Journalist Ron Fournier spoke at an Institute of Politics (IOP) dinner last night, stressing that the “change” sweeping through America runs deeper than the current presidential campaigns.
Over a St. Patrick’s Day meal of corned beef and Guinness, the online political editor of the Associate Press gave a prepared statement on broad political themes, but then faced a barrage of questions about the nomination contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
“The Democratic campaign is Barack Obama’s to lose,” Fournier said, repeating what he called a long-held belief.
In the question-and-answer session—driven by dinner guests who won their seats via an IOP lottery—Fournier remained agnostic about the ultimate outcome of the primary contest, stating that an Obama loss in the primary would fracture the party more than a Clinton loss.
Fournier also said the general election was far from a foregone conclusion.
“John McCain has a much better chance of winning the election than most people realize,” he said.
Fournier’s prepared words for the dinner crowd probed a larger topic: the groundswell for social change as the United States transitions from an industrial economy to one of the “info-tech” era.
This desire for a social shift isn’t a product of the 2008 presidential campaigns, many of which have adopted “change” as a slogan or talking point; to Fournier, the campaigns are merely reflecting the national environment.
“What’s really happening is the country is changing, and that affects the candidates,” he said.
Fournier praised the “young generation” for helping focus political discourse on social change, saying that the “old rules” for elections will be “out the window, regardless of who wins this.”
One of the many diners lingering about after the question-and-answer session, former Republican Massachusetts Governor Jane M. Swift, said she agreed with Fournier that Hillary Clinton would keep the general election close, while McCain would have a better chance against Obama.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard somebody articulate that point concisely and succinctly,” Swift said.
Brad M. Paraszczak ’11, who spoke on condition that his support of Clinton be noted in print, said he was pleased with the event.
“This kind of dinner has been very productive,” Paraszczak said. “The free and open discussion that allows everyone to share their opinions is the best part about it.”
Not everyone, however, felt so positive.
“This is not the real world,” said Fergus Cullen, chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party.
Cullen did affirm the value of such dinners, saying they were especially worth attending with “such a good guest” as Fournier. But Cullen said the Clinton-Obama focus of the questioning wore him out.
“I was sitting there rolling my eyes at this typical Great Harvard Debate between the left and the far-left,” he said.