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Friendly political rivals square off at St. Xavier

Jim Warren editor The Daily Beast Chicago (center) moderates discussiby political commentators Mary Matalconservative (left) DonnBrazile liberal (right) during Voices

Jim Warren, editor of The Daily Beast Chicago, (center) moderates a discussion by political commentators Mary Matalin, a conservative, (left) and Donna Brazile, a liberal, (right) during a Voices and Visions Speaker Series at Saint Xavier University in Chicago Thursday, November 1, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 3, 2012 6:46AM



For pundits from opposite ends of the political spectrum, Mary Matalin and Donna Brazile are mighty chummy.

They both call New Orleans home, although Matalin grew up in Calumet City. Brazile taught Matalin’s daughters how to dance.

And they even walked arm-in-arm onto a podium Thursday night in the Shannon Center at St. Xavier University in Chicago. Their “Both Sides Now” presentation, part of the university’s Voices and Visions speaker series, attracted about 1,000.

As moderator Jim Warren said of the two, “they’re actually good friends who can disagree without being disagreeable.”

And disagree they did.

Matalin, a staunch conservative with ties to former President George W. Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, predicted that Republican Mitt Romney will win Tuesday, possibly in a landslide.

“This reminds me of 1980,” she said, recalling the crushing defeat delivered to President Jimmy Carter by Ronald Reagan.

Brazile, dressed in Democratic blue, befitting Al Gore’s campaign manager in 2000, politely disagreed. The race may be close, she said, but Obama will win.

Brazile joked that she’s so tired of watching political commercials that she looks “forward to seeing Cialis and Viagra commercials,” a line that brought down the house.

Obama, she said, “has accomplished a great deal” despite Republican opposition in Congress, including bringing home our troops from Iraq, and “saving the auto industry.”

Statistics about jobs and approval ratings may matter to some, Matalin said, but when it comes down to voting for president, the average American will decide on a very personal basis.

“People will say, ‘It cost $90 to fill my gas tank.’ Those are the things that drive this election,” she said. “There’s no support for (Obama’s) policies. The biggest thing is what’s not working. My prediction has been since the spring that it will be (a margin of from) 3 to 7 points and (Romney) will get more than 300 electoral votes.”

Brazile was not impressed with Matalin’s calculations, calling it “smoke and mirrors.”

“I don’t think there’s a path to 270 (electoral votes) for Mitt Romney. I think he miscalculated Ohio, thinking coal would put him over the top, but the auto bailout has been the big thing there,” she said. “They (GOP) try to change the map, but they can’t change the game. The game is already set.”

Brazile said the slowly recovering economy and the rise in consumer confidence will help Obama.

“We’ve seen more and more Americans getting back to work. President Obama has been a decisive and steady leader who has taken us through the roughest of times, which included the collapse of the financial sector,” she said. “There are signs that things are improving only because we have a leader who’s been willing to make tough decisions over the course of the last four years and not put it off to the next four.”

Matalin countered that over the past 100 years “the deeper the recession or depression ... the recovery is faster and steeper.” That, she said, has not happened under a president who failed to make job creation his top priority during his first two years in office.

“This is the worst recovery in history,” she said.

Before the debate, Eileen Duncan, a nursing student from Orland Park, said she had not decided between the two candidates.

“It’s a tough decision, a big one. Maybe some additional information will help me make a decision,” she said.

Norine Gibbons, a St. Xavier alum from Lemont, has made up her mind.

“I’ve enjoyed this,” she said of the verbal sparring, “but I know who I’m voting for, the one who’s going to bring more jobs to America, Romney.”



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