BOCA RATON, FLORIDA—Despite the prevailing notion that the Democratic party will succeed the Bush White House in 2008, Dan Rather wouldn’t “bet the trailer money” on it.
Rather, moderating a discussion on the 2008 election between Time magazine’s Mark Halperin and Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter at the American Magazine Conference here Monday, also cautioned magazine journalists—and the press at large—not to jump to conclusions in what has already become a long race. “Not a single vote has been cast anywhere,” Rather reminded the audience. “Right now it is guesswork.”
Rather added: “Overnight is long time in politics; a week is forever—for all the double-doming, the [current] coverage may not add up to much.”
Both Halperin and Alter said Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton would win their respective Republican and Democratic nominations, with the potential of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg as joining the race as an independent. “The country gets a diversity of New Yorkers to choose from,” Halperin said.
“It’ll be a Subway Series,” Alter added.
All three journalists conceded the press plays a major role in shaping the election, and can feed into the respective campaign spin. The Clinton camp, for instance, is “trying to create an aura of inevitability,” Alter said. Other candidates are getting ready to spin a primary win or loss to garner favorable media coverage.
“A lot of this is the press setting expectations of what these [polls] mean,” Halperin said. “We haven’t had our secret meeting at the Palm.”
Displaying his trademark Texas-tinged metaphors—so called Ratherisms—Rather said the press has not paid enough attention to Republican candidate Mitt Romney. “He’s an undervalued stock,” Rather said. Alter called underdog Republican Mike Huckabee “the best Republican candidate out there.”
Right now, the press is focused on who the best candidate is, Halperin said. “Voters are generally more concerned about who the best president would be.”
Rather did not discuss his current $70 million lawsuit against CBS.