Boston Globe columnist David Nyhan ribbed the major presidential candidates and shared his thoughts on the world of politics and journalism at an IOP discussion Wednesday night.
Nyhan pulled no punches as he discussed election year politics.
He described Texas governor George W. Bush as a "folksy, howdy-doody guy who reads what he is told" and said Vice President Al Gore '69 "gives one less and less reason to be confident in him."
While Nyhan said he supports Gore over Bush for the presidency, he said Gore has many challenges to being elected.
"He's gonna be outspent and outgunned," Nyhan said of Gore.
And Nyhan criticized Gore for not defining his campaign message or taking advantage of the strong economy.
"I kept waiting for Gore to get off his ass," Nyhan said.
Nyhan also criticized Bush for trying to use his family background as a basis for his election.
He recounted a campaign event in New Hampshire earlier this year where Bush simply introduced his parents and siblings without giving a speech.
"The people there were thinking, 'Who is this silly son of a bitch who thinks that all he has to do is introduce his gene pool?'" Nyhan quipped.
While election day is still months away, Nyhan said he believes the election will turn on the outcomes of five states--New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio.
He said all other states have been virtually decided already based on regional preferences to the two respective parties.
"The South is pretty much locked up for Bush, but Gore might get Tennessee," Nyhan said. "The Democrats get slaughtered in the mountain states, and Bush has no chance in California and New York."
Nyhan said that vice presidential selection could also be a major factor in the race as well.
"It may provide Gore with an opportunity to up his standing," he said.
Nyhan said he believes Bush will choose Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge '67, while he thinks Gore will choose Mass. Senator John F. Kerry.
"On paper and in person, he's a great campaigner and he comes to play," Nyhan said of Kerry.
Nyhan cited Kerry's debates with William F. Weld '66 in his 1996 Senate race as evidence of his debating expertise and tenacity.
"It gives him seasoning that few others have," Nyhan said.
Asked about the controversy over Bush and the death penalty, Nyhan said that he feels the issue will not play a large role in the general election.
Because both candidates support capital punishment, Nyhan said the issue will have little impact. He summarized their differences by saying that "the Democrats are for the death penalty in principle but they don't want to pull the switch."
Nyhan said the media will play a major role in the campaign--both positive and negative.
He criticized journalists for putting access to politicians above unbiased reporting.
"One of the sins of the journalism business is that we cave for access," Nyhan said.
He said the media's favorable coverage of Arizona Senator John S. McCain's campaign was a product of high access given to reporters by McCain.
"McCain was given champagne and caviar treatment by the media," Nyhan said.
He said television coverage also gives a distorted picture of the political process.
"Television destroyed political parties and political organizations," Nyhan said. "It gives viewers the false perception that they are in on it."
Despite the problems Nyhan sees with election coverage, he said his choice will come down to whoever is the strongest candidate.
"Give me a guy who is well intentioned and smart--smart is good--and will do the right thing under pressure," Nyhan said.