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Good evening and welcome to tonight's Don Edwards Lecture Program, sponsored by San JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© State University and Commonwealth Club of Silicon Valley. My name is Don Kassing, President of San JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© State University and it is my pleasure to introduce tonight's speakers. Les Francis is Executive Vice President of Goddard Claussen Strategic Advocacy, one of America's leading public affairs and issue advocacy firm. Les served as Chief of Staff to former Representative and US Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta. Later he was Deputy Chief of Staff to President Jimmy Carter and National Staff Director for the Carter-Mondale campaign in 1980. He is also a former Executive Director of both the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Ed Rollins is a pollster and political consultant, best known for his work on Ronald Reagan's 1984 re- election campaign and as Co-Chairman and Campaign Manager of Ross Perot's 1992 Presidential campaign. He served in the White House in the Reagan Administration and also those of President Nixon and Ford. Both Les Francis and Ed Rollins launched their careers as political strategists in California after attending San JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© State University. Ed graduated from another CSU, another California State University, Chico, but we had him for a while. But Les not only graduated from San JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© State, he stayed connected as a major supporter and a much appreciated advisor. Our moderator tonight will be Melinda Jackson who joined the San JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© State faculty of Political Science three years ago. She is a specialist in public opinion and of public participation and exemplifies the high quality of our faculty, and now Les Francis, Ed Rollins and Melinda Jackson. Good evening and welcome, gentlemen. Our topic tonight is "Presidential Campaign Then and Now." So let's get right into it. You are both graduates at the California State University system and went on to work on presidential campaigns and in the White House. Could you each start off by telling us a little bit about your experiences and how you got from here to there and let's start with Les Francis and then Ed Rollins. Well, my political career as it were, started actually when I was in high school here in San JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â©. I attended Lincoln and those yeah, there are some Lincoln folks here we had a bond election a city bond election in 1960 and I worked on that to part to create the new airport, now the Norman Y. Mineta Airport. But I was involved in campaigns locally and decided actually to run for the legislature here in 1970. I was on the faculty at State as a Foreign Students Advisor and I decided to run for the assembly seat here in downtown Willow Glen, East San JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© and as I say there were seven candidates on the Democratic side at primary and I beat the crap out of the guy who came in seventh. So my life as a candidate was over, so I decided to go behind the scenes. I worked for Norman Mineta and then Jimmy Carter. But it did start at San JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© State. I was a bird of passage here at San JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© State, that I came here as a Junior college transfer. I was I went I grew up in Vallejo and I came here playing football and decided to go to class at the same time, and decided without any guidance from the football coach to take all of my upper division political science courses in the spring semester. I took 18 upper division courses in which I think I had two C's three C's and 2 D's and I withdraw. I came back in the fall; I didn't pass the physical examination side. I decided it was a good time to go to Chico State College, I transferred there, where I went on to become the football player, I was student body president and through that became and intern in Jesse Unruh's office, so I was a Democrat at that point of time. He grew up on a Republican family, became a prominent Democrat strategist, but I grew up in Democrat family, became obviously a Republican strategist, which is the great thing about of California. You could bipartisan, bicoastal or whatever not just not bipolar which should be very helpful in the political world. Through that period of time when Nixon won in 1969, the assembly changed hands and Jess Unruh walked across the hall one day and he said to Bob Monaghan, who was the Republican leader, you will have no good staff people, I have made sure of that and I am going to give you a couple of mine and so he offered me up to Bob Monaghan, who was a fabulous man who became a mentor and sort of guided me into the Republican Party which I changed in 1972 and I have always attributed to George McGovern, my father was building nuclear submarines and I sort of thought the war was a very divisive time and obviously as it is today, and I just thought the Republican Party at that point of time was a safer and better place. So I changed in 1972, ran Nixon's campaign, went back to White House, and became in the post period, got to live through Watergate and I had met Reagan through the period when I was in legislature and went to work in his administration as the Assistant to the President for Political Affairs in '81, left in 83' to run his re-election campaign, came back in 85' to be his Deputy Chief of Staff and oversee his political and intergovernmental operations. So it was just a wild ride, I couldn't stay in San Jose State for another eight or 10 years and been a bartender and lived happily ever after. But it was a great place to be One of the big changes affecting American politics in recent years has been the advent of the internet. In 2004 Howard Dean's campaign was the first to show that the internet can be a powerful fundraising tool and now all of the presidential candidates have campaign websites, blogs, even MySpace pages, we have debates with questions submitted via YouTube, another San Jose State alum Joe Trippi served as Howard Dean's campaign manger in 2004 and is now working on John Edwards campaign. Trippi argued that the internet is a great thing for democracy because it helps ordinary citizens to organize at the grassroots level and it allows them to communicate more easily with candidates. How do you think the internet is changing presidential campaigns and are these changes good or bad for democracy, and Ed Rollins, let's go to you first on this one? First of all, it made Joe Trippi a very wealthy man and that was the good part of it. Jess Unruh taught me, when I first started politics, that there is three parts of the game that are very important. One is you find your voters, two you communicate with your voters and the third part is you make sure you get your voters to the polls. Any way that you do that is important; the internet is a way to do all of those things. It's a communications tool, its instant and people who have great interest in politics now have access to more information than ever before. The only hesitancy I have about it and it's not a total negative, is how does it get edited, and we live in the day of instant communication, which anything can move, when I started in politics in less than you know, four decades ago, a story could break on a candidate and you had 24 hours to respond to it. Then you move to era in the early 90s the late 80s, early 90s of the the CNNs and you had to respond with in an hour or two to the to the show that was on, much more quickly. Now you have to respond almost instantaneously to some attack which is being made on the internet, but equally as important is no editing, there is no guarantee that what's being said on the internet is accurate and there is a real temptation for mischief and unfortunately things can look and move very quickly, look very accurate and move very quickly and its very short step to go from the internet to MSNBC, to CNBC, to Fox News, to The New York Times, and then all of a sudden you have something that's not quite as accurate and so its lot of mischief and no one has quite figured out how to basically edit it at this point in time and may be you will never be able to do that. But as far as flow of information, as far as an organizational tool, as far as an ability to get people to the polls, it's a tremendous, tremendous asset, people aren't going give spending millions and millions of dollars on television advertising, but at the same time it's a great asset. Les Francis. Ed mentioned the late Jess Unruh and how he approached politics and just to show you how far we have come in 40 years, in my first presidential campaign as a staffer it was with John Lindsay in 1972. And I organized Northern California for John Lindsay and I had Jess Unruh's Christmas card list, on three by five cards in a shoe box and I traveled across the state stayed in Holiday Inns check in well I am in Modesto, where the cards for Modesto that's how we did political campaign organizing. The internet, we have seen each selection, it takes another step in terms of as you mentioned, 2004 fundraising. This year much more is being done, not only disseminate information but also using the internet as an organizing tool, that sort of a new development in terms of the internet. I have been working with a group called the Unity 08' which is an effort to put together centrist, bipartisan ticket in 2008 presidential campaign. And we are going to have an online convention, the hope is to have several million voters participate in selecting the nominees of Unity 08' and will all be done online, if it works that would be a dramatic change in how we do presidential campaigns on the web. A common criticism these days is that political candidates have become too cautious, too focus- grouped, with all of the emphasis on political consultants, such as yourselves, and polls to test out different campaign messages and ads and the threat of having any slip up or gaff immediately posted to YouTube for instant viewing, are presidential candidates becoming less willing to take bold positions and to lead on the issues? Are the kinds of candidates we see today more timid and less effective as political leaders compared to those of the past? And let's start with Les Francis on this one. Well if you have as I have watched or listened to most of the debates, not all of them, you see this taking place. The candidates are being more and more cautious, nobody wants to make a big mistake in one of those, so they are following their talking points, whether they are responses to the question or not, that has always been a problem to some extent, I think it has been aggravated this time because we have so many candidates on both sides, but yes, I think those of us in the consulting world have contributed to this problem, the media has contributed to this problem. It is, I think alarming, the voters are turning off. Ed and I participated in a conference last weekend on the relationship between our political campaigns and increased civic disengagement. It's a real problem and candidates have to answer for it, consultants have to answer for it, I would argue the voters have to answer for it to some extent as well. You saw a bit of spontaneity four years ago when Howard Dean went out as an underdog candidate, went on to raise more money on the internet, lit a fire among Democrat activists who were against the war and became a very credible candidate. He was actually leading the pack for while and he had a moment of spontaneity. He forgot that he was not just in a room, speaking to admiring crowds, he was as every candidate now is because everyone in their pocket has a cell phone with a camera on it or something that can instantaneously move a picture or sound or a mistake anywhere. He did his roar and obviously it was a roar heard around the political world at least and all of a sudden he was no longer quite the credible candidate that he was. We play we call on the game "Gotcha politics." The game is far too long today. We have 397 days from today before the election is to be held, it seems like it has been going on for ever already and its still another four months before a vote cast. There is a process now in which the media barely covers campaigns anymore because it's too expensive. So they sent out a stringer or sent out someone who basically gets a clip of something and what makes the news is not Fred Thompson, as The New York Times yesterday, Fred Thompson giving some kind of a speech that matters, but its Fred Thompson puts an audience to sleep and has to ask for an applause line at the end on a small diner in Iowa. Now that's the big front page story in The New York Times today and I think to a certain extent the candidates and its not consultants, consultants try and basically give them guidance, we are not if you ever believe that candidates turn to you and say, Ed, Les, tell me what I should say, you have not lived in the world that we have lived in. We usually are saying, why did you say that stupid, I now have to go out and clean it up. But the reality is that the most candidates are very committed, very, smart, very capable people and they want to connect with voters, they want to go out and talk about issues. But if you go out today and talk about everything, if if Hilary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani went out today the frontrunners, and laid out all of their foreign policy, all of the things that they wanted to talk about, it will be a one day story tomorrow on The Washington Post and what have you and then they will say what else do you want to talk about for the next 396 days. So part of it is a measured laying out of the process, two, its more about the process. We have so many idiotic polls today that don't mean a thing. There is a national poll every other day you know, and they are indicators of where you may be or might be or what your momentum might be but it certainly is not a certificate of how voters are going to actually vote when they get into that voting booth, but are candidates more cautious? They are they are for a reason because its its like NCAA the final 64 teams, if you get one loss and you could be out of there real quick. Rudy Giuliani spontaneously answers the phone from his wife and all of a sudden, was it a gag or was it for real, he does it one more time, he will drop 10 points in the poll, and I think that's the sad part of it. It's all about process, it's not about substance. Les, you mentioned the big disengagement. Once trend over the last 40 years is that the American people have become increasingly cynical about politics. Trust in government has declined dramatically and as Washington politics has become more polarized more people are expressing dissatisfaction with both political parties. Do you think the time is ripe for a serious third party candidate to tap into this discontent with the two major parties and could a third party challenger ever succeed given the structure of the electoral system, particularly the electoral college. Well, I have already indicated that I am helping a third party independent effort, try to get up and running. Peter Hart, the Democratic pollster says, he has never seen in 40 years of polling, that the public so receptive to the notion of an independent and third party candidacy. Depending on which poll you read somewhere between 50 and 65 percent of the voters say that they are open to a third party candidate, doesn't mean they are going to vote for a third party, but they are open to the idea of it. Those are numbers that are record high. The problem of that you know it's a chicken and egg problem. We have increase in civic disengagement of the talk about voting and if we talk about other measures, on the other hand people are more involved in community organizations; they are less involved in politics, less faith in government, more confidence in community organizations taking care of things locally. We have got to do something about how we teach social studies in the elementary and secondary schools, which all of us, when we went to school, we took civics and we took history, well those are no longer mandatory in the way they once were. But we have got to the politicians have to talk to voters about things that they care about. You read the polls now, you listen that the debate, you think that the most important issues are the wedge issues. They are not, when you ask voters what's important, obviously the war is important, terrorism is important, the economy is important, healthcare is important not the wedge issues that campaigns to all would focus them. Ed Rollins you worked on Ross Perot's campaign, what are your thoughts on this? Today if you ask people to self identify, are you Republican, Democrat or independent a plurality of voters in America and after several months and even longer, say they are independent. Pollsters, even though I was introduced as a pollster, I am not a pollster, I am a political strategist, I had worked a great deal of pollsters but I am not a pollster. Pollsters have a tendency to not let you stay as an independent. They say if you are more likely if you are more likely and had to make a choice today between a Republican and Democrat, what are you? When I was running presidential campaigns I never let my pollsters do that, I always said to them, tell me tell me my base, who are my Republicans, who are my Democrats, and - and today more people consider themselves independents, but they don't have any place to go, and there is no independent candidate and so you are sort of forced at the end of the day to be jammed down one party or the other parties throat. The electoral college makes it nearly impossible for someone to win, but I can tell you this, in the period that I was with Perot, which was about six weeks in which I was campaign manager along with Hamilton Jordan, there was a period in which it was after the California primary, he was at 39 percent on the polls, we had electoral strategy where we could win enough states to win, 207 electoral votes, the campaign started to self destruct after that mainly because the candidate wasn't properly prepared in his own mind of the we treated like any other candidate, the scrutiny of the media and what had you and most candidates who were not in the political process would not be prepared for that, Ross was even more unique than that. But could someone run if they had the independent resources to be a viable candidate? There is a lot of speculation about Michael Bloomberg. Could Michael Bloomberg run to the presidency and win? I cant say to him and I have been at conversation with him, he could win, but a guy that could spend a billion dollars could certainly set the national agenda, he could certainly in march and April when everybody else is out of money, after this drag out over this short but drag out primary process, he could spend a $100 million in April, May, June, July, August, September when everyone is waiting for there federal check in the fall, to begin the fall campaign and talk about the major issues bothering Americans and I promise you by September people would be talking about Michael Bloomberg and we would be talking about his issues and who has done well. But it takes some over those kinds of resources. Nearly $800 millions were spend by the two presidential campaigns in the last election, most to that was spend in 16 states, not states like California or New York or Texas or Florida which are big states, not much spend there because people assume they are one or the other. And but the 11 or 12 competitive states where the game is played today, but the reality is it would take someone with maximum resources or someone with a big name a Colin Powell, a previous Secretary of State, if he wanted to run as an independent in 2004, he might have been a very credible candidate as an independent. But it's a very unique set of circumstances and it usually takes the collapse of one party or the other in when Perot ran in 92' the Republican Party was on the verge of collapse, 30 percent of the Republicans did not vote to the re-election of George Bush then, their Vice President, their President, their party Chairman and that was a pretty significant defection. You mentioned the role of money; another major criticism of political campaign today is the enormous amounts of money involved. The current presidential campaign on pace to be the most expensive ever, with the total cost expected to top one billion dollars with the B. Why do candidates need to raise so much money and how have the various efforts that campaign finance reform over the past 30 years affected the political process and what if any reforms do you think are still needed today, let's go to Ed Rollins first? A billion dollars an exorbitant sum of money, but so is the amount of money spent to advertise in the Super Bowl which probably gets pretty close to that figure and its all for the same reason, the buy time on television which is where you communicate with most of the voters today, is extraordinarily expensive. A state like California, if you want to run a statewide race here, its about five and a half million dollars a week in advertising and you need a minimum of three to four weeks to penetrate a message. And then if you want to add LA drive time in it you had another million dollars a week, and if you want to have a San Francisco drive time radio, add another half million dollars a week and its all about talking to you. And which I think is a very important part of the political process. Why campaign financ has failed is it failed the public financing and it was enough money and still there is enough money to run the presidential campaign in the fall. There is enough money, both campaigns will get about 80, 85 million dollars of tax payers money in September-October and that's enough money to move your presidential candidate and advertise sufficiently to penetrate the market place. But what where the system broke down was there wasn't enough money to run in the primaries, and any body who has ever challenged in the primaries, they would they would run out of money. And so what would happen if you win the nomination in March or April, and then you didn't have any money what so ever and you are basically living off the land in those three or four months till you go to the convention and you don't get your check from the Federal Government, that you are the nominee and in some cases it was late and so you had campaigns that were distinct disadvantages, usually Democratic campaigns, because there were the ones with the contested primary. So instead of going in and someone saying to someone like Les or I, what's wrong with the system, how much money do you need to run a viable campaign? And I when I say a viable campaign, it doesn't mean 10 times what ever the cost of the campaign is, they have a 10 time better campaign, but there is a certain amount of money you need to basically be able to reach the maximum number of voters. So most people in the country and most members of congress do not want public financing to fund their campaigns. They don't want to give challengers an opportunity to compete against them. Most people on the presidential politics today would just as soon throw it all out and go out and raise private money because they can raise all the private money in the world and most of them would to love to take the caps off and by the time we are finished, the Supreme Court which believes very much in free speech and is now shifting more and more to the right in the next next few years may basically say, you got the money and you got a message go spend what you want to spend, then you may very well get back to the abuses which you have with Watergate in 72' and will have you and I think to a certain extent it's a very thin line between the balance of how do you communicate with voters and how do you make sure there is fairness to the system and how do you make sure that both sides have the ability to communicate effectively. There is no equality in politics today. Its not an accident that 98 percent of incumbents in the congress get re-elected. They have tremendous resources, most of which are paid for by US tax payers and they have mailings, they have staffs, they have a whole variety of things and they have every body in the world and Washington who wants to basically give them money, to make sure they stay there. So if you what you have to do is try and equal the system out somewhat so that the challenger can run a competitive campaign in create a more competitive environment. Les Francis, your thoughts. Well I am I am a critic of the campaign finance reform efforts of the past 20 or 30 years. It's my opinion that each time we have tinkered with the system we have actually made it worse, that the limits don't work because there is no effective way of holding down the cost of campaigns. So you put limits on contributions, you try to limit expenditures, it doesn't work. My remedy which has actually no chance of being passed would be to have take the limits off, have full to immediate disclosure and if there is a willful violation of that people ought to forfeit the right of the hold the office, make the penalties mean something. What what we have done is we have created an expectation of the public that we'll pass McCain-Feingold and politics would get better. They're not going to get better, the cost of campaign goes up, it's expensive. A 32nd spot in Los Angeles media market cost $300,000 in prime time. If you want to communicate with voters in the Los Angeles media market you got to buy television. Television is expensive, there is no way around it and putting limits on contribution when when Susan Hammer was elected mayor in 1990 in San Jose and I think I am right about this Susan, both Susan and Frank Fiscallini, the opponents spent some or between one and $1.3 million, I think to run for mayor of San Jose, very little went on television, some did, radio, direct mail, we were trying to communicate with 200,000 voters. It takes money and it takes money to communicate with the hundred million or more voters nationally and we are not going to solve the problem in my mind with limits.