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Donaldson: Press mostly smitten with Obama; Indiana vote crucial

In O’Bannon Institute speech, former White House correspondent talks about importance of the upcoming primary
By Mercedes Rodriguez 331-4370 |
April 25, 2008

Veteran network news reporter Sam Donaldson laid it all out during the annual Ivy Tech O’Bannon Institute dinner Thursday night at the Indiana Memorial Union. Most of the press is smitten with presidential candidate Barack Obama, he said, and Indiana’s voters have a pivotal decision to make during the May primary.

Sam Donaldson speaks Thursday at the Indiana Memorial Union. Mercedes Rodriguez | Herald-Times

Alumni Hall was filled with local politicos, Ivy Tech and Indiana University staff and students and many others there to hear the former White House correspondent. There to introduce him was former Indiana first lady Judy O’Bannon, who received a rousing standing ovation from the audience.

The press, Donaldson said, is “already mostly in favor of Obama” — in their eyes, Hillary Rodham Clinton carries too much baggage from her past.

On the other hand, Donaldson noted Clinton’s statement that Obama can’t close the deal, that he can’t achieve a decisive victory. Donaldson speculated that perhaps Obama has been unable to decisively beat Clinton because voters don’t know enough about him, or because he is perceived as too liberal or maybe even because he cannot attract enough white voters.

“Let’s just put it on the table — race is still a problem in this country,” he said.

Indiana’s primary results, he proffered, could mean two things.

“You’re either going to help validate her assertion that he can’t close the deal ... Or you’re going to say he’s found a message at last, we’re getting to know him better,” Donaldson said.

Indiana’s choice for the Democratic nomination is absolutely critical, he said, as the handling of the economy and foreign policy will be especially important.

On Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Donaldson said, “His great strength with the American public is everybody believes he’s a straight shooter who will say exactly what he thinks.” But Donaldson noted that McCain’s age is a major setback.

Donaldson’s talk, one filled with animated gestures and a few funny voice impersonations of Ronald Reagan, also included anecdotes about interviews with Sean Connery, the mother of former Mexican President Vicente Fox and others.

In the audience was Jenn Marcum, who said that overall she enjoyed the speech. But “I was trying to figure out who he was trying to address — a liberal crowd or a conservative crowd,” she said. “At one point, into it, he started hitting things home.”