Former party chairmen clash on issues

By Steph Mostaccio

Terry McAuliffe and Ed Gillespie have similar backgrounds. They both were raised in Irish American families, graduated from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and are committed to expanding the number of young voters.

And they both think their party will win the White House in 2008, as they insisted in the Bart Luedeke Center Theater yesterday in
“The Great Debate.”

“It is going to be a spectacular year for the Democrats,” said McAuliffe. “I can promise you this: There will be a Democrat in the White House in January 2009.”

Gillespie begged to differ.

“Even though Republican numbers are down, we have a lot of opportunity if we do things well with the next year and a half,” he said.

McAuliffe noted that in the 2006 mid-term elections, the Democrats won in the House and the Senate, and six new Democratic governors were elected.

“We won the blue states, we won the red states,” he said. “We won all across America.”

McAuliffe attributed the Democratic gain to one of the Bush Administration’s foreign policies — the war in Iraq. He pointed out that 73 percent of Americans are against this war.

“We spent $600 billion in Iraq to create a civil war,” he said. “We could have bought $75,000 homes for every person in Iraq. We could have provided free health care for every American for 10 years. And instead of making this nation more safe, we have made America less safe.”

Gillespie recognized that support for the Republican Party has significantly dropped, noting that the 2006 mid-term elections cost the Republicans 29 seats in the House and six in the Senate. He pointed out that the seats lost were a result of unethical actions on the Republicans’ part.

However, Gillespie has not lost hope for the upcoming elections.

“The Senate election is going to be close and the Presidential election is going to be close,” he said.

McAuliffe pointed to Hurricane Katrina as “the beginning of the end of the Bush Administration.”

McAuliffe said he believes that it was the government’s responsibility to take care of the people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama who were directly affected by the hurricane.

“As soon as Katrina hit and those dead bodies started floating up, the Republican Party lost [the support of] African Americans,” said McAuliffe.

However, Gillespie noted that there have been recent improvements in employment under the Bush Administration.

According to Gillespie, there were 180,000 new jobs created in March alone and 7.8 million new jobs created in the past 42 months.

“That is a result of the economic policies in the Republican Congress,” said Gillespie.

With the Democrats as the current favorite, McAuliffe said that Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) is a frontrunner. She won the support of 32 out of 34 states in two separate polls, he said.

Gillespie said he also thinks Clinton would make a good leader, although she is from the opposing political party.

“I think the Republicans underestimate [Hillary Clinton],” he said. “I firmly believe that she is every bit as smart as her husband, she is every bit as political as her husband, and I think she is a little bit meaner than he is.”

Gillespie added that both sides have an opportunity to make gains.

“When you put candidates out there and people have a clear choice, you see that the country is still very evenly divided,” he said.

Some students liked how Gillespie and McAuliffe demonstrated this electoral division.

“I thought it was enlightening hearing both sides,” said senior Nadine Olijnyk. “It’s great to know people are willing to debate the issues.”

Other students felt differently about the debate.

“It seemed to mock politics and did more harm than good, which is the reason why people currently are so polarized when it comes to elections,” said junior Armin Wanczyk.

McAuliffe is the immediate past chair of the Democratic National Committee and chair of the Hillary Clinton for President Committee, and Gillespie is the immediate past chair of the Republican National Committee.

Gillespie and McAuliffe faced questions from student panelist members, Andrew Buher, Jamie Papapetros and Ashley Sciarrotta.

— Additional reporting by Suzie Chu and Julia Ernst

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