Republican strategist and CNN contributor Mary Matalin spoke at Philander Smith College in Little Rock Thursday night as part of their ‘Bless The Mic’ lecture series. She noted that last time she spoke in Little Rock was with her husband Democratic strategist James Carville.
“Thank you for inviting me to speak without my husband,” she joked saying that with him she can’t get a word in edgewise. “I love him, but he is an acquired taste.”
She focused much of her time to the positive movement she observes in young people today. She pointed to a study she had been involved with that showed while young people were becoming less interested in politics they were being more involved in community service. She said this was especially the case in her hometown of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, which she said has become “the epicenter of urban renewal and a model for the nation.” She credited young people who have volunteered to help New Orleans dig its way out with saving the city.
Matalin saved her political insight for the question-and-answer time, but weighed in on a variety of issues including her thoughts on the 2012 election.
“Primary activities have no correlation, they are not predictive at all for the general election. For instance – taking a race we know well – President, then candidate, Clinton was in third place at this time and everyone was screaming about his brand. Last time, everyone was whining about the Democratic process and the New York Times had a column about the process being a gift to McCain. Well, look how Clinton won and McCain lost,” said Matalin. “So short primaries aren’t necessarily better and long primaries aren’t necessarily bad – quite the opposite as a matter of fact.”
“The notion that whatever the Republican field looks like today is going to remain looking that way (is not correct),” argued Matalin. “The Romney campaign used a horrifically unfortunate turn of a phrase yesterday – etch-a-sketch – but that really is what happens. It does reset.”
She did add that she is not sure how either Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich can keep Mitt Romney from eventually reaching the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination even though it might take a while to happen.
She held that instead of looking at voter turnout in Republican caucuses — which mainly attracts activists — and primaries that are only beauty contests that don’t actually allocate delegates — is not a good way to measure voter enthusiasm. Instead, we should look at voter registration, which is up for Republicans and down for Democrats across the nation.
She predicts that by the time both parties have their convention, Republicans and Democrats will be relatively even and then the election will turn into a referendum on President Obama as is the case when an incumbent is up for re-election.
She also offered an interesting take on the Citizens United decision when asked by someone from the audience.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I could care less (about Citizens United),” said Matalin, who would rather see a focus of regulatory reform focused on transparency. “We spend less on campaigning than we do on yogurt.