By Maria Saporta
As CNN top political analysts shared their views of the 2012 presidential election and the decisive re-election of President Barack Obama, they also were looking ahead to 2016.
The consensus? That Hillary Clinton, currently the Secretary of State, will be running for the Democratic nomination.
CNN political team participated in the Rotary Club of Atlanta’s Monday luncheon — by being beamed in on a video screen to answer questions from Rotarians as well as CNN executive Rick Davis.
“I predicted personally on our little magic boards a razor-thin election win for President Obama,” Davis said. “I thought he would win with about 281 electoral votes.”
Instead, Obama ended up with 332 electoral votes after CNN put Florida in his column this past Saturday.
Davis, executive vice president of CNN news standards and practices, first asked Wolf Blitzer, CNN’s lead political anchor, what was his biggest surprise of the Nov. 6 election.
“Every one of these battle ground states (with the exception of North Carolina), the president won,” Blitzer said, adding that in some areas Obama “did better this time than he did in 2008.” Blitzer said that CNN had been extremely careful with its polling, but in the end the news network “under-sampled the Democratic turnout.”
Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington bureau chief and senior vice president, agreed that his biggest surprise was how Obama was able to win nearly every one of the swing states.
CNN’s final poll on the Sunday before the election showed that the national election was basically tied with Obama and Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney each with about 49 percent of the vote. It ended up that Obama performed better than those projections.
Feist said that another surprise for him was how early CNN was able to call the election for Obama. It was at 11:16 and 30 seconds that CNN determined that Obama had won Ohio and therefore the election; and Blitzer declared Obama the winner at 11:18 p.m.
Actually, Feist said the network had been pretty sure Obama had won Ohio well before., but the network wanted to be “extremely careful” before making that announcement just to be extra sure.
“At 10:30 p.m. it looked like Ohio is done,” Feist said. “John King was saying the same thing. Mitt Romney was not performing as well as he needed to, and Obama was over-performing.”
CNN also held off saying that Obama had won Ohio because Republican political operative Karl Rove was challenging projections that the Democratic president was about to win his re-election.
Finally, Feist said CNN determined that “there is no way that Barack Obama is going to lose Ohio. It’s not going to be a close call.” And it ended up that Obama didn’t even need Ohio after he won Colorado, which helped put him over the top in the electoral college.
Phil Jacobs, a Rotarian and retired telecom executive turned consultant, asked about how Romney lost since the election was all about the economy.
“What really hurt Romney was the video tape with the 47 percent (of Americans that didn’t pay income taxes),” Blitzer said, which only “reinforced the notion that Romney is an elitist.”
Also, Romney was hurt by a newspaper editorial he wrote several years ago with the headline: “Let Detroit go Bankrupt” about not having the federal government bail out the U.S. auto industry.
“That was going to be an extremely high hurdle for Romney to overcome,” Blitzer said.
Feist also said that it didn’t help when Romney took a hard line position concerning immigration, even calling for “self-deportation.” It also was hard for Romney to criticize “Obamacare” after that had been modeled with the health insurance program he had instituted when he was governor of Massachusetts.
“The Republican primaries pushed Romney so far to the right,” Feist said.
When asked about 2016, Blitzer said: “My own gut tells me that Hillary Clinton still has that burning passion to be president of the United States, that she will seek the nomination. I still believe she will be the Democratic nominee.”
Gloria Borger, CNN’s chief political analyst, then stepped into the discussion.
“I’m with the camp that thought she wasn’t going to run,” Borger said, but added that she totally changed her mind after Clinton granted a New York Times interview that came out over the weekend.
Asked about the shift in demographics, Borger said “the country is changing. We saw the gender gap being the largest ever on record.” She also added that the Republicans failed to convince voters that they had a better plan to fix the economy.
“In the end, they weren’t able to make the case for the middle class,” she said.
For Republicans, it will be important for the party to develop a consensus. Right now there are “various wings of the Republican Party at odds with itself,” Feist said. Republicans also are going to have to take a more moderate position on immigration if they want to be able to attract more Latino and Hispanic voters, Feist said.
Back to the changing demographics, Feist said Georgia’s growing Hispanic population could turn the state purple or blue by 2020 if not by 2016.
As to who the Republicans might nominate to be their nominee in 2016, Borges and Feist started calling out names — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, New Mexico Gov. Suzanne Martinez and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
As Feist said: “2016 is going to be a great election year.”