Two top political strategists grappled with the outcome of last Tuesday’s midterm elections, discussing results and making predictions about the incoming Congress in Jack Morton Auditorium Thursday.
Democratic strategist Mark Penn and Republican strategist Karen Hughes – in their second appearance together at GW in two weeks – analyzed the aftermath of the midterm elections, in which Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives in a sweeping victory and made minor gains in the Senate.
Penn, Hillary Clinton’s former campaign strategist, said it will take some serious effort for the new Congress and the Obama administration to work together.
“People can be anti-spending, but at the end of the day people kind of like government. We could get into a Republican ‘no’ phase that goes too far, because history repeats itself,” Penn said.
Hughes, former senior adviser to former President George W. Bush, argued that a complete turnaround of the status quo is necessary.
“To sum up [President Barack] Obama’s term so far in a bumper sticker, it would read, ‘There are not enough jobs and too much spending,'” Hughes said.
The panelists also discussed the considerable drop in turnout in the younger generation this election cycle compared to the 2008 cycle, a statistic the panelists said contributed significantly to the election outcome.
“Obama got the majority of voters to vote for him, which hasn’t really happened since Carter. Republicans and the tea party won the turnout,” Penn said.
Hughes argued that young voters stayed home because they were not happy with the status quo.
“There are enormous ripple effects of the Republican gains. The reason young voters stayed home is that they are unhappy with the president’s dashed promises that politics would be better, and instead voters have seen the worst of Washington,” Hughes said.
Penn maintained that the midterm results will not have an effect on Obama’s chances of re-election in 2012.
He made a reference to former President Bill Clinton’s re-election in 1996 after the 1994 midterm elections, in which Republicans gained control of the House in a similarly sweeping victory.
“Just as Clinton came back, Obama can come back from the midterm elections in two years,” Penn said.