Seminars at Steamboat speaker: Run-up to election will fascinate
Steamboat Springs — Richard Murray wasn’t trying to channel Jon Stewart, but he elicited laughs from an attentive crowd with ease Monday afternoon when the University of Houston political scientist wrapped up the Seminars at Steamboat main summer run with a discourse on presidential election history.
What does it say about the process, about the nation, that the mere mention of certain politicians brought about roars of laughter?
Rick Perry. Roar.
Newt Gingrich. Roar. Bill Clinton, Sarah Palin, roar, roar.
Murray didn’t speculate, but he said it’s characters like those and the ever-changing news cycle that keep his exhaustive focus on elections endlessly entertaining.
“I don’t know how it will it turn out,” he said, trying to cast a speculative eye toward the looming presidential election. “That’s part of the fun of watching these elections.”
He did give President Barack Obama a slight edge, thanks to the fact that “he’s run before and has a better-organized campaign.”
He again reiterated, however, that even just a few months out from Election Day, there’s no being sure. That’s thanks to the countless factors involved. It’s simply impossible to predict.
He said logic dictates that Obama should be fighting an uphill battle in a down economy but that a Republican primary field consisting of “the biggest collection of clowns I’ve ever seen” led to Romney, few Republicans’ ideal choice, getting the nod.
Bad economic numbers in the next several months could factor as importantly as any potential gaffe or trouble in Iran could turn everything topsy-turvy.
He also said the impact of adding Paul Ryan to the ticket remains to be seen.
“That’s a risky choice, but he does solve one problem,” Murray said. “Social conservatives, strong conservatives, really like Paul Ryan.”
Murray made clear that he was in favor of the addition of Ryan simply because it helps set the candidates apart, and in his business, that makes an already fascinating process only more interesting. Ryan’s straightforward approach to problems like the budget could force the public to declare where it stands.
“It really draws the line between the two campaigns,” he said. “People ought to have frank discussions about some of the unpleasant realities out there.”
Murray also made clear the things he doesn’t expect to be major factors. That includes the vast majority of the United States where states already have been decided and electoral votes all but awarded. It also includes voter identification laws, which he said might slightly limit the turnout but also can fire up the Democratic base and have a reverse effect.
Also on the list: campaign finance, at least at the presidential level.
“Obama has plenty of money to respond to any Romney attacks,” Murray said. “That will be much more of a factor for House and Senate races.”
The lingering message was simple: Buckle up, because while the end is in sight, the ride is just beginning.
The event capped the Seminars speaking schedule, but one event remains for Monday. The series’ 10th anniversary dinner is at 5:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort. Wall Street Journal economics editor David Wessel will speak at the event and finish off the series.
The anniversary dinner is open to anyone, and tickets are $65 and available at http://www.seminarsatsteamboat.com. Registration is required by Wednesday.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com
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Editor’s note: The story was updated at 8:33 p.m.