Political strategists predict Republican gains in midterm elections

The Nov. 2 midterm elections will be critical for the country’s direction, two top political players said Tuesday.

Former Hillary Clinton campaign strategist Mark Penn and President George W. Bush adviser Karen Hughes predicted the Republican Party would see gains in the House of Representatives and the governorships at an event in the Jack Morton Auditorium.

But Penn cautioned that 10 to 15 percent of voters are still undecided.

“If there is one thing that voters are demanding, it’s more and more choice,” Penn said. “There is obviously a huge wave of discontent . . . that could have long-term effects on both the American psyche and on politics today.”

Hughes said the midterms could have a particularly large impact because they could lead to a power shift two years into Barack Obama’s presidency.

“After two years, frankly, I think that a lot of people have had their hopes dashed,” Hughes said. “Instead of seeing the best of politics.we have seen the worst of Washington.”

Penn and Hughes frequently jumped ahead to the 2012 presidential election, with Penn mentioning former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin several times.

“If Sarah Palin is the Republican presidential candidate, I don’t care if unemployment is 50 percent, I don’t think she will be elected,” Penn said.

He said it gives him hope when he sees her on morning talk shows, because while she may be a “turnout” for the conservative base, she is “turnoff” for young voters, women and other groups who contributed to Obama’s victory.

A question from the audience about the possible consequences of a Republican-dominated Congress due in part to tea party candidates elicited a defense of the grassroots movement from Hughes.

“By and large, this is a movement that is trying to restore the Republican party to core principles . . . I don’t see it as a separate party, but as a reminder to Republicans of what we stand for,” she said.

Penn disagreed, saying, “Maybe there is a Rubio in Florida but there’s an O’Donnell in Delaware,” referring to Republican front-runner and tea party “poster boy” Marco Rubio running for Senate, and fellow candidate Christine O’Donnell, who has garnered attention for her comments about witchcraft and views against masturbation.

In an interview with The Hatchet, Penn and Hughes said the biggest question facing college students in the upcoming election is the economy.

“One of the big concerns . . . is that perhaps the world that we are going to leave to the next generation is not going to be as stable or as prosperous because of the mounting debt,” Hughes said.

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