At a packed, members-only event, CNN’s John King led a discussion about the unpredictable 2016 presidential campaign, just a week before the start of the Republic National Convention. Chief national correspondent and anchor of “Inside Politics,” King was joined by CNN’s Manu Raju, senior political reporter, and MJ Lee, national politics reporter, as well as Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief for the Daily Beast, and Olivier Knox, White House correspondent for Yahoo! News.
The July 11, 2016, evening program was part of the Newseum’s partnership with CNN Politics, who together launched the exhibit “CNN Politics Campaign 2016: Like, Share, Elect” in April. The real-time, interactive exhibit explores the ways data and social media have transformed the political process for candidates, journalists and voters.
Much of the panel’s conversation focused on the upcoming conventions and party unity among both Republicans and Democrats. A common theme quickly emerged regarding the remarkable unpredictability of the 2016 election.
“If we’ve learned anything this year, it is [to] expect the unexpected,” said King, during an exchange on vice presidential picks. “We’re on a rollercoaster with a blindfold on.”
Looking ahead to the conventions, panelists discussed the obstacles that each candidate faces.
“Hillary Clinton did have a longer fight and a harder fight than I think her campaign ever expected,” said Lee. “However, she’s not the one who is struggling to win over the support of major Democratic leaders. Donald Trump seems to be struggling to get major Republican leaders to speak at his own convention.”
Citing Trump campaign leaders, King said that the electoral breakdown would be similar to that of 2012 if the election were held now. How could this be, he asked, give the apparent state of the party?
Kucinich attributed this to both candidates being remarkably more unpopular than those of past elections. “No one likes either of them, let’s be honest,” she said. “No one likes Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.”
The panel also discussed whether last week’s shooting in Dallas would have any long-term effects on policy or party platforms. “If Newtown couldn’t galvanize the gun-restriction folks to a point where they could pass modest background checks, then why would this?” said Knox.
Raju added that he did not think Congress would act on gun legislation, but that guns would be a campaign issue. “We have not seen gun control [or] gun violence really be an issue in recent campaigns,” he said.
Panelists also discussed social media and Donald Trump’s use of Twitter.
Knox presented a theory on why Trump’s most outrageous tweets do not seem to have negative consequences. “Remember eighth-grade math – the absolute value? You put these two lines around a negative number and it becomes a positive … He’s the ultimate absolute value candidate,” he said about Trump.
Trump uses Twitter to attack his opponents, said Raju, who pointed out that the candidate used Twitter to assign nicknames to his rivals, such as “Lyin’ Ted Cruz” and “Crooked Hillary.” King wryly noted that Trump had tweeted about him the day before, calling him “overachieving John King.”
Before the program, King tried out the Newseum’s version of the Magic Wall, a visual election mapping tool modeled on the one he has famously used during CNN’s election-night broadcasts.
“There are people who visit all the time who send me tweets saying they want my job. Let me assure you, you can have it,” he joked, adding that only “basic proficiency” of the wall was necessary.