As the dust settles from last month’s midterm election, national political pundits in Lawrence Thursday said some potential 2012 presidential match-ups could be easier for President Obama than others.
Pollster Joe Lenski at the Dole Institute of Politics said Republicans might have more success with a ticket of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels — a conservative from the Midwest who has stressed economic issues — and Sen.-elect Marco Rubio, a Tea Party darling from Florida.
“That’s the toughest ticket for the Democrats to run against,” said Lenski, executive vice president and co-founder of Edison Media Research.
Lenski and nine others, including party strategists, pollsters and reporters answered questions from Director Bill Lacy and the audience and forecasted the next two years in national politics as part of the institute’s Post Election Conference 2010.
They said many questions still remain after the GOP took back the House and made strong gains in state legislatures and governorships.
The nation’s unemployment rate and other economic indicators could improve, which would likely be good news for Obama. But Washington will also likely take a different tone for the next two years.
For one, the administration and Republicans might reach a compromise on some legislation. But also pressures from both the right and left could make partisanship more pronounced.
A few pundits had Daniels on their list of dark horses for the GOP nomination, which also included Govs. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Rick Perry of Texas and Chris Christie of New Jersey, along with South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Rep. Mike Pence of Ohio. David Kensinger, incoming chief of staff for Kansas Gov.-elect Sam Brownback, said he was a big fan of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Lenski said Democrats might want to root for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to get the nomination instead of Daniels.
“Palin is quite clearly the instant front-runner in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina,” said Major Garrett, congressional correspondent for the National Journal.
But Garrett, a former Fox News White House correspondent, said Palin would need to transfer her early success into a long-term campaign, including delegating many tasks to staffers.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and 2008 candidates and former Govs. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee were also named as early top-tier candidates.
“I think Republicans really want to like Romney and want him to be their knight in shining armor,” GOP strategist Karen Hanretty said.
But the panelists said Romney would need to overcome GOP criticism for the Massachusetts health care legislation when he was governor.
Gingrich would also need to show that he is disciplined enough, GOP pollster Linda Divall said.
Democratic media strategist Jim Margolis, who worked for the 2008 Obama campaign, said presidents have a history of rebounding to win a second term after midterm losses. He said Obama will likely play up his first-term achievements and praised passage of the health care overhaul, saying conservative criticisms of the bill have not come to fruition.
“I do believe that as we get to the time where we’re a campaigning candidate, we have a real opportunity to tell the story that hasn’t gotten told,” he said.
But Kensinger, who ran Brownback’s successful gubernatorial campaign, said much of the health care law won’t take effect until after the 2012 election.
“That’s essentially the process by which this thing was passed,” he said, “and people essentially haven’t forgotten that.”