If the death of Trayvon Martin has started a national discussion about race, get ready for some tough talking points.
Among them: a spate of recent polling about interracial marriage.
Not so long ago, a white man named Richard Perry Loving wanted to marry a black woman named Mildred Jeter (left). They left Virginia - where interracial marriage was then illegal - and traveled to Washington D.C. to get married.
Back in Virginia, they were arrested and pled guilty to breaking the law.
That was 1959.
Eight years later, when Loving and Jeter’s case reached the Supreme Court, every single member of the Court ruled in the couple’s favor, believing that Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage was discriminatory and unconstitutional.
But unanimity on the Supreme Court does not translate into unanimity across the nation.
“As recently as 1994,” according to Gallup, “less than half of Americans approved” of marriage between blacks and whites.
By 2007, 75% of whites approved of interracial marriages (the percentage was considerably higher among blacks - 85%).
And this month, when Public Policy Polling asked Republican primary voters in Illinois their view on interracial marriage, the numbers were similar. Three in four said they thought interracial marriage should be legal.
But look at the flip side of that number.
Fully 25% of respondents either believed that interracial marriage should be illegal (16%) or were unsure (9%).
The numbers were even starker during a poll in Mississippi a couple of weeks ago, which appeared to show that 46% of the state’s likely Republican voters either believe interracial marriage should be illegal or aren't sure.
What do these poll results say about a national conversation on race? About the prejudices touched on in the discussion of Trayvon Martin?
But Fox News’ Chris Wallace referees what may be the oddest political match-up on air today: Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s longtime advisor, and Joe Trippi, Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign manager. “I’ve got the best job in the world,” Wallace says. “Rove and Trippi have forgotten more about politics than I’ll ever know.”
And tonight the three will hold court again, hashing through Super Tuesday results in what Wallace, unabashedly, refers to as the political junkie’s Super Bowl.
I talked with the Fox News Sunday host (who once served as NBC’s chief White House correspondent) about preparing for tonight’s coverage, why an “ugly win” is still a win, and what he’ll be doing tomorrow.
What do you have your eye on today?
I’ll be focusing on Ohio, which is enormously important. Blue collar, working class, lots of Catholics. A key state that Republicans may need to win the presidency. If Mitt Romney wins, he starts to separate himself. If Rick Santorum wins, we’re back to talk about Mitt Romney being a weak frontrunner.
The other state I’ll be looking at is Georgia. If Newt Gingrich can’t win, he may have to drop out. But, as we saw with Michigan, even an ugly three-point win is a win.
Why do people keep talking about the white-knight scenario, the idea that Chris Christie or Mitch Daniels or Jeb Bush will ride in to save the day?
Let’s say Mitt Romney had lost Michigan, his home state. Well, the conventional wisdom in the Republican Party would have been that Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum might not be able to beat Obama. And the Party thinks that Obama is vulnerable. If Rick Santorum beats Mitt Romney in some Super Tuesday contests, I think you’ll hear people bring that up again. People will talk about a contested convention
What are election days like at Fox News?
Actually, election days are the longest and most boring days of the campaign until 4 or 5 p.m., when you get exit polls. You wait and wait until 5, and then you are deluged with information. It’s like trying to drink out of a fire hose. If you’re a political junkie, it’s the Super Bowl.
I’ve got the best job in the world, running a panel with Karl Rove and Joe Trippi. They’ve forgotten more about politics that I’ll ever know. It’s particularly amazing to see Karl sit there and crunch the numbers.
What’s the most interesting statistic or bit of analysis that Rove has thrown at you so far this season?
Well, he links into the website of each state's Secretary of State. And he’ll look at individual precincts. He was able to do that on the night of the Michigan primary at about 9 p.m., and by 9:15 he knew Mitt Romney was going to win. The computer models didn’t figure that out for an hour and a half.
How do you prep for tonight? Social media? Favorite go-to websites?
Social media is an important way to get your message out there. I don’t do Twitter myself. Some people on our staff do it. But I’m certainly on the Internet a lot. There’s no way you can’t be - I look at everything from Politico to Fox News to Huffington Post to The Drudge Report.
We did a debate with Google, and, in the process, they were able to show us these amazing ways of measuring the economy in different states. You can see how often people search “foreclosure” or “mortgage refinancing,” for example.
If Mitt Romney emerges as the likely nominee tonight, what do you think the primary process has done to him - both good and bad?
I think it’s done a lot. It has strengthened him, toughened him up. He hasn’t sailed to the nomination but has had to fight for it.
And in a couple of cases - like Florida and Michigan - it has also brought up lines of attack that Democrats will certainly take advantage of in the fall.
What did you think of the media’s focus on Romney’s gaffes - like, for example, the picture of him at Ford Field? Did the press get off-topic by focusing on the fact that 80,000 people can fit in the stadium and only 1,200 came to see the candidate? Or is that a legitimate issue?
It wasn’t the biggest story coming out of that speech. He did announce a tax plan.
But look, to a certain degree, it hurt that his campaign had leaked out some of the details. And for the campaign to make that kind of basic, elementary gaffe was striking. It’s Advance Work 101. Get a small room and put a large crowd in it.
Tomorrow - after we leave Super Tuesday behind - you’ll pick up the Sol Taishoff award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism from the National Press Foundation, which has been won by Tim Russert, Andrea Mitchell, and Jim Lehrer, among others. How do you feel about getting it?
It’s a big deal. “60 Minutes” has won it - and Ted Koppel, Charlie Gibson, Brit Hume. Quite frankly, some of the people I admire most in the business. To be invited to stand with those heavyweights means a lot. It really means a lot to me.
A one-time pro football player, Schultz rose to prominence as liberals’ (tamer) answer to Rush Limbaugh. And in recent days, Schultz has dished up unsparing criticism of Limbaugh, saying that “this could be the beginning of the end for the man behind the golden microphone.”
But, while Schultz keeps one eye on the Limbaugh firestorm, he is also gearing up for Super Tuesday coverage on MSNBC, where, for almost three years, he has hosted “The Ed Show.” After some timeslot hopping, the hard-driving, personality-infused hour now occupies the same 8 p.m. slot held by the network’s one-time lynchpin Keith Olbermann.
I spoke with Schultz about his predictions for tomorrow, his morning reads, what birth control has done for Rick Santorum, and why Newt Gingrich is a “sly fox.”
What is coverage like at MSNBC on a big primary day? Take us behind the scenes.
Normally, about an hour before we go on the air we get a briefing from polling experts, and we get a pretty good idea of the way things are going. But we’re not in a position to say anything.
Really, for primary night, preparation is key. You have to have researched the area, the states in play, the trends, be able to put things into historical perspective. You just can’t show up and wing it. You have to come in with a few different areas where you’re rock solid in your research.
Other than that, it’s basically a crap shoot. Things unfold in front of us on the air that we have to put in perspective quickly. It’s pretty exciting to be a part of it.
So there’s a window of time when you have poll results but you can’t disclose them, since people are still voting?
We get trend information, but we don’t get rock solid information. That gives us an idea of what could unfold so we’re not completely blindsided.
With so many states in play, what do you think we’ll see tomorrow?
If you relate this to the presidential election in November, all eyes should be focused on Ohio. Ohio’s going to be very, very interesting - it’s a state that’s very concerned about the economy. I would say that’s Mitt Romney’s forte. It’s a state that’s very strong on social issues, and that, of course, is a big part of Rick Santorum’s campaign. And Ron Paul has his 10-13%.
Newt Gingrich is really pulling down Santorum’s campaign right now because if Gingrich were out of the race a lot of those votes would go to Santorum. Gingrich has gone on record to say he has to win Georgia.
I would imagine that Romney will not have any problem winning Massachusetts or Vermont. North Dakota’s going to be interesting. Could Santorum peel some votes away from Gingrich in Georgia? What is Romney’s Southern strategy? What state is he going to win?
You know, Newt Gingrich is a sly fox. He’s saying: if I don’t win in Georgia, I’m not relevant. He’s positioning himself for a big win, but he wants everyone to know that he’s really up against the wall here. It’s really interesting how he games the media.
What role does the birth control issue play here?
That issue really hurt Santorum in Michigan. He’s back now to talking about manufacturing and economic issues, and those were the issues he was talking about when he won Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado.
And then all of a sudden his campaign took a turn. He lost the Catholic vote in Michigan. He lost the women’s vote in Michigan. It can all unravel so fast on these candidates.
How do you explain the difficulties that Mitt Romney’s campaign has had? Has the media been fair to him?
I don’t think you can run for president and be a referee on the media at the same time. If you want to get in this game, you have to be prepared for everything.
What do you make of the Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren Senate race?
I guess Elizabeth Warren is a pretty good lefty. And I think there is probably a pretty good angst out there about Brown’s support and co-sponsorship of the Blunt Amendment. It seems to me that would be pretty hard to explain to half of the electorate.
I think because of her consumer protection advocacy work, the Republicans are probably pretty nervous about Elizabeth Warren getting into the Senate.
What is your day like? How do you prep for your nighttime show?
Normally I’m up about 7 a.m. and surf the Net. I pay attention to Twitter obviously. I read the New York Times, the Huffington Post. I don’t go to Politico very much. I used to, but I see a real conservative bent.
I’ll lift some weights and walk. Do that at least four times a week. I get into the office at about 11 and do the radio show from 12 to 3.
I feel like I get a good pulse from listening to callers on a national show. For example, the comments by Limbaugh [about Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke] set people on fire.
On MSNBC, I’ve done the 6 p.m., 10 p.m., and 8 p.m. Three time slots in a period of about a year. Now we’re in second place in the slot. It feels like we’re making good progress.