IOP hosts discussion on upcoming election

In its second large event on Tuesday, panelists talked about the economy and minority voters and the new Institute revealed its choice for executive director.

By William Wilcox

Journalists and politicos evaluated the role of campaign finance, the economy, and Latino voters in the upcoming presidential election on Tuesday at International House, in the second bipartisan panel event put on by the University’s new Institute of Politics (IOP).

At the beginning of the event, the IOP unveiled its new director, Darren Reisberg, to the public.

The panel was then moderated by “Meet the Press” host David Gregory and featured Jennifer Granholm, television host and former governor of Michigan; Steve Schmidt, MSNBC commentator and senior strategist for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign; John Heilemann, national affairs editor for New York Magazine; and Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist for The Washington Post.

“The election in some ways is a contest between economics and demographics and the economic right now are somewhat in [Republican Mitt] Romney’s favor,” Heilemann said of the major issues at play.

The panel went on to discuss what strategies were necessary for Romney to win over President Barack Obama. While Romney needs to claim the major swing states to win, the panel saw multiple strategies for Obama—particularly large wins in the southwest contingent on Latinos turning out at the polls.

“It’s about how do we get our voters out and to drive those voters to keep those gaps…wide and motivate those voters: young voters, Hispanic voters, women voters in key parts of the country,” Heilemann said.

He predicted that Romney would be less successful because of his narrow appeal.

“Driving that, the vision of the country that Mitt Romney embodies is not a vision of the country that you are really part of. Barack Obama’s America is one that’s inclusive of you. Romney’s is some other one that you never had a stake in,” he added.

The panelists commented that Washington’s politics have become increasingly polarized in comparison to the rest of America, which is becoming disenchanted with these partisan arguments.

“You produce kind of political debate that’s totally detached from reality filled with all the posturing you saw during the debt ceiling debate [and] we’ll continue to have a very cynical electorate,” Schmidt said.

Turning to campaign finance, Schmidt noted the increased role of outsider donors in shaping elections, especially with the rise of Super PACs. Though they felt that campaign finance reform was not an issue the public or representatives feel like tackling, super PACs may be the tipping point in the long run.

“The more Donald Trump puts into the Donald Trump PAC, the better it is in the long term for campaign finance,” Robinson said.

—Additional reporting by Noah Weiland