Skip to main content

PromaxBDA 2016: Trump-Clinton Showdown Could Stifle Substance and Turnout

New York — In a presidential campaign year without direct precedent, voters have never been more partisan and bitter, meaning turnout at the end of a two-year, media-fueled blitz could dip to historic lows. Or even if it doesn't, many votes will be cast out of fear, which isn't much better.

That was one rare point of consensus during "Election 2016: The Greatest Show on Earth," a politically diverse keynote session at PromaxBDA's The Conference featuring political operative and pundit James Carville, former NBC News chief Rick Kaplan and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. Katie Couric, Yahoo's global news anchor served as moderator.

In a world of 24-hour, multiplatform news, the 45-minute panel didn't always seem minty fresh, touching on familiar topics and takes -- Donald Trump's ability to survive outrageous pronouncements, Hillary Clinton's flaws and foibles, and the bizarre spectacle of this year's primary season. Carville denounced Trump and backed Cli

Related: MTV Poll Says Sanders Fans Will Vote for Clinton

But the collective observations from three vets involved in politics from the academic, institutional and media perspectives did sometimes prove surprising and was consistently engaging. Couric deftly kept the conversation moving and often challenged statements and took on speakers' assertions.

She began with the Orlando shooting and the immediate political tussles that erupted over the classification of the act as a "lone wolf" event as opposed to "radical Islamic terrorism."

"I just don't like the fact that Trump, Clinton and Obama are yelling at each other and they haven't even identified the bodies," Hewitt said.

Related: Donald Trump Calls ABC Reporter 'Sleaze'

Couric then laid out two themes that dominated the session--the rise of Trump and the headwinds faced by Clinton.

"She basically has a secretive side to her," Carville said in regard to Clinton's email scandal, though unlike Hewitt he considers it a forgivable offense.

Far less forgivable -- the media's role in primary debates, Kaplan said. "When it came to the primary debates, the media fell on its face," he said. "Moderators were more like ringmasters."

Related: Trump Campaign Revokes Post Press Credentials

When Couric pointed out how many GOP candidates shared the stage, Kaplan was undeterred. "When somebody gives you B.S., you're supposed to call them on it," he said. "If you don't call them on it, then you end up with this train of lies."

Hewitt said the cynicism and negativity of politics are driving people out of it altogether.

"I just think people are not going to want to put up with it," he said. "The next five months are going to be so toxic. I think turnout is going to be at a historic low."

Couric's solution for Clinton during the upcoming fall debates: "I think she needs a good comedy writer to deflect some of Trump's criticisms."