Oct 05, 2012
By Danielle Puma
Larry Levy, Executive Dean of the National Center of Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, was the guest speaker at The League of Women Voters Meeting on Tuesday night at the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library in Hewlett. He discussed his view from the campaign trail as the presidential debates are now underway.
Levy has spent 35 years working as a reporter, editorial writer, columnist and PBS talk show host and has won many of journalism’s top awards, including Pulitzer Finalist. In his career, he has covered six presidential campaigns. Levy was present at the 2012 Democratic National Convention held in Charlotte, North Carolina and the 2012 Republican National Convention held in Tampa Bay, Florida.
“What I can tell you is that I saw the shift in polls toward Obama in recent weeks. It was absolutely evident if you were at both events. The Republican convention got off to a very slow and uncertain start, partly because the Romney campaign was thrown off stride by the revelations of Representative Akin, by continued pressure resulting from Romney’s refusal to release his taxes, and several other things, plus Hurricane Isaac forced the cancellation of the first day of the convention and set things in disarray,” said Levy.
Levy said he could see that the Republicans were having a hard time getting their message across during the convention. He stated that Mitt Romney had a much harder task in Tampa Bay than Barack Obama had in Charlotte.
“Obama could focus on the moderate, independent, suburban voters – the swingiest of the swing voters in this country. He did not have to worry about his left wing. Mitt Romney had to focus on getting the people that should be the most with him, to actually take his campaign seriously and to be energized by it. He had to spend a lot of time messaging and getting his right wing base at the same time. He was reaching out to people that are pro-choice, not for gay rights, anti-tax, anti-government, don’t want spending on anything.”
During the course of the Republican convention, Levy said that Romney had to pivot and talk to voters that are a part of the “sandwich generation.” He said these are people that do not see government as the enemy, although they may be disappointed with its performance at times.
“These are people whose parents may need long term care and heath care, whose children are in, approaching or just finished college and wondering how they are going to pay for that. Whether we like it or not, you need the deepest pockets to help you with these problems and these tend to be the federal government and after that, the state government.”
Levy said that Romney did a decent job delivering his speech at the convention and picked up a balance of three or four points. He said going into Charlotte, the race was deadlocked based on national averages of the poll. But Obama had an advantage during his speech.
“Obama was able to focus on getting a head start by reaching out to those undecided moderates. He gave an intentionally underwhelming and unemotional speech. It was by design. He has been accused and people have concerns of him being all atmospherics– a guy that gives a good speech, a guy that talks a good game but doesn’t walk it. Obama just wanted to not throw out this great rhetorical card and he succeeded. [Both speeches] cancelled out as far as I’m concerned—with one exception—Bill Clinton.”
Levy said President Bill Clinton gave a phenomenal speech and made all the difference during the convention. He portrays the same image that Obama stands behind.
“What [Clinton] stands for is the direction and image Obama wants to portray—that he is a moderate, fair-minded, middle of the road guy who you can trust. And maybe he doesn’t feel your pain like President Clinton, but he understands your pain. And that’s what it comes down to now.”
In the end, Levy said the November election would all come down to personality and whom people are comfortable with, rather than particular issues.
“How people feel about a candidate is the sum total of all the issues a person cares about. And it gets filtered through the prism of their own life. They may express it as a guy they would have a beer with, a guy I’d have over for dinner, someone I can trust my children with, but that’s after filtering all these issues in. I want to see how they hold up under pressure because when you elect a president of the United States, you’re electing a person who is going to operate under the most intense pressure.”
Nevada, Iowa, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio and New Hampshire are considered to be the states that are still in play at this time.
“In the end, the deciders will be a handful of suburbanites who are still undecided, who go back and forth and who will probably split their tickets. That’s what the campaign will focus on from here on in.”
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