New America NYC

The Year of the Herminator: A Panel of Reporters Explain the Weirdest Republican Primary Ever

New America NYC and The New Republic present.

“The Year of the Herminator: A Panel of Reporters Explain the Weirdest Republican Primary Ever”

*Franklin Foer* shares his take on the conversation:

Well, it was the “Year of the Herminator” when we initially conceived Thursday night’s panel. And we truly meant the title as a conceit, not as a prediction of the nominee—a reflection of the rapid rise (and, as it turns out, precipitous plummet) of a succession of wild-card candidates. But that chapter of the campaign looks to be over. For the moment, the narrative has settled; the leading candidates are finally plausible. In short, it is a great moment to convene some top-drawer political journalists at New America’s lofty Soho space in New York to chew (and sip) over the prospects for the coming few months.

The whole podcast of the event (available below) is well worth your time. But I wanted to pluck out a few enticing arguments that emerged from our discussion:

Newt’s Immigration Position Proves His Viability, Richard Just, editor of The New Republic, argued. When Rick Perry depicted the conservative critics of immigration reform as hardhearted, his candidacy instantly stalled out. (That and the fact he struggles with the English language and occasionally sounds sloshed.) In the last debate, Newt similarly gestured in the direction of a more compassionate immigration policy. His stance, however, did nothing to slow his rise. That’s because conservatives have far more faith in Newt’s underlying personae; his candidacy is built on sturdy foundations.

Obama and Romney Are Similar Characters, New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor argued. Both view themselves as data-driven pragmatists; both come from outsider groups and then attended elite institutions; both have, on occasion, difficulty connecting to the public. Will these similarities breed contempt if they match up in a general election?

The Establishment Is About to Lead the Backlash Against Newt Gingrich, Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker’s Washington correspondent, argued, having carefully parsed the commentary of Karl Rove. The “Architect” has been quietly starting to cast doubts on the plausibility of the Gingrich candidacy, questioning its ability to master the tedious logistics required of a viable national campaign. Some have doubted the relevance of the GOP establishment. But Ryan thinks the establishment has successfully managed to stifle insurgent candidates, by placing its thumb on the scale. (By the way, Ryan’s twitter account has provided a hilarious compendium of Newt’s most absurd statements. This theme will not exhaust itself anytime soon.)

One small note about the event itself. I often shudder at the prospect of hosting panels about presidential campaigns because they can attract individuals eager to speechify—not a happy experience for either the audience or the panelists. But we filled the space with a delightfully engaged, curious and respectful group. Questions were ridiculously well-informed. They would have flummoxed the Herminator, for sure. And they were plenty challenging to our panelists, too.

Appreciate your giving us a listen…

— Franklin Foer

A podcast of the discussion is available below.



Editor-at-Large, The New Republic


Editor, The New Republic


Reporter, The New York Times


Washington Correspondent, The New Yorker

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