Democratic Consultants "Totally Unimpressed"

In the wake of midterm elections that President Obama called a “shellacking” for the Democratic Party, two of the nation’s top Democratic political operatives say they read nothing significant into the election of more Hispanics on the Republican ticket this year. 

Speaking at a press breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington Thursday, pollster Stan Greenberg and strategist James Carville—both key operatives in Bill Clinton’s two elections as President—also said that the “tea party movement” was not composed of “swing” voters but actually “core GOP voters” and thus not likely to be co-opted by their party.

Both Greenberg and Carville made a point of noting that the American electorate has been “growing less white” since 1988, that voters were increasingly younger and less married (which works to the advantage of Democrats, insisted Carville). 

“These are demographic shifts taking place that will give Democrats an easier time winning the presidential race,” said Carville, who also conceded that the Republican control of governorships and state legislatures in 21 states made it easier for them to control the House in the next decade.  “And these changes force Republicans to double-down on older white voters.  And when you depend on older white voters, a party is playing with a deadly deck.

When I mentioned that two African-American Republicans won House seats and five new Hispanic Republicans were also elected to the House this month, Greenberg replied “I’m totally unimpressed.”

What was more significant, Greenberg said, was “what happened in the two very key races in California.  In races for governor and senator, the Republican candidates were two independent business-oriented women they were both wiped out.”  The heavy turnout by Hispanic voters in California, he said, was pivotal to their defeat.  He added that a similar big turnout by Hispanic voters in Nevada was key to Democratic Sen. Harry Reid’s survival despite polls showing him losing.

As to why he felt the Hispanic voters would remain with Democrats, Greenberg said Republicans “are going to pay a big price for their support of Arizona-type laws [aimed at curbing illegal immigration].  Every time they talk about this, Greenberg maintains, they lose support in the Hispanic community.

Recalling how his old client and friend President Clinton would draw a line on certain issues with the Republican Congress such as protecting the Department of Education, Greenberg said that he were President Obama, “I would put immigration reform on the table now and say to Congress ‘Let’s go.’”

As to whether Democrats should try to deal with and possibly win over the budding tea party movement, both Carville and Greenberg said it would be a waste of time.  As Greenberg put it, “Let’s not fool ourselves, these are not swing voters.”  Carville said that tea party activists “have never voted for a Democrat in their lives” (although he failed to cite any survey evidence of this) and that “while they may be a bit more secular than usual Republican voters, they are core Republican voters, the hardest core.” 

Carville also took issue with the characterization of tea partiers as “new people” who suddenly became active in politics this year.  Rather, he insisted, most of the tea partiers have been active to some degree in politics, have usually voted Republicans, “and were not sitting on the sidelines.”

Carville on 2012

It wouldn’t be breakfast with Carville without the “ragin’ Cajun” going on a rage about something or someone, and leaving his breakfast companions without some memorable words.

He didn’t disappoint.  Turning to the 2012 Republican presidential process, Carville said “I can’t wait to see the Republican process.  You can’t love politics and not want to see this thing shaping up.  If I were not 66 and didn’t have young children, I’d gov out and cover it myself, and start early.”

Saying that the race will be a test of “whether the marketplace can support 31 brands,” Carville predicted that there will be six to eight Republican candidates “who can see if they can raise the millions in early money” and the more that get in, the more that compete “to see who gets 18% of the vote in the Iowa caucuses.”

The lone Republican prospect singled out for comment by Carville was Mitt Romney, whom he called “the designated old white guy for 2012.  They thought it would be different in ’08, but you didn’t get any older and any whiter than John McCain.”  Citing recent surveys by the Democracy Corps (the Greenberg and Carville polling group)of tea party focus groups, Carville said “Romney does a little better than I thought.  He’s plausible, but vulnerable.” 

“You guys should just tell your offices: ‘Put me on this!’ he said, “And where’s Richard Ben Cramer [who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning What it Takes on the 1988 presidential election]? Let’s dust him off for 2012.”