With the Democratic National Convention in full swing, the focus on the U.S. presidential sweepstakes moved to the UNC Charlotte campus last Friday with the taping of the PBS weekly show, "Washington Week with Gwen Ifill."
Nearly 300 students, faculty and other guests filtered into the Anne R. Belk Theater to watch Ifill discuss the latest political news with a panel of veteran reporters: Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post; Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times; John Harwood, chief Washington correspondent for CNBC and a political writer for The New York Times; and Alexis Simendinger, of RealClearPolitics.
Ifill arrived on the UNC Charlotte campus on Friday, after wrapping up her duties as co-host of PBS's Republican convention coverage from Tampa with her "PBS NewsHour" colleague, Judy Woodruff. They will continue those same roles at the DNC in Charlotte, starting on Tuesday, Sept. 4.
After being introduced by Chancellor Philip L. Dubois, Ifill engaged the audience with her humor, telling them she was looking forward to introducing the panel of "sleep-deprived journalists."
Once the roundtable conversation began, she questioned her colleagues on topics ranging from whether Republican nominee Mitt Romney succeeded in raising his likability rating in Tampa to what President Obama needs to do in Charlotte to help him win a second term.
Harwood said he felt Romney did show off his human side at the Republican National Convention.
"He showed some emotion and he talked about his family and his parents,” he said.
"His favorability ratings are in the mid 30 percent range, which means he is the arguably the most unpopular presidential nominee in history," said Tumulty, citing polling results by her newspaper.
Ifill asked Zeleny what President Obama needed to accomplish at this week’s convention.
"He needs to reach out and reconnect with the same people who voted for him last time," he said. "And he needs to be more forward looking."
Following the taping of the "Washington Week PBS Election 2012" special, a second half-hour program was taped featuring Ifill and the panelists fielding questions from the audience. The "Washington Week Extra - North Carolina Edition" is available on the "Washington Week" website.
On Thursday, UNC Charlotte held a special in-depth "Behind the Scenes View" for students with the TV show’s producers as part of the University's 49er Democracy Experience. The 49er Democracy Experience brings together expert faculty, civic-minded students and community partners to develop educational programming to enhance the public understanding of and participation in our nation’s democratic process.
"Washington Week," the critically acclaimed PBS program, is in its 45th year on the air, making it the longest-running primetime news and public affairs program on television.
Ifill is moderator and managing editor of "Washington Week" and senior correspondent for the "PBS NewsHour." She is also the best-selling author of "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama" (Doubleday, 2009).