ABC's Walter discusses 'Road to the Presidency' in UD series
4:37 p.m., Sept. 20, 2012--If the 2008 election was one of hope and change and the 2010 election was one of anger, the 2012 election may be defined by disappointment, ABC News political director Amy Walter told a University of Delaware National Agenda speaker series audience Wednesday night, Sept. 19, in Mitchell Hall.
While Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney can count on their highly polarized bases, a large number of voters remain undecided. Those voters, Walter said, are frustrated at a sense that they will be casting ballots for “the lesser of two evils” and that they will come away from the polls “feeling that they have settled.”
With a large part of the electorate on the fence and polls showing a tight battle, Walter said the upcoming presidential debates could play a large role in the race.
The Oct. 3 debate at the University of Denver could be “one of the most watched debates in history,” she said, in part because it will give voters a chance to watch the candidates unfiltered.
Walter said many voters are tired of viewing the race through sound bits, spin, proxy speakers and ads, many of which are negative. They are hoping the debates – the other two presidential debates will be held Oct. 16 at Hofstra University and Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. – will be a forum at which the candidates answer their questions.
There is a fear among voters, however, that they will come away from the debates unconvinced, she said, prompting the sense of disappointment.
Walter opened her talk with a look at the race as it stands, noting that the recent news cycle is tilting toward Obama.
Following the news over the last few days, “you would think the race is over – Mitt Romney has lost and Barack Obama has won,” she said.
She said Romney and the Republicans had an ineffective convention, one that failed to tell the candidate’s story. That was followed by a Democratic convention judged to have had higher grades, and then by a Romney misstep in his statement on violence in Libya and by the recent behind-the-scenes video that went viral on the Internet.
But Walter said the race is far from over. “Take a deep breath,” she said, and look at things more carefully. The electorate is clearly divided and the polls remain close. Obama might be ahead in key battleground states but his poll numbers are within the margins of error.
While many have opined that Romney cannot win unless he makes a personal connection with the undecided voters, Walter said that is not necessarily the case. Candidates do not need to be likeable so much as they must appear competent.
Walter said she believes Romney cannot win unless he is seen as “better on the issue of the economy,” and currently the polls show the candidates even in that area.
Walter painted a bleak picture of the American political landscape, one in which progress seems impossible with the last several elections having purged Congress of moderate northern Republicans and “Blue Dog” southern Democrats in favor of ideologues who see no honor in compromise.
“The very people voted out were the only people who could make that change,” she said of the impasse in Congress.
The situation, she said, calls for a “serious leader” whose most important job will be to win over Congress.
There are some reasons for optimism, Walter said, including several U.S. Senate races that are bucking trends and could bring additional moderates into the Capitol. She cited Maine in particular, where former governor Angus King is making a strong showing as an independent.
“At the end of the day, all you have is the hope that the people you elect will do the right thing,” she said.
About National Agenda
National Agenda, this year with the theme “Road to the Presidency,” is sponsored by UD’s Center for Political Communication. Sessions are moderated by Ralph Begleiter, center director.
The next National Agenda will be held at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 3, and will feature Ken Spain on “The Battle for Congress.”
Spain is a former communication director and national spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington, the communication director for Bush-Cheney 2004 in New Mexico, and a former campaign strategist for several Republican members of congress from Arizona and Texas.
Article by Neil Thomas
Photos by Duane Perry