By Maria Saporta
Conversations between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, can be civil.
That was demonstrated at Monday’s meeting of the Rotary Club of Atlanta when right-leaning Ralph Reed had a political conversation with left-leaning Cynthia Tucker with Alec Fraser serving as moderator.
This was the third time the two have appeared together in a similar Rotary forum.
Fraser’s first question about the recent Republican and Democratic conventions.
Reed, founder of the Christian Coalition and a long-time political conservative, said the goal of Republicans was to improve Mitt Romney’s “likability.” On that score, the convention was successful in helping close the likability gap between the Republican Presidential Nominee and President Barack Obama.
On the other hand, the Democrats were hoping their convention would re-energize their base and make their voters more enthusiastic — an area where Romney has had an advantage. Polls show that the Democratic Convention did fire up the Democrats.
“I would say mission accomplished by both parties,” Reed said.
Tucker, former editorial page editor for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who is now teaching at the University of Georgia, was more direct.
“Nobody doubts that the Democrats had a better convention than the Republicans did,” she said. “Romney closed the likability gap. The president got a convention bounce, and Romney did not.”
She went on to say that because of the economy, Romney should be well ahead of Obama, but instead the race “continues to be neck-and-neck.”
Reed did say that he thought Obama’s convention speech was weaker than the first lady’s and former President Bill Clinton commenting that it is odd to have Clinton do a better job explaining Obama’s policies than Obama did.
When asked about the upcoming presidential debates, both agreed they could be important for both candidates. Romney will try to keep the conversation on the economy while Obama will try to talk about the different directions each one would take the country.
Reed said that in the first debates, challengers usually have the edge. “The big danger for Obama…there can be a level of dismissiveness that Obama has to guard against,” he said. Tucker agreed. “I think one of Obama’s vulnerabilities — he tends to be cocky anyway,” she said. “I’m not so sure he takes Romney seriously enough.”
Both were asked to comment about Romney’s pick of Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate. Interestingly enough, both the conservative Republicans and Democrats applauded the choice. “They could have both been right,” Reed said.
What about the economy?
“The economy stinks,” Tucker said. “Eight percent unemployment is high. The question is why isn’t Romney running away with this election. No president has ever been elected with an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent.”
As to the future of both houses, Tucker said that thanks to Todd Aiken, the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, comments on rape that the Senate likely will keep its Democratic majority. She also expects the House to remain Republican.
Asked about national security, Reed said: “National security has been a traditional Republican advantage. Obama has an advantage.”
The last question Fraser asked was for them to predict the outcome of the presidential election.
Reed said he thinks it “will break big at the end” of the race. “If Romney wins, I think it will be 53 percent to 47 percent.”
Tucker said she thought the popular vote would be much closer — in the 51 percent range, but she didn’t predict who would have the majority. But it all will come down to the Electoral College, and currently most political observers believe Obama is leading.