Larry Sabato: Political pundit and proud of it

Larry Sabato is running late. When he finally arrives in the building, one of his staffers announces the approach of "Hurricane Larry."

The UVA Center for Politics, which Sabato heads, has just launched its Crystal Ball website with his predictions for the midterm elections. As a result, he's gotten about 60 phone calls that day. But then, that's why the Wall Street Journal calls Sabato "the most quoted college professor in the land."

Sabato credits his father with first sparking his interest in politics, and he remembers watching with him the 1960 conventions that nominated Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. "He was very interested in public affairs," says Sabato. "This is his legacy."

Larry Sabato's legacy could very well be to polish up the tarnished reputation of politics, which is, after all, an essential element of a democratic government. His mantra is "Politics is a good thing," and he's just succeeded in changing the blandly named Center for Governmental Studies to the more apt Center for Politics.

And how's this for legitimacy? The Center is launching a $20 million capital campaign, part of which will go toward renovating its new digs, the antebellum Birdwood Pavilion.

As oft-quoted as he is, there's one thing no one not even his mother– knows about Sabato: what goes on behind the curtain of the voting booth. "I never reveal that," he says. "I'm an independent contrarian."

Age: None of your damn business, but 50, if you must know.

What brought you here? Snafu by UVA admissions in 1970

What's worst about living here? Absolutely nothing. This is God's country.

Favorite hangout? UVA Center for Politics

Most overrated virtue: My virtues are all unrated.

People would be surprised to know...: I've been a vegetarian since the age of 11.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Subtract 30 years from my age.

Accomplishment you're proudest of? The UVA Center for Politics and the National Youth Leadership Initiative

What do people find most annoying about you? My 3am voicemail messages that take up the whole tape.

Whom do you admire? Former UVA president Edgar Shannon

Favorite book? You mean other than Overtime! The Election 2000 Thriller? V.O. Key's Southern Politics.

What subject causes you to rant? State budget cuts

What thrills you about life in the 21st century? Cryogenics it gives me hope.

What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? That I'm not going to see most of it

What do you drive? My staff crazy

What's in your car tape player right now? Golden Oldies from the '60s

What's your next journey? Purgatory?

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? Basement of the University Chapel in 1972. 'Nuff said.

What do you regret? That I don't get to know each one of my American Politics 101 students because the class is so large.

Favorite comfort food? Premium ice cream

What's always in your refrigerator? Lots of Coca-Cola for my frequent all-nighters

Must-see TV? The History Channel

Favorite cartoon? South Park

 Describe a perfect day. A full day of writing with the telephone not ringing

Walter Mitty fantasy? To be Superman, of course, fighting for truth, justice and the American way but without the tights

Who'd play you in the movie? My very distant cousin, Antonio Sabato Jr., or Conan O'Brien's Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog

Most embarrassing moment? My recent roast in Richmond for the benefit of the Center of Politics

Best advice you ever got? Edgar Shannon said to me after I got a Rhodes Scholarship, "Don't let your obituary read 'Larry Sabato, Rhodes Scholar,' because it means you never did anything after you got it."

Favorite bumper sticker? "Keep the big boys honest!" (with thanks to my old mentor, Henry Howell)

 

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