ELECTIONS

Political Analyst Says Democrats at Convention Will Look to the Future

Last week the focus of the political world was in Tampa at the Republican National Convention. Now, it’s the Democrats’ turn to take center stage at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Montclair State University’s Political Science Professor Brigid Harrison tells NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that Democrats will look to counter the GOP with a unified voice.

“We hear them talking about that big tent idea that is an inclusive party and I think that will be one of the priorities that we see coming out of Charlotte this week,” said Harrison.

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This past weekend, some in the Obama administration including top adviser David Plough appeared flummoxed when asked the question made famous by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential campaign: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

According to Harrison, the question as posed in the current campaign may be more complex than it appears. It also depends, she says, on who is asking the question.

“If you’re an auto worker in Detroit … you can say ‘yes, I am’ unequivocally. But someone who’s been unemployed in the housing sector or real estate for the past two years and the answer is a resounding ‘no.’ You know the Democrats are trying to shape this as a question is the country as a whole better off than it was four years ago given the mess that it was then and I think that that really is allowing the Republicans to frame this argument.”

Much has been made about how much Mitt Romney pays in taxes. Romney critics have pointed to his use of tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Swiss bank accounts to limit his tax liability. Look for Democrats to make an issue of Mitt Romney’s wealth and privileged background at the convention, says Harrison.

“And I think that when you look at some of the polling data that is coming out across the country, one of the things that seems to be a chink in Romney’s armor is people’s ability to identify with people like them.”

While Republicans would like the focus of the campaign to be about the last four years, Harrison said the DNC mandate will be to convince Americans and, more importantly, swing voters that Barack Obama is the best person to lead the country for the next four years.

“I think for Democrats their priority really will be in talking abut the future and what we know from 2008 is that Barack Obama is particularly effective in stirring hope, creating hope. and I think many Democrats hope that he’ll be able to recapture that energy and enthusiasm and optimism which would sell his campaign very well.”

Gov. Chris Christie’s political future has been the subject of a lot of speculation. The outcome of the presidential race may be a determining factor in what the governor does next, says Harrison. A Romney victory would postpone any plans to make a run for the presidency in 2016.

“That would delay that of course for another four years because presumptively if Mr. Romney would win he would then be the nominee in 2016. It may also mean that [Christie] would be appointed to a cabinet level post. But I think if Mr. Obama wins this campaign, then clearly we’ll see a gearing up for Mr. Christie’s political future.”