National Press Club

DNC, RNC Chairmen Review Presidential Campaign at Luncheon

November 6, 2008

The Democratic and Republican national committee chairman paid homage to their candidates, voters, and the political process, and fielded pointed questions from the audience today at a sold-out National Press Club luncheon.

We accepted this invitation long before we knew how the election would turn out, and that was a bit of a risk, joked DNC Chairman Howard Dean who shared the stage today with RNC Chairman Robert M. (Mike) Duncan. My heart goes out to Mike, because I know he is in a tough spot.

Nonetheless, a proud and admittedly sleep-deprived Dean announced that America chose hope over fear and unity over division when they elected Sen. Barack Obama last night with 52 percent of the vote compared to 46 percent for McCain.

We are passing the torch to a new generation, said Dean, the former governor of Vermont, who became DNC chair in February 2005. We have a new mandate, and we are going to work together to make the changes that are necessary to help our country move forward.

Dean noted that four years ago the luncheon held the day after the election was a different experience for the RNC. Indeed, Duncan, a 30-year political strategist and veteran of Republican politics who was elected RNC chairman in January, 2007, was an active member of the party when George W. Bush was re-elected for his second term in 2004.

Duncan congratulated Obama and the other Democrats who won their races. He said that Sen. McCain led a heroic campaign and is a credit to his party and country. But when I woke up this morning, I left like Lincolns young boy who stubbed his toe. It hurt too much to laugh, but Im too proud to cry.

Duncan also attributed McCains loss to the fact that the DNC was able to outspend Republicans by 3- or 4-to-1 in some states, and referred to Obamas effort as the most successful Republican moderate campaign since Dwight Eisenhower.

When it came time for the audience to ask both chairmen questions, the first one focused on the future of public financing.

Dean said: We should give credit to Barack Obama for the way he handled the financing of his campaign, getting donations that averaged $86 from more than 300 million supporters. To me, that is campaign finance reform.

Duncan responded that he believes in the First Amendment and that more transparency is needed in the campaign finance system. If someone gives a candidate $200 or less right now, their name doesnt have to be attached to the donation. We have the technology to change that.

For copies of the event, contact the NPC Archives (202-662-7598 / email: archives@press.org).

Hope Katz Gibbs is National Press Club member and freelance writer living in Northern Virginia, www.hopegibbs.com.