Posted by: rcieri | October 1, 2008

‘Newsweek’ columnist Jonathan Alter shares election insight with Elon students

Alter used his experience of covering seven presidential elections to make predictions for this one.

Alter used his experience of covering seven presidential elections to make predictions for this one.

By Rachel Cieri
Oct 1, 2008

“Newsweek” columnist Jonathan Alter did not want to state explicitly the candidate he favors in the presidential election, but he certainly made it clear in an Elon University question-and-answer session Monday that he believes Barack Obama will be America’s next president.

Alter, a published author and contributing correspondent for NBC, has covered the past seven presidential elections and shared his insight with students and faculty in an evening speech in McCrary Theatre in addition to the question-and-answer session.

Alter sees young people as a force that this election will hinge on, with the millennial generation engaged as never before. What sets apart this generation, in his opinion, is a mindset that every vote counts, the experience that the individual in office can directly affect their lives, and use of technology.

“I started to realize that Obama had an unusual connection to younger voters. In 2007 he was routinely drawing crowds of ten times as many people to early campaign events as candidates normally did,” he said.  “There was something underneath the “cool” that younger people were faster to connect to than older people.”

Alter believes that the young voters will shape the outcome of this election.

Alter believes that the young voters will shape the outcome of this election.

According to Alter, older voters, senior citizens that he has nicknamed “Rotarian grandpas,” will play a critical role in the election as well. They vote heavily and tend to be Republicans, but their allegiance may be shifting in light of candidates attitudes toward another major issue, the recent financial crisis.

McCain announced that he had been leading republican efforts to gain support for the bailout plan, but the proposal was voted down by Congress early Monday after McCain admitted that he had not read the three-page plan. This, Alter argues, has put doubt into the minds of McCain’s supporters because they now question his competence and leadership.

Obama, however, has the temperament to be elected president, according to Alter. During Friday’s presidential debate, he needed to avoid coming across as an “angry black man” by being too overpowered, while McCain needed to avoid coming across as a “grumpy old man.”  Alter believes that only Obama succeeded.

“John McCain wants us to think he is a man of great character, but he is really just a character,” Alter said, referring to McCain’s temperament.

Alter believes that Obama has certain leadership qualities that would allow him to accomplish feats that no other. He compared Obama to Nixon, saying that Nixon was the only one who could open negotiations with China, and Obama would be the sole negotiator in reforming American education.

Alter asserted that the key to education reform was teacher accountability, but the teacher’s union makes it next to impossible to fire a bad teacher. Obama, he said, has a connection with unions that no other candidate has achieved, and his urging alone could solve the problem.

Even more than temperament, Alter feels that knowledge is the secret to a successful presidency. He said that knowledge and experience are two different concepts entirely; McCain may have experience, but Obama has knowledge. He feels that Palin, who he referred to as a “moose hunter,” has neither. Her job in this respect is to prove to the American people that she is George W. Bush.

The vice presidential candidates have had unusually high amounts of publicity, and Alter emphasized that they could factor into the election in a big way. He pointed out the John McCain would be the oldest president ever elected and has already had health problems, and Obama is one of the world’s most likely people to be assassinated. Voters will see vice presidential hopefuls as potential presidents as well, should something happen the man they elect.

While Alter believes that polls early in the election have little or no bearing on the actual outcome, he thinks that they can be enormously predictive in the last few weeks before the elections. He shared with the audience that the financial crisis has jilted the polls and could shape the outcome of the election.

“At this point, I would put $5 on Obama, but I wouldn’t bet $10,” he said.

To read Alter’s columns, visit:



  1. You have some good content here, with solid news writing about the event. Style for a magazine is to just write the title, so take the quote marks surrounding Newsweek away in the lead.

    The best editing tip for you to take away from this is to never use feels, thinks or believes as a verb the way you are here. You do not know what another person feels, thinks or believes; you only know what they say, and sometimes what they say and what they feel, think or believe are two different things. You should go back and rewrite those sections and then be sure to remember this in future reporting.

    There are many other things you need to copy edit to repair – for instance, capitalize Republican, and use single quote marks when you are quoting inside something with double quote marks.

    I think the video doesn’t work because the Flip just can’t shoot something so far away and make it work well. You might want to drop the video off this piece and work to get better video with future assignments to show that you’re doing it successfully.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: