The 2012 election between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney has often been compared to the 2004 election.
The line between Americans' dissatisfaction with United States
politics and the trust the public has in Obama compared to Romney leads
to a close race.
"There are people who will never like President Obama, there are
people who will never like Gov. Mitt Romney," said Donna Brazile, a
Democratic strategist and founder and managing director of Brazile &
Associates, during Tuesday's morning lecture.
Brazile and Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist, had a conversation
with retired "PBS NewsHour" anchor Jim Lehrer as part of Week Two's
programming on the theme "The Lehrer Report: What Informed Voters Need
to Know." Ayres and Brazile discussed why they believe each candidate
should win the election and the recent Supreme Court health care
decision's role in the 2012 elections.
Ayres, who is also president of Ayres, McHenry & Associates, was
the first to explain why he believes Americans should vote for Romney as
"You should vote for Mitt Romney because four more years of what we've had would be a disaster," he said.
Compared to 2008 and based on what voters are saying, Ayres said, a
substantial majority of Americans think the economy is worse, the
federal government's fiscal standing is weaker, the government's ability
to solve problems is worse, and that the U.S.'s standing in the world
Re-election campaigns become a referendum of the incumbent. Looking
at the president's record and the increased partisanship, Ayres said he
does not believe Obama deserves to be re-elected.
"It will be close, but I think most Americans will agree it's time
for something different," Ayres said, "and that something different is
going to be Mitt Romney."
Brazile agreed that an incumbent's re-election is a referendum.
"However, unless the president is wholly unpopular, the other candidate must be an acceptable choice," she said.
The U.S. will re-elect Obama so he can finish the job he started,
Brazile said. She said he would bring the economy to fiscal health,
improve American lives, strengthen national defense and keep the country
safe and secure.
Though she agrees the public is dissatisfied with the politics of the
country, division and partisanship, she said Obama still possesses the
traits of a leader.
"I think that he will win the re-election," Brazile said, "and he
will continue to tackle some of the most pressing problems we have in
Ayres responded to Brazile by telling the audience to remember three numbers: 77, 47 and 8.2.
The first number, 77, is the percentage of people who told Gallup
Organization last week they are dissatisfied with the direction of the
"It's a truism in my business you can't get re-elected if a majority of the country is dissatisfied," he said.
The second number, 47, is the percentage of Obama's May job approval
average, according to Gallup. Usually, presidents who are re-elected
have a job approval average of almost always 50 percent or higher, Ayres
said. Obama is hovering just below that percentage.
And the number 8.2 represents the most recent unemployment rate.
Previously, the highest unemployment rate during a re-election campaign
was in 1984 during Ronald Reagan's re-election. At the time, it was at
7.4 percent, Ayres said.
If those three numbers remain as they are by Election Day, it will be difficult for Obama to win the re-election, Ayres said.
Brazile agreed that the numbers Ayres shared with the audience were
legitimate, but she also said Romney should be seven or eight points
ahead of Obama based on those numbers.
"But we're not dealing with a national election, ladies and
gentlemen," she said. "We're dealing with an election that will be
fought in about eight to 10 states."
In those states, she said, Obama is in a strong position. The
election will come down to a handful of states that make a difference in
the Electoral College, she said.
The 2012 election is also expected to be similar to the 2004 election between President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry.
"It's going to be close," Brazile said. "It's going to be
uncomfortable for a lot of people who don't like to stay up and watch
CNN until 3 in the morning."
She said another aspect of the election affecting the numbers Ayres shared is the level of uncertainty there is among Americans.
"Uncertainty sometimes breeds fear, and that fear is what's driving consumer confidence," Brazile said.
Though the economy will be the main issue around which the election
revolves, the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act could
also play a role.
When the health care legislation was introduced to the public, Obama
did not explain the bill in a way that could be understood, Brazile
Ayres said the fundamental issue with the health care legislation is
that many people don't believe what Obama said about it. Rather, an
overwhelming majority believes the law will increase health care costs,
premiums and the federal deficit, he said.
"It's not that he hasn't tried to sell it," Ayres said, "it's that
the credibility on the issue is not sufficient so that he can sell it."
Now that the Supreme Court has made a decision, Obama has the
opportunity during his campaign to have the conversation he did not have
before, Brazile said.
Just before the conversation on health care shifted, Brazile made a
final point that Romney had difficulty fighting against Obama during the
primaries and will continue to have trouble during the campaign.
The decision on the health care legislation will ensure that this
year's election is a referendum on Obama, Ayres said. But both he and
Brazile agreed that the economy is still the top issue.
"It's still the quality of our lives and our future as it relates to health care itself," Brazile said.
Whit Ayres is founder and president of North Star Opinion Research, a national public opinion and public affairs research firm. Dr. Ayres provides message development advice and strategic insights to high level political clients including U.S. Senators Marco Rubio, Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, Lindsey Graham, and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, and association clients including the Boy Scouts of America, the National Rifle Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, and the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association.
Veteran political strategist Donna Brazile is vice chair of Voter Registration and Participation at the Democratic National Committee and former chair of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute. She also served for a brief time earlier in 2011 as acting chairwoman of the DNC. She is a former member of the board of directors of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, responsible for leading the state’s rebuilding process in the aftermath of two catastrophic hurricanes.
A New Orleans native, Brazile began her political career at 9, when she worked to elect a City Council candidate who had promised to build a playground in her neighborhood. The candidate won, the swing sets were installed and a lifelong passion for political progress was ignited. Four decades later, Brazile has worked on every presidential campaign from 1976 through 2000, when she served as campaign manager for former Vice President Al Gore, becoming the first African-American woman to manage a presidential campaign.
Brazile is author of the best-selling memoir Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, a syndicated newspaper columnist for United Media, a columnist for Ms. Magazine, and O, The Oprah Magazine, and an on-air contributor to CNN and ABC, where she regularly appears on “This Week with Christiane Amanpour.”
In August 2009, O, The Oprah Magazine, chose Brazile as one of its 20 “remarkable visionaries” for the magazine’s first-ever O Power List. In addition, she was named among the 100 Most Powerful Women by Washingtonian magazine and the Top 50 Women in America by Essence magazine, and received the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s highest award for political achievement. Brazile is founder and managing director of Brazile & Associates LLC, a general consulting, grassroots advocacy and training firm based in Washington, D.C.
Since he wasn't a very good baseball player, he turned to sports writing, then writing in general. As a member of what he's called "the Hemingway generation," he decided to support himself as a newspaper writer until he could make a living as a novelist.
After graduating from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism, Lehrer served for three years in the U.S. Marine Corps, then began his career as a newspaper reporter, columnist and editor in Dallas. His first novel, about a band of Mexican soldiers re-taking the Alamo, was published in 1966 and made into a movie. Lehrer quit his newspaper job in order to write more books, but was lured back into reporting after he accepted a part-time consulting job at the Dallas public television station. He was eventually made host and editor of a nightly news program at the station.
Lehrer then moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked as public affairs coordinator for PBS and as a correspondent for the National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT). At NPACT, Lehrer teamed up with Robert MacNeil to provide live coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings, broadcast on PBS. It was the beginning of a partnership that would last more than 20 years, as Lehrer and MacNeil co-hosted The MacNeil/Lehrer Report (originally The Robert MacNeil Report) from 1976 to 1983, and The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour from 1983 to 1995. In 1995, MacNeil left the show, but Lehrer soldiered on as solo anchor and executive editor of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
When he wasn't busy hosting the country's first hour-long news program, Lehrer wrote and published books, including a series of mystery novels featuring his fictional lieutenant governor, One-Eyed Mack, and a political satire, The Last Debate. Lehrer surprised critics and won new readers with his breakout success, White Widow, the "tender and tragic" (Washington Post) tale of a small-town Texas bus driver. He followed it with the bestselling Purple Dots, a "high-spirited Beltway romp" (The New York Times Book Review), and The Special Prisoner, about a WWII bomber pilot whose brutal experiences in a Japanese P.O.W. camp come back to haunt him 50 years later. His recent novel No Certain Rest recounts the quest of a U.S. Parks Department archaeologist to solve a murder committed during the Civil War.
Across this wide range of subjects, Lehrer is known for his careful plotting and even more careful research. Clearly, this is a man who cares about good stories -- but which is more important to him, journalism or fiction? Lehrer once admitted that he's known as "the TV guy who also writes books. Someday, maybe it will go the other way and I'll be the novelist who also does television."