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La Pietra Dialogues On the World On-Line
A Glimpse at the Future: The 2012 Race for the Presidency
Stephanie Rachele Peterson
La Pietra Dialogues
October 18, 2011

La Pietra Dialogues hosted a panel of political strategists who weighed in on the rapidly approaching 2012 American Presidential elections, agreeing that the one key factor to victory is trust. 

Robert Shrum, a professor at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service and a Democratic Strategist commented, “The country is confused,” and Stephen Schmidt, John McCain’s Presidential campaign advisor, added, “Nobody trusts anybody.”  Too many promises were made in previous administrations, both Democratic and Republican, that were not kept and Americans are losing faith in politicians´ promises. 

Other panelists included Bruce Haynes, a Republican Political and Public Affairs Strategist, Paul Begala, a Democratic Political Consultant and commentator and Nicole Bacharan, a historian, political analyst and Radio and Television Consultant. 

Shrum opened the discussion by reviewing excerpts from recent debates and soliciting commentary on the two front-runners of the Republican Party, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.  “Romney was steady,” he said in reaction to the debates and “Perry was a bit wobbly.”

The panelists agreed with Shrum, also stating that debates are beginning to shape the success of political campaigns. Schmidt voiced this opinion; “Politics and culture are blending together,” he said,  “One bad debate can eliminate a candidate.” 

There was hardly any talk about Republican nominees other than Romney and Perry, as the consensus seemed to be that Romney is most likely to receive the nod from the Republicans.  Haynes brought up the point that once Governor Christie removed himself from the race for the White House, the reaction was “like a balloon - the air had just come out.”  However, with Christie endorsing Romney and Romney being the candidate “most prepared to be President,” said Haynes, there was little doubt in the minds of the panelists from both sides of the political spectrum that Romney will be the Republican candidate running against Obama in 2012.

The next question is, what now?  What must Obama or the Republican Party do in order to rally enough support to win the Presidency?

The economy and government spending are constant controversies among the candidates and across the country at large.  Foreign policy is a major factor in how the economy will bounce back and how the government is currently spending money on wars and resolving tension overseas.  All panelists agreed that the American people need to see some sort of hope in stabilizing the turmoil caused by the economic crisis, especially the daunting figure of the continued downward spiral of income rates. An article from the New York Times cited a statistic that showed a 6.7% decrease in household income during the two years following the crisis, building on the 3.2% decrease seen during it.

One audience member also mentioned that it seems the ladder to the “American Dream” is being dismantled.  It’s becoming increasingly harder to find jobs, for business owners to build and expand, and it leaves little room for growth.  Begala believes that this is the area in which Obama shines over any Republican candidate, including Romney.  “He has lived the American Dream,” Begala stated, and that is what he needs to play up in order to win.

The other important factor in winning the election is, as always, getting the votes of the minority groups and the twelve “purple states” or “swing states” that have bipartisan beliefs and swing between both parties depending on the Presidential election (NV, NM, CO, IO, MN, IL, OH, NH, PA, VA, NC, FL).  In the PurplePoll that was realized in September of this year, with a sample size of 1360 people from these states, Romney led Obama in a head to head race by three percent in total favorability.  However, with the statistical margin of error being +/- 2.7 it is neck in neck.  Haynes, who helped carry out the poll, believes this is a sign that the American people don’t care which side gets the job, as long as it gets done.

In short, Americans and people around the globe are frightened by what the future may bring.  Bacharan commented that Obama is struggling in the United States and the world stage in leadership.  The European people went from being “totally smitten” with Obama to “totally puzzled.”  If Obama wants to win the upcoming election, he is going to have to find a way to clear the air of this confusion.  

Both the Republican and Democratic Parties need something completely fresh and new in order to win the presidency, and whichever party is able to supply that and rally the American people behind it, will be leading the United States in 2012.

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