12:30 pm EDT - 1:00 pm EDT

Past Event

Previewing the 2012 Presidential Election: A Live Web Chat with William Galston

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

12:30 pm - 1:00 pm EDT

The Brookings Institution
Online only

1775 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC

With a decisive victory in the Texas primary, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney passed the 1,144 delegate threshold and clinched his party’s nomination. The final sprint to the White House now begins in earnest as President Obama and candidate Romney crisscross the country courting voters and outlining their competing visions for nation.

How are the campaigns adapting themselves in key swing states such as Florida, Ohio and Virginia? Will a slowing economic recovery derail President Obama’s chances for reelection? On June 6, Brookings expert William Galston took your questions and comments in a live web chat moderated by Vivyan Tran of POLITICO.

12:30 Vivyan Tran: Welcome everyone, let’s get started!

12:30 [Comment From Anne: ] How does Gov. Walker’s win in Wisconsin yesterday affect the presidential election? Will this give added momentum to the Romney campaign?

12:31 William Galston: In two ways. First, the Romney campaign will make an all-out effort to wrest Wisconsin away from Obama. And second, Romney will come under intense conservative pressure not to move to the center during the general election.

12:31 [Comment From Samantha: ] What is your analysis of the campaigns thus far? Are there any obvious adjustments Romney and Obama should make?

12:33 William Galston: The Romney campaign has done a pretty good job of maintaining focus on the economy. By contrast, the Obama campaign has been all over the map. They’re spending their time appealing to specific groups (e.g., women, students) on narrow issues rather than making a broad appeal to the country. I expect them to shift course pretty soon.

12:33 [Comment From Joe, S: ] Do the results of last night’s recall show that the influence of organized labor is waning in U.S. politics?

12:35 William Galston: Private sector unions have been in steep decline for decades. Last night indicates that public sector unions aren’t invincible, at least in current circumstances. Notably, the Wisconsin unions couldn’t persuade Obama to campaign for them.

12:35 [Comment From George, DC: ] The economy now seems to be losing steam. Given that the economy appears to be issue #1 this election, how does (or can) Obama adjust?

12:36 William Galston: He can’t evade the issue, and at this point he can’t affect the economy very much between now and November. So he has to make the case that he’s done the best that anyone could have done in very difficult circumstances.

12:36 [Comment From Violet: ] What is your feeling on Citizens United? Should the Supreme Court revisit this issue now that so much corporate money is finding its way into campaigns?

12:37 William Galston: They should, but they won’t.

12:37 [Comment From Anthony, Va: ] Has there been any more discussion on Romney’s VP choice? When do you think we might hear about his selection?

12:40 William Galston: There has been a lot of talk about it, and it’s continuing. Much of the speculation has centered on Rob Portman, a senator from Ohio. He’d be a safe choice, which matters. If Romney thinks he needs a “game-changer,” which is what McCain thought in 2008, then he’ll go for someone more exciting but riskier (Rubio, Jindal). Right now he’s competitive enough with the president not to need to take risks, but that could change. As for timing, there have been rumors that he might break with tradition and name his choice well in advance of the convention.

12:41 [Comment From Brian, DC: ] At this point in the race, which states do you think will prove most critical in the election?

12:45 William Galston: There are three main baskets of states–one in the Midwest, another in the Southwest, the third in the “Rim South.” The first is the largest (Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania). In the SW, Colorado and Nevada are critical. The Obama campaign thinks it has a chance in Arizona; I don’t. In the Rim South, Virginia looks pretty promising for Obama; North Carolina, much less so. Florida’s 29 electoral votes will be hotly contested, as usual, and so will New Hampshire.

12:45 [Comment From Bill, E: ] I know that you are a part of the No Labels organization. What role do you think independent voters will play in the 2012 presidential election?

12:47 William Galston: Crucial. The Pew Research Center recently released a survey showing that 38 percent of Americans now consider themselves independents–an all-time high. To be sure, many of them lean toward one party or another. But it will be difficult for either candidate to win a popular-vote majority without prevailing among the pure independents who are real swing voters.

12:47 [Comment From Bob: ] Do you think this election will come down to the wire in November, or will we have a clear winner sooner than that?

12:49 William Galston: Based on my analysis of the six most recent presidential campaigns involving incumbents, this election is shaping up to be contested all the way. I’d be surprised if either candidate pulled away from the other before the presidential debates in October.

12:49 [Comment From Caitlyn: ] Is there any way for President Obama to be productive in the last few months leading up to the election? Or will he be completely distracted by the campaign?

12:50 William Galston: He’s in full campaign mode. And even if he weren’t, Congress is in no mood to cooperate with him on a legislative agenda between now and the election.

12:51 [Comment From Virginia: ] Do you think that after the 2012 election, political polarization will die down a bit? When will Washington get back to the matter of actually governing?

12:52 William Galston: Beats me. I thought it would happen after Obama’s first two years, but it didn’t. It’s possible that the two parties won’t get together and compromise until there’s another crisis. I hope we can do better than that, but I’m not confident that we will.

12:52 [Comment From Karen K: ] Who will out raise whom, and how will this impact the results?

12:53 William Galston: I expect that both campaigns will have plenty of money–unlike 2008, when the Obama forces outspent McCain by a large margin.

12:53 [Comment From Timothy: ] In your opinion, are there ways that the next government can reform Washington and help it operate a little more smoothly and with more bipartisanship?

12:55 William Galston: Yes, absolutely. And the place to begin is Congress. We need common-sense reforms to the nominations process, the filibuster and the congressional work schedule, among other items. The reform agenda already exists, and it’s time to move on it.

12:55 [Comment From Erica: ] Do you expect health reform to be a prominent issue in this election cycle? What are we likely to hear on the topic from the Romney and Obama campaigns?

12:56 William Galston: Yes, especially if the Supreme Court overturns some or all of the Affordable Care Act. We’ll know before the end of this month.

12:57 [Comment From Elaine: ] What do you think would be the best campaign strategy for Obama going forward?

12:57 William Galston: He should present his record to the American people in the most persuasive way he can. Attacking Romney won’t be enough.

12:58 [Comment From Judy: ] How does Romney get back to the center again? If he’s elected president, he can’t simply govern to the wishes of the far right.

1:00 William Galston: I agree with you, but he hasn’t made it any easier for himself in the campaign so far. We’ll know pretty soon whether he intends to shift at all from his hard-line primary stances. The real test case is the Hispanic vote, which recoiled in disgust after the Republican debates. If Romney doesn’t add anything to his program that’s more attractive to Hispanics, he could pay a big price and maybe lose for that reason. He’s aware of this fact and has talked about it openly, but he hasn’t done anything about it up to now.

1:01 Vivyan Tran: Thanks for the questions everyone, see you next week.