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July 18, 2012
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Political pundits William Kristol, Paul Begala ‘slug it out’ at Ky. Chamber’s Annual Meeting

They shared the stage — and traded barbs — to talk about the presidential election

Prominent political pundits William Kristol, left, a Republican, and Paul Begala, a Democrat, talk to reporters before speaking Tuesday, July 17, at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting.

Photos from the 2012 Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Business Summit and Annual Meeting are at the bottom of this story.

By Lorie Hailey
Associate Editor

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (July 18, 2012) — More than 300 attended the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s Business Summit and Annual Meeting, which was capped off Tuesday night by what Director Dave Adkinsson billed the “2012 Slugfest” between two well-known political pundits from both sides of the aisle.

William Kristol and Paul Begala shared the stage — and traded barbs — to talk about the upcoming presidential election.

Kristol is editor of the Washington-based political magazine The Weekly Standard and is a frequent Fox News political analyst and commentator. Political consultant Begala is an author, CNN analyst and former aide to President Bill Clinton.

Surprisingly, the two agreed on at least one thing.

In a country divided — nearly evenly — between two choices for president, the winner will be the one who makes a compelling case for how they will turn the country around. And so far, neither has done so.

Republican Mitt Romney has not yet revealed his plan, but Kristol said he expects the presumptive GOP nominee to do so next month at the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay.

“The Romney campaign has been selling his bio versus what he can do and what it will be like in four years if he is elected,” Kristol told reporters before the dinner Tuesday night.

Romney has been running a “cautious campaign,” he said.

President Barack Obama “ought to run like a challenger,” Begala said, instead of acting like he “deserves a gold star.”

“I’m all for attacking Romney,” he said, “but he needs to lay out his agenda.”

When asked if the president’s accusations that Romney was at the helm of Bain Capital when it sent American jobs overseas were helping the president’s plight, Begala said Obama should “say more about it, not less.”

“The outsourcing says something about Romney’s values, not just economics,” Begala said.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” a top Romney campaign advisor said “independent fact checkers have said (the allegations) are not true.”

Noting that only one-third of the nation thinks the U.S. is on the right track, Kristol said the Romney campaign should focus more on telling the American people what Obama has not accomplished.

“This presidential campaign may not feature big-time ideas, but the next president had better be a big-time reformer,” Kristol wrote in The Weekly Standard.

The presidential ballots cast by many Americans do not determine the end result, said Begala, who said the country needs national Electoral College reform, performed state-by-state, so that it could be done without altering the U.S. Constitution.

“I love our constitution, but I hate our Electoral College system,” he said.

Because of how it works, Begala said, the vote of residents of California, New York, Illinois or Texas — about 95.4 million Americans or nearly a third of the population — “essentially doesn’t matter.”

“The truth is, the election has already been decided in perhaps as many as 44 states, with the final result coming down to the half-dozen states that remain: Virginia and Florida on the Atlantic Coast, Ohio and Iowa in the Midwest, and New Mexico and Colorado in the Southwest,” Begala wrote in a column on The Daily Beast.

Not everyone in the closely divided states will make an electoral college difference, he said, because based on current polling, about 48 percent of each state’s voters will go for Obama and 48 percent will decide for Romney.

“And so the whole shootin’ match comes down to around 4 percent of the voters in six states,” he wrote.

Four percent of the presidential vote in Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado is 916,643 people, he said.

“The American president will be selected by fewer than half the number of people who paid to get into a Houston Astros home game last year,” Begala noted. “And will spend more than $2 billion to reach those 4 percent.”

Reform would change everything, Begala said.

Kristol, on the other hand, said he is “a defender of the Electoral College.”

While not much has been accomplished in the past year — a Republican-controlled Senate has admittedly made replacing Obama its No. 1 priority — Kristol said the deadlock will not remain, even if Obama is re-elected and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., retains his seat as majority leader.

The “gridlock” cannot go on forever, he said.

“There is a lot of pressure on leaders of both parties to get things done,” Kristol said.

Begala agreed.

“At the end of the day, something is going to have to be done,” he said.

Lorie Hailey is associate editor of The Lane Report and online editor of www.lanereport.com. Reach her by email at lorie@lanereport.com or follow her on Twitter, @loriehailey.

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