We liveblogged from The Texas Tribune Festival's closing session, A Conversation About the 2012 Presidential Race, with panelists Gwen Ifill, the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and senior correspondent for PBS NewsHour; Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor and staff writer at The New Yorker; and Julie Mason, host of Sirius XM's "The Press Pool with Julie Mason."
For a recap of Saturday's events, visit our liveblogs, where Tribune reporters followed every panel in each of our six tracks:
State of race? Hertzberg: "It's still really close ... I think an awful lot rests on the debates." Could be some outside event that shakes up. But barring a disaster for Obama, it looks likely that it will be a narrow victory for president.
Gwen Ifill: Obama campaign is worried about lack of excitement, depressed turnout. "They are terrified about the idea of complacency."
Hertzberg says debates can make difference: just look at Perry's collapse. There could be a gaffe.
Julie Mason: Republicans have great opportunity here. She said you have to wonder if another GOP candidate would make race closer.
Mason says Obama and Romney have very similar demeanor, predicts they will get under each others' skin in debates
Hertzberg: convention was very important for Obama. Before that there was a down sense, a "dreary" feeling. Convention "lifted the mood." Called it a "joyful explosion."
Mason: Surprised that more isn't made of Romney flip flops. Hertzberg says conservatives won't let him go to the middle, forcing him to draw back.
Ifill: says disappointment in Obama from base is almost as big a threat to his re-election as economy
Julie Mason says Obama hasn't sold nation on health care. And yet so much 'hubris." Of Obama: "He has sold himself as a good guy" but not sold policy ideas.
Hertzberg of Obama: He is "such a singular creature." After saying, "he's a black American," Ifill chimes in: "So they say."
Discussion about racial politics. Hertzberg says "the viciousness" against Obama is not much different from that leveled against Clinton. But Mason says race is strong undercurrent in race, the fact that "this black man is in charge" is hard for some people to swallow. Ifill says "there is a stream of hostility toward him" that is different from other races in past
Mason: Both campaigns running on hypotheticals. Romney's tack is it should have been better. Obama's is "it could have been worse."
Julie Mason gets biggest laughter and applause for far. Says of GWB: "The Republicans have a restraining order on him."
Hertzberg: ratio of reporting to commenting is a lot lower than it's ever been, mainly because of churning in social media.
Mason says Americans want more substance out of campaign coverage. Said to much focus on silly distractions.
Hertzberg on Romney: "Ideology is something that is foreign to him." Compares him to George H.W. Bush.
Hertzberg says "huge avalanche" of money will come in last weeks, and says Citizens United ruling is outrageous and "mind boggling."
Panelists take pass on predicting outcome of race. Hertzberg: "I don't have a gut feeling this time."
They just played Deep in the Heart of Texas. Now on the Eyes of Texas. If that doesn't get you pumped ... just sayin.