At noon on Wednesday, Jan. 28, the UR Alumni Association held a discussion on the current Democratic Presidential candidates. Speakers at the discussion were Associate Professor of Political Science and History Gerald Gamm, New York Post political analyst Fred Dicker, regional campaign coordinator of Dean for America Ted O’Brien, and National Democratic Consultant Philip Friedman. UR Professor of English Curt Smith moderated the panel. John Zogby, president and CEO of Zogby International, was expected but could not attend due to poor weather conditions. Despite bad road conditions, roughly seventy alumni, students, and community members attended the talk. “The discussion was very good, but the weather was unfortunate,” Becky Wehle, Director of Alumni Relations, said. “It made one panelist and a couple attendees unable to come.” Even so, Wehle thought the luncheon was a success. “People learned a lot and had a lot to share,” she said. Wehle explained that the luncheon discussion was part of a series of Contemporary Issues Luncheons held by the Alumni Association. “The program is meant to address current topics of interest, and since we’re in the middle of an election, it seemed appropriate,” she said. “It was quite timely.”A common topic of discussion was Howard Dean and his chances for election. Friedman believed that the race was essentially over for Dean. “He lost in Iowa and New Hampshire because all his mistakes add up to make him look like not the most electable candidate,” he said. “With activist Democrats so desperate to beat Bush, Dean beat himself.”Dicker said that Dean’s problems were due to differences in campaign style.”There’s a difference between retail politics and [large-scale campaigns],” Dicker said. “Dean was good at knocking on doors and handing out fliers, but TV ads and debates really point up a candidate’s character weaknesses, like a temperamental side.”Gamm, however, had a different opinion of Dean’s speech. “You could argue that it helped him,” he said. “Dean lost the Iowa caucus by a big margin. The big story before the caucus was Dean’s drop, but after the speech no one was wondering why he lost Iowa. If they wondered about that, they would have been asking is it the issues, is he too far to the left, is he inexperienced, but after the speech people were just talking about [a harmless stunt].”The speech helped Dean the same way that Quayle as vice-president helped the first Bush become president,” Gamm added to laughs and applause. On the topic of Dean’s speech, Friedman disagreed, believing that “the speech hurt Dean very badly.” He said that no one would have remembered a discussion about Dean’s issues, but the angry speech will stick in people’s minds. John Kerry of Massachusetts is now the Democratic front-runner, but all panelists expressed doubts about his ability to beat Bush. “Kerry has to broaden his appeal in ways Dean never did – the deficit, unemployment, all those issues,” O’Brien said. “Despite his [recent public appearances], Kerry is still an elitist,” Friedman said. “He will have to be more adept at hiding it than he is.” But Gamm later disagreed with that, saying, “I look at the presidents who related well with common people, and the best at that were both of the Roosevelts, and they were both blue-blooded.” He went on to say that how a candidate acted was more important than how much money he had in his family. Levesque can be reached at clevesque@campustimes.org.



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