George Will said, “I can prove with mathematical certainty that Mr. Obama cannot win this year and neither can Mr. Romney.” After the laughter faded, he set about proving it.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist spoke Oct. 12 at the University of Notre Dame’s Jordan Auditorium in the Mendoza College of Business on “Reflections on the Current Political Landscape.”
Before a packed auditorium of 400-plus students, members of the public, President’s Leadership Council, Deans, University faculty and staff—as well as broadcast journalist Ted Koppel, who had just finished delivering his own talk on campus sponsored by the Gallivan Journalism Program—Will spoke for an hour on a broad range of hot-button issues, including the struggling economy, the unemployment rate, Social Security and health care. But the primary topic of the day was the Obama-Romney contest.
The 71-year-old Will told the audience that Republican Mitt Romney faces long odds in the Electoral College, but President Obama can’t escape a dismal economy.
Obama supporters can take heart in the fact that their candidate won 336 votes in the Electoral College in 2008, Will said, and that no Republican since 1988 has won as many as 300 (270 are needed to win). If Obama simply wins the states that went for fellow Democrat John Kerry in his loss to President George W. Bush in 2004, he would need only 23 more electoral votes, he added.
The greatest challenge facing Romney and the Republicans, he said, is the Hispanic vote. In the past decade, the U.S. population grew by 27 million, and half of that number was Hispanic, he said. President George W. Bush won 41 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, and Senator John McCain won 31 percent in the 2008 presidential election, said Will.
“I’ve seen no polls where Romney is at better than 26 percent,” he added. “If that’s all he’s going to get, he’s probably going to lose.”
Dooming the Obama campaign, Will said, is the condition of the country. A majority of citizens say the country is on the wrong track, 68 percent say they know someone who lost a job, and only 30 percent say they expect things to get better next year, he said. People are earning less and are worth less than when the current administration came to power, and the economy is creating job slower than the labor force his growing, he said.
“If the Republican Party can’t win this year, it has to get out of politics,” he said.
Will also presented what he termed a “nightmare” scenario: If President Obama holds all the states Kerry won, loses New Hampshire, “which he might because Romney’s from next door (Massachusetts),” but adds New Mexico, Colorado and Virginia, both candidates would end up with 269 electoral votes—one shy of the total necessary to win. By law, the election would then be decided by the newly elected House of Representatives, which will retain a Republican majority, he predicted.
Will added sardonically that whoever wins the election “will regret it” because of demographic changes that will inevitably force tax increases or unpopular cuts in benefits for entitlement programs, especially Medicare.
Audience members had the opportunity to engage the political columnist in discussion at the end of his talk. Among their questions, they asked Will about measures to control skyrocketing costs for end-of-life care, the nuclear weapons threat from Iran, and who he personally trusts for reliable information.
“Ted Koppel,” Will deadpanned, with a glance toward the front-row guest.
With an illustrious career in journalism spanning four decades, Will began as a political columnist for the Washington Post in 1974, writing about foreign and domestic politics and policy. His syndicated column now runs in more than 400 newspapers around the country. In 1976, Will started his bi-weekly column for Newsweek, and currently, he serves as a contributing analyst with ABC News and has been a regular member of ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday mornings since the show began in 1981.
Will was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for distinguished commentary, and a year later, received a National Headliners Award for his “consistently outstanding special features columns” appearing in Newsweek. A column on New York City’s finances earned him a 1980 Silurian Award for Editorial Writing, and in 1985, The Washington Journalism Review named Will “Best Writer, Any Subject.” His books include “Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy” (1992); “Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball” (1989); and “Statecraft as Soulcraft” (1983).