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Political reporters discuss presidential primary prospects

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Photo by: Jeffrey Bradshaw | Assistant Opinions Editor
Political reporters examine and evaluate presidential primary candidates Sunday morning at Texas Tribune Festival

A politically driven weekend full of high-profile talks wouldn’t be complete without a panel of speakers making speculations and analyses about the outcome of the presidential primary election, and Texas Tribune Festival was no exception.

Political reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post and The New Yorker took the stage along with the head of news at Snapchat at the festival Sunday morning to give informed insights about the dynamics of the primary race so far.

“I think that Hillary (Clinton) is not as inevitable as she was in 2008,” said Ryan Lizza, reporter for The New Yorker. “But on one hand she is the strongest democratic front runner of the modern area for a non-incumbent in the primary.”

Lizza believes Clinton is facing both challenges and triumphs in her quest to obtain the democratic presidential nomination.

“Hillary Clinton obviously has more of the power centers behind her in the democratic party (than Bernie Sanders, fellow democratic primary candidate, does),” Lizza said. “Having said all of that, she has two incredible vulnerabilities in Ohio and Iowa.”

Amy Chozick, a reporter with The New York Times, said she has primarily covered Clinton and her political career since 2008. Chozick said the controversy surrounding Clinton’s private emails and how she dealt with the Benghazi attacks of 2012 are “completely conflated.”

During the discussion, Evan Smith, moderator and CEO of the Texas Tribune, referred to U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy’s recent statements. The congressman said on Fox news that his motivation for putting Clinton on trial to talk about the Benghazi incident was to harm her campaign.

“I think the average voters in Ohio aren’t looking into the intricacies of Kevin McCarthy’s statements on Benghazi,” Chozick said. “One of her biggest vulnerabilities is the trust issue.”

Smith said he recalled that Clinton mentioned the fact that history would be made if she were elected as the first female president of the United States during the democratic debate.

“I think there was an early decision to play up gender this time,” Chozick said. “I mean her campaign cannot wait until there is a personified opponent to compare her to.”

Peter Hamby, head of news at Snapchat, said although Sanders has “raw energy,” the campaign remains to be less planned as Clinton’s.

“He has huge momentum among young people,” Chozick said. “He has really mobilized the social media army. I don’t really see a path (to getting the democratic presidential nomination) if he can’t win minorities—even with all of the support he has on college campuses.”

Hamby said the impact of college students’ votes may be underestimated.

“Spending the past year in the digital space with Snapchat, I’ve noticed the young people do not use land lines; they just don’t,” Hamby said. “It’s becoming a serious issue for pollsters. So I don’t know if polls are missing young people, but it’s not something I would rule out.”

When the debate shifted to the republican side of the primary race, Hamby said Donald Trump has managed to sustain his popularity in the polls, despite making “inflammatory” comments during recent months.

Lizza said comparisons made between Jeb Bush and his brother, former President George Bush, could hurt Jeb’s campaign.

“Jeb has gradually pushed on foreign policy to become more and more like his brother,” Lizza said. “Trump knows exactly what he’s doing by bringing up 9/11 and pushing Jeb into a corner to where he has to admit that he’s more like his brother in foreign policy.”

David Weigel, reporter for The Washington Post, said an “outsider” who has never held public office and someone who is already part of the party’s “establishment,” will most likely become the clear front runners for the republican primary race.

“If it is a referendum between a competent democrat and republican, then that’s a good election for them,” Weigel said.