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Matt Bai is a political reporter and staff writer for the New York Times Magazine, Bai graduated from Tufts in 1990 and received a Masters from the Columbia School of[…]

The president will be chosen based on issues, not parties.

Matt Bai: I don’t know because I’m not a campaign strategist. I mean I would be just a terrible campaign manager, and most journalists would. And so you know my take on that is not better than many other people’s. And I don’t readily accept the explanation, the idea, popular, that has great currency on the blogs or online, that if you stick to your principles, and stand up and articulate them strongly no matter what they are, people will back you because it’s really just an election about people who are Democrats and people who are Republicans. And it’s a matter of how many you bring out, right? This is the theory that Karl Rove made popular, and that a lot of the folks at Move On and elsewhere think makes a lot of sense; that basically the country falls into two camps, there’s not much of a middle ground. And the more full-throated you are in defense of your principles and policies, the greater chance you have of inspiring the people you need to win. I would much more subscribe to Bill Clinton’s model that, in fact, campaigns are still decided by independent voters. And those independent voters, some of them may have voted Republican for 15 years without interruption. It doesn’t make them Republicans. When you go out and talk to voters as I have in the …or in some of the royal countries . . . royal states in the country, they’re not . . . they’re not as party-identified as they used to be. People are just less party-identified. They’re not . . . They don’t see themselves as instruments of a blue team or a red team. They’re actually up for grabs, but they can fall into one camp or another for a significant period of time. And so you know I think to win, particularly for Democrats, for whom the math has not been especially good up until this moment, the polling is much better for them right now. But I think that’s a reflection of how people are feeling about Republicans. You know you do need to have a compelling case for people who don’t automatically agree with you.

Recorded on: 12/13/07