In delivering the keynote address at the CCJ Spring Symposium, Ari Fleischer, a political analyst for CNN and the former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, reflected on the hallmarks of his career and offered his insights into the 2012 election.
“The White House is for everybody. It was an honor to be in service to our great country,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you work for. When you are in service in the White House, it is a reminder of all that is good and true about our country.”
Fleischer said the events of Sept. 11, 2001, made a lasting impression on him as a first-hand witness to the tragedy and its aftermath. “This is what America is made of. It is the moral fabric that keeps us together as one. Always, but always, America prevails.” Fleishcer said his original notes on everything the president did and said on that day will be in the George W. Bush presidential library when it opens in April 2013.
With less than 6 months from the next presidential election, he said the results from the 2010 mid-term election raised the prospect that Obama could be defeated in 2012. The mid-term election was a “rare tidal wave” that turned over 63 seats in the House of Representatives to republican control.
Fleischer attributed the results to “spending fatigue.” The spending began in 2008 under George W. Bush with the bailout of the automotive and banking industries and continued with an $800 billion stimulus passed under the Obama administration. The stimulus fell flat and unemployment broke 10 percent with long-term unemployment the highest since the Great Depression, Fleischer says.
In 2010 all voting groups turned against the democrats, including a 16 point swing in the independent vote. “The last election was a powerful lesson in how quickly politics can change and how angry and volatile the electorate has become,” he said. “Voters are plenty angry at both parties. It is very hard to forecast what will happen.”
Since the last presidential election, President Obama has dropped from a high of 70 percent to a 49 percent approval rating. Republicans are emerging from a brutal primary, but no president has ever been re-elected with an approval rating below 48 percent and unemployment above 7.2 percent.
“I see another 50/50 race emerging. It is going to be another close election,” he said. “We are a closely divided nation. Neither party has the goodwill of the American public.”
Fleischer predicted that the biggest factors in the upcoming election will be the two remaining GDP reports in July and October and the six unemployment reports before November.” If unemployment ticks up, Obama will join their ranks. Otherwise it will put wind in the president’s back.” The single biggest factor will be single people and young people who traditionally vote democrat by large margins.
“My hope for everybody in the room is may you get older, meet somebody and get married,” he quipped.
Regarding the vice president selection process, Fleischer said that nobody really knows who Mitt Romney will choose, but whoever it is will not deliver a state or ethnic block. As for Fleischer, “I would pick Paul Ryan. I want fiscally rounded conservatism. Paul Ryan represents that,” he said. “He is one of the best people I’ve ever met.”
Fleischer said the economic impact of a Romney victory would be profound. It would qualm the hesitation in the business community to invest.
“I don’t like the words the president uses. I don’t understand what is wrong to maximize profits. I don’t like government describing what a ‘fair shot’ is,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, if I were an employer, the people who work for me that are the smartest and more capable are going to make more and do better. That’s a free market that decides it.”
The CCJ Spring Symposium, a Randall-Reilly event, is being held May 21-23 in Birmingham, Ala.