happening, and it starts with a huge e-mail list.

S.B. WOO, FORMER LT. GOVERNOR, DELAWARE: Capable of reaching an estimated 55 percent of Asian-Americans in eight hours.

TUCHMAN: S.B. Woo is the former lieutenant governor of Delaware and is now with the political action committee called the 80-20 Initiative. He says the organization asks the candidates questions about equal opportunity issues. Hillary Clinton replied positively in a timely manner, which prompted the group to ask Asian-Americans to vote for Clinton.

WOO: I think the fact that the most powerful political organization in our community has endorsed Senator Clinton for the California Democratic primary has to be one of the major factors, if not the major factor. TUCHMAN: Woo says Barack Obama ultimately responded positively, too, and now the organization is now neutral.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Whether we are rich or poor, black or white, Latino or Asian.

TUCHMAN: Good news for the candidate whose Asian-American poll numbers haven't been so good.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Fort Lee, New Jersey.


COOPER: Stick around, there's much more to discuss with our panel ahead, including Asian-American voters. We'll look at the reasons they are turning out in the state of California, at least, in huge numbers for Clinton over Obama and if that trend will change.


COOPER: California was all Clinton on Super Tuesday. She beat out Barack Obama in the primary. And helping her to victory in the state, the Asian-American vote. They supported her in the polls by 3- 1 over Obama.

More on that and some final thoughts on tonight's special here are Leslie Sanchez, John king, Faye Wattleton and Jane Junn.

Jane, I mean, is it -- is it wrong to talk about the Asian- American vote? I mean, it's such a diverse group.

JUNN: I don't think it's wrong to talk about -- about Asian- Americans as a group. They currently constitute 4 percent of the U.S. population, are growing dramatically. And yet, it's interesting. It's important to point out how diverse the group is, similar to Latinos.

It's also important to note that two-thirds of Asian-Americans in the United States are immigrants, foreign-born, still developing, in many ways, partisan identification, familiarity with candidates' ideology in the United States.

COOPER: So when you see large numbers of Asian-Americans voting for Hillary Clinton, how do you explain that?

JUNN: I don't know why we have to try to explain why Asian- Americans voted more for Clinton than for Obama when the same pattern happened throughout California. You're talking about one state, which is arguably 35 percent of the Asian-American population. Let's see what happens in Hawaii. Let's see what happens in Texas.

COOPER: Too early to tell?

JUNN: Too early to tell.

WATTLETON: I think there are tensions between African-American and Asians around affirmative action issues at the higher education levels. And I think we can't ignore those. Now, whether they show up in the electorate and how deep those divides are, but the tensions do exist.

COOPER: John, in this race, how important is this Asian-American vote?

KING: Well, in a race, if we assume this -- in the primary, No. 1, it's very competitive in the Democratic side, it's a stalemate. I assume we will have another presidential election, 2000 was very close. 2004 was a little bit more of a majority for Bush, but still very close. So every voter counts.

And within that, as I said earlier, if you can court a group as opposed to an individual, you get more bang for your buck, if you will. So any niche you can develop counts.

In the state of California, I would assume that Senator Clinton's big support there is familiarity. Clintons as president spent a great deal of time in California. The Clintons were out there quite a bit. It is a known brand name, if you will. I assume that's what it is.

I don't assume it was any sort of animosity toward an African- American candidate. I think that would be a huge stretch. I would simply say in her case, she has benefited in some communities from being the known entity.

COOPER: I want to get some final thoughts from each of you about this hour. What -- I mean, someone who's been watching this for the hour, what should they take away? What are some of the most important thoughts to think about on the issues of race and gender and class?

LESLIE SANCHEZ: I would say this. You know, we talk about women's issues or Hispanic issues or Asian issues. I think all issues are America's issues. I think that's what we're going to find out. Economy, pocketbook issues, people are all feeling the same type of restraint. And good policy is good for everybody.

I think with respect to Latino voters, it's going to be very competitive. Hillary has drawn the line in the sand around Texas.

COOPER: As someone who grew up in a time of forced busing in Boston when race was ugly, it was an ugly issue when you were a kid. It was ugly to watch adults face off against each other. I think the fact that we're having this conversation relatively politely is a sign of amazing, remarkable progress in the country.

WATTLETON: I think this is the moment to that point of great opportunity. I don't think in my lifetime, I don't think I would have ever imagined that I would see a woman and an African-American making credible campaigns for the presidency of the United States.

And these people who are giving us opportunities and giving us choices are giving us, really, a chance to move forward and to move beyond race, class and gender.


JUNN: I don't know how much we really can move beyond race, class and gender and whether that's always a good thing. I mean, race continues to be a dynamic. It's moving, shifting beneath our feet.

And I think one thing, the lesson that we should take away from this is that we shouldn't -- we should always question the assumptions that we bring to the analysis. What are the groups and why do they cohere together politically? And that would also go for women, as well.

COOPER: An interesting discussion. A lot to think about, a lot to talk about. Thank you very much. Really fascinating.

Thanks to the panel. And thanks for watching this 360 special on race, gender and politics. Tonight we showed you three more issues that are playing an historic role this election year. It's part of our provocative new series, "Uncovering America." We're going to bring you more of these in-depth reports in the weeks and months to come. We hope you found this hour as fascinating and provocative as we did.

I'm Anderson Cooper. Good night.