Posted by: lcowie | September 9, 2008

Political Analyst Charlie Cook

Political Analyst Charlie Cook visits Elon to share his balanced views on the presidential candidates

by Lesley Cowie

Jokes and politics go hand-in-hand, at least in Charlie Cook’s world. Cook, a political analyst, visited Elon for his third time Monday to discuss the candidates in the upcoming presidential election. He coupled his character analyses with jokes, statistics and historical references.

Charlie Cook delivers his analyses on the presidential candidates.

Charlie Cook delivers his analyses on the presidential candidates.

Cook opened his lecture by saying that this election is one of the strangest campaigns he has ever seen. We’ve never had someone as politically dead as John McCain, Cook said, turn it around and become the Republican presidential nominee.

“This is an election where the rule book has been thrown out the window,” he said.

Cook went on to explain the tumultuous position that McCain faces as a Republican. In addition to reinvigorating his career, McCain must now challenge American uncertainty about voting another Republican into office. With an economy on the brink of recession, Cook said, Republicans are not in a conducive atmosphere to win a third consecutive term.

“All the fundamentals favor Obama,” he said. “But the fundamentals haven’t mattered this year.”

These fundamentals include voting statistics based on education, age, income, gender and race. Cook described how these factors favored Hillary Clinton over Obama at the onset of the campaign. Clinton’s campaign, however, worked so hard to make her look tough, Cook said. They rubbed the humanity out of her, he said.

Upon examining Obama’s sudden burst in popularity, Cook remembered a question he asked his daughter. He asked if it meant anything to her that a female could be the next president. It meant nothing, he said. She did not feel discriminated against and therefore could not identify with the issue. As a result, gender got leapfrogged over by race, Cook said.

Nevertheless, Cook identified Obama’s strengths as a leader for the Democrat Party. He narrowed Obama’s personality down to one word: charismatic.

“Democrats are looking for a charismatic leader,” Cook said. “Democrats are looking for a new iconic figure to replace Roosevelt.”

Cook used a four-legged stool in his metaphor to evaluate Obama’s strengths. He identified the first leg of the stool as the African-American vote. The second leg, he said, is the Hispanic vote. Many Hispanics aligned themselves with Hillary Clinton, Cook said. The third leg consists of the white voters under 50 years old. Obama has encountered a lot of resistance with the fourth leg of voters – the white voters over 50 years old.

“Three legs can stand,” Cook said. “Not terribly reliable, but can stand. If he [Obama] makes that connection, he could win big.”

Using metaphors to relay his ideas, Cook describes each nominee's strengths and weaknesses.

Using metaphors to relay his ideas, Cook describes each nominee's strengths and weaknesses.

While shifting gears to the vice presidential candidates, Cook marveled over McCain’s choice, Sarah Palin. Republicans at the grassroots level love her, Cook said. They weren’t terribly excited about McCain, he said.

Cook explained that partisans want someone they can depend on. He described McCain as a maverick, one who goes his own way or is not a team player. Palin has given an intensity, an excitement to McCain’s campaign, Cook said.

“She’s an asset, unless or until she becomes a liability,” he said.

It was at this time that Cook opened up his lecture into a question-and-answer session. The first question was about Cook’s thoughts on Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee. Obama’s decision to choose Biden, Cook said, was probably because it is assuring to have an experienced running mate.

“Obama is a brilliant guy,” he said, “but this stuff is new to him. If you’re young and fresh, go with experience… It [Biden] was a really good pick.”

Cook answered questions about President Bush and former President Clinton, as well as the media’s effect on the election. Dozens of hands emerged from the audience. In the end, Cook did not have time to answer them all.

For more information on Charlie Cook or his political analyses, please visit


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