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Fall 2012: Charlie Cook on the presidential election

Political analyst Charlie Cook discusses campaign strategies during a September visit to campus.


Despite the state of the economy, political analyst Charlie Cook gave President Barack Obama a slight advantage over Republican challenger Mitt Romney as he discussed the 2012 presidential election in front of a packed Whitley Auditorium on Sept. 10.

But the publisher of The Cook Political Report was quick to point out there is still much time left and many variables that can determine the outcome of the election.

“This is a close race and it’s going to stay a close race,” he said.

Typically, when the economy is bad, presidents don’t get reelected, Cook said. And while people understand the current administration inherited a bad situation, as time went by, they expected the man they put in the Oval Office to have done more about it.

For many Americans, President Obama spent too much time in his first term fighting for the health care law and not enough time trying to fix the economy, Cook said. Voters let their lack of confidence in the president’s effectiveness be known in the 2010 election cycle that gave the Republican Party a majority in the House of Representatives.

Looking ahead, Cook said, most economists don’t predict the economy will get better this year and consumer confidence is low, with roughly 60 percent of Americans saying the country is on the wrong track.

“If you focus on these numbers, (Obama) shouldn’t get reelected,” he said.

And yet, when confronted with the alternative of having Romney as president, most voters don’t feel comfortable with the choice. Part of this is because Romney’s campaign has not convinced the American people he is someone they can trust to lead the country, Cook added.

No matter who wins, Cook said he is worried elected officials on both sides are not willing to take the middle road. Nowadays, many politicians see compromise as a four-letter word, a sign of weakness or lack of principle. He said the truth is, to get things done, they need to get people pulling in the same direction, no matter what color jersey they wear.

“We didn’t get in this mess just under Democratic presidents or Republican presidents,” Cook said. “My theory is Democrats can screw things up and Republicans can screw things up; but it takes both sides to overly screw things up.”

He said people with the right temperament are not running for office anymore because the standards voters have set are too high, keeping viable candidates on the sidelines. He said some of the flawed presidents Americans elected in the past went on to do great things for the country.

“I hope more young to middle-age people who do have the skill sets and the intelligence, the personality to become effective leaders, run in bigger numbers than in the past 20, 30 years,” he said. “We haven’t done it so well. I hope your generation does better.”

Keren Rivas,
11/2/2012 11:58 AM