MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now we're going to spend a few minutes with Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang. He says he is confident about his chances of becoming the party's nominee even though nationally, he's polling at about 2%.
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ANDREW YANG: Oh, I 100% can win. I'm running to solve the biggest problems of our time.
HETAL JANI: I mean, you have - clearly have great ideas. Love the ideas.
YANG: Oh, thank you.
MARTIN: That's Hetal Jani, a New Yorker who runs a nonprofit mentorship program to prepare girls for the workforce. She's 1 of 2 undecided voters who sat down with Yang and Morning Edition host Noel King as part of our series Off Script. They met yesterday at a New York City restaurant called Baodega - as in bao, the steamed bun. Yang likes the spot for its dim sum. And Jani generally likes Yang's proposal for a universal basic income, a guaranteed $12,000 a year for every adult. Yang calls it the freedom dividend. But Jani, who often works with families in poverty, pressed Yang about how he'll get enough conservative support to make this policy idea a reality.
JANI: How about reaching across the aisle? How are you going to do that?
YANG: Well, so I'm one of only two Democratic candidates in the field that 10% or more of Donald Trump voters said they would support in the general election, which makes me the best candidate to take on and beat Donald Trump in 2020. And I'm saying, look - the reality is we did blast away 4 million manufacturing jobs in these communities, many of which were in swing states or used to be swing that went red. And so they see that I'm trying to solve that set of problems. And so I'm already peeling off disaffected Trump voters, independents, libertarians, some conservatives. I also talk in terms of numbers and business, and a lot of conservatives are trying to do that.
NOEL KING, BYLINE: All right. Hetal, I know you had a question about Mr. Yang's identity and what it's meant on the trail.
YANG: Oh. So cool.
JANI: So you'd be the first Asian American president. What does that mean, first of all? And then also, Asian American is such a big label.
YANG: Yeah, that's true.
JANI: You know, not every Asian has the same opportunities. Vietnamese are different, Pakistanis from Indians, etc. But within your identity, what are you going to do to promote Asian American?
YANG: I'm certainly very proud to be the first Asian American man to run for president as a Democrat. And when I see Asian Americans around the country, many seem excited about my candidacy. At the same time, like you said, we're a very, very diverse community with very, very different sets of experiences. And so I would never suggest that, you know, I can somehow speak for all Asian Americans or that my experience is representative.
But I do remember what it was like growing up in this country where I'd just be so pumped to see an Asian of any kind on the TV, where I'd jump up and down and, like, you know try and get my (laughter) - but things have changed since then. But it's given me a lot of joy and pride to think about an Asian child turning on the Democratic debate and seeing me up on that stage. And hopefully, it gives them a sense that we're just as American as anyone else.
MARTIN: That's Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. It's a portion of his conversation with undecided voters and NPR's Noel King. You will hear more of their Off Script conversation later this week across NPR. And you can watch our previous conversations with candidates and voters at npr.org/offscript. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.