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Familiar NPR voices discuss the presidential race at Bridgewater College

Bridget Manley
L to R: BC undergraduate student Jory Cardoza ’26, a political science major, Bobbi Gentry, Bridgewater College Associate Professor of Political Science, Mara Liasson and Jonah Goldberg Monday night (March 25) at Bridgewater College.

Two of the country’s leading commentators in U.S. politics – familiar voices on Morning Edition and All Things Considered – discussed the 2024 election campaign on the campus of Bridgewater college Monday evening. WMRA’s Bridget Manley reports.

Full disclosure: Bridgewater College underwrites programming on WMRA.

Jonah Goldberg, a popular conservative pundit, and Mara Liasson, a veteran NPR reporter and commentator, delved into the issues and events that will shape the 2024 presidential election Monday night during an endowed lecture in Cole Hall.

Goldberg and Liasson both agreed that the election was going to boil down to five swing states, and around 15% of the population who are still undecided. And both agreed that saving democracy would not be what gets people to vote, but rather the “kitchen table issues” that affects our everyday lives.

JONAH GOLDBERG: I think inflation is unbelievably sinister for political purposes because it affects everybody, and it makes people feel like things are out of control. I think Biden has done – well, America has done a serviceable job in bringing inflation down, but there is such a long tail on it, that it reads a lot of resentment.

MARA LIASSON: The thing about inflation, even though inflation has come down overall, in the areas that matter like food it has not. They really are paying more for groceries, and housing has been inflationary for years. And so has education and healthcare. And those are the things that make you a middle-class person.

Liasson said that while kitchen table issues include the economy and inflation, other issues – like the wars in Gaza and Ukraine and abortion have all become “kitchen table issues.”

LIASSON: In 2022, we didn’t understand that abortion was a kitchen table issue.


LIASSON: So sometimes things are kitchen table issues that you don’t think of as the traditional kitchen table issues. It turned out that to women, abortion was a kitchen table issue, and we missed that in 2022.

Both agreed that Biden will have a real problem motivating voters – especially young voters - in the wake of the war in Gaza. Meanwhile, Trumps rhetoric – particularly by calling January 6 defendants “political prisoners and hostages” – might be damning to independent voters who watched the chaos unfold live on national television.

Getting people out to vote might be a deciding factor this year, but even that might prove difficult in the ever-changing political landscape.

GOLDBERG: I think ground game is always really useful and important, it’s just that the old rules about ground game are getting really complicated. Everyone is in a different silo, people don’t answer their cell phone anymore, people distrust people who knock on their door.

LIASSON: There’s going to be a tsunami of fake stuff. We were waiting for the deep fakes to show up last time, but they are here.

Goldberg believes the biggest way to motivate people to the polls is by talking to the people you know.

GOLDBERG: The most reliable and predictive way to motivate voters is face-to-face contact with people you know. I think that’s true for Republicans and I think that’s true for Democrats. If you’re talking about individual people living in Bridgewater, just organize and talk to people.

Bridget Manley graduated with a degree in Mass Communications from Frostburg State University, and has spent most of her adult life working as a morning show producer and reporter for WCBC Radio in Cumberland, MD and WNAV in Annapolis, MD. She moved to Harrisonburg seven years ago and is also a reporter for The Harrisonburg Citizen. When she’s not reporting the news Bridget is the Manager of Operations for Rivercrest Farm and Event Center in Shenandoah, VA, and she also hosts a podcast that shares parenting stories called Birds In A Tree.