If these two agree, they may be right

Published May 5, 2007

Every four years, political pundits deem this presidential election as the most important of our time.

They call it transformational, insist our children's future will never be the same and scream that the fate of the Free World is at stake.

This time, according to James Carville and Mary Matalin, they may be right.

Carville and Matalin, the political super couple and former strategists best known for their opposing views, delivered that message to more than 200 people at a private event staged by SunTrust Thursday at the Renaissance Vinoy in St. Petersburg.

Carville, a Democrat and a former aide to President Bill Clinton, and Matalin, a Republican and former counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney, displayed the succinct opinions and charming humor that have made both popular television personalities.

Matalin jokingly referred to Hillary Clinton as "The H-Bomb." Carville quipped, "It's hard to believe that Rudy Giuliani has been married more times than Mitt Romney has been hunting."

Regarding the hype about the 2008 presidential election, Carville conceded such histrionics are not new, but quickly added in his native Louisiana twang, "Even a broken clock is right twice a day."

He listed a confluence of historical events as the reason this election will be so important, starting with the fact that in nearly every election since 1940, the GOP had established a frontrunner by this time and that the frontrunner always had gone on to win the nomination.

With 10 major candidates vying for the GOP bid, Carville said, the absence of a clear frontrunner is a "political earthquake in the Republican Party."

Matalin listed several dynamics that make the race not only unprecedented but largely unpredictable, including the extended duration of the campaign and changes in the primary calendar.

Other factors noted by Matalin: record-breaking campaign contributions and a unique field that includes the first viable black, female, Hispanic, Italian-American and Mormon candidates.

"The only thing we know, as Cicero said, is that elections are a living and very dynamic process, " Matalin said.

So how will America go about picking a president? Carville said polling indicates that before people get to the issues, they are looking for someone who can work both sides and get something done.

"You have to ask are we looking for inspiration or perspiration, " Carville said.

Matalin added she believes people want a president who doesn't have all the right answers, but can ask the right questions.

"I think there's going to be a tolerance for something politicians are loathed to do, and that's answer, 'I don't know, ' " Matalin said.

Carville also offered a few bold predictions, suggesting that Al Gore will jump in the race, John McCain will drop out by January and the GOP will call upon Jeb Bush to run.

Through it all, you could tell that Carville and Matalin have an affection for each other. It's been said their marriage works despite their different views, but it's actually their passion for politics - and a love for their young daughters Matty and Emma - that bond them together.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper can be reached at hooper@sptimes.com or 813 226-3406.