Shaarp Session recently chatted with Jonathan Martin – reporter and GOP blogger for Politco, an inside-the-beltway newspaper covering all things politics (and sometimes a little political pop culture, too). Jonathan shared his thoughts on the election, younger voters and how important age really might be this cycle.
Shaarp Session (SS): Jon, you are a reporter for Politico covering the ’08 presidential race. Describe for us what a typical day for you is like…
Jonathan Martin (JM): The great part about my job is that, as police officers often say, every day is different. News and events have a way of overpowering the best-laid plans. The one constant in my life is my blog. I have to post items each and every day. I’m not up terribly early but often will blog into the night. The concept of weekends is increasingly less relevant as the election nears.
SS: In elections past we’ve had swing-voter subgroups such as “Soccer Moms” and “NASCAR Dads”. What are the key swing groups of the 2008 election cycle?
JM: I’d keep an eye on two groups. First, suburban independents and moderate Republicans. These voters, often educated and upscale, are historically Republican but have been turned off by the Bush admin. McCain has traditionally had a different appeal among this set, but they also might find might find Obama’s new politics message alluring. Second, white, blue-collar voters. Among this set, watch union members. They went for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary – will they stay with the party in the general? Obama could have cultural challenges with these voters, but his labor allies will work hard to keep them from crossing over
SS: We are hearing a lot about younger voters this election cycle. Yet during the primaries the majority of voters were 50 and older. Are media and politicians overestimating the power of the youth vote or is this the year they show up?
JM: Every election brings talk about whether THIS could be the year that kids turnout in a big way. And seemingly every year, it’s older people who vote in much larger patterns. Obama, however, has the potential to boost youth turnout in a way that few national candidates have in recent history. In states where he really focused on this effort during the Democratic primary, he was able to deliver many young voters to the polls. Regardless of raw numbers, count on a significant age gap between McCain and Obama.
SS: Our members are particularly interested in hearing the candidates discuss healthcare and the economy in depth. Do you think these issues have been overshadowed by “gotcha” moments, or are we seeing what’s come to be “typical” election coverage on policy?
JM: The change in the media technology, especially 24-hour cable news, has elevated gaffes and other campaign trail “moments.” That said, the rise of the internet has also created a wealth of information about the candidates that in the past would be inaccessible. Interested voters with a modem can research deep into the depths of each candidate’s background, record and policy platform. And there will be three debates this fall sure to delve into substantive domestic and foreign issues.
SS: What role, if any, do you think the ages of the candidates will play in the election? Sen. McCain would be the oldest person ever election and Sen. Obama would be one of the youngest. Will it matter in either case?
JM: See #3. Yes, I do think contemporaries of McCain and Obama will tend to favor their candidate. Voters have expressed concerns about Sen. McCain’s age, but Obama’s inexperience has also been raised. For both, it is a plus and a minus. For Obama, the upside is that he’s got more youthful enthusiasm and ground soldiers. But in McCain’s case, he’s got guaranteed voters.
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