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Paul Hunter on America's Broken Dream


Paul Hunter sits down with a Mormon American in Part 2 of "America's Broken Dream" - The Book of Romney

The U.S. presidential election is tomorrow (Nov. 6) and throughout this year's race to the White House, CBC Washington correspondent Paul Hunter went straight into the political landscape with the people and places deciding their country's future in his in-depth series which aired on The National, "America's Broken Dream".

We sat down with Paul to talk about "America's Broken Dream" and his experience as a Canadian political correspondent living in Washington and covering the political scene this election year:

CBC Live: Tell us about your four-part series, "America's Broken Dream".

Paul Hunter: It's a series about the election, which sounds very broad strokes... that's what we set out to do: What's the problem? Who are the people that Americans are choosing from? And in a sense, it's that simple.

Why are Canadian viewers interested in this series?

PH: First thing I'd say is you're right that they are interested. I've been putting this series together in Toronto for the last couple of weeks and I walk around the city and sometimes people would come up and say something and they all ask, 'Who's going to win on November 6th?' And I'm in Canada, we're not in Washington right now. 

It affects so much of what we do... every time we flip on the TV we are inundated with things that are America, we travel there constantly, they are our friends even though we are very different from them. I think that's part of the appeal as well. It's just fascinating to watch a country that is in the crisis that it's in, struggling with it and grappling with which person to make into the most powerful person on Earth. There's a drama attached to that but that has real consequences for the world including Canada.

How were you welcomed by Americans while you filmed the series?

PH: When you do what we did, which is meet with regular folks, we could not have been more welcomed. It was remarkable. In our first story when we met two individuals who were living in their vehicles, they said, 'Come on in. What do you need to know? Do you need a muffin?' I'm not making this up. It was incredible. 'Do you need more time? What can I do for you?' 

When we went to Utah to talk about a very sensitive subject for a lot of Mormons, which is their religion and how they are perceived because they are the butt of jokes in many corners: 'Come on in. What do you need to know? How can we help you learn more about us?' 

When we intruded on diners in Ohio and Virginia and Florida and they've got a business to run in a tough economy: 'Come on in. What do you need?' In Florida, to finish the four stories, we followed someone around who was trying to make sure people were registered and she said, 'You should come to our church service tomorrow. The preacher talks about this kind of stuff. Come on in.' It was unbelievable and it reinforced for us, really, that this matters to people. 

How does this U.S. presidential election differ from the one you covered in 2008?

PH: I would say the main difference between this one and the '08 is that a sense of history-in-the-making is not a part of this. 

What '08 was about was a general expectation that Obama would win and that history would be made with the first black president. There was real excitement.  

This is a campaign between two philosophies, two ways forward out of the economy. It's that simple. A discussion about a black president being re-elected is not a part of the campaign. It's as if America has sort of moved post that kind of stuff. Now we might re-elect a black president but nobody is talking about that and I think that says a lot about where America is right now relative to where it was four years ago. This election is about the economy. 

What has surprised you within the Washington political community during this U.S. presidential election year?

PH: One of our pieces is about Mitt Romney's Mormonism. We did go to Salt Lake City and learned about Mormonism and how that might inform Mitt Romney as president. 

But you're not really hearing anybody say he ought not be president because he's Mormon - which would have been an unfortunate thing had people said it. But I'm just surprised that it didn't come out, again, given the kind of questions about Barack Obama in 2008 including his religion. 

I'm going to say it's not because people aren't wondering about it but I think it really underlines the hugeness of the economy as the deciding factor in this election. It's like, 'Whatever religion you are, if you can fix the economy you get my vote,' I think is how most Americans would put it right now. To me, that's been the surprise - that it's been so solely focused on the economy throughout this whole period.

You can watch all four parts of "America's Broken Dream" - The Death of the Middle Class, The Book of Romney, Obama's Photo Finish and The Trouble with Florida - here:

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Tune into CBC News tomorrow (Nov. 6) for 
the most extensive Canadian coverage of the U.S. Presidential Election



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