“I will not tell you who's going to win the presidential race. I will not tell you because I don't know.” Speaking at the 73rd annual Delta Council meeting, Delta State University, Cleveland, Miss., keynote speaker Stu Rothenberg detailed perceptions of a broken Washington, D.C., doled out blame on both sides of the political aisle, and used the farm bill to highlight Congress' ineptitude.

Rothenberg, a highly credentialed political analyst, has served as an analyst on ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN. He often contributes editorials to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.

As he gave the meeting's main address, Rothenberg noted that the political mood in the Delta remains closely in line with the rest of the country. “The national political environment is one that's probably not so different from down here in Mississippi. Most Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country. They're dissatisfied with our politicians, dissatisfied with our political institutions, and they don't like a lot of the news they're reading and watching. They think something is amiss.”

Rothenberg emphasized that he expects the presidential race between Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to be highly competitive, and ultimately very close. “This is going to be an election to watch. We could be at a turning point in American politics.”

Following his initial address, Rothenberg commented on the farm bill, describing how it served to highlight the perception of political incompetence at all levels.

“Sure, everybody was surprised by how long it's taken to get the farm bill. I mean it can be a contentious process. Obviously, it involves negotiations among a number of political leaders and constituency groups. It was ridiculous for it to go this long. And you can see, right here at the end of the game, it turned out to be incredibly complicated. It's been a very difficult process.

“Well, I think this adds to the sense of frustration that nothing can get done — that Washington is broken. Even a bill that is a must-pass, this is not some optional bill — even that Congress can screw up. That feeds the impression not just that Congress is broken, but that Washington is broken.”