With the California primary fast approaching, Geoffrey Cowan, director of the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism’s Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, moderated a discussion with political consultant Bob Shrum and journalist Marylouise Oates as part of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics’ Road to the White House series Wednesday.
Shrum, the author of No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner, and Oates, author of Making Peace, touched on issues concerning the primaries. Topics included the rise of super political action committees, the position of female and Catholic voters, America’s international pursuits and the prevalence of racism in American society.
[Correction: An earlier version named Bob Shrum’s book No Excuses: Confessions of a Serial Campaigner. The title of his book is No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner. The Daily Trojan regrets this error.]
Shrum discussed Santorum’s alienation of large groups of voters and Romney’s overly flexible nature in altering his political stances.
“Romney is on permanent probation, so whatever position he takes, it’s not in his playbook to be the anti-contraception campaign,” Shrum said. “There’s a huge gender gap that’s opened to women. Obama in swing states has taken a lead, and [Romney] has a 34 percent approval rating. It’s impossible to become president with an approval rating like this.”
Shrum also said taking moderate stances has been a challenge for Romney.
“He has a real difficulty in moving to the middle because it’ll amplify his character weakness — not flip-flopping, but saying everything he can to get there,” Shrum said.
Shrum also said Santorum’s attack on former President John F. Kennedy’s speech on religion was detrimental to his campaign.
“Santorum attacked John Kennedy — that is not good for getting the Catholic vote,” he said.
Oates said both candidates have alienated women voters.
“If you look at the problems facing women around the world, no one has spoken about any of those issues on either side,” Oates said. “Nobody talked about trafficking, or any of the stuff that I see as a constant pressure on our country and other good countries to come back and fight against, such as violence against women, women as a weapon of war, female genital cutting.”
Oates also said Romney’s position in the campaign has been affected by the professional-amateur atmosphere of the blogosphere.
“You ask yourself, ‘How much does the Republican, Planned Parenthood woman who would have been a Republican voter know, where does she get her information, how is she making her decision’,” Oates said. “Santorum has lost the Catholic vote in every single primary state. Romney has become very Santorum-like, and women will probably reject Romney too.”
Shrum said foreign affairs are an unpredictable arena because of the uncertain nature of the Arab Spring, but he predicted that American troops would be removed from Afghanistan as scheduled.
“Wars are winding down and people are not in the streets about it,” Shrum said. “The demands of 2004 politically turned Afghanistan into the good war and Iraq was the bad war.”
With the recent shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, Shrum said race will play a critical role in the 2012 election.
“It was one of the proudest days when Obama was elected because racism is in our redemptive history,” Shrum said. “This election is going to settle a lot on whether we move forward or backwards in terms of race.”