Debating policy, national trends and the upcoming presidential election, the politically-mismatched husband-and-wife duo of James Carville and Mary Matalin headlined this morning’s keynote session at ASI Chicago.
“I’m happy that Trump – The Great Orange One as I call him – is running. He provides testicular fortitude that the Republican Party needs,” said Matalin, a noted GOP consultant turned Libertarian who’s worked with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
“I think Hillary Clinton will win easily. It’s hard for a Democrat to lose a presidential election,” said Carville, a longtime Democratic strategist. “Trump is an impulsive guy who’s never had an unspoken thought. He thinks he can yank the country back to some glorious time.”
Matalin and Carville spent the bulk of the session, moderated by ASI CEO and President Tim Andrews, talking about the recent presidential nominating process and the hidden storylines behind Trump’s rise. Carville cited Trump’s appeal to a specific group of voters. “If you’re a white guy that’s 55 years old without a college degree, let’s face it, you’ve probably had a pretty bad life. You’ve been clobbered financially,” Carville said. “Now, Trump comes along and he blames your plight on stupid politicians and immigrants. He gives an explanation. Then, he cuts through the primaries like a hot knife through butter.”
Matalin chided Clinton for being behind Trump in the polls of swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania and tied in Ohio, while outspending the GOP nominee on ads 40-1. “I’m flummoxed by that,” she said. “Her worst negative is her practice of shady business in the public eye.” Yet later, Matalin offered reserved praise for Clinton for being steady and even sensitive, recalling a kind phone call she and Carville received from Clinton when the couple was in the hospital having a child. “I just about had to stop during labor because James was going crazy,” Matalin said. “Hillary called knowing the way James would be.”
Prompted to handicap the race for Clinton’s running mate, Carville – who served as lead strategist for Bill Clinton in the 1992 election and served as an advisor during Hillary’s 2008 run – bucked popular opinion and suggested former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack could well be the choice. Carville also said the wildcard in the presidential election is how white, college-educated people will vote. “I can tell you how the rest of the groups will go,” he said.
In a rare moment of agreement, the keynoters both acknowledged that American politics has become so polarizing and people’s views so cynical largely because of the media we turn to. “Conservatives go to conservative sites and liberals go to liberal sites because they’ll tell you that you’re right,” Carville said. “Politics is very tribal right now. Everyone is convinced that they’re exactly right.” Matalin then offered: “We’re exposed to a distorted view by media. Eighty to 90% of what we see in the media is more negative than what’s happening on the ground.”
The pair also expressed optimism that recent racial clashes would end – not through votes, but through decency. “Who’s going to solve this problem? Is it Clinton or Trump? It’s neither,” Matalin said. “The best one to solve this is us. Whites and blacks, we need to not talk past each other.”
Counselor caught up with Matalin and Carville this morning to get more insight on the presidential race and the state of American politics. Watch the exclusive interview here, or watch it below.