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The GW Hatchet

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By Hannah Marr, News Editor • June 21, 2024

Journalists debate candidates’ chance to win

A panel of journalists filled Jack Morton Auditorium with friendly laughter and campaign critiques Thursday afternoon as they discussed the close presidential race between Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

“The battle seems to be between change and experience,” said David Yepsen, chief political writer for the Des Moines Register. “And now we’re seeing change and that has helped Obama.”

The Politico, a D.C.-based political newspaper hosted “Early State Countdown,” an event that focused on the presidential election and the primaries in New Hampshire and Iowa. Other sponsors of the event include the School of Media Affairs and the ACLU.

Yepsen discussed Clinton’s efforts to persuade more women to vote and Obama’s success among youths.

“(Clinton’s) getting about 30 percent and Barack Obama’s getting about 31 percent, so the effort to attract new women might be helping Obama as much as it’s helping her,” Yepsen said. “And people under 25, Obama has huge support among that group of people, so those are the two wild cards we’re kind of watching to see how that plays out.”

The reporters at the event were all recruited by Politico to help cover the campaigns. John Harris, Politico’s editor, said the paper emerged out of a void of in-depth election coverage.

“We started with a belief that there was a huge opportunity to start a paper devoted to the topic we love. Our aim really was to become the New York Yankees of journalism,” Harris said.

The focus of the debate quickly turned to South Carolina, represented by Lee Bandy, who spent four decades writing for S.C. Politics Today.

“South Carolina’s going to elect the next president and that’s a scary thought,” Bandy joked. “In the Democratic primaries, 50 percent of the voters will be African-American, and Obama and Hillary Clinton are fighting for that vote. And right now Obama has his fight in the black community.”

Responding to a question from the audience, Roger Simon, chief political columnist for The Politico, said Oprah’s endorsement of Obama is significant because of who it attracts to the election.

“I think the value of Oprah is not her endorsement,” Simon said. “The value of Oprah is that she brings people to a political event who would not normally be going to a political event. She opens up an audience.”

Jeanne Cummings, chief lobbying and influence writer of The Politico, observed that Oprah’s greatest value to the campaign would be the activation of the black vote.

“If, as Obama has said, he can indeed boost those percentages … they could change state races,” Cummings said.

Sophomore Michael Weir, the political affairs director for GW College Democrats, said he was very pleased with the panel.

“I thought it was a great event. I’ve been following very closely and it was nice to see how close my observations were to what the guys on the ground were thinking.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, an interest group with a close relationship with Politico, sponsored the event. Liz Rose, the deputy director of communications, said these events help publicize these important issues.

“This event is good because it promotes political discourse, people talking to each other about politics,” Rose said. “The quality of the questions from The George Washington University were very impressive. This is a great event for finding new talent.”

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