Stephanopoulos speaks at Penn

According to George Stephanopoulos, the next election will be a lot like the last one, only closer. And the Keystone State, which is a primary-season afterthought, will be a key battleground come fall.

The former White House communications director and current ABC News analyst offered his predictions on the 2000 elections during a talk at Irvine Auditorium March 28 that was long on analysis and policy and short on personal reflection.

The November presidential election, he said, “will probably be the closest election since 1976,” when Jimmy Carter barely unseated incumbent Gerald Ford. “It will also be big. Whoever wins the election will probably carry the Congress with him, and he will also pick two, maybe three, Supreme Court justices.

“This is probably the first time in our lifetimes that the Supreme Court will be an issue in the elections,” he said. Because the country is prosperous and at peace, he said, the outcome may turn on minor differences or issues that do not normally attract public attention.

But as in the last three elections, the battle will be fought in the center — both geographically and ideologically.

“You can pretty much draw a line along Interstate 80 and see the states that matter in the fall: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois maybe and Missouri,” he said.

Similarly, he noted that both Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore are trying to capture the ideological center, but he added that Bush will have a harder time doing so after his fight with John McCain pushed him to the right to shore up his electoral base.

He predicted a Gore win in the fall, but by a razor-thin margin. When asked who he thought would make an ideal running mate for Gore, he first suggested former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, but later added that President Judith Rodin might also be a good choice, while Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend “would be a bit of a reach.”

Stephanopoulos was also asked his opinion of the current hit TV drama “The West Wing.” “Every time I see it, I get nostalgic,” he said. “What it does capture is the pace [of the White House staff], but it’s just idealized enough to make it not quite right.”


Originally published on April 6, 2000