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Black Progressive Candidates Win Support In Primary Elections


We're going to begin today with a reminder that Election Day, when we choose the next president along with other offices, is just 18 weeks and two days away - just around the corner, in a way. But also, it's 2020, so let's face it - it's hard to predict what actions and events will influence the campaigns between now and then.

Today, for example, President Trump made news by retweeting a video where one of his supporters yells white power at a protester. This happened inside a retirement community in Central Florida. The president has since deleted that tweet.

But how significant is something like that as the nation continues to struggle to address racism and inequality in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and others? And more broadly, how are the Republican and Democratic parties adjusting their strategies in response to this moment? We're going to get into all that with NPR's senior political editor and correspondent, Domenico Montanaro, who is with us now.

Domenico, welcome. Good to hear from you again.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, Michel. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So I just want to start by asking you about that retweet by President Trump that I just mentioned - a video where one of his supporters is yelling white power at a protester. And I should mention that this was part of a heated exchange where several protesters were yelling insults and expletives at Trump supporters. So how significant do you think was Trump's action here?

MONTANARO: Well, look - I mean, race has been and remains the key subtext of the 2020 election and as part of Trump's ability to get elected in the first place in 2016. You know, he really ramped up white grievance, played to that. The culture war has been at the heart of everything that he's pushed since the beginning of when he announced his candidacy.

You know, the White House, when we reached out to them today to see what they thought about this, they said, quote, "President Trump is a big fan of the villages. He did not hear the one statement made on the video. What he did see was tremendous enthusiasm from his many supporters." Of course, that doesn't address what the person said itself - and still, you know, saying, hey, we've got good people in that crowd.

MARTIN: So let's wheel around and talk primaries now. Last week, there were primary votes in New York, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia. And we just saw some really interesting outcomes, although in some cases, we're still waiting...


MARTIN: ...For final tallies because so many people voted by mail. But in any case, let's start with the Democratic races. What stood out to you there?

MONTANARO: What stood out to me this week was this surge with Black progressives. We've seen these Black Lives Matter protests happening throughout the country, but seeing Black progressive candidates really gain in the polls from then, gain in money and momentum.

And when you look in New York, for example, with Jamaal Bowman doing so well against Eliot Engel, who'd been in the House as the foreign affairs chairman for 32 years - you know, really had a couple big miscues, a couple missteps, wasn't home during coronavirus - while this former middle school principal from the Bronx able to apparently upend a longtime House chairman. You know, and you saw that throughout the country.

And I think what's really key there is in 2018, women really fueled Democrats' ability to take back the House. If in 2020 you also have Black candidates and Black voters combined and politically activated with women, those are two key pillars for Democrats to do well in the fall.

MARTIN: What about on the Republican side? Was there anything interesting there?

MONTANARO: You know, you had some candidates that were backed by President Trump who didn't fare so well, frankly. You know Mark Meadows, who's now President Trump's chief of staff? They'd endorsed a different candidate than the one who won. You wound up having a 24-year-old motivational speaker who wound up upending the preferred candidate from Trump and Meadows.

So you do wonder how much influence - as much as he's had, how much influence Trump has just by flipping the switch of Twitter to say, go vote for that guy, or don't go vote for that guy, if some voters are just ignoring him.

MARTIN: That was NPR's senior political editor and correspondent, Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thank you.

MONTANARO: Hey, thanks, Michel. It's always fun. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.