Conventional Wisdom Doesn’t Apply for This Summer’s Political Conventions

ABC News’ chief White House correspondent on the presidential race.

Democratic National Convention Logo 2016 Resized“All the TV networks have conducted riot training since the conventions could be quite intense,” said ABC News’ chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl. He was the luncheon speaker during NYU’s International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference on Tuesday, hosted by the university’s newly renamed Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. Tisch, who is chairman of Loews Hotels, interviewed Karl about the recent primary race and upcoming conventions.

The travel industry’s meetings and convention business has returned to normal levels after the extended economic recession. Though as Karl noted, the Democratic convention in Philadelphia and the Republican convention in Cleveland will be far from typical, following what he described as “the strangest campaign season of my lifetime.”

Karl joked that when Tisch contacted him months ago about appearing at the conference, he figured that Jeb and Hillary would have wrapped it up far sooner than June 7. He correctly predicted one of the nominees, and noted all the historical markers this year: the first woman and the first reality star nominees, and the candidates perceived as the least trustworthy and least popular ever.

Republican Convention LogoKarl said the networks clearly have an answer to their earlier debate about whether they need to send their anchors to the conventions. There’s no option now other than wall-to-wall coverage, given the public’s heightened interest. What’s less clear are the sponsorships, given companies’ unease about being associated with the controversial Republican nominee.

Asked about Trump’s chances of winning, Karl believes he’s the underdog, but can still prevail. Under certain scenarios, he thinks Trump has a potential path, given his ability to dominate the news cycle, entertain, be unpredictable and reinvent himself.

On the communications front, Karl facetiously added, “Donald Trump has Hope.” He wasn’t referring to President Obama’s campaign theme, but to Hope Hicks, Trump’s sole PR staffer. While Hicks handles media requests on her own, Clinton’s campaign has multiple media pros, including Jennifer Palmieri, Obama’s former White House communications director.